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The Scalpel and the Butterfly:The War Between Animal Research and Animal Protection 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0374254209
ISBN-10: 0374254206
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Biological experimentation, writes science journalist Deborah Rudacille, has long been the province of a scientific elite that has not much cared to explain its work to the larger public. That public, she continues, has responded with a kind of don't-ask, don't-tell policy "whereby society will permit animal experimentation--and certain types of research on human subjects--as long as it is protected from the details." With the rise of the Animal Liberation Movement and PETA, however, that unstated policy has increasingly come into question, and research scientists have found it ever more difficult to employ animals (or humans, for that matter) in their work.

In her engaged and illuminating study of these clashing sensibilities, Rudacille ponders troubling questions. Does an elevation in the moral status of animals, she asks, necessarily mean degradation in the moral status of human beings? (Certainly, she responds, this appears to have been the case under Nazi Germany.) Is the killing of laboratory animals--nearly 10,000 in the case of the Salk vaccine against polio--justifiable in the face of the human lives that can be saved? Is it ethical to use the mentally ill as research subjects in studies that may yield cures for their illness? Philosophical landmines surround every attempt at an answer, and Rudacille takes pains to consider all sides of these and kindred issues. Her thoughtful work should provoke reflection and discussion. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

In this cautious, useful survey, Rudacille, a former writer and editor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, seeks a middle ground between biomedical researchers who defend animal experimentation as a necessary trade-off for potential benefits to humankind, and animal rights activists who would abolish such research. She begins with a lively account of the 19th-century antivivisection movements in Britain and the U.S., in which women figured prominently, then takes a side trip through Nazi Germany, where a ban on vivisection (perversely considered an aspect of mechanistic "Jewish" science) went hand in hand with appalling medical abuses, including eugenic sterilization, euthanasia and experimentation on human subjects. She provides in-depth profiles of animal rights pioneer Henry Spira and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) cofounders Alex Pacheco and Ingrid Newkirk. The absolutist tactics of the most visible, extremist critics of animal research, such as the Animal Liberation Front, whose members vandalize laboratories, have greatly diminished the moral legitimacy of their cause in the eyes of the public, according to Rudacille. She commends reform efforts in Europe, particularly in Great Britain, where stringent governmental oversight mandates a "cost-benefit analysis" for each animal experiment as a prerequisite to approval. Rudacille notes that in America (the world's largest user of lab animals), new technologiesAsuch as organ transplants from animal donors to humansAhave sparked intense debate over the ethics of biotechnology and its impact on society; she urges a tandem public debate on how these technologies affect animal welfare, not just human. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (September 26, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374254206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374254209
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,550,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jean Greek on October 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The prose in this book makes it a pleasure to read. Ms. Rudacille tells fasinating stories in illustrating her subject. I am not sure when I last read such a beautifully written book. I am jealous of her writing skills!
Unfortunately, I have two complaints. First, Ms. Rudicille buys completely in to the fantasy perpetuated by the scientific establishment that animal research has benefited mankind. Since she is attempting to write a balanced story of the pro and anti-vivesection movements, I would have liked for her not to have so readily accepted the standard dogma promoted by those who earn their livings from animal experimentation that we would all be dead were it not for the marvels discovered by injecting dogs, cats, rats, chimps, etc with all nature of compounds. Even a limited review of the scientific literature rapidly illustrates the fallacies of the animal experimentation lobby.
Secondly, about two thirds of the way through the book, the author leaves her subject and addresses post modernistic philopsphy. I kept waiting for her to bring it back to the title topic, that is the history of animal experimentation, but she never tied it together to my satifaction.
Jean Greek, DVM Co-author of Sacred Cows and Golden Geese
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Format: Hardcover
For those who are interested in a general overview of the controversy and politics over vivisection, Rudacille's book is pretty good. Surely the book does not profess to change your mind on this issue, but it is hard to read through the book without recognizing where the author stands. I find it to be a problem for those who may have only recently considered this issue. This book really does not provide much moral discussion for the reader to weigh the arguments, I think that many people who may not be versed in the moral issues may simply grow to adopt the author's position after reading the book, which is: "Vivisection is a necessary evil. We definitely should continue using animals, but we certainly should make it as less evil as possible." I'm not sure if writing the book with this slant is appropriate for a book that professes to provide a historical analysis (surely I recognize that many historical works are written with slants). I think it would be a much more valuable work if it paid more attention to and presented the philosophical/moral debates in a historical perspective. However don't get me wrong, I think people who are interested in vivisection should definitely get this book for it provides many insights that I believe to be quite interesting.
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Format: Paperback
This book presents a well-documented history of the animal protection movement and the largely antagonistic relationship that has existed between animal protectionists and the biomedical research community since the mid-19th Century. Rudacille combines thorough documentation of sources with incisive analysis and first-hand professional experience to create a book that animal researchers, laboratory technicians, veterinarians, animal care committee members and anyone else who has a stake in animal welfare and/or research should read. Indeed, Rudacille's free-flowing prose makes for easy, fast and informative reading -- just the ticket for busy scientists, vets and "techs" who aren't yet familiar with this history, and who "don't have time for this stuff, anyway."

Readers who may already be familiar with this topic will find that Rudacille has been accurate with the facts and fair with her analysis. She contrasts the new breed of 19th Century scientists who embraced animal experimentation as the key to understanding human physiology and curing disease with the equally new breed of social activists, mostly female, it turns out, who were horrified and repulsed at the mere thought of someone invading living bodies of sentient creatures for any purpose, but especially for mere "science." In tracing the development of the animal protection movement from those beginnings, Rudacille skillfully explores and clarifies the roots, relationships and interconnectedness of some main-stream modern-day animal protectionist and antivivisectionist societies. Her inclusion of pertinent biographical details on some of the more prominent players in these groups adds to the reading enjoyment.
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Format: Paperback
In a surprisingly beautifully written book, the Scalpel and the Butterfly explores the historical and ongoing conflict between the hope offered by new animal research and experimentation versus the ethical implications which cause us uneasiness and doubt. When is science moving too far and too fast? The book discusses questions such as the code of ethics in breeding animals for spare parts for us and explores the cost of animal suffering as a potential benefit to humans.

As an animal lover and one who tries to only buy products from companies that don't do animal testing, I was expecting to not make it through this book. But it was so eloquently written and informative that I found myself a captive reader. The author does a good job of trying to present both sides and left me with the impression that she feels that animal research/experimentation is a necessary evil that we can perhaps do with more compassion and consideration for the animals.
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