In desperate times desperate people head here – an online journal of Apocalyptic-themed fiction and commentary.

Animals Were Harmed

Copyright © 2007 by B. F. Price. All rights reserved.

     The Head Scientist made her way through the empty corridors and entered the laboratory unit at her usual early hour. She was the first to arrive in the labs but not the first to arrive in the building, as evidenced by the list of last night’s dead animals posted on the job board by Paul, the animal caretaker, who liked to arrive early to haul off the dead carcasses and feed and hose down the still-living animals before the researchers arrived. She was relieved to note that none of her animals had died that night, and chose to interpret this as a sign that the research she was doing would achieve the results she wanted.

     She wasn’t superstitious: instead, she believed in a chaotic and unpredictable universe and thus good and bad omens signaling how the universe was operating. For now, the universe was treating her research well, which was fortunate It was vital to stopping the wasting epidemic spreading through the colony.

Shivering with cold, she rushed back to her small office and built herself a fire in her camp stove. She held her hands over the flame just long enough bring sensation to her fingertips then placed a cup of water onto the stovetop. She then put on her lab coat and started up her computer. The Committee had issued a Priority order to update the lab’s operations manual. To disobey could mean death, but the Head Scientist was also afraid to obey the order, certain that the government planned to retire her.

Retirement meant losing one’s status as a colonist.

She was probably worrying about nothing. The work that occurred in her lab was critical to keeping the colonists alive, so the Head Scientist — and the work her lab conducted — had access to the best computer and medical equipment the technicians could salvage from the pre-Apo ruins. But they could never salvage enough animals from the Outside to keep up with the necessary research.

The operations manual was a relic from the pre-Apo civilization, and she dimly remembered reading its archaic language and exotic methodologies back when she was a student at the University. Now, she read it with difficulty, trying to remember what some of the old terms meant. After all, she was only twelve when society collapsed and she, her parents, and the other refugees began to build the shelter which eventually grew into the Colony.

The Head Scientist scrolled to the beginning of the text and began reading, omitting and revising the text as she progressed down the screen. She was as unpracticed at writing as she was at reading and — for good luck — always started at the beginning. She didn’t do so because she was superstitious (she was a scientist!) but because she liked to re-read and reorient herself into the flow of the words.

Each time she read the Guide, the reading became easier.

 

This edition of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (the Guide) strongly affirms the conviction that all who care for or use animals in research, teaching, or testing must assume responsibility for their well-being. The Guide is applicable to all those who use animals in research, teaching, or testing. Decisions associated with the need to use animals are not within the purview of the Guide, but responsibility for animal well-being begins with the investigator.

The basic objective of the Guide is to provide information that will enhance animal well-being, the quality of biomedical research, and the advancement of biologic knowledge that is relevant to humans or animals. The use of animals as experimental subjects has contributed to many important advances in scientific and medical knowledge. Although scientists have also developed non-animal models for research, teaching, and testing, these models often cannot completely mimic the complex human or animal body, and continued progress in human and animal health and well-being requires the use of living animals. Nevertheless, efforts to develop and use scientifically valid alternatives, adjuncts, and refinements to animal research should continue.

 

     Her biggest priority was to delete any mention of a specific animal type, changing all such references to the more generic “animal.” She skipped the internal debate she had with herself whenever she did so. While she found a nostalgic sort of comfort in the references to mice, rats and gerbils, she knew her staff didn’t even know what those animals were. They were young, too young to have heard the stories about all the creatures which once lived on the outside. It was the Committe’s opinion — and hers — that the Colony is too scarred by the horrors of the last decades. Best to leave the impression some things had always been the way they are today.

     So much had to be excised! Each excision represented, to her, an acknowledgement of what had been lost in the world. For example, what would her assistants think if they knew that the job of scientist once required education and training! As it is, this bunch barely knew how to wield a scalpel and needle. Nor was there need for civilian oversight of the animals’ — there were no civilians anyway — and no need to debate whether the scientists should allocate farm animals for medical experimentation. It simply wasn’t possible to use farm animals — they were all needed for food.

She recalled how many colonists had rebelled when animals they considered family pets had been re-allocated into the category of farm animals. She had lost many friends in that battle.

 

This Guide endorses the responsibilities of investigators as stated in the Restored U.S. Colonial Principles for Utilization and Care of Animals Used in Testing, Research, and Training (circa 2119). Interpretation and application of those principles and this Guide require scientific knowledge. In summary, the principles encourage

  • Design and performance of procedures on the basis of relevance to colonist health, advancement of knowledge, or the good of society.

  • Avoidance or minimization of discomfort, distress, and pain in concert with sound science.

  • Use of appropriate sedation, analgesia, or anesthesia.

  • Establishment of experimental end points.

  • Provision of appropriate animal husbandry directed and performed by qualified persons.

  • Conduct of experimentation on living animals only by or under the close supervision of qualified and experienced persons.

In general, the principles stipulate responsibilities of investigators, whose activities regarding use of animals are subject to oversight by Colonial government.

 

     “Boss! The Researchers have arrived.”

     The Head Scientist looked up to acknowledge Paul, noting that he looked tired and drawn. Though he was three years younger than she, he looked so old! She sighed, silently, and pasted a smile on her face.

“How do the animals look today, Paul? Still kicking?”

“No more deaths since I last posted, boss. But Kate’s animals aren’t thriving, that’s for sure. I tell her and tell her to be nicer to the animals, but she don’t care.”

This was an old argument. Kate was an angry and bitter woman since her last baby died. Although she insisted on conducting reproduction studies, she resented any animal she bred successfully. In the old, pre-Apo world, Kate, would be reassigned to a different study — one where Kate could maintain scientific objectivity. In this reality, obsession trumped objectivity. “I’ll speak to her.”

Paul just nodded. “Any orders?”

“Please set up the operating room for the next round of surgeries. I’ll be there in — oh — thirty minutes.”

“Can you make it an hour? Mark wants to go first.”

So much for escaping from the paperwork! “Sure, go ahead.”

Reluctantly, she returned her attention to the text.

 

Physical restraint is the use of manual or mechanical means to limit some or all of an animal’s normal movement for the purpose of examination, collection of samples, drug administration, therapy, or experimental manipulation. Animals are restrained for brief periods, usually minutes, in most research applications.

Animals can be physically restrained briefly either manually or with restraint devices. Restraint devices should be suitable in size, design, and operation to minimize discomfort or injury. Prolonged restraint should be avoided unless it is essential for achieving research objectives. Less-restrictive systems that do not limit an animal’s ability to make normal postural adjustments should be used when compatible with protocol objectives. When restraint devices are used, they should be specifically designed to accomplish research goals that are impossible or impractical to accomplish by other means or to prevent injury to animals or personnel.

Multiple major survival surgical procedures on a single animal are discouraged but may be permitted if scientifically justified. For example, multiple major survival surgical procedures can be justified if they are related components of a research project, if they will conserve scarce animal resources, or if they are needed for clinical reasons. If multiple major survival surgery is approved, the researcher should pay particular attention to animal well-being through continuing evaluation of outcomes. Resource savings alone is not an adequate reason for performing multiple major survival surgical procedures.

When experimental situations require fluid restriction, at least minimal quantities of fluid should be available to maintain long-term well-being of all animals. Restriction for research purposes should be scientifically justified, and a program should be established to monitor physiologic or behavioral indexes, including criteria (such as weight loss or state of hydration) for temporary or permanent removal of an animal from the experimental protocol. Restriction is typically measured as a percentage change in an animal’s body weight. Precautions that should be used to avoid acute or chronic dehydration include daily recording of fluid intake and recording of body weight at least once a week.

 

     The restrictions and regulations were frequently resented by the researchers, who grumbled that the animals lived in more sanitary conditions than their own families. Her staff, she knew, thought she coddled the animals too much. Why should the cages be cleaned so thoroughly, they complained, when we — indeed all the colonists — are forced to live in filth, rust and corrosion. To some degree this was true, but how the colonists lived was the responsibility of others: she didn’t want to waste a single precious animal to a preventable disease.

     Reminding the researchers that they could do much to improve their own living conditions, however, would make her seem stodgy and old. At any rate, saying so was forbidden by law.

 

Euthanasia is the act of killing animals by methods that induce rapid unconsciousness and death without pain or distress. In evaluating the appropriateness of methods, some of the criteria that should be considered are ability to induce loss of consciousness and death with no or only momentary pain, distress, or anxiety; reliability; nonreversibility; time required to induce unconsciousness; age limitations; compatibility with research objectives; and safety of and emotional effect on personnel.

Euthanasia should be carried out in a manner that avoids animal distress. In some cases, vocalization and release of pheromones occur during induction of unconsciousness. For that reason, other animals should not be present when euthanasia is performed.

 

     Deep down, the Head Scientist worried that converting the Guide into a form her assistants could read would make her redundant. She wondered if she was being paranoid, and dismissed the thought. Paranoia was for non-scientists. She knew that even with the Guide none of her research assistants were experienced enough to replace her. Two of them were still teenagers! Still, she didn’t quite trust the Committee.

     The Head Scientist looked at her watch. Time to go to work. She left her tiny office with relief, glad that she could postpone finishing the revisions for another day.

She wound her way through the narrow corridors to the surgery, and donned her gown and headphones. As she entered the operating room to begin her first procedure, her thoughts were focused on the procedure, and only on the procedure.

She did not look at the animal, whose face and limbs were draped with cloth, and did not hear, could not hear, would not hear, his screams: Please don’t kill me! Please! I have a family starving outside! Help, please, anyone, listen to me! I only wanted food!

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