The Ethics of Research Involving Animals

Topics: Animal rights, Animal testing, Animal Liberation Front Pages: 6 (2031 words) Published: November 4, 2013
Man’s Best Test Subject

“All living beings have an inherent value and that to use any animals for experimentation is evil” (Mur 8). This statement made by Tom Regan in Animal Experimentation takes a strong stand on the controversial topic of animal testing, but this assertion is justified through various examples and research. He also states how humans, or moral agents, are able to apply moral principles in decision making. Because of this ability, humans have a duty to uphold that morality on other humans as well as those with an inherent value, such as animals. Animal activists strongly support this idea, yet researchers use animals to implement experiments that they claim to be morally justified and beneficial to humanity. However, research on this issue has provided evidence that proves these claims to be false. Animal experimentation is unnecessary, cruel, and, in some cases, harmful to humans. Experimentation on animals is a controversial topic and a popular argument against this practice is whether or not animals have rights. This issue is discussed in further depth in the introduction to the book, Do Animals Have Rights? Pro-experimentation thinkers believe that animals do not have rights and conclude that it is acceptable to follow through with animal testing. They follow the ideas of people such as philosopher René Descartes who believed “that no animals have rights because they do not use language, and because, he asserted, they are not conscious” (Carroll 4). Although it is true that most animals cannot communicate the way humans can, followers of this idea are misled, for consciousness can be defined as a state of awareness and can be categorized by thought and emotion. According to animal rights lawyer, Steven M. Wise, “entitlement to legal rights rests upon the existence of conscious states” (Carroll 5). Wise follows this declaration by stating how animals, such as great apes, behave in ways similar to the mental processes demonstrated by humans. They deceive and empathize with others, comprehend the idea of cause and effect, and can even recognize themselves in mirrors. For example, an ape can notice and will react to a splash of dye on their face when observing their reflection in a mirror. This characteristic in animals supports the idea of a conscious state, therefore animals are entitled to rights. Furthermore, Descartes concludes that because of an animal’s lack of consciousness it is “aware of neither pleasure nor pain. Therefore…animals are mere automatons or moving machines” (Carroll 5). He even goes as far as to conduct experiments where he would burn animals alive to prove their whines sound like that “of a machine that was malfunctioning or a gear that needed oil” (Carroll 5). Because of this evidence, Descartes reasoned animals need not be protected by rights. Along with civil rights attorney William Kunstler, many would disagree with this deduction. Kunstler argues that pain belongs to everyone no matter what race, sex, or species. He notes how animals are even used in research for pain and pain-relieving drugs, and states a specific example where a bird reacts quickly by jumping when its feet touch a hot-plate (Carroll 6). Philosopher Jeremy Bentham also agreed to the idea of animals having rights and says that pain “is the only factor that should be considered in weighing whether animals matter morally” (Carroll 5). Because animals do feel pain it allows them the right to the protection they are denied.

Animal experimentation is not only unnecessary but it is misleading as well. The research done by C. Ray Greek and Jean Swingle Greek provide strong evidence to support this idea. They state, “Modern medical advances such as antibiotics and vaccines are not the result of animal experimentation” (Greek 25). They continue to share their findings by stating how “epidemiological studies, not animal experiments, found links between heart disease and...
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