Letters to the Editor

Animal Abuse at Harvard

To the editor:

Kudos to The Crimson for its stance against animal cruelty in Harvard’s laboratories and its call for the University to take the lead in developing non-animal testing methods (“Confronting Cruelty,” Jan. 26).

All animal experiments are inherently cruel, but here are some of the troubling details behind the recent government citations against Harvard’s New England Primate Research Center: one monkey died when an employee failed to remove her from her cage before sending it through scalding hot water in a mechanical cage washer; another was killed after a drug overdose he was given caused liver failure; and yet another died after being roughly handled. Inspectors found monkeys confined to cages too small for their bodies and suffering from various abnormal behaviors that are the result of severe psychological distress.

These cases violated the law, but students, faculty and alumni would likely be dismayed to learn that the legal experimentation that occurs at Harvard and masquerades as “science” is just as horrific. If Harvard treats non-human primates in this fashion, one can only imagine the abuse to which it subjects other species.

Harvard confines many primates—in fact, it has one of the largest primate populations locked in any U.S. university laboratory.  Many of these animals are subjected to painful and distressing experiments, including ones in which they are addicted to cocaine, heroin, nicotine, and alcohol.

The taxpayers and donors who fund these experiments—not to mention the public—would be better served if the millions spent on these experiments were used for clinical studies and treatment for human addicts rather than tormenting monkeys in crude studies that aren’t applicable to human drug addiction and which cause more suffering in the world than they alleviate.

Jessica Sandler ’78

Director, Regulatory Testing Division

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Norfolk, Va.

Tangible Rights

To the editor:

One thing is for sure—Crimson contributor Derek Bekebrede ’13 must love irony. You can tell because his piece “Life, Liberty, and Birth Control?” is positively littered with it. The crown jewel has to be the part where he denounces the liberal conception of rights as “absurd,” and then—you guessed it—goes on to describe his own conception of rights, which itself is completely…well, that’s the irony of it.

In describing his own conception of rights, Bekebrede tries to draw a distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” rights. He defines “natural” rights as those outlined in the Declaration of Independence: the “inalienable” rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that “are part of our nature as human beings.”  On the other hand, he blasts progressives for granting “unnatural rights”—like the right to basic health care, for instance.  Bekebrede argues that the duty of government is to “protect the [natural] rights of the people,” not to grant them “unnatural” rights. And yet, what Bekebrede ultimately fails to grasp is that without the extension of what he considers “unnatural” rights, the commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is an empty one. Consider the Bill of Rights.  The First Amendment provides for freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, petition, and religion.  The Second provides for the right to bear arms. The Third, protection from quartering troops, the Fourth, protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, and of course the list goes on. You might notice that almost none of these are “natural” rights as Bekebrede conceives of them. Human beings are not “endowed by their Creator” with the right to petition government. Nor, I might add, does the natural human condition suggest an inalienable right to wield firearms.

In fact, if we were to apply the “Bekebrede Rule” across the board, you would see your rights rapidly dissolve. Indeed, almost the entire Bill of Rights would get the heave.   Now do you see the irony? Carried out to its logical ends, Bekebrede’s conception of rights looks uniquely “absurd.”  What he ultimately fails to grasp is the fact that what he terms “unnatural rights” are precisely what give tangible meaning to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They are the practical application of those “natural” rights. Throughout this century and the last, progressives (and others) have fought to give tangible weight to the rights described in the Declaration of Independence. The recent fight to provide every American with basic health care, including access to contraception for women, embodies this same spirit.

Brendan Kopp ’12

Cambridge, Mass.

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