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Introduction to Ethics Lecture 20 Cohen & The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research By David Kelsey.

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Presentation on theme: "Introduction to Ethics Lecture 20 Cohen & The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research By David Kelsey."— Presentation transcript:

1 Introduction to Ethics Lecture 20 Cohen & The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research By David Kelsey

2 Why animals have no rights Cohen thinks that animals do not have rights – They aren’t members of the moral community – Only members of the moral community have rights

3 Rights defined Rights: – A claim or potential claim that one party may exercise against another. – The target against whom a claim may be made can be a single person, a group or a community. – The content of rights claims also varies greatly: life, property… – To comprehend any genuine right we must know who holds the right, against whom it is held and to what it is a right.

4 Only members of the moral community have rights Rights as Cohen defines them are claims or potential claims within a community of moral agents. Rights arise and can only be defined among beings who actually do or can make moral claims against one another.

5 Only humans are members of the moral community Only humans are described as members of the moral community: – For Kant, only humans possess a moral will and the freedom to use it… – Only humans confront choices that are purely moral – Only humans follow moral laws – Human beings are morally autonomous Animals aren’t members of the moral community: – Animals lack the capacity for free moral judgment – They cannot exercise or respond to moral claims – They are not morally autonomous Thus, animals aren’t members of the moral community. Thus, animals do not have rights. Thus, when we conduct research on animals we do not violate their rights.

6 Objection: some humans aren’t members of the moral community An objector may claim that there are some human beings who aren’t morally autonomous: – They lack the freedom to use a moral will. Cohen’s response: – Human beings may or may not retain the ability to make moral choices given a disability. – Animals don’t have the ability though. – Humans may be the subjects of experiments only with their voluntary consent. Their free choices must be respected. – But it is impossible for an animal to give voluntary consent.

7 A second objection A second objection: – Many animals exhibit the ability to reason, to communicate, to care passionately for their young, to have desires and preferences for this or that. – Thus, animals are members of the moral community as well. Cohen’s reply: – The capacities of the higher animals still don’t entail their membership in the moral community. – Members of the moral community must be able to discern whether a given act ought or ought not to be performed. – Members must be able to impose restraints on themselves…

8 The Utilitarian argument The Utilitarian argues: – Animals are sentient and so can feel pleasure and pain. – All or nearly all experimentation on animals imposes pain and suffering. – Such experimentation isn’t necessary. – Thus, the laboratory use of animals must be ended.

9 Cohen in reply Cohen in reply: – Cohen asserts that human pain and suffering matters more than does animal pain and suffering. – Cohen is a Speciesist. A Utilitarian like Singer will argue that pain is pain no matter who feels it. Cohen thinks there are relevant differences between species though. Thus, the pain and suffering of humans matters more – Examples include: humans engage in moral reflection, humans are morally autonomous, humans are members of moral communities, humans have rights. Cohen the speciesist: – Obligations are owed according to the differing natures of the beings considered – So humans owe to other humans a degree of moral regard that cannot be owed to animals.

10 Cohen’s second reply A second reply: – For the Utilitarian reply to work, we must calculate and weigh out all the consequences of both the use and nonuse of animals in laboratory research. – But we cannot ignore the disadvantageous consequences of not using animals in research. – And we cannot ignore the advantages that are only attainable through their research. – But every disease eliminated, every vaccine developed, every method of pain relief devised, every surgical procedure invented, virtually every modern medical therapy, is due in part or in whole to experimentation using animals. – Thus, to refrain from using animals in biomedical research is on utilitarian grounds morally wrong.

11 Cohen’s conclusions Conclusions: – 1. We must treat animals as humanely as possible. But some animal experimentation is necessary for no other methods now known (in vitro experimentation, computer simulation, etc.) can fully replace the testing of a drug, a procedure, or a vaccine on a live organism. In the United States federal regulations require the testing of new drugs on animals before humans are exposed. – 2. We should increase the use of animals in biomedical research wherever we can, not decrease it. We should avoid humans as experimental subjects as far as is possible. If human beings must be experimented on we must ask whether all that can be done has been done to reduce and eliminate the risks We are right to require thorough experimentation on animal subjects before humans are involved. Humans should not be subjected to risks that could be had by animals

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