Article first published as "Ending Vivisection and Other Evils" on Blogcritics.
The makers of Lipton tea were testing it on animals. And I don’t mean sitting bunnies down with a nice warm mug and a scone and tracking whether they preferred English Breakfast over Earl Grey. No, what I mean is:
• cutting holes into rats’ intestines and feeding them tea ingredients through tubes in their throats;
• infecting baby pigs with E. coli toxin and cutting their intestines apart while they were still alive;
• suffocating mice and breaking their necks; and
• cutting off rabbits’ heads.
The goal of all this “science” was to study the health effects of tea. Safe to say tea’s health effects on Lipton’s lab animals were ultimately suboptimal. But the experimenters were more interested in the health effects of tea on humans, so why not study the health effects of tea on humans? It’s not as though there was a safety concern – humans have been drinking tea for millennia and to date tea’s documented kill rate is zero, so having some human volunteers drink tea for a while wouldn’t seem to pose any risks. I suspect that the only drawback of human testing was that it would take longer to get results. That doesn’t justify drilling holes in live animals.
Lipton’s manufacturer, Unilever, was under no legal obligation or requirement to conduct these tests.
I’ve been able to use the past tense to describe Unilever’s vivisection because the company announced on January 31st that it was stopping the experiments. The announcement came hot on the heels of a campaign of phone-calling and letter-writing from individuals, coordinated by PETA. Unilever says that it will continue to test its products (tea is only one of a vast number of products Unilever manufactures) where it is legally required to, but it will outsource the testing to a third party. I don’t see how outsourcing helps the animals being experimented on, but I do see how it helps Unilever’s PR department.
Vivisection is a giant industry that extends far beyond tea. According to PETA over 100 million animals “suffer and die in cruel chemical, drug, food and cosmetic tests, biology lessons, medical training exercises, and curiosity-driven medical experiments.” 95% of these animals have no legal protection. The federal statute that should regulate animal experimentation, the Animal Welfare Act, doesn’t cover mice, rats, birds, and cold-blooded animals, thanks to the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to pull the teeth out of the law Congress passed. So even an experimenter who finds that things have gotten too horrific even for him can’t go to court to save the victims.
Laboratory workers torture and kill millions of animals every year and they can’t even pretend to have an excuse. As Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote, “In relation to [animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.” Right here in the U.S.A.