Vivisection not immoral
I do not believe there is no bind that compels humans to be kind to animals. Animals, just by virtue of existing, do not possess a "right" to kindness. We humans might decide it is wrong to torture animals (as we have, and most of us would agree with that) through whatever moral code we develop, but just because we have that moral code does not endow the animals with "rights." We agree in our code of morality that animal torture is bad, and therefore, we pass laws against such things as cat burning. But our morality does not endow animals with "rights." Animal welfare is not the same as animal rights.
So, to the meat of the matter: From a philosophical perspective, why do I support vivisection?
First, there is the Judeo-Christian value base around which I center my entire belief system. I believe humans were created in the image of God and are therefore morally, emotionally and spiritually above and separate from the animal and plant kingdoms. The animal and plant kingdoms are here for our benefit. For a direct Biblical reference, see Genesis 1:28.
But that argument won't get me very far with non-Christians, so a more "natural law"-based argument is needed. Let's just assume God, Goddess or whatever does not exist. In nature, each species has a natural instinct to survive. Whatever that species does to survive is therefore naturally ordained. It is not immoral, then, for a lion to kill hundreds of gazelles in its lifetime, because the lion must do so to survive. It isn't an issue of "morality" for the lion; it's an issue of whether or not it will starve. This is the survival of the fittest metaphor I used in the previously mentioned column.
"Yes, Scott, but what does this have to do with vivisection?" Humans, like other species, have a natural right to do what we must to survive. To experiment on a rat or a monkey to find a cure for AIDS, cancer or diabetes is not any more immoral than a lion eating a gazelle alive. Our scientific intellect is simply greater as we can use rats or fruit flies in ways a carnivore cannot use its prey.
The reason I support vivisection is it saves human lives. If there were better methods than vivisection to get the data we need, I would support those. I believe researchers have a moral obligation to use the method most likely to get results.
This is certainly not to say humans should be experimented on in the way we do research on animals. Again, the predator/prey relationship is useful to analyze this. Wolves do not eat other wolves; they eat deer. It would be unnatural and unhealthy for the wolf to practice wolf-cannibalism. This is a good analogy as to why it is moral for humans to experiment on monkeys or rats and not other humans. Everyone agrees Josef Mengele's experiments in the Nazi concentration camps were immoral. It is simply not the case with the same experiments on rats.
Some animal rights proponents would argue vivisection is wrong because humans are often to blame for disease. Dan Mathews, celebrity recruiter for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said in New York Magazine, "We have a lazy, sick society. People bring diseases on themselves." Extending Mathews' logic, people who get lung cancer from smoking or liver disease from alcohol abuse therefore have no right to benefit from animal experimentation because they made themselves susceptible to the disease.
But let's take this argument, give it to someone on the Christian Right and change the target. "Them faggots don't need no cure for AIDS. They done brought it on themselves for being faggots."
Clearly, this person would be tarred and feathered if he ever said this in public. But the animal rights people can imply the same thing and not ever get called on it. The notion people should not get treatment because of their behavior is simply irrational. We are all special, and just because we disapprove of smoking or promiscuous sex does not give us the right to let someone die. If that "logic" of the animal rights movement were applied evenly, the animal rights folks would not be allowed medical treatment because they opposed the development of it.
Natural law justifies vivisection. It isn't an issue of morality: it's an issue of survival. As a cancer survivor, I am very militant about this issue, as is a friend of mine whose daughter died as a baby. For the healthy elite in the animal rights movement, maybe human health and human lives do not matter. But it sure as hell matters to me.