The ethical dilemma of animal testing: are animals equal to humans?

Are animals equal to humans?

People often say, “Dogs are a man’s best friend.” We always value and cherish dogs, and I wonder why we don’t do the same for other animals. Sure, dogs and cats are domestic animals, but what differentiates them from other animals? If we would never think to hurt our pets, why are mice, rats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and more used for research?

Animals have been used for research since the dawn of medicine. Early Greek physician-scientists such as Aristotle, Erasistratus and Galen didn’t view this as immoral. On the contrary –– they believed that humans were of a higher status than animals and used animal testing to further understand anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology.

Thomas Aquinas, one of the most influential Christian theologians of the Middle Ages, had a similar point of view. In his famous book Summa Theologica, Aquinas writes that God made animals for man and that animals can’t reason. This justified the use of animals for human purposes, whether it be eating or research.

René Descartes, a famous French philosopher, mathematician and scientist during the Age of Enlightenment, also believed that animals were mere “mechanisms” or “automata.” Descartes viewed animals as complex physical machines without experiences, souls and minds.

However, these notions started to change when Charles Darwin questioned animal testing, when he introduced his famous theory of evolution. Darwin advocated for animal rights because he argued humans come from monkeys and have evolved through natural selection. This changed his view on the relationship between humans and animals.

In recent years, animal testing has become an ethical debate. 

Some may justify the use of animals for research to make safer products for human use and consumption.

“For me, animal experimentation is an ethical dilemma. This is because we should not use animals for this purpose, but on the other hand, animal experimentation has brought great benefits to mankind,” said Coman Cristin, a veterinary and senior researcher at the Unit of Animal Experimentation Cantacuzino Institute in Bucharest, Romania.

I believe using animals for scientific purposes to be unethical and unnecessary. Just like dogs feel emotions, so do other animals, and no animals should be used for testing.

The ideas that animals can’t feel emotions is outdated. It is scientifically proven that animals have emotions. 

On July 7, 2012, a group of scientists signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness at Cambridge University in the U.K.

This declaration states, “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviours.”

The statement further says, “Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

It is estimated that more than 115 million animals worldwide are used in laboratory experiments every year. Not to mention, animal testing rarely guarantees a product’s safety for humans.

The Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods (CCAAM) and the Canadian Centre for the Validation of Alternatives Methods (CaCVAM) were founded in 2017 and are based at the University of Windsor. These centres “aim to develop, validate, and promote non-animal, human biology-based platforms in biomedical research, education, and chemical safety testing.”

In a TED Talk titled “It’s time to think outside the cage,” Charu Chandrasekera, founding executive director of the CCAAM and CaCVAM, points out that 95 per cent of drugs tested and found to be safe and effective in animals fail in human clinical trials. Of the 5 per cent that are approved, half of those are withdrawn due to unpredicted side effects in humans.

Chandrasekera also highlights that diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart failure, ALS, and Parkinson’s have been cured in mice, but not in humans. 

Also, drugs such as Raxar, Trasylol, and Rezulin have been withdrawn from the market due to lethal consequences in humans, but they were safe and effective in mice.

When asked if animal testing is necessary for scientific progress, Hope Ferdowsian, a physician with expertise in ethics and public health, and CEO of Phoenix Zones Initiative, said, “We can ask what is necessary? Well, a lot becomes less necessary when we use our imagination, and we push innovative methods forward.”

Ferdowsian also emphasizes a need to “push this old and outdated way of animal testing and research and more toward innovative ways that rely on, for example, human cell lines or computer modelling.”

Knowing this, shouldn’t animal testing be banned?

As previously stated, all animals have feelings. Why test on mice, rats, frogs, hamsters if dogs and cats aren’t used for animal testing?

Considering the new initiatives and alternatives, scientists and researchers should reconsider animal testing with the latest advanced science of the 21st century. More specifically, our relationship with all animals and the way we view them has to change.

After all, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”



Graphic by Taylor Reddam.


Thinkpiece: Our Romantic Heart Needs To Be Known

I believe we should be asking ourselves “What is the meaning of love?” more often than we usually do. 

It’s not uncommon these days to end up dating someone without knowing exactly what the outcome will be. We don’t know where this intimate bond stands, either between friendship and committed love, or outside of these two poles. That’s why current generations emphasize this open-ended ambiguity with sayings such as “seeing each other,” “being friends” or “dating.”

Two things remain unchanging while developing interest in someone, whether it be from a two-date period to a defined relationship; Our self and our psychological attributions. Our projections of insecurities and natural attitudes remain, but in the face of a romantic phase they take place against a seemingly different world.The world slightly changes when we’re in love: things seem more positive and don’t matter as much as they should, but in spite of that our insecurities and innate attitudes remain.

The infamous statement “It’s not you, it’s me” allows the speaker to shoulder the blame without explicitly confronting what the problem is. Following a break-up, more often than not, we reflect on what we should or shouldn’t have done. In the early stages of dating, however, some of us scrupulously analyze our text messages, become incredibly vigilant about seduction strategies and try to figure out what our potential partner likes. We readily accept to go on a quest to know what the other likes in order to hide the qualities  we think would repel them. Sometimes we simply shut ourselves to an increase of romantic opportunities for various reasons. We put a stop to moving forward in a relationship for reasons that have nothing to do with the partner we’re with.

In the aftermath of a relationship, the motto “just be yourself” can’t help us when we fall into thinking that we did something wrong—which is why this advice is usually given before the relationship stage, otherwise it’s useless. Most of us are ready to compromise our identity in a heartbeat for the chance to succeed in loving someone. This adaptive behaviour can take place subconsciously with the presence of the other that makes us have an intuitive burst of adoration for them. Sometimes a simple glance at our partner makes us freeze and lose the confidence that we have no issue nurturing with other people.

What do any of these examples say about us and our view of love?

I believe that more often than not these behaviours reveal a crucial lack of understanding of our subconscious belief about the meaning of love. Before, during and after dating someone, we should be asking ourselves more than once about the meaning of love.

“What is love?” is a question that is more complicated than what it might seem. It’s another way of asking, “What does love mean to me?”

Figuring that out, or at least being aware of the uncertainty of the answer, could help us be careful and healthy in our romantic life. That way, we can decrease the chances of becoming traumatized from relationships and views projected onto us by social discourses.

We can begin to understand the kind of person we are when it comes to loving someone other than ourselves. In this way, to be in love is both a challenge and a revelation of our most innate attitude toward the world, which explains the need to understand our core beliefs concerning this mindset.

Some of us feel comfortable diving headfirst into a new relationship weeks or days after the previous one ended. Others would rather take it slow to avoid being hurt again. Asking “what does love mean to me?” often leads us to more philosophical questions that are crucial to maintaining a healthy mindset when we fall in love. Why do I love this person and not someone else? What am I ready to give up for a partner? What do I see, or miss, in the affection given to me by my partner? What do I want out of my romantic relationships?

Once we have set clear expectations, we can comfortably let love sweep us off our feet. We’ll know we have the appropriate psychological resources to take hold of ourselves when our mind starts to run amok amid all the action love generates. 

Graphic by Lily Minkova


“I want some accountability from this institution”

Former Concordia student files human rights complaint against Concordia University

More than two months since the start of the investigation into sexual abuse and misconduct allegations against creative writing instructors, another Concordia professor has been accused of sexual harassment.

A former student, who wished to be identified by the pseudonym “Alya,” filed a human rights complaint with Montreal’s Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) after enduring what she considered to be repeated sexual harassment from a professor in the philosophy department.

Alya not only claims she was subjected to sexual harassment, but that the university did not take sufficient action despite years of discussing her experiences with faculty members, deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy and the university’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities (ORR). In her complaint, Alya said she is seeking $60,000 in damages from the university, and is requesting that Concordia take sanctions against the accused professor and “address the systemic failings of its sexual violence and sexual harassment policies” within the next six months.

“I want some accountability from this institution,” Alya said. “I want this to not happen to other people. It’s not fair. It’s not okay.”

The initial abuse

Alya claims she met the professor in 2008 when he was teaching a mandatory first-year course for students in the philosophy department. When he first began to show an interest in her outside of the classroom, she hoped it would lead to a friendly student-teacher relationship.

From her perspective, what happened instead was “creepy” and blatant harassment. He began to email her repeatedly, often late at night, inviting her to concerts and out for drinks. In one of his emails, the professor wrote he could “get you drinking Scotch and [sic] Dancing!!!!”, despite Alya telling him she did not drink. In another email, he wrote: “I could always slip some vodka into your pop when you weren’t looking.”

Alya alleges that, on two occasions, the professor invited her out under the guise of meeting with master’s students, but when she arrived at the bar, it was only the professor and another female student, who Alya said she believes also experienced harassment.

Feeling powerless and violated, Alya said the harassment drove her to discontinue her studies at Concordia and leave Montreal before completing her second semester to pursue a summer job.

“Even now, if I see someone that resembles him, it freaks me out,” Alya said. “I haven’t gone into the philosophy department since then […] There was no way in hell I was going to step foot in the philosophy department again with that man still working there.”

Nine years, no action

According to Alya, the allegations outlined in her complaint should come as no surprise to university administration. Since the spring of 2009, Alya said she has discussed her experiences with university officials, including deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy and former ombudsperson Kristen Robillard. Yet, according to Alya, she was bounced around “like a ball in a pinball machine.”

Alya first reached out to the ORR in May 2009, with the hope of being able to hand in and receive credit for assignments she did not finish when she left Concordia before the end of the semester. Alya said the ORR asked her to contact the then-chair of the philosophy department, Matthias Fritsch.

For the course taught by the accused professor, Fritsch granted her an extension and arranged for the outstanding coursework to be marked by an independent grader. However, Fritsch denied her request for an extension on work for two other courses she did not complete, telling her via email that her argument that she felt too uncomfortable to be in the department was “insufficient” and her decision to leave Montreal was made “at [her] own discretion.”

In the same email, Fritsch also recommended Alya speak to her other professors about extensions, but cautioned her that it “would be best not to mention the harassment case, as it is confidential and also […] an insufficient reason.” Alya did not tell her other professors about the harassment and failed both courses.

When she returned to Concordia to take classes outside of the philosophy department in December 2014, Alya reached out to Gregory Lavers, the then-interim chair of the philosophy department, about removing her failed courses from her transcript. He referred her back to the ORR, where she was told she had waited too long to file a complaint with the university. She was then referred to Robillard. Despite filing a complaint with the then-ombudsperson, Alya never received a response, even after she called to follow up.

One of many Concordia complaints

Currently employed in the tattoo industry, Alya said that, when she began her studies at Concordia nearly 10 years ago, she had been hoping for a career in academia. Although her transcript was altered in 2017 to change her failed marks to “discontinued,” Alya said her lowered GPA had already cost her opportunities, including rejection from a McGill education program.

Despite filing the complaint on her own, Alya insists she is not the only woman who faced harassment from this professor. As a student, she suspected some of her female peers were also being targeted, and she claims she once spoke to the ORR on behalf of another student making allegations against the professor. She also said she discovered a number of female students avoided taking courses taught by this professor because of his reputation of being inappropriate.

In October 2017, encouraged by the #MeToo movement and the subsequent investigation into Concordia’s own creative writing program, Alya decided to reach out to CRARR and file a complaint.

“With the Me Too thing, I thought, ‘Oh, wow, people can actually do something about what happened.’ This exact thing happened to me, and no one did anything,” Alya said. “I thought, ‘Okay, I have to do something.’”

Although the current investigation being conducted by deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy is focused on Concordia’s English department and creative writing program, there have been multiple complaints filed against the university in recent years. According to Fo Niemi, the executive director of CRARR, the organization has taken on six human rights complaints against the university, four of which are still being considered by Quebec’s Human Rights Commission.

“We believe, in the end, someone at the institution has to be held accountable,” Niemi said.

“We want to pinpoint, specifically, the president and the board of directors […] Ultimately, the president, Alan Shepard, has to be held accountable.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Women photographers at MMFA

SHE Photographs looks at women through camera lens wielded by female photographers

The first thing you notice when you walk through the SHE Photographs exhibition is the variety of subjects and photographic techniques presented. Everything from still-life photography, to self-portraiture to collage is featured. There are black and white photos and colour ones, lone photographs the size of a wall and some that come in a series, and yet, they all convey a sense of unity.

Each picture addresses a different aspect of being a woman in today’s contemporary society. They grapple with themes such as solitude, old age, relationships and love. The visitor gets snapshots of the artists’ lives and points of view through the photographs, and this creates a very intimate link between the audience and the artists.

Diane Charbonneau is the curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA). She said she believes it is important to have an exhibition that focuses solely on work done by women because it allows us to interact more with the feminine perspective. She said it is essential to look at the subjects women address in photography.

As curator for this exhibition, she went through more than 500 pieces and picked ones that present a vast realm of subjects. According to Charbonneau, she was inspired by all the different themes that women address in their photographs and wanted to showcase a wide variety of photos.

This photo of Mrs. Thérèse MacGuire by Claire Beaugrand-Champagne is part of her series “Old People,” and is featured in the SHE Photographs exhibition.

The exhibition features many artists from Canada, mainly Montreal, and abroad. One artist on display is Geneviève Cadieux, an associate professor of photography at Concordia. Cadieux has been featured in multiple national and international exhibitions. In 2011, she was the recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Visual and Media Arts. Fascinated by the human body, it is the central subject in much of her work. According to her website, she enjoys focusing on very small details and expanding them into larger elements.

Claire Beaugrand-Champagne is another veteran photographer. Her occupation has taken her to many places around the world, including Italy and Thailand. Beaugrand-Champagne said she uses photography as a way to talk about social issues. In this exhibition, a few pieces from her photography series “Old People” and “Women from Montreal” are on display.

Beaugrand is currently working on a project called “Montrealers,” where she goes to people’s houses and photographs them in their environment. She said she believes where a person lives says a lot about who they are.

Everyone takes pictures these days, Charbonneau said, but this exhibition is a chance for us to take a step back and look at the perspective these women offer us. She said photography is so relatable because we recognize ourselves in each shot.

The SHE Photographs exhibition runs until Feb. 19 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.


Philosophy students strike against austerity

Concerns over education quality to lead to one-day boycott

The Students of Philosophy Association (SoPhiA) will go on strike Oct. 31 to protest imposed budget cuts and austerity measures put in place this year by the provincial Liberal government.

The one-day protest is in response to the effects of the $15.7 million that will be cut from Concordia University as part of the $172-million cut across Quebec in higher education.

SoPhiA, the undergraduate philosophy organization in ASFA, voted on Oct. 24 to participate in the one-day strike alongside other students across the province at the “Austerity: A Horror Story” protest taking place on Halloween.

As per the motion that passed, SoPhiA is requesting all philosophy classes on Oct. 31 be cancelled and resumed regularly after the day of the austerity protest. It was also resolved that “in voting in favour of the one-day strike, Philosophy Students support the Manifestation Contre l’Austerité, organized by the association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ),” read the motion.

A press release from the association stated that “As a result of these cuts, Concordia University will suffer 180 faculty and staff position losses; including custodial, health services and sustainability positions.”

In reality, the 180 positions expected to be cut through the Voluntary Departure Program will not affect any faculty positions at Concordia and is aimed at administrative titles.

The student organization went on to express concern that T.A. positions in the philosophy department are in danger, and that “As a result of these cuts to our curriculum, evaluation methods and overall quality of education will suffer enormously.”

SoPhiA VP Academic Katie Nelson and VP Internal Michael Giesbrecht stated their concern for budget cuts in their department, saying: “a trend has been obvious over the past few years, especially in terms of seminars and special topics.”

On the subject of new austerity cuts, Nelson and Giesbrecht fear that the philosophy department will face further, major cuts to their budget.

These claims have not been confirmed with the philosophy department.The university could not be reached for comment before the time of publication. However, Concordia’s President Alan Shepard told the Concordian Oct. 10 that the university was doing everything possible to avoid cutting into the academic side of university operations.

“We’re doing our best to protect the academic mission, so the courses for students [and] services,” he said. “It’s not realistic to say, ‘Oh it won’t have any impact,’ because you can’t take four per cent out of the operating budget away and have no impact.”

While the student strike will only last a day SoPhiA executives felt as though taking part is important for both their members and Quebec’s greater student population.

“A one-day strike is not only right for philosophy students, it’s the right move for all students,” they said.

The Concordia contingent of the “Austerity: a Horror Story” protest leaves from the Hall Building at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 31.

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