Research Paper: Animal Research Is a Necessity

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[. . .] This 1966 law was "a very minimal and in many ways incoherent attempt to regulate animal research," and even though the 1985 amendments "did much to render coherent the ethic for laboratory animals," it remains inadequate (Rollin 2006). Under EU Directive EEC 86/609 of 1986, researchers had to obtain "special authorization on experiments likely to cause severe, prolonged pain to animals," and the EU also banned use of animals in the cosmetics industry in 2009 (DeGrazia 307). In reality today, the "treatment of research animals in the United States is far from cruel" and "every institution in the United States that conducts animal research must establish an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee" (Gaddy 2009).

On the other extreme of this debate are animal rights groups that have sometimes taken extreme or violent actions against companies and individuals involved in animal testing. For example, "a vacation home belonging to Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella was burned in a suspected arson, a week after his mother's grave was vandalized by animal rights protesters" in order to pressure the company to cease animal testing (Poste 2006). In 2003 another animal rights group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, "called for the assassination of doctors whose research involves animals" (Poste 2006). Scientists involved in animal testing often receive death threats, and groups like the Animal Liberation Front are listed as terrorist organizations in Britain and the United States, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was simply "an organization that recruits interns for the sole purpose of committing criminal acts" (Poste 2006). Most people do not support these violent tactics, of course, including those who believe in the humane and ethical treatment of animals.

More moderate animal rights advocates like Edward Hettinger maintains that animals do have some basic rights, just as human infants have rights even if their intelligence, morality and sense of duty are strictly limited. So do mentally disabled humans, even though their intelligence and moral sense might even be inferior to that of many healthy animals (Hettinger 299). Dogs and other mammals can be "obedient, protective, and solicitous," so Cohen is wrong to determine moral status by "species membership" rather than "individual qualities" (Hettinger 300). Animal rights defenders do not argue that dogs should vote, of course, or have identical rights to humans, only that other species should have some of the rights than traditionalists like Cohen would deny completely. Hettinger asserts that "if experimenting on severely retarded humans is a violation of their rights, then experimenting on psychologically sophisticated animals violates their rights, as well" (Hettinger 301). Support for animal welfare does not imply identical treatment for humans and animals, since human pain and suffering should take priority. According to the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), however, much animal research was duplicative and could be reduced, while plants, invertebrates and cadavers could also serve as substitutes (Hettinger 302). Nor is there any real need to use animals for food since vegetarian diets are "perfectly healthy," so overall the use of animals for food and medical research should be greatly reduced (Hettinger 304). David DeGrazia takes on moderate view of this issue as well, arguing that using 50-100 million animals every year in medical research is simply excessive and unnecessary.

Life (or existence) in and of itself has no moral status and no one seriously believes that the life of a mouse, rabbit or amoeba is equivalent to that of a human being. Rocks, cars and other inanimate objects can never have any moral significance, nor do they feel pain like mammals. Animals do have more moral significance than mere objects and things, though, and cruelty towards them is generally considered immoral, just as cruelty toward physically and mentally handicapped humans. Animals cannot truly have equal rights to humans and "killing persons is generally worse than killing mice" (DeGrazia 308). Animal rights activists like Peter Singer and some utilitarian writers might grant both equal consideration, but even with a standard of unequal consideration certain animal rights will still be recognized and protected. A two-tier theory would grant the same (limited) rights to all animals vis-a-vis humans, while a sliding scale would grant more rights "in proportion to their level of cognitive, emotional and social complexity" (DeGrazia 308). On practical-utilitarian grounds, some researchers also doubt that nonhuman animals are reliable models for human beings," and that animal models actually delayed development of the polio vaccine and other important medical discoveries (DeGrazia 308). This is almost certainly exaggerated, although the danger of anthropomorphism and applying human standards to nonhuman life forms is very well-known in both the biological and social sciences.

Most scientists seem to come down somewhere in between the two extremes of this debate, while insisting that the humane use of animals in experiments is essential. Some theorists came very close to an absolutist or laissez faire position that such experiments were an unqualified benefit to humanity, which could use lower animals as it saw fir for its own benefit. Human needs took priority, and animals lacked free will or a moral sense, and therefore had no rights. For most of history, this was the standard attitude towards animals, basically that they were there to be used as humans saw fit and could even be exterminated or hunted to extinction. In modern times, of course, this has increasingly come to be seen as a highly conservative position, even by those who do not share the animal liberationist position at the opposite extreme -- that all sentient beings have equal rights. Moral and utilitarian ethical considerations do grant certain protections to animals, even if not the full equality insisted upon by animal liberation activists. From an ethical point-of-view, animals should not be used at all if adequate substitutes are available, and then only if the benefits outweigh the costs. Their suffering must be minimized, and animals should not be captured from the wild for this purpose. Essentially, they should be accorded similar rights to mentally and physically handicapped humans, and in the case of great apes and dolphins, should perhaps be considered intelligent beings capable of voluntary consent. Although scientists insist that animal experimentation can never be fully replaced by computer and mathematical models or in vitro methods, moral and legal standards for this type of research are far stricter now than they were thirty or forty years ago, and properly so.

Scientists today still insist that they cannot find replacements and substitutes for all animal research, although computer and mathematical models, stem cells, cadavers and in vitro methods do permit reduced use of animal test subjects compared to the past. Given the fact that medical science and biology cannot eliminate animal testing, and that it offers obvious benefits to humans and animals, the best approach would be one that makes human life and welfare primary alongside appropriate protections and safeguards for animals used in research. Full equality between mammals and humans is impossible in reality, but a two-tiered approach that makes distinctions between higher and lower mammals seems appropriate, According to the latest scientific research, for example, great apes and dolphins may well have a degree or consciousness, intelligence and even personhood, and should not be used as involuntary test subjects. They might well be treated with at least the same moral consideration as physically and mentally handicapped humans, who under modern medical ethics cannot be experimented upon without their consent. In fact, only Nazi doctors and others with a similar mentality could find 'scientific', 'legal' and 'moral' reasons to experiment upon and exterminate those they regarded as inferiors, but they received their answer at Nuremberg. On the other hand, mice, rats and rabbits would not be entitled to the same level of protections, and these are the most commonly used animals in research in any case. Such experiments on animals should only be conducted under appropriate legal and moral standards, when no substitutes are available, and when the benefits outweigh the costs and the suffering of the animal is minimized.

WORKS CITED

Cohen, Carl. "The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research."

De Deyn, Peter Paul and Debby Van Dam. "General Introduction of Animal Models of Human Conditions." Animal Models of Dementia. Neuromethods, 48(1): 3-13.

DeGrazia, David. "On the Ethics of Animal Research"

Gaddy, Daniel. "The Importance of Animal Research." Fund Science Blog, 2009. http://fundscience.org/blog/2009/08/the-importance-of-animal-research/

Hettinger, Edwin Converse. "The Responsible Use of Animals in Biomedical Research"

Kinross, James and Lord Ari Darzi. "An Introduction to Animal Research." Key Topics in Surgical Research and Methodology. Springer, 2010: 207-28.

Poste, George. "Animal Testing a Necessary Evil, for Now." The Arizona Republic, September 3, 2006.

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/viewpoints/articles/0903poste0903.html… [END OF PREVIEW]

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