Thursday, February 10, 2005

Outsourcing pain

From Hyderabad, news of a new animal "resource facility":
"Work on an animal centre that will help in biotechnology and pharmaceutical research will begin this year, a conference was told here Thursday [by] N.K. Ganguly, director general of Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR)....
Ganguly said the facility would be bigger than the primate research centre coming up at Mumbai, which is proposed to have 7,500 breeding stocks."

Two points of interest. Why is the centre being built in India?
"Because of poor facilities and protests from animal rights activists, [international] companies were doing the tests abroad, Ganguly said."
This is what's known either as "a business opportunity" or "dumping", depending on your point of view.

I also like this line:
"The issues raised by animal rights activists would be addressed at the centre, he said."

Animal rights activists are often seen in India, and elsewhere, as a separate mass. Activists are often extremists, never concerned citizens. Kutta-billi people who couldn't care less about the starving masses in Kalahandi.
Part of this is media spin: The Economist has carried several stories recently that automatically suffix "animal rights" with "extremists". (This story, for instance, presents animal rights activists as dangerous, "forensically aware" quasi-criminals who will target just anybody.)
And part of this is because the animal rights movement DOES often come across as frighteningly hardline, terribly narrow-minded, almost (pardon the pun) dogmatic. You eat meat? You can't possibly love animals. Wear leather? Tut tut. Don't do it again and we might let you off with a reprimand this time. You're vegetarian but not vegan? That makes you a hypocrite. There's an endless, querulous, negativity about some branches of the animal rights movement that makes it easier for all animal lovers to be written off as mixed-up misanthropes who're part of the lunatic fringe.
All of this distracts from the real issue: should the West be exporting its pain labs to us, like so much toxic waste? Is this really a growth opportunity we want India to be invested in? Perhaps Ganguly's not going to be persuaded by "animal rights activists". But how about...consumers? And customers? And doctors who refuse to be part of this process? Researchers who suggest that we could do better work in India than handle the West's dirty work? It takes a lot of people to be part of this chain.
None of these arguments are new; many animal rights organisations are already working towards answers. But perhaps it's time to start a citizens movement, too. Anyone welcome. And while it's great for your karma if you're a Pleather-wearing Vegan, you don't have to be in order to help out.


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