Term Paper: Conciliation for the Sake of Humanity

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Conciliation for the Sake of Humanity

Certain controversies will never be resolved toward full acceptance of one side or another, because ethical or emotional considerations are involved. Animal research falls into this purview. At one extreme are those who give no thought to how animals are used or abused. At other extreme are the animal activists, including the millions of members in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who are against all animal testing. The animal welfare proponents take the middle ground. They completely condemn those who have no regard for animals. However, they cannot totally side with the animal rights advocates, because of the good that has come from animal testing. The animal welfare stance is based on the understanding that non-human animals are sentient, and thoughtfulness should be given to their protection against suffering, particularly in experimentation. Animal welfare is the line that needs to be drawn when organizations such as PETA go to too far: It is true that cruelty to animals must be vigorously prohibited and enforced, but experimentation is needed for the continued betterment of humankind,

Animal welfare advocates and animal rights activists already agree on certain areas. To most animal welfare supporters, certain animal uses are not acceptable, such as fur, cosmetics testing and dog fighting, since the amount of animal suffering far outweighs any human benefit. When animals are suffering, the "rights" of animals are clear. It is in other areas where animal suffering is minimal, such as experimentation, where the agreements between the animal rights and welfare groups sever.

When reviewing the history of animal experimentation, it becomes very clear that animal welfare has long been a major consideration. It is not as if this concern has been ignored, or even taken lightly. For centuries, there have been individuals and groups who, like today's animal welfare constituents, believe that animal experimentation is necessary, but only under specific constraints. Even with the origins of animal testing in the 17th century, there were those who spoke out, such as the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham who asked: The question is not, Can they reason? No, Can they talk, but, Can they suffer?" (Hayhurst 14). In 1876, Britain passed the Cruelty to Animals Act; the United States followed much later. In 1959, William Russel and Rex Burch published The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, which presented what are still called "The three Rs.": Replacement of animal testing with other methods whenever possible; reduction of the number of animals required for experimentation; and refinement of experiments to lessen suffering. In 1966, U.S. Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act that regulates animal use. The act, amended in 1970 and 1985, requires research facilities to minimize animal pain and distress.

To this day, the Humane Society continues to support The Three Rs, with the belief that animal experimentation will end when another means becomes available. In fact, the society's website hails "the prestigious U.S. National Research Council (NRC) [that] issued a report calling for a paradigm shift in toxicity testing, away from animal tests which, in some cases, were decades old, towards cell-based methods that model the early stages of toxicity in the human body." The animal rights advocates, who are completely against animal experimentation, must concede the fact that even a leading rights organization such as the Humane Society recognizes the need for testing. As the Human Society writes: "We advocate and encourage the eventual end to the use of animals in research and testing that cause harm to animals, realizing that some research (e.g. drug safety testing for human use) may not be possible without the use of animals." The animal welfare proponents want the end of testing, as well, but will maintain its position until a viable alternative is found for all research.

PETA uses the discovery of the polio vaccination as an example of how animal testing is not needed. It decries the staggering number of animals that were killed in the useless animal experiments to discover this treatment and explains that the breakthrough for polio instead came when scientists learned how to grow the virus from human and monkey cells. The organization states that although "some medical developments were the result of cruel animal tests," (website), this does not mean that such developments would not have been possible without animal testing, as well. In fact, PETA stresses, "because animal experiments frequently give misleading results with regard to human health, we'd probably be better off if we hadn't relied on animal testing for so long."

The animal welfare proponents do not take any pleasure in the sacrifice of animal lives, to the opposite. Any experimentation that causes animals to suffer pain or distress cannot be tolerated or justified. However, the animal studies can be justified, since contrary to what PETA states, there have been "achievements precious to human beings beyond calculation, but possible only through the use of animals in laboratory research…" (Cohen and Regan 85). Cohen explains how hundreds of thousands of people were being afflicted with polio following World War II. Early efforts to immunize against polio failed badly. Some experimental immunizations had caused paralysis in humans, which prevented human trials too risky. Salk and his team surveyed all polio viruses and narrowed it down to three strains. These would have to be grown and then killed for use. John Enders proved that viruses could be cultured in Nobel Prize research, but this technique requires cell tissues from animals and can be very tricky. Salk needed to find a way to apply this technique to produce his vaccine. Following many tries, he found the host tissue -- kidney cells from monkeys -- on which the polio viruses could be successfully cultured. Field trial of the monkey-cell product on humans, which could only proceed after confirmed safety tests on animals, led to 440,000 American children receiving the Salk vaccination.

Polio is only one of the many treatments that were found due to animal research. For example, progress is being made in Alzheimer's disease treatment because of animal research. Successful treatment can be developed only if there are animals on which the compounds that may alleviate brain degeneration can be tested. Mice, which have been very carefully bred, are killed, without pain, to study their brains' chemistry.

Animal rights activist Tom Regan speaks of the evil of humans in testing animals. He writes: "For the magnitude of evil is much greater than the sum of the violations of animal rights…From the perspective of the rights view, therefore, the magnitude of the evil in the world is not represented only by the evil done to animals…it includes as well the innumerable human preferences that are satisfied by doing so" (Mur 14). Regan concedes that most people who experiment with animals are not evil, but are decent people who act on evil preferences. He is hopeful by evidence that clearly shows the increased concern about animal research, such as declining numbers of people wearing fur or eating meat. Similarly, the research world, as noted above, is looking for alternative ways for replacing animals in the laboratories.

As Regan states, the animal welfare advocates are not evil. The question arises if one can even call animal testing an "evil preference." Evil is something that is recognized as morally bad or wrong. Thus, to those who support animal rights, this testing preference is evil.

However, since this is based on morality, all the others who support testing do not see this as morally or ethically wrong. That is a sizeable group of people. In a Gallup Poll conducted in 2003, the vast majority of Americans said animals deserve at least some protection from harm and exploitation, and a quarter said animals deserve equal protection as humans (Moore). Yet most Americans opposed completely banning medical research and product testing on laboratory animals. The poll found 96% of Americans saying that animals deserve at least some protection from harm and exploitation, while just 3% say animals don't need protection "since they are just animals." A quarter of those questioned replied that animals deserve "the exact same rights as people to be free from harm and exploitation." Americans rejected banning of all medical research on laboratory animals by 64% to 35% and all product testing on laboratory animals 61% to 38%. It appears by these numbers that most people do not consider animal testing to be evil. Or, else it would have to be assumed that this many people accepted evil being done, which is not a logical option.

The animal welfare proponents are not advocating for animal research forever -- only until a suitable alternative is found. Given the pace of technological change, this should not be too far in the future. In the meantime, it is necessary to recognize, as Cohen states, the evils inflicted on victims and their families of those who have cancer, AIDs, Alzheimer's and a host of other illnesses that cause suffering and premature death, at this time can only can be developed through… [END OF PREVIEW]

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