My 17-year-old son asked me, “Why should we consider animal lives to be less important than humans’? His simple, yet complex question has changed my way of thinking.
I was offered a good job with a company that that conducts clinical trials for large pharmaceutical companies. Knowing my son, Dan’s career decision was to work with animals. I asked for his thoughts about using animals for research. I was trying to be sensitive to how he might feel about my working for a company that uses animal models for drug research. In his usual matter of fact calm adult-like manner he explained that we should simply use humans for drug trials instead of animals. “But that would be unethical to human life.” I retorted. He calmly replied, “What makes a human life any more important than an animal’s?” “Well, what if your girlfriend or someone else you cared about learned they had a deadly disease that required a new medicine?” “Okay, then that’s what pharmaceutical companies are for”, he replied. “And try the medicine on the person with the disease.” he added. “Well, drug companies do this but The U. S. Food and Drug Administration requires the use of animal models for early phase clinical testing.” I explained. He calmly reminded me again that animal life is no less important than a human’s. Then, I got it. I realized then that I was stuck in my own way of thinking both as a parent who has years of experience and as an adult human. What right do we have as humans to determine that life, no matter what form it takes is our decision to make? I also became more conscious of how much I was learning from him at that moment.
Although, we as parents like to believe we are the teachers of our children, our children can teach us about matters of life, too. I believe that as parents it is important to step back and really listen to our children. Are we so busy being ‘right’ not open to new ways of thinking and new ideas. This I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.