My Moral Dilemma with Medical Testing on Animals

I’m struggling with a moral dilemma. I strongly believe that all animals are independent living beings that deserve to be treated with compassion. Yet I rely on medications manufactured by pharmaceutical companies that test on animals. Even if I didn’t take manufactured drugs, I would have to ingest animal parts, such as pig and cow thyroid, in order to survive. How can Pagans with serious illness find a balance between the harshness of survival and compassion?

My family raised cows for a few years during my early teens. Dad taught us girls not to name any of them or their calves. He didn’t want us crying when our pets were sold. We were taught similar values with hunting from my grandpa and dad. Only kill what you will eat or share with others.

Since my dad was often away with the Airforce reserves and my mom was in college, much of their care fell to me. It was easy to fill their grain and tighten their fly back scratch in the spring. In the winter though, the water pipe often froze so I had to haul water from the house on my sled since I wasn’t old enough to drive. It took multiple trips of back breaking work.

I didn’t mind though because I felt we shared a kindness and respect. The lead cow would let me stroke the soft white curls of her face. I played chest bumping and head butting games with our young bull. We did name him George since he was a pure bred Angus and wasn’t going to be food.

It wasn’t until later in life that I learned how thyroid medication and insulin were first created. The first insulin treatment was the extract of dog’s pancreas given to a fourteen year old boy. (History of Insulin) Later they used cow and pig pancreas. For hypothyroidism, pig and cow thyroids were used. Not only do these animals give me life sustaining protein, but they were the foundation for the medicine I take today. Well, I’m off insulin now.

According to the National Institute of Health, there are many laws and regulations in place to enforce the care of animals used for research. But how much of a life can an animal have if they are in captivity and experimented on? Then again, what kind of life do animals have on farms especially large factory farms. None. Is is better that the lives of animals in labs are sacrificed so that thousands of humans can live?

Perhaps what I need to remember is that life is filled with life and death, suffering and joy. I’ve seen my cat outside holding down a mouse with one paw. The mouse was bleeding from the neck. My cat would lift it’s paw and the feeble mouse would try to run. The cat would drop his paw down again and lick his lips in boredom. Even animals can be cruel.

Feeling lab experiments are cruel makes me wants to stop buying medications from pharmaceuticals that still test on animals. But I can’t. I would die because I don’t have access to cow and pig thyroids and pancreas. Those would have to be dried, ground up and measured. Plus each organ offers a different amount of what my body needs so the dosage isn’t guaranteed. Thinking about it makes me feel like one of the mutants from The X Files or creatures on Supernatural.

Let’s be more aware of how animals have played a major role in furthering human life. How then can we honour this more in our religious practice?


“History of Insulin” by Timothy Gower Discovery Health

“Desiccated thyroid extract” Wikipedia

Medical Research with Animals: from the National Institute of Health

NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare

Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals

Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals

Animal Welfare Act

Office of Animal Care and Use Regulations and Standards

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About Tara "Masery" Miller

Tara "Masery" Miller is a Neo-Pagan panentheist Gaian mage living in the Ozarks with her husband and pets. She's also a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. She is the editor of Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul which you can find at Immanion press. She has a minor is religion from Southeast Missouri State Missouri State University with an emphasis in mysticism. Masery has lead various groups over the years and organized Pagan Pride Day events. Her magic and author page is at

  • David Salisbury

    Thanks for talking about this topic! The horrific vivisection industry is certainly one that doesn’t get the spotlight shined on it often enough.

    In terms of insulin- I wouldn’t worry there. Since 2006, nearly all insulin is made with recombinant DNA techniques using bacteria cultures. In terms of the need to take insulin in general, check out some of the studies showing how reducing or eliminating the intake of animal products results in the body requiring less outside insulin to be taken by the sick.

    In terms of current research on animals and buying those products- its important to remember that not much in the way of useful discoveries for human health from animals has happened since the polio vaccination. The reason being, our body chemistry is so different from animals that its impossible to get an accurate and well-informed result. The most famous example is how laboratories have been curing cancer in mice for decades, yet they cant seem to get it right for humans because the biology doesnt match. We’re now looking at scientific cures on a molecular level where vivisection on animals is pretty irrelevant. Most vivisection that happens now is done my laboratories getting huge federal grants to show “research results.” The grant money is pocketed and no one bats an eye.

    I think the best way to honor animals in religious practice is to just get out of their way and leave them alone. Allowing them to live their own lives and speaking up for their unique existence is both easy and practical.


    • Tara “Masery” Miller

      Thanks for contributing David. You’ve given me the energy to further study the issue. I agree that there needs to be more discussion on animal welfare in regards to vivisection and that most lab science is molecular concerning stem cells and pathogens. For example, the recent discovery of a vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease which will benefit bovine.,0,1856834.story?track=rss There are people who work in the science field who care for the animals to make them as comfortable as possible.

      “Monkey Business: A look inside the UW’s Primate Research Center” shows the difference between two labs. One that treats their primates as ethically as possibly and one that doesn’t and had complaints filed against it. It also mentions that primate infant care research has led to large steps in human neonatal care. There are advances still being made.

  • wiztwas

    Nature is “red in tooth and claw”, the rule is the survival of the fittest, by using our intellectual fitness we have managed to overcome our physical weakness.

    Animal testing is sometimes done just to satisfy regulations and has no scientific value.

    The only animal that the drug needs to work for is the target species and we don’t test drugs enough on ourselves.

    There are alternatives to animal testing.

    There are an order of magnitude more animals confined and grown by man just because they, and/or the products they produce, taste nice. The number of animals that are failed to be slaughtered correctly for food are many times the number carefully used for research.

    I believe that we should be respectful of all animals, we should not use animals unless we need to, our governments should legislate to remove unneeded testing, to require better more extensive human testing and we should all be vegans.

    I am also a realist, in reality what I do is to try to take steps in the right direction to make the world a better place, I have lobbied my politicians to change things, I have withdrawn my support for the production of cheap factory farmed meat although not to the extent of becoming a vegan.

    There is a huge amount of pain and suffering that goes on in the natural world, naturally. What we do as a specials is deliberate, we do it as a means to an end and the end can justify the means, we have reaped huge benefits from science, however we still need to keep making steps in the right directions.

    We need to keep perspectives, our abuse of animals is only one aspect of what is going wrong, our accelerating consumption of resources, our unbridled capitalism, our lack of care for our fellow man, all need addressing.