On Tuesday evening, the Yale Debate Association debated PETA on whether or not Yale should ban experiments on animals.
PETA director of Laboratory Investigations Justin Goodman argued in favor of banning experiments, while YDA president and former YDN staff reporter Diana Li ’15, and former YDA membership director Nick Cugini ’15 argued against it. Roughly 50 students and community members were in attendance at the event held in Linsly-Chittenden Hall.
The debate began with Goodman walking through the various types of animal experimentation, accompanied sometimes by graphic photos of those experiments. A number of the experiments he listed took place at Yale — from the use of electroshock therapy on rats to the exposure of pregnant monkeys to the industrial chemical BPA.
To conclude his opening remarks, Goodman said there is a logical contradiction in the way people think about animal experimentation. Humans justify use of animals because they are similar to humans but also find it acceptable to use animals because they are dissimilar to humans, he said.
Li began the YDA’s arguments by focusing on more theoretical points. Animals cannot be granted the same rights as humans because they do not possess moral autonomy, she said.
But Li brought these arguments home as she argued that Goodman was not presenting a complete understanding of the issues.
“He’s not going to look at the whole picture of why we do this animal testing in the first place” she said of her opponent, as she brought up historical examples of untested drugs like sulfanilamide and thalidomide.
While cruelty may take place against animals, Li said, humans must ultimately weigh it against the benefit of saving thousands of human lives.
In response, Goldman said he questioned whether animal testing is even scientifically effective. There are a series of alternatives to animal testing that can be effective in various situations, he said, including microdosing humans.
Cugini accused PETA of manipulating data to make their point rather than using logical arguments.
“This is why it’s hard for moderates on animal rights like me to get on board with them because they use bad science to prove their point,” he said.
Goodman said that in general, PETA is inaccurately painted as a fringe group. In 1948 — the year in which the first national poll on animal testing was conducted — only 8 percent of people opposed animal testing. Today, 41 percent of the total population and 53 percent of youth oppose medical testing, he said.
Li conceded that animal testing is sometimes unnecessary but said this did not determine the outcome of the debate — as the question at hand was whether to ban all testing, not just some.
After the debate, Li and Cugini told the News that they were satisfied with the turnout of the discussion and with the engagement of audience members — who had been banging their desks in parliamentary style on both sides as they heard arguments they agreed with.
Goodman also told the News after the debate that he was pleased with the debate and complimented his opponents.
“I think the debate team did a good job defending what I consider to be an indefensible position,” he said.
But Christine Koczur, the organizer for the Yale Lab Animals Facebook group, said she was disappointed that the financial aspect of animal testing was not brought up in the debate. There was no discussion of the government grant money that pays for these tests, she added.
This event is the first of a series in which Goodman will debate at Brown, Harvard, UPenn and Cornell.