What might be different in Jurassic Park if the park had been subject to federal laws?

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Application of federal laws to the operation of Jurassic Park would most certainly change the way the park functions. Animal welfare laws, safety requirements, environmental regulations and others would all fundamentally alter park operations.

The late Michael Crichton was a learned individual whose background in medical studies and reputation for studious research provided the basis for some of his most well-known works, including his early novel The Andromeda Strain. With Jurassic Park, his reputation for studiousness is well-represented. From the start of his story about a wealthy philanthropist’s efforts, Crichton subsumes the reader in legal matters pertaining to John Hammond’s activities on an island off the coast of Costa Rica—an island he purchased for the purpose of developing a resort park featuring the species of animals he has devoted his life to resurrecting.

Given Crichton’s penchant for thinking through the intricacies of his stories, consideration of the application of federal laws to his fictitious creation, a park in which to display the dinosaurs brought back into existence, has already been done to a degree. Chapter one of Jurassic Park begins with the introduction of a lawyer for the US Environmental Protection Agency, Bob Morris, seeking information on Hammond’s activities. The author’s focus on EPA concerns is relevant to the question at hand, namely, how the application of federal laws would affect the dinosaur park. Early narrative includes references to the “uncontrolled” nature of Hammond’s work and the suggestion that “no federal laws regulate it.” Crichton was interested in uncontrolled and unregulated innovations that could adversely affect society. Jurassic Park as envisioned by its founder, Hammond, represents Crichton’s application of his concerns to the extreme extension of genetic engineering and the introduction of the fruit of that labor to contemporary society.

Early in Jurassic Park, Donald Gennaro, a lawyer, discusses problems encountered by Hammond in the effort to develop the titular park. Among those problems is the deaths of some of the workers. This brings up the issue of federal worker safety laws, specifically, application to Jurassic Park of Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations pertaining to the conditions under which people labor. Could the dinosaur park have been built and operated if forced to operate under OSHA regulations? Conceivably yes, as hundreds of thousands or millions of people lawfully carry out professional responsibilities under hazardous conditions. Clearly, however, those constructing Jurassic Park are laboring under abnormally hazardous conditions given the nature of some of the animals involved.

At the core of Jurassic Park, as noted, is the late author’s interest in the unregulated nature of the industry involved in genetic engineering. The moral and ethical consequences of genetic engineering have been debated for years, especially with the announcements over time of continued advancements in its’s application to more complicated forms of life. Just because something is possible does not, after all, mean that it should be done. As complicated as is the subject of genetic engineering, however, the reason there has been an absence of legislation on the matter is that very complexity. Genetic engineering has long been recognized as holding out great hope for medical treatments for cancers and other life-threatening and disabling conditions. Finding the line at which genetic engineering should be regulated, though, is inordinately difficult. Banning such research and development would prevent positive medical advances; allowing unregulated research could unleash unstoppable forces with catastrophic consequences. Banning would preclude development of Hammond’s park; unregulated research would lead to new problems, problems referenced, again, in Crichton’s novel with discussions of the appearances in Costa Rica of mysterious carnivorous lizards that have attacked children.

And, then, of course, there is the federal Animal Welfare Act, which protects animals held in captivity for research and exhibition purposes. Less theoretical by nature than discussions of genetic engineering, the Animal Welfare Act would certainly be used to prevent certain procedures required to control animals as large and vicious as some of the species brought back to life by Hammond's researchers. A Tyrannosaurus Rex could not be controlled without exceptionally harsh measures that would run afoul of federal animal welfare laws.

Effects of the application of federal laws to Jurassic Park can only be speculated about, but draconian enforcement would certainly impede the park’s operation.

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