In the past several years, the greatest physical pain I’ve known has been at the hands of dentists. An infected root canal from ten years ago had to be removed and replaced. Bone from my jaw was grafted to where my front tooth was. When the first bone graft failed, it was redone, and sixth months after that healed, I had a titanium post inserted. This was the procedure that disturbed me the most.

Unlike the previous few surgeries, this time I was awake. The chair was tilted far back and an anesthetic was applied to my gums and the roof of my mouth. Then the dentist cut open my gums and drilled a hole up into the site. I wasn’t sure if I could feel the drill itself or just its pressure, but I felt something and had to stop for more anesthetic. The dentist then pushed a large ratchet-like tool up into my mouth and told me I might experience some discomfort. He began to crank the lever.

The force he used was so great that had I not been gripping the armrests with all my strength, it would have pushed me out of the chair. I could feel the post slowly being ratcheted into my skull. This was more than discomfort. This was straight-up pain.

Sitting on the bus with bloodied tissue covering my mouth, my mind wondered what an animal being experimented on might go through. When the animal feels more pain than it can manage, is more anesthetic applied if at all? I was there by choice; how different would it be if I had none? How much greater would my fear be if I didn’t know what the procedure was or how long it would last?

Animal experimentation seems to me like an unnecessary torture. I’ve heard people describe these animals as though they were another scientific tool; something grown, manipulated, and discarded in the name of science. I understand the rationalization that the goal of saving human lives is more important, but I cannot agree with it. I see too much equality between all living things to determine which has more right to exist here. Without animal experimentation and the modern medicine that has come from it, many human beings would not be living as long as they are. Is that right there not cause for alarm? If lifestyle is the root of our problem, does it not make more sense to change our habits instead?

I am often asked questions like, would you kill an animal if…? The answer is that I cannot answer this question. I no longer define myself by hypothetical circumstances. To ask me if I would have another being experience physical pain instead of me seems like a moral pain I could never endure.