The ethical debate of using animals in research Biological Essay (Essay Sample)
Title: The ethical debate of using animals in research
The class is : Psychobiology
Utilize the library to gather books and articles to write a 5-page paper on the topic provided ( APA format)
The Ethical Debate on Using Animals in Research
The Ethical Debate of Using Animals in Research
Scientific research has been the biggest contributor to human health and development. In the past several hundred years only, many discoveries have been done that have made humans to optimize their ability to treat and manage infections, live a better life, fight some of the challenges they face, and even to satisfy their curiosity. The use of animals in scientific and other forms of research has been at the pinnacle of this advancement. While many people, especially in the present-day, consider the use of animals in scientific research as crude, unethical, and even evil, there are proponents of the debate who hold that the use of animals in research is inevitable if humans are to advance as a species. This paper takes a comprehensive analysis of both dimensions of the debate, and uses various moral ethical theories to further understand the subject.
Animal experiments are widely used in the development of various medicines and for evaluating the safety of given products. To check the efficacy of vaccines, for instance, testing them on animals and finding the reaction is often better than trying them directly on humans. The use of animals like mice and pigs which have near-similar genomic and even physiological conditions like humans has been a feature of modern medical practice. The first argument of this debate holds that it is morally unethical to cause pain, reduce the quality of life, or cause death to animals for the sake of humans. The other dimension does not view it as a problem, and holds that the benefits accrued from such processes far outweigh the risks.
One way to look at the debate is through the harm vs. benefit question. The proponents of the debate argue that as long as such experiments produce far greater benefits for humanity unlike the consequences, then it can be justified. Simply, it is not problematic to subject a few non-human animals to some pain when conducting the experiment, observe the reaction, make conclusions, and unleash the benefits to humans. This is the same way it has been done for many years.
Various theories have attempted to justify the use of animals in scientific studies. One such theory that fits this context is Peter Singer’s utilitarian theory. Utilitarianism is concerned with taking an action or process that aims at bringing forth the greatest good to the greatest number of individuals. Simply, humans, in their quest to solve the problems of billions of other humans, are justifiable in testing the samples on a few animals if the outcome benefits the wider human population. This treatment perceives animals as being of lesser value as compared to humans, making their usage in experiments as morally acceptable. According to Foлx (2007), utilitarianism takes the aggregate of harms and benefit to determine the best of course of action. Singer refuses to take an abolitionist take on the subject of animal rights, and holds that significant overwhelmingly good reasons like the need to cure an incurable health condition, could provide enough justification for experimentation of animals. Foлx (2007) further explains Singer’s utilitarian take that since humans are more developed in terms of complex language capabilities, self-awareness, an awareness of their environment and the need to plan for the future, it can be argued that they are at the apex of all species.
The utilitarian theory as constituted is not universally accepted as a justifiable explanation for the exploitation of animal subjects in scientific research. The opponents of animal experimentation argue that the perception that humans are of more value than other creation is egoistic and does not consider the bigger picture. Still on utilitarianism, the opponents of animal experimentation argue that doing so goes against the very tenets of this theory as it is based on speciesism; the discrimination against some species. While considering the net benefits or harm, it should consider all the bits of suffering or happiness of both humans and animals, before making the conclusion.
Another argument presented in the debate stems from the rights’ theory. In exploring the use of animals in experiments, the big contention that arises is whether animals can be treated as having rights. In arguing for animal rights, Tom Regan argued that animals have inherent rights, just like humans, and these rights are sacred and should not be abused. This theory supposes that animals have equal moral status grounded on these rights, and not the utilitarian principles as explained above. This theory also presents the case of inherent value—holding that anything that is alive has some inherent value that should be respected (Garner, 2013). If we consider animals to have inherent rights, then it follows that humans have no justification to conduct experiments on them, against their will, just to realize the selfish interests of the humans.
The issue of animal experimentation is fairly straightforward for those who accept that animals have inherent rights—that using them for scientific purposes violates the rights of these animals and hence the whole process is a violation of animal rights. In this context, the perceived benefits from such processes can be considered to be irrelevant and non-issues since rights are sacred and should not be violated. Just like human rights, tramping down the rights of animals should be treated as wrong as a matter pf principle, no questions asked. The rights argument holds that humans should not experiment on animals, even if the whole process is done in a humane manner (Edmundson, 2015). Accepting this paradigm, however, has extensive consequences too that should be considered. Accepting the rights theory means acknowledging that animals should not be experimented on, killing or breeding of animals for food and other needs should be ceased, use of animals for labor is wrong, and other activities including hunting are wrong too. This angle, although justifiable in the context of protecting and safeguarding animal rights, is fairly controversial and problematic. To a given extent, humans and animals coexist, benefiting each other. There is agreement that these consequences are significantly limiting for humanity, and the whole perception that animals have equal rights to humans can be seen to defy common sense, according to the opponents of this theory.
Still on the context of rights, it is pertinent to link with the aspect of will when exploring animal experimentation. Immanuel Kant’s moral theory emphasizes on autonomy as being the necessity for moral actions. Actions that are morally permissible are those that the actors could will or permit, and in this case, the rationality of the human or animal comes in question. The question of whether animals have (free) will has always been contentious, especially when analyzing rights and responsibilities. In his book titled “Beyond Words What Animals Think and Feel,” Safina (2015) acknowledges that animals can experience stimuli from the environment, have feelings like empathy and consciousness, and can perceive how they are treated in their environme
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