Dossier ~ Tuesday 24th March 2009
Tintin in the Congo (1931) - Page 16]

The French have a saying: "you have to suffer to be beautiful." While this may be true, sometimes the ones who suffer aren't the ones who become beautiful. More than 600 animals are sacrificed, sometimes in excruciating pain, in the process of developing a single lipstick. The European Union has just taken decisive measures in this regard.

Thirty years too long

The first European legislation concerning the use of animal testing in the cosmetics industry dates from 1978. In reality, this legislation had minimal effect. It is only since the start of 2009 (30 years too late) that a ban on this type of research, which has involved the deaths of hundreds of thousands of animals, has been put in place. From 2013, there will be a total ban. Cats, rabbits, dogs, rats, monkeys, mice, pigs: the list is long. Research by the European Union found that more than 12 million animals are killed every year in laboratories. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't medical establishments that carry out most animal testing. The cosmetics industry swallows up the most animals, followed by the arms industry; the latter killing animals in order to learn how better to kill human beings.

Why all these victims ?

The history of animal testing should be considered in the context of the different ways it has been used. Alternatives have existed for a long time, but laboratories, which are commercial businesses just like any other, used to stubbornly refuse to invest in stem cell research, for example. Abundant profits were a higher priority than animal well-being. Nevertheless, these days the desire for profits is also leading to animals being saved from the laboratory. Research on a substance to combat cancer requires the sacrifice of 600 animals, with the same number used to develop certain beauty products. Finally some people are becoming aware that this slaughter actually costs more than alternative methods.

Since the dawn of mankind

Certain religions and philosophies have to take some responsibility for the widespread use of animal testing. Religions started by clearly separating humans from other forms of life, and this was used to elevate human beings above ?inferior' animals; a dichotomy which is clearly false. Animals are different, but recent research shows that they are much closer to humans than our ancestors believed. The following couple of examples are certain to upset some people. Our internal organs are very similar to those of pigs, all of whose parts are supposedly fit to eat. And there are fewer differences between the genes of a chimpanzee and a human being than between those of a chimpanzee and a gorilla, despite the latter two being in the same class of apes. Yet religions are not alone in demoting animals to mere objects.

Odd philosophers and strange scientists

In the seventeenth century, the philosopher René Descartes (1596 - 1650), source of the famous quote "I think therefore I am", judged animals to be lacking souls and to be more like machines than living beings. He also deduced from this that they could not feel pain. Most scientists used these false excuses shamelessly to justify the practice of vivisection; surgical operations on living animals without the use of anaesthetics. Even today, a vet employed by the pharmaceutical company Janssen, dares to say that: "Our beagles [a breed of dog] are treated very well. Sometimes I even get the impression they enjoy participating in our experiments. From this point of view, they are more like colleagues than guinea pigs." (interview shown on Belgian television)

Are human beings and animals equal ?

This type of question can be very disturbing. In his book, So You Think You're Human? (Oxford University Press, 2004), Felipe Fernndez-Armesto puts forward convincing arguments against the idea of a fixed boundary between human beings and animals. The idea that animals are inferior to human beings is simply a human construction. The statement begs the question "inferior in what way?" A boa constrictor may not be good at mathematics, but it outshines people by a long way when it comes to surviving in the rain forest.We have already had a chance to show some of the humane attitudes that Hergé displayed towards animals (see the recent journal "On the Trail of the Yeti"). Further information can be discovered in the book Tintin et les Animaux (Editions Moulinsart), available from our online shop.

The smartest Snowy !

On the occasion of the Tintin Festival in Namur (8-10 May 2009), Snowy will be honoured during three events taking place on Sunday 10 May. The first is a competition to find out who can draw a dog most like Snowy (drawing to take place on site). The second competition will be an obstacle course for clever dogs. Finally, Jean-Pierre Talbot, who played Tintin on the big screen in the 1960s, will lead a cross-country dog race. All these activities will take place in a spirit of great respect for animals, who are neither toys nor gadgets, but living beings entirely worthy of respect. Snowy gets the final word: "WOOF!"

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