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A Rational Defense of Animal Research. Nathan Nobis, Ph.D. Philosophy Department University of Alabama, Birmingham www.NathanNobis.com [email protected] 3,000-6,000 animals killed every hour of every day by U.S. scientist and those employed by them

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a rational defense of animal research

A Rational Defense of Animal Research

Nathan Nobis, Ph.D.

Philosophy Department

University of Alabama, Birmingham

www.NathanNobis.com

[email protected]

slide2
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?
slide3
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
slide4
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
slide5
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
recent objections
Recent Objections
  • Why Experimentation Matters: The Use of Animals in Medical Research, 2001
    • Defense of animal experimentation
philosopher r g frey s essay
Philosopher R.G. Frey’s essay
  • “Justifying Animal Experimentation: The Starting Point”
    • Animal experimentation vs. human experimentation
scientist adrian morrison
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”
biologists charles nicholl and sharon russell
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
others
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
philosopher h tristam engelhardt
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
morrison
Morrison
  • “medicine cannot progress without animal experimentation”
    • What about clinical and in vitro research, computer and mathematical modeling, epidemiology, etc.
tibor machan s putting humans first why we are nature s favorite
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
tibor machan s putting humans first why we are nature s favorite1
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
tibor machan s putting humans first why we are nature s favorite2
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
tibor machan s putting humans first why we are nature s favorite3
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
utilitarianism and animal use
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
conclusions
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
conclusions1
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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