“Animals” R. G. Frey
POSITIONS ON ANIMAL EXPERIMENTATION • Abolitionism = df. All animal experimentation should cease immediately no matter how significant it may be to humans or other animals. Tom Regan supports this. • Progressive abolitionism = df. Animal experiments should be eliminated as other non-animal research possibilities arise. • Anything goes = df. Animals can be used in research any way that humans decide. • Middle position = df. Animals have moral standing; their lives have value; their pain must be seriously considered; research should be progressively eliminated as other possibilities arise; one must assess the relation of experimental benefits to experimental harms. • Frey thinks that the middle position morally justifies animal experimentation.
HUMAN BENEFIT • What drives animal research is the benefit to human beings of that research. • This benefit is typically used in an attempt to justify animal research. • However, as Frey indicates, this attempt at justification must be supplemented by other considerations because “the benefits that animal research confers on us could be obtained from doing the research on humans.” (And wouldn’t using humans give us experimental results that would be of greater benefit to humans since we have the same bodies and nervous systems?) • Presumably everyone would think that that is wrong, but if it is wrong for us why is it not wrong for animals?
THE EXTREME POSITION • The extreme position for justifying animal research says that humans are morally superior to animals, and because of that moral superiority we can experiment on animals but not on humans. • Or, animals lack the moral standing that we have, and so that there is nothing morally objectionable to using them experimentally to benefit us. • Kant thought that animals have no moral standing in themselves, as humans do, since animals are not rational agents as we are, and are not self-conscious as we are. • For Kant, animals are here to benefit us, and so using them experimentally to our benefit is morally acceptable. • Frey disagrees with the extreme position.
THE TRADITIONAL JUSTIFICATION • Frey: “the traditional justification of animal experimentation incorporates the extreme position.” • The traditional justification rests on three claims: • 1. Animals lack moral standing in themselves, they are not members of the moral community, as humans are. (Kant.) • 2. Animal lives have little or no value. • 3. Because humans have moral standing – are members of the moral community – we cannot use them in experiments as we can animals. • According to Frey, the traditional justification is wrong and must be abandoned.
HUMANS AND ANIMALS • Frey: “as we learn more about animals, it becomes more difficult to maintain a sharp break between animals [“especially primates”] and ourselves.” (Primate is an order of mammals including humans, apes, monkeys, and related forms such as lemurs and tarsiers.) • Frey also points out that disease and degeneration can result in humans who cannot do many of the things that other primates can do, and so that too makes drawing a sharp line between us and them difficult. • There is also the factor of human arrogance: simply thinking that we are superior and making moral rules that suit ourselves and exclude animals.
RELIGION AND ETHICS • Frey says that much of our condescension towards animals results from a religious ethic that places us at the culmen of creation and excludes them. • However, Frey says that “we cannot take for granted any longer the religious underpinning” of the claims of human superiority that suggest that we alone have moral standing and that animal lives have little or no value. • Frey: “In a pluralistic society, unanimity in religious opinion is no longer the case . . . different religions, especially Eastern ones, take different views about animals . . . and the number of non-religious people also appears to have risen.”
ANIMAL RIGHTS • For Frey, “animals have moral standing and so are members of the moral community and . . . their lives have value.” • This then is a rejection of the first two points of the traditional justification of animal experimentation, viz. that animals have no moral standing and that their lives do not have value.
PAIN AND SUFFERING • If we take pain and suffering to be bad for humans, as we do, and animals can suffer and feel pain, as they can, then why should pain and suffering be bad for humans and not for animals? • Frey: “there is something odd about maintaining that pain and suffering are morally significant when felt by a human but not when felt by an animal.” • For Frey, animal pain and suffering are relevant and should be considered: “what confers moral standing upon animal lives and gives them value is precisely what does these things in our lives – namely, their experiential content.”
THE CENTRAL PROBLEM I • Human beings are said to possess some things, such as intelligence, sentience, and self-direction, that animals lack, or possess them to a degree that animals lack. • If certain animals are not intelligent, sentient, or self-directed at all, or to the degree that the average adult human is, then experimenting on them may be thought to be acceptable. • The central problem here is that not all humans are intelligent, sentient, or self-directed to a degree required to protect them morally if those things are taken to be the basis for moral protection. And if that is the case, then why can they not be used experimentally? • Frey: “If animals do not gain protection from research because they lack the relevant degree of the relevant characteristic, then what about those humans who lack that degree of those characteristics?
THE CENTRAL PROBLEM II • Why is it wrong to use any human in research - especially those who are less intelligent, sentient, and self-determining than what is required to distinguish humans from other animals – but not animals? • Frey: “The appeal to human benefit cannot stand alone as a justification of animal experimentation, since it would also justify human experimentation.”
THE CENTRAL PROBLEM III • Frey: “for any characteristic selected [such as intelligence] as that around which to formulate a claim of protection, humans will be found who lack the characteristic altogether, or lack it to a degree sufficient to protect them from being used in medical experiments, or lack it to a degree that in fact means that some animals have it to a greater degree.” [and so, for that reason, should not be used in experiments.] • Frey: “Indeed, depending on the characteristic selected, [to distinguish humans from animals] all kinds of animals, and of different species, will exceed the human case.”
THE CENTRAL PROBLEM IV • Having had two human parents is not enough to secure moral protection. • This is because that says nothing about “one’s present quality of life, intelligence, capacity for pain and distress, the ability to direct one’s life, and so on, and these sorts of characteristics appear much more like the kinds of things that would justify not treating a human life as we presently treat animal lives.” • These things are important because they “say something about the life being lived, not what produced that life.” • Thus quality of life is more morally important than what resulted in that life.
THE CENTRAL PROBLEM V • If (at least some) humans cannot be separated from (at least some) animals used in experiments, then either animal research will have to stop, or we will have to experiment on some humans in addition to some animals: namely those that lack some characteristic or characteristics used to separate man from animals.
MORAL STANDING I • According to Frey, “moral standing or moral considerability turns upon whether a creature is an experiential subject, with an unfolding series of experiences that, depending on their quality, can make that creature’s life go well or badly.” • The key thing here then is that such an experiential being has “a welfare that can be positively or negatively affected, depending upon what is done to it.”
MORAL STANDING II • Frey thinks that animals that are routinely used in research – such as rodents, rabbits, pigs, and [non-human] primates – “are experiential subjects [who] have moral standing and are members of the moral community in exactly the same way that we are.” • Frey: “pain is a moral-bearing characteristic for us, and I cannot see what difference it makes as to which species feels pain. Pain is pain.” • And if pain is important no matter which being is experiencing the pain, then Frey thinks that it is odd to suppose that the lives of beings that can experience pain – including animals - do not matter.
QUALITY OF LIFE • Frey: “quality of life determines the value not only of human but also of animal lives.” • Frey: “the quality of life is a function of the scope and capacities of a creature for different kinds of experiences.” • If animals have a quality of life in virtue of being experiential beings, and quality of life can be negatively affected by pain, then animals will have to be taken into moral consideration, and it will not be morally acceptable to do just anything to them in using them in research experiments.
SPECIESISM • Speciesism = df. Discrimination on the basis of species alone. • Relative to humans and animals used in research, it would be a case of speciesism to maintain that it is acceptable to use animals in research, but not humans, because humans are a superior species. • Kant’s view of the superiority of humans to animals would be speciesist.
COMPARING LIVES I • Although one wants to avoid speciesism, Frey thinks that human lives, on average, have “a higher value than the lives of most animals.” • This, he thinks, is due to the nature of human life contrasted with other life. Our lives are richer, our experiences deeper. • And he thinks that, “the claim that the animal’s capacities provide it with a perfectly full life for a creature of its kind is not to the point,” since it disregards the importance of comparing the quality of that life with human life, and human life is thought to be of greater quality.
COMPARING LIVES II • Although the average animal’s life has value, its value is not as great as the value of the average human life, and “it is worse to destroy lives of greater rather than lesser value.” • Frey recognizes though that such a view will be speciesist “unless something other than species membership confers greater value on [a person’s life as opposed to an animal’s life]. • “Richness, capacity for enrichment, and quality of life are such things.”
COMPARING LIVES III • Humans have a richness of life that does not characterize animal life. This includes such things as art, music, literature, family, friendship, love, and intellectual endeavors that inform life. • We can shape our lives in terms of our interests, choices, and values in ways that are not available to animals, including other primates. • Frey says that “we are not condemned to a life appropriate to our species.” • This means that “we cannot ignore the role of agency in our lives.”
COMPARING LIVES IV • As agents, humans make choices that not only affect themselves, but others. Choices that affect others are subject to moral evaluation, and free agents have duties to others that restrict their agency. • An animal that lacks agency is not “a moral being in the full sense of being held accountable for its actions.” • Agency is part of the value of human life. “The moral relations in which normal adult humans stand to each other are part of whom they take themselves to be.”
COMPARING LIVES V • Frey does not think that there is a life appropriate to the human species, “no single way of living to which every human being is condemned to conform.” • “Agency enables us to make different lives for ourselves [and others] and so reflects, in this sense, how we want to live.” [and how others can live] • “Agency enables normal adult humans to enhance the quality and value of their lives in ways that no account of the activities we share with animals captures.”
COMPARING LIVES VI • While animals are part of the moral community for Frey, and thus deserve moral consideration, their lives are not as valuable as ours, and so they do not deserve the same level of moral consideration that we do. • For Frey, “we have a non-speciesist reason for thinking that normal adult human life is more valuable than animal life. Its richness and quality exceed that of animal life.” • Therefore he thinks that “we have a non-speciesist reason” for using animals in preference to humans in research if we have to use a creature of some sort.
THE PROBLEM OF MARGINAL CASES I • The reason, for Frey, not to use humans in research is that human lives are more valuable than animal lives. There is a problem though, and that is that not all human lives have the same value. • Frey: “not all human lives have the same richness or scope for enrichment; they do not, therefore, have the same value.” • The value of the life of an animal then might be greater than the value of the life of some human, so that such a human might be thought better to experiment on than the animal.
THE PROBLEM OF MARGINAL CASES II • Frey thinks that it is impossible to say that all human life has the same value: No normal healthy adult would choose to trade places with someone who is extremely ill, injured, paralyzed, or in a coma, • So Frey says that it seems “absurd to pretend that lives of these sorts, lives that no one, not even the people living them, would wish to live, are as valuable a normal adult human life.” • But, again, if “human lives vary in richness, quality, and value [and if the value of some human life is very low] then “the value of quite ordinary animal lives appears to exceed that of the human.” • Why experiment then on animals whose lives exceed in value the lives of certain humans? Why not use those humans?
THE PROBLEM OF MARGINAL CASES III • Although he does not favor using any human being in medical research, Frey says that he does not know of any argument that would favor the use of an animal the value of whose life is greater than that of some human being. • Frey: “Assuming that we have to use some lives in research . . . we should use lives of lower than higher quality. Typically this will mean that we use animal lives.” • Frey: “We simply cannot guarantee that this will always be so, however, unless we can find something that always ensures, whatever the richness and quality of human life, that it exceeds in value the lives of any and all animals.” • “Unfortunately, I know of no such thing.”