Okay, first, the repost of the comment I made over at Dr. Isis:
I love cats just as much as Dr. J does. I also have cats. I also have a really hard time imagining anyone doing anything mean to animals that are cute. I hate animal abusers and I would punch each and every one of them in the face if I could. I feel the same way about child abusers.
I, myself, personally could never do research involving animals. I couldn't handle it.
Animal research is necessary. "Cute" animal research is necessary. I trust the scientific community to treat the animals humanely and subject them to as little pain and suffering as possible. Scientists are humans too, and the types of people who get off on hurting animals don't get PhDs or MDs.
I don't want to see it. I don't even want to read about it. It's kinda like when you're scared of needles and you're about to have blood drawn - you know it has to happen even though you don't like it, so you look away but with the full awareness of what's going on.
Now, a sample reference for what I'm about to launch into:
Okay. All settled in with your background info? Great. Off we go.
In psychology, we have found with a fair amount of consistency that when people feel disgust, they become more extreme in their worldviews. Homophobia, anti-abortion sentiments, etc., are all subject to this phenomenon. When people feel disgust, they also feel a greater propensity toward violence that serves to reaffirm their worldview - shooting doctors who perform abortions, hate crimes, blowing up the cars of animal researchers, etc.
I said above that I don't want to see, hear, think, or read about what may or may not be happening to animals who serve as subjects in research. I, personally, could never engage in that kind of research because I couldn't handle it.
I hate it. It makes me sad. But it doesn't disgust me. I hypothesize that the difference between the people who just can't stand the thought of animals suffering in any way and the people who attack human beings for the sake of so-called animal "rights" is that the extremists feel disgusted at the thought, and the rest of us just feel sad.
Also, as I said in my comment, I choose to "look away" from animal research but maintain the knowledge of what is going on. I don't think the extremists are capable of just looking away. In fact, I hypothesize that the kind of disgust that engages embodied moral judgment renders a person unable to look away.
Willful acts of cruelty against animals are unforgivable, just as willful acts of cruelty against children, the disabled, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations are. All of these are protected by IRBs in their ethics review - they are considered to afford "special" protections because of their vulnerability.
I think the extremists are forgetting not only the protections that animals are subject to in scientific research, but they are also forgetting that there are no willful acts of cruelty going on. But scientists have been painted as these puppy-bashing, cat-torturing, animal-hating sociopaths in the minds of these people. They have forgotten that you are human beings with hearts, that while yes, you do have a greater tolerance for animals in pain than the average person (you HAVE to), you are not doing it because you LIKE it.
The extremists have dehumanized you in an effort to reaffirm their worldview. If we were to look at abortion, you would also see that the extremists have reduced women to bodies - to wombs, to temporary housing facilities for baby humans. When disgust is activated as embodied moral judgment, a journey down a slippery slope begins. You believe something is wrong, you are disgusted by it, you feel angry about it, you find a place to direct that anger, you dehumanize what you perceive to be the source, you feel a propensity toward violence, you commit the violence, you justify and feel justified in that violence.
I wonder if the things these people imagine to be going on inside your labs is a million times worse than what is actually happening. I believe it must be the case. I wonder if there is a way to reduce the disgust by showing them the reality.
Because I think that's the solution to the problem. The disgust needs to be reduced or eliminated and scientists need to be humanized again in their eyes. Unfortunately, you can't trust these people to come into your labs to actually see what's going on.
Anyway, back to my main point. Disgust activates in different people for different reasons. I think in the case of Dr. J, she finds herself specifically disgusted by the thought of cats being subject to experiments. If you read through her words, you can almost watch the transition happening:
"sick minded" = signals disgust
"evil" = signals moral judgment
"mo fo bastards" = signals anger
"low life scum" followed by specifics of who qualifies = directing anger
people who abuse animals are "as bad as pedophiles" = beginning to dehumanize
"if I thought anyone strapped one of my cats down and did to them some of the things that apparently go on, I would have no hesitation in what I would do them - it would be extreme but proportional." = propensity toward violence
In order to address this problem and make everyone happy, we first need to figure out how to break the cycle.