31 May 2014
What are the key anthropological issues in the relationship between humans and animals used for testing and utility? Why do some people support this practice while others are against it?
Animals have always been a large contribution to human life. Their most common and significant contributions comes in the form of meat, milk and eggs- either for direct consumption by the owners or for sale to the wider public. Other often overlooked contributions include manure, draft power, hides and most importantly as test objects. Humans are believed to be the more intelligent species compared to animals and hold the ability to manipulate their lives- bringing them into existence in order to kill them for the benefit of humankind. The ethics behind the use of animals for testing and research is an ongoing debate. This piece aims to demonstrate the relationship between humans and animals that are used for research and utility and why some people support this practice while others are against it. The use of animals for human benefits brings forth an overwhelmingly difficult debate. There is no doubt that the use of animals has greatly contributed to the development of humankind, leading to things such as advances in medical science. Medical researchers outline the great importance that the use of animals in their research have on the welfare of humans, for example, in the testing and development of new vaccines, drugs or medical procedures. This justifies “the use of animals for the benefit of humans with the assertion that humans are more important than animals, and that our needs override they needs” (Knight et al., 2003). The mental experiences and abilities of an animal greatly influence humans attitudes towards the use of animals. It can be roughly categorised as belief in animal cognition (for instance the capability of solving problems and making decisions) and belief in animal sentience (their ability to feel or perceive pain). When an animal is believed to experience feelings and internal thoughts, humans will feel uncomfortable and find it unacceptable to cause the animal discomfort. In contrast to that, the use of animals that lack mentality can be be seen as more acceptable. “People make judgements on the mental capacity of animals in neither a blanket nor random fashion; rather, they make such judgements with respect to context, such as the type of animal in question and its perceived mental capacities in comparison to other species” (Eddy et al,1993’ Herzog & Galvin, 1997). Although, the views towards animal use can be impacted by the belief of animal mind and mentality, their view can also be altered depending on the category of animal. For example, humans tend to be more accepting of using animals that have smaller brains such as rats and mice whereas they are less accepting of the use of animals that are classed as pets such as cats and dogs or animals they believe are more intelligent such as chimpanzees and apes (Driscoll, 1992; Herzog & Galvin, 1997; Knight et al.,2003). With that, it is possible that a person that encourages or accepts the use of mice for dissection purposes will not accept the use of dogs or chimpanzees for the same purposes. The reason behind this can be because of the belief that the mentality of different species are at different levels, along with other aspects such as the affection humans have for certain types of animals. For instance, many humans fear rats and don’t have a connection with them so they don’t feel for the rats when they are used for research purposes, whereas many people have dogs or cats as pets and are very affectionate with them so they would not like to see those animals who they see as companions suffer. In a 2009 study by S.Knight, A.Vrij, K.Bard and D.Brandon, they set out to determine the psychological differences between scientists and people who partake in animal welfare matters, to be able to get an...
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