[ASC-list] We are the same as fruit flies?

Andrew Bell andrew.bell at anu.edu.au
Thu Jun 27 05:50:49 UTC 2013

Hello Susan:

Your question is simple, yet profound, and raises the whole question of the ethics of experimentation on animals. 

The best answer, in my mind, is as follows. If animals are like us, then it is unethical to subject them to pain and suffering. If they are not like us, then the results of such experiments are not directly relevant. You can't have it both ways.

Taking your question seriously, how much pain and suffering should we inflict on fruit flies, which are living, conscious creatures? You mention euthanasia, and that opens up a whole ethical arena. Is it ok to do experiments on fruit flies (or primates or humans) if we carefully euthanize them? Is it ethically ok for little boys to pull wings off flies? Is it ok for tertiary-educated adults to do the same? 

Does science justify anything in the name of knowledge? According to university ethics committees, you do not need their permission to do anything you like with insects, or any invertebrate for that matter.

I think there are better ways to knowledge than to experiment on animals, and I personally do not believe that animal experiments are ethically justified. At the same time, I recognise that other scientists have a different view, just like not everyone is vegetarian. You have to make up their own mind and be ultimately responsible for your choice.   

Some people will eat pig but not dogs or horses. What's the difference? Some people will cry when their pet dies, but then go out and buy meat from another dead animal at the butcher's.

Our society needs to earnestly examine the ethics of animal experimentation. As you say in your footer, if you don't ask the right question you won't get the right answer.


Dr Andrew Bell 
ANU, Canberra

-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au [mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Susan Kirk
Sent: Thursday, 27 June 2013 7:57 AM
To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: [ASC-list] We are the same as fruit flies?

Hi all

A *simple* question.  Research that is carried out on fruit flies.  How well does it relate back to humans?

Do the researchers have little fly tools; to cut their wings off, dissect them and little masks to euthanise them??  :))

I'm serious about the question btw.


Susan Fairbairn (nee Kirk)   B.comm  freelance Journalist
Member and Queensland Web Editor -  Australian Science Communicators (ASC) Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA)
tel: +61 7 5478 6761 | mobile: 0423342867 | email: susan at susankirk.com.au www.susankirk.com.au |  Skype: susanakirk | Tweet: @SusanAKirk Facebook group: Plant Power

³If you don¹t ask the right questions you won¹t get the right answers.²

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