Student Fight Back
Most of people tend to think of laboratory animals in terms of cancer research and the cure of disease, major areas of activity that are clearly of enormous significance in potentially bettering all of life, human and animal. As a result, many people are not too terribly concerned with the “plight” of laboratory animals and tend to see whatever suffering they do undergo as major contributions to the common good.Indeed, scientists tend to perpetuate this image of the use of research animals and, where referring to the killing of laboratory animals, even in scientific papers, tend to speak of “sacrificing” the animal.
It is revelatory for most people that most laboratory animals are in fact employed in far less noble pursuits, although no clear statistics are available to document this in any detailed way.Such activities include the toxicity and irritation testing of various consumer products, such as foodstuffs and cosmetics, teaching, extraction of products, and the development of drugs.Thus, when speaking of the question of “research on laboratory animals,” we must take great care to realize the variegated activities subsumed under that rubric. We must take care to distinguish a number of distinct activities. For convenience, we may group them into the following categories, recognizing that they represent gross oversimplifications: (1) basic biological research, that is, the formulation and testing of hypotheses about fundamental theoretical questions, (2) applied basic biomedical research – the formulation and testing of hypotheses about diseases, dysfunctions, genetic defects, etc.
, (3) the development of drugs and therapeutic chemicals and biologicals, (4) the testing of various consumer goods for safety, toxicity, irritation, and degree of toxicity, (5) use of animals in educational institutions and elsewhere for demonstration, dissection, surgery practice, etc, (6) the use of animals for the extraction of products – serum from horses, musk from civet cats, etc.The first opposition to use of animals in research dates back to the late nineteenth century with the beginnings of the antivivisection societies. However, the opposition in recent years has emerged as animal activists and antivivisectionists object to causing animals pain and suffering in experiments that they believe have questionable benefit. Biomedical research scientists must now justify what they are doing and the expected benefits from animal research since animal activist opponents, basing their beliefs more on philosophical than scientific reasoning, have attempted to influenced public opinion against their work. The trial in and conviction of Dr.
Edward Taub in the US in 1981 alarmed his colleagues in the biomedical community and alerted members of Congress that things were not as they should be in the nation’s laboratories. Since 1981, the Silver Spring monkey case has triggered increasing opposition to the use of animals in research from many animal rights and animal welfare organizations. Animal activists, antivivisectionists, and some scientists are now less willing to accept reassuring statements from scientists that all is well in animal research activities. Practically, the opposition to animal research is based on concerns of whether some assumptions about animal testing are valid, basic research in the medical sciences has any direct bearing on preventing diseases or improving medical care (McKeown, 1979, p.157), human disease can be studied through animals (in the past, efforts to investigate cholera failed to induce anything similar in animals while contemporary scientists are having the same difficulty with AIDS), etc. Research opponents recognize that the knowledge and the health benefits that have arisen out of bioscientific animal abuse cannot be denied or unlearned.
But they also argue that spiritually evolving human beings no longer need to proceed in this direction and our inherent fear of death cannot be eliminated but can be spiritually modified (Roberts, 1991, pp.25-26). Those who believe in scientific antivivisectionism feel they have the basis for directly challenging the medical establishment. The real point as they see it is that progress in medicine is not synonymous with improvement in human health. They believe that more lives can be saved through preventive measures than interventive technology.
Although these lives may be different lives, they are just as important (Tiger, 1990, p.11).The supporters for using animals in research believe that such research provides many benefits to humans based on scientific evidence. The value of medical research is recognized for extending the scope and precision of hygienic measures, immunization, and therapy and for providing an understanding of the body and its diseases. Strong support for using animals in research comes from those who have the most experience in doing that research and those who have seen the major benefits.According to Dr.
Michael E. DeBakey, chairman of the Foundation for Biomedical Research, “not one advancement in the care of patients – advancements that you use and take for granted every day – has been realized without the use of animal research” (16). At the same time, across the world many scientific institutions approve the use animals in research. For instance, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (NAS) presents a very personal perspective on animal research benefits: “Animal experiments have provided valuable information on the effects of visual stimulation on brain development, biofeedback techniques, memory loss, programmed instruction in education, aggression, stress, and recovery after strokes or brain injury” (NAS, 1990, p.12). It is necessary to mention that Of the Nobel prizes awarded in medicine or physiology in the twentieth century, 54 of 76 were based on animal research (AMA, 1988, p.
2). Among these have been the prize awarded for the studies using dogs that documented the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease, the studies using chickens that linked viruses and cancer, and the studies using cattle, mice, and chicken embryos that established that a body can be taught to accept tissue from different donors if it is inoculated with different types of tissue prior to birth or during the first year of life, a finding expected to help simplify and advance organ transplants in the future. Studies using animals also resulted in the successful culture of the poliomyelitis virus, the discovery of insulin, and the treatment of diabetes.Many specialists and animal rights activists have argued that there is no clear-cut line between humans and animals from a moral point of view, and further, that animals have moral rights following from their nature or telos if or even as humans do. They have correlatively argued that since law rests on morality and that a key moral notion encoded in the law is the notion of rights possessed by human individuals, animals, too, ought to possess legal rights that protect their fundamental natures.
From a strictly philosophical point of view, there exists a startling conclusion: if a certain sort of research on human beings is considered to be immoral, a prima facie case exists for saying that such research is immoral when conducted on animals. Reasons for saying that various kinds of research on humans is immoral is that it causes pain or infringes on freedom or violates some basic interest or right of man. Clearly then, such reasoning should be carried over to animals as well, unless one can cite a morally relevant difference that characterizes the animal, and we have already argued that such a difference is not likely to be forthcoming. Such a criterion would not eliminate all research on animals, even as use of that criterion has not vitiated all research on humans. After all, people still do experiments on people that do not violate their right to dignity, equality, choice, and freedom from suffering.
But use of that criterion would effectively curtail the vast majority of research in all of the above categories. Clearly such a position is utopian and socially and psychologically impossible in our culture. Practically, people cannot even adopt the abolition of animal experimentation as an achievable moral goal in their socio-psychological milieu. Primarily because most of society is not prepared to sacrifice the benefits that research brings, especially in the area of disease control and treatment. Nor is society prepared to give up faith in science as a dominant mode of dealing with reality, and the abolition of animal experimentation would essentially mean an end to much of science as we know it. This is not to suggest that the human benefit rationale provides a good, philosophically defensible argument to justify invasive animal use to achieve that benefit, though many researchers assume that it does.
Thus, in a statement typical of such arguments, Dr. Theodore Cooper, a medical researcher defending the invasive use of animals in reseach, asserted that: “The main purpose of… research.
.. is to improve or protect the health of people….
Scientists make a distinction between the value of human life and the value of animal life…. Most modern societies (not all) place a higher value on human life than on nonhuman animal life. Therefore, in the absence of the perfect information or the currently needed information, the scientist is willing to make progress” (Carbone, 2004, p.
29). Most defenses of invasive animal use make a similar argument.According to the principle of equality, like cases should be treated alike. This creates a presumption in favor of equal consideration of interests, and thus in favor of the maintenance of the one and only criterion of consciousness, and places the burden of proof on the shoulders of the defenders of hierarchical accounts. The problem to be addressed by those who want to establish different levels is then: what can cause the equally vital interests of different beings to be granted different consideration? If the interests are equally vital by definition, the difference must lie in the characteristics of the being. If it could be shown that either the presence of one or more favored characteristics rationality, autonomy, self-consciousness can justify a difference in the treatment of equal interests, one could then appeal to the possession of such attributes as the comparative criterion for a superior moral status.
An aggregative doctrine such as utilitarianism is naturally inclined to compare interests in a direct way, without emphasizing any further characteristics of the individuals whose interests they are. And, not surprisingly, this is the approach adopted by Peter Singer, to whom we owe the most convincing formulation of utilitarian theory in a nonspeciesist perspective. About the interest in not suffering, Singer writes “if a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering – insofar as rough comparisons can be made – of any other being” (Singer, 1990, pp.8-9).
Among the authors who criticized Peter Singer’s positions from this standpoint, opposing utilitarianism with a nonspeciesist version of Kantianism, the American philosopher Tom Regan is probably the best known. Regan expresses himself in the language of rights. He defines moral rights, along the lines of Joel Feinberg, as claims that are (a) validated by reference to sound moral principles, and (b) valid both as claims-to (a certain treatment) and as claims against (some individuals) (Feinberg, 1997, p.38). Moral rights perform here the function of setting limits to utilitarian aggregation, preventing individuals from being sacrificed to promote general utility.
It is in this context that Regan introduces the notion of intrinsic or inherent value. The possession of inherent value originates the general right to a respectful treatment, that is, to a treatment that submits the overall calculation of consequences to side constraints. For Regan, therefore, the right to welfare, inclusive of freedom and bodily integrity, is subsumed under the right to respect. According to Regan, individuals are subjects-of-a-life if they are endowed with a specific cluster of characteristics: “beliefs and desires; perception, memory, and a sense of the future, including their own future; an emotional life together with feelings of pleasure and pain; preference- and welfare-interests; the ability to initiate action in pursuit of their desires and goals; psychophysical identity over time” (Regan, 1995, p.262). According to Regan’s perspective, biomedical research that makes use of animals is normally presented as a lifeboat situation.
It is claimed, that is, that animal experimentation is the unavoidable result of a choice between the welfare of some individuals (usually human) and the welfare of other individuals (invariably nonhuman). Human experimentation, on the other hand, is seen in a different light. In this case, we do not deem it permissible to pick out some individuals in order to use them as experimental subjects in laboratory researches by which other individuals may benefit.From the critical viewpoint, although animal research represents a highly controversial issue, finding alternatives for animals in research is not a simple process. The Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing has received generous grants and gifts to sponsor research dealing with alternatives. Andrew Rowan of Tufts University concludes, “Scientific interest in the topic of alternatives has been marked by legislative initiatives and campaigns by animal advocates against animal testing.
However, the topic is also marked by rhetoric that has served to confuse the public and others” (Rowan, 1991, p.2). Within the animal rights movement, the debate over research tends to focus on three exclusive methods: (1) regulating the use of animals through legislation; (2) abolishing the use of animals altogether; and (3) searching for alternatives to the use of animals. Alternatives research is a relatively new approach and may not give immediate or spectacular results. In the short run, the search for replacements may eliminate fewer animals than regulation would.
But over a longer period of time, the replacement approach should eliminate many more animals in research. Supporters of alternatives suggest a step-by-step process in which the need for animals is first reduced and then possibly eliminated in many scientific areas. But to replace animals in various tests, valid alternatives to the use of animals must be found.