Eric Sandgren, chair of the All Campus Animal Care and Use Committee, agreed to go head-to-head in a debate with Rick Bogle of the Alliance for Animals' Primate Freedom Project on issues concerning animal use in UW research.
The crux of the debate on animal use in research Thursday centered on whether the same rights persist for animals as for humans.
Sandgren defended his stance, saying he does not believe animals have the same rights as humans, which makes them appropriate test subjects. He added that limits are put on primate centers to ensure the appropriate type of animal is being used and in moderation.
However, Bogle viewed these efforts as unacceptable, stating that all primate centers across the country should be shut down.
"We have been seduced by promises for too long that have not been fulfilled," Bogle said. "We need to put our money into clinical research that looks at human disease and not some made-up mouse disease."
Bogle set his sights on defending animal rights, specifically rights for monkeys. He claimed that research done on animals is irrelevant to the medical advancements concerning human diseases.
Following incidents of harassment from animal-rights activists, Sandgren said he decided to speak out on behalf of researchers.
In addition, Sandgren countered Bogle's argument, saying animal research is crucial for providing effective medical care for humans, especially with regard to drug development.
"There is an undeniable difference between animals and humans, but the benefit of animal testing arises when we are able to eliminate 90 percent of the drugs because we know they will not work in humans by using them in animals first," Sandgren said.
But Bogle said he strongly believes that although animals may be unable to communicate their pain and emotions, they still experience feelings and interact with one another much like humans do.
Sandgren recognized there was a polarization on both sides of the debate and that both have valid arguments, adding that small steps are being made to reduce the amount of animals used in research along with the exploration of alternative methods.
Though other options are being considered, Sandgren said he believes a complete abolishment of animal use in research is impossible because animal use is a necessity in medical advancements.
However, Bogle refused to recognize these advancements and said not enough is being done.
Mediated by Deborah Blum, a UW journalism professor and science writer, the audience was invited to ask questions concerning the issues brought up by Sandgren and Bogle.
UW sophomore Katie Keller, who attended Thursday's debate, said she believed Sandgren did not address his side of the debate as specifically as Bogle.
"[I]t was an incredibly interesting debate that surprisingly made me question my own beliefs," Keller said.
Sandgren told the audience attending the debate that the importance of the issue is undeniable, and by providing transparency to both sides of the debate, the public can make its own educated decision on where it stands.
Bogle expressed similar thoughts on the issue's importance.
"I think that things can change, and I think things aren't changing," Bogle said. "Not many people are educated on this issue, and, therefore, the public has no idea what's going on. I believe in education."