My school, just like many others, would introduce the topic of ‘Essay writing’ almost every alternate year, and that too from a very young class. The topics at the start usually bordered on family or friends or pets or things which didn’t require critical thinking. But alas, there is only so much to write about your caring mother and heroic father or your loyal Tommy. So as we ascended the ranks of classes and our grey matter grew (or so it was assumed), we had to write essays on issues which required a nature of thought which was slightly more compelling and we had to raise the standard of our vocabulary as well.
The budding anarchist and pyromaniac that I was, one of my favorite topics was “The ill-effects of science”. My eyes would light up if I ever came across this topic and even people around me could notice the glint in my eye as I would feverishly scribble on paper. It was because the picture of the mushroom cloud caused by a nuclear explosion would loom before me and I would use all the words I knew to express the impending doom of nuclear warfare. The bright and garish colors of destruction seemed to appeal to me; and the thought of the magnitude of the chaos seemed unparalleled. It was an obvious misuse of science; even regretted by Oppenheimer (“Father of the atomic bomb”) and it was easy pickings for this topic, like stealing candy from a baby. Now as the years have rolled by (and I hate myself for saying this), the exquisite imagery associated with the word nuclear has changed from this.
And eventually this as well.
(God bless engineering for grounding me)
Now while I may have gone on to rant about the destructive beauty of nuclear warfare, I will now shift back to the apparent ill effects of science. Most of it is inconspicuous. From the sensational nuclear bomb, the attention will now shift to something far more docile – cows.
Now cows; Hindus (read: most Indians) revere the cow. It gives us milk to drink. It gives us dung which can be used as fuel. When it dies, we use its hide to make leather. (This was another essay topic I presume).
This is how we picture cows, lazing around in fields and grazing at will. They seem to be in no hurry and are quite generous, in both laying dung and giving milk. Indeed, they are large and don’t seem as intimidating as other creatures, especially the ones lurking in the wilderness.
I thought all cows looked like our Indian ones, till I came across the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the species. Meet the Belgian Blue.
As I stared wide-eyed at this cow, wondering if it had been been given an amount of anabolic steroids equaling its weight, I found out that it was not so; that this breed of cow had this property of doubling its muscle. (Also, these cows are not that aggressive. Looks can be deceiving). Yet, I did find that these cows are the product of a kind of genetic engineering.
In this video by National Geographic ( Link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDN-QeVhQTc), we basically get to see how humans have resorted to ‘Play God’ and have rendered Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection moot. They control which cows get to mate, and even control the sperm which can be used, by checking for the ones with maximum motility. This video is an absolutely mortifying experience for many people. Now what does this signify? This signifies greed, or more specifically, gluttony. This is just an example of a misuse of technology and science. We do this to get our meat because our hearts are not fulfilled with what is present. I for one, find this appalling.
Anyway, as I rummaged through the internet for more blasphemous acts such as this, so to speak; I invariably landed on the website of PETA. Strong advocates for animal safety and animal rights, I will post an excerpt of one of their articles here and on a selfish note, I can only wish to possess a language as compelling as theirs.
Lab animals sound like the run of the mill engineering student – ‘socially isolated and psychologically traumatized’. On a far more serious note though, we have failed to acknowledge the unwilling sacrifice that many animals have made for the betterment of mankind. As humans, we are extremely short-sighted on such issues. We create a massive ruckus over the dogs involved in the Yulin festival but barely spare a thought for the other animals; especially the ones who are sadly misused, hidden to many by the shroud of science. We may have to admit that it is a very basic protocol to test products on animals first. We can also say that testing cosmetic products on animals is a not at all required, as cosmetics are of no consequence compared to genetics or space research.
In the end, the use of animals in science is a very sensitive issue; a very grey area, morally speaking and at times, we will have to stomach a certain amount of injustice and tragedy towards the animals .
As individuals, lab animals may seem like expendable assets; but as a species, they are indispensable.
The following is a Russian work, honouring rats for their help in genetics research. The poignant and wise looking creature did draw some criticism though, but it seemed like a nice endeavour.
The featured image on this post is that of a stamp of Laika; a Russian canine who was the first animal in space and was sadly martyred in her mission. Her contribution was clearly not forgotten by her comrades.
PETA and the remaining scientific community may look to find the middle path in their views over this matter; but let us also keep our eyes open to prevent any unwarranted injustice towards animals.
“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” – Paul McCartney