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A Rational Defense of Animal Research Nathan Nobis, Ph.D. Philosophy Department University of Alabama, Birmingham

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1 A Rational Defense of Animal Research Nathan Nobis, Ph.D. Philosophy Department University of Alabama, Birmingham

2 3,000-6,000 animals killed every hour of every day by U.S. scientist and those employed by them Recent review suggests just being in lab is harmful for animals Video footage of Covance’s labs in Vienna, VA –Are these actions of harming animals morally permissible, or are they wrong? Is it wrong to treat us these ways, and if so, why?

3 Us? ‘conscious, sentient beings’ – many animals are like us ‘us’ = ‘humans’ – be careful –Is the suggestion that anything that is biologically human is wrong to treat those ways? Would imply it is wrong to destroy (living) cells, tissues, organs and embryos/fetuses

4 Us? A being has 'moral rights' only if "rational" or "intelligent" or "autonomous"? But, severely mentally challenged, senile, seriously demented and babies – all considered to be morally significant 'us' -- have rights, even though not rational, intelligent, autonomous –If they have rights, then basic moral ‘bar’ is set low –Cannot be set at ‘being human’ – cells/organs –Therefore, set at ‘consciousness’ Ability to feel pleasure and pain Perspective on world

5 What is morally relevant, not species but mental life of individual –Comparable mental lives deserve equal respect and equal consideration and thus, nearly all animal experimentation is wrong. This reasoning defended by many, criticized by few, philosophers

6 Recent Objections Why Experimentation Matters: The Use of Animals in Medical Research, 2001 –Defense of animal experimentation

7 Philosopher R.G. Frey’s essay “Justifying Animal Experimentation: The Starting Point” –Animal experimentation vs. human experimentation

8 Scientist Adrian Morrison “human beings stand apart in a moral sense from all other species” –Does not identify morally-relevant characteristics humans have that animals don’t Therefore, he can’t rationally criticize opposing views “Self preservation” –Doesn’t explain why human experimentation would be wrong Vivisectors have “God’s blessing”

9 Biologists Charles Nicholl and Sharon Russell “Evolution has endowed us with a need to know as much as we can” “to refrain from exploring nature in every possible way would be an arrogant rejection of evolutionary forces” –Then why isn’t it arrogant to perform experimentation on humans? Purpose of evolution Since animals act some way, humans can too

10 Others Scientist Jerrold Tannenbaum –Scientists may “befriend” animals Scientist Stuart Zola –“basic” vs. “applied” animal research –No backup provided Philosopher Baruch Brody –Special obligations from humans to humans Also special obligations from humans to animals to discount animal interests –To try to benefit humans, we must inflict pain, suffering and death on animals –More reflection and argument needed

11 Philosopher H. Tristam Engelhardt Dissenter – defends animal rights –“to be skinned” –“transformed into fur coats” –“produce knowledge of interest to humans” –“to be the object of culinary arts” –Little discussion of scientific issues –Remarks scattered

12 Morrison “medicine cannot progress without animal experimentation” –What about clinical and in vitro research, computer and mathematical modeling, epidemiology, etc.

13 Tibor Machan’s Putting Humans first: Why We Are Nature’s Favorite Claim that animals possess moral rights is “a fiction” and “a trick” Humans can see difference between right and wrong, animals can’t –Therefore humans have rights, animals don’t However, only some humans, not all have these rights –Machan’s theory provides no protection for these humans

14 Tibor Machan’s Putting Humans first: Why We Are Nature’s Favorite Human babies and severely mentally challenged don’t “lack moral agency altogether” –Must consider them as existing “normally, not abnormally” –However it is not true that, in general, all features of normal beings are shared by abnormal beings –Therefore, vulnerable humans do not meet Machan’s necessary condition for rights; his defense of the rights of them fails and thereby so does his argument that animals have not moral rights

15 Tibor Machan’s Putting Humans first: Why We Are Nature’s Favorite “politically incorrect” animals –Morally permissible for us to act like some animals and kill other animals “Humans are more important, even better, than animals, and we deserve the benefits that exploiting animals can provide” –Strong arguments not given to justify this

16 Tibor Machan’s Putting Humans first: Why We Are Nature’s Favorite Unanswered rhetorical questions too often take the place of arguments Arguments not carefully and precisely developed or defended Position on the use of animals is unclear and ambivalent

17 Utilitarianism and animal use Few advocates of vivisection accept utilitarianism Calculated indirect harms and opportunity costs that result from funds being directed towards vivisection and not towards others Nobody has tried to show that some specified amount of vivisection is (likely) indispensable for bringing about the greatest possible overall medical benefits Nobody has argued that, despite all the other research methods available, other methods would be better than animal research for human benefit

18 Conclusions Status quo regarding animal use, especially in scientific research Carl Cohen fails because his strategy implies that animals actually have rights and humans have none Reasoning given in favor of some anti- animal perspective is faulty because it either depends on false an/or rationally indefensible premises

19 Conclusions Those who harm animals attempt to develop a plausible justification for doing so It is likely morally obligatory that those who use animals in harmful manners cease in their deeds


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