I have had my first big bite of the research cherry this year. I am doing clinical research, research on humans. We have to jump through fiery hoops for funding and go through the rigours of ethics committee review for the trial.
And you know what? I don’t mind this. It helps me to focus my thoughts and really be passionate about what I am doing. I don’t mind, of course, as long as they give me the $$$$$$ (six figures was deliberate).
Trial participants must give free, informed consent to what they are entering into, with full knowledge of the risks and benefits, as far as we can anticipate them. That is also essential.
I used to be a bit dismissive of the “rat surgeons”, the basic science researchers who do the molecular and rat stuff. Now I respect them. They really slave over their PhDs, in relative poverty, because they are passionate about what they do too. We would have no drugs, no treatments, no understanding of diseases without the rat surgeons.
I never gave much thought to the rats.
I asked a colleague (a medical doctor doing a basic science PhD) if I could meet her rats. She obliged.
Without going into too much detail, these little rats were about to scuttle off their little mortal coil.
I looked in the box. The little white rats were not to be seen.
Another look. They were hiding underneath their feed box.
I looked into their little pink eyes. They looked a bit frightened. It actually rattled me quite a bit.
I’ve had a bit of a think on this.
Unfortunately, while there are diseases to cure, battles to fight and wonder-drugs to be uncovered, we will need rats. Doing the same to humans doesn’t quite fly – we learned that in WW2 Germany.
We could get all high horse, all Peter Singer-y about how humans are no better than rats, but the reality of the situation is that research on animals will continue. They cannot consent to it, unfortunately, but there are plenty of checks in place to ensure that they are treated as humanely as possible.
However, as a researcher and doctor, I must acknowledge the role of animals in what we do, with the intent of relieving suffering in humans.
Let’s hear it for the Rats. For the mice, dogs, Rhesus monkeys, bunny rabbits. But mostly, for the rats.