Recently I had a scare. I found a lump in my breast and immediately buried myself and gave all my children away! I confided in a friend who reassured me that breast cancer was “treatable” . I was relieved as I waited for my Ultrasound and Mammogram appointment.
During one of my sleepless nights I thought how I had been a part of the research and discovery. I had marched. I had fundraised.
I had friends involved in breast cancer research. I remembered the bite marks where the rats, she used for her research, had bitten her. I had visited her in the lab one day and she showed what she was working on. She was thinly slicing the rat’s brains to examine. The same rats that had bitten her were now dead.
I had forgotten the sacrifice of those rats. And while I felt relief I could be treated I also felt like those rats were being taken advantage of. It was obvious, by the bite marks around my friends finger nail beds, that the rat didn’t want to be injected with cancer needles or be cured of it’s deadly disease. The rat was protesting without any voice. Who was the voice of the rat? Could I be the voice of the rat? Could I say that a rat’s life was as important as mine or my children’s? Could I refuse treatment? I had children to live for. And my parents, they had already lost a child (my oldest sister), how would they feel if I died from a “treatable” disease?
What about the rat’s feelings? How many rats lost their mother or their sister or child? The rat, like a slave, had been given no choice and like the Jews in Germany were forced into experimentation for the purpose of medical research. No moral person could accept people being used in labs(even though we have forgotten where some of our modern medical research stems from). How could I as a moral vegetarian ignore this rat holocaust? I am sure God’s purpose for a rat was not research and I knew morally it was wrong to use any of God’s creatures for that purpose. How many had to die so that I may live a better life?
Is there an answer? When must one become a hypocrite? In the face of death? For our children’s sake? For our parents or husband or family? For our religion? What would Daniel or Jesus or His Imperial Majesty Selassie do? What would I do? Could I listen to the teachings of the great Rastaman Prof I (a man of love and peace and tranquility within his heart) who after being questioned about being a vegetarian says “I don’t eat fish because I can’t afford to take a life to save a life. Cuz’ a fish love him life just like how I love mine!”
Fortunately I was relieved of my worries about breast cancer but not of my obligation to the rats who sacrificed their lives for medical research. Is the cost of so many lives and the spilling of so much blood worth it? Is medical research a vegetarian ideal?