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Pavlov and the Kingdom of Dogs

From Kim Stallwood
May 2024

Now and then I discover innovative ways that make the case for animals that move and excite me. I see this increasingly less from the animal rights movement and more from the arts.

kingdom of dogs

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) was a Russian scientist who experimented with dogs in his laboratory, the Institute of Experimental Medicine, in St Petersburg. The phrase, “Pavlov’s Dogs,” is usually associated with the image of dogs salivating in response to a bell. He claimed his research showed how animals can be conditioned to associate certain stimuli with specific responses. In addition to the sound of a bell ringing, Pavlov subjected dogs to electric shocks and various stimuli such as the ticking of a metronome, an extremely loud buzzer, and various homemade devices designed to inflict pain. The dogs were strays taken from the streets of St Petersburg.

One hundred years later, it’s estimated that 58.3 million animals are used in research throughout the world. The most researched animals are mice and rats but also used are nonhuman primates, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, cats, ferrets, and dogs. The purposes of the research include fundamental biological research, product development and safety testing for human and veterinary medicine, disease diagnosis, and education and training.1

“Unfortunately, the laws that currently cover animal welfare are clearly inadequate and, in some cases, ridiculous,” notes Richard J Miller in The Rise and Fall of Animal Experimentation (OUP; 2023). For example, the US Animal Welfare Act excludes the species most used in research (rats, mice, birds).

The challenge throughout the history of the anti-vivisection and animal rights movements has been how to frame and present the animals’ plight in ways that increase the public’s willingness to learn about something they’d rather not think about even though the research is claimed to be done in their name as consumers of products and services.



Posted on May 17, 2024
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