The Ethics Of Animal Use In Biomedical Research

1986 words - 8 pages

Both in and out of philosophical circle, animals have traditionally been seen as significantly different from, and inferior to, humans because they lacked a certain intangible quality – reason, moral agency, or consciousness – that made them moral agents. Recently however, society has patently begun to move beyond this strong anthropocentric notion and has begun to reach for a more adequate set of moral categories for guiding, assessing and constraining our treatment of other animals. As a growing proportion of the populations in western countries adopts the general position of animal liberation, more and more philosophers are beginning to agree that sentient creatures are of a direct moral concern to humans, though the degree of this concern is still subject to much disagreement. The political, cultural and philosophical animal liberation movement demands for a fundamental transformation of humans’ present relations to all sentient animals. They reject the idea that animals are merely human resources, and instead claim that they have value and worth in themselves. Animals are used, among other things, in basic biomedical research whose purpose is to increase knowledge about the basic processes of human anatomy. The fundamental wrong with this type of research is that it allows humans to see animals as here for them, to be surgically manipulated and exploited for money. The use of animals as subjects in biomedical research brings forth two main underlying ethical issues: firstly, the imposition of avoidable suffering on creatures capable of both sensation and consciousness, and secondly the uncertainty pertaining to the notion of animal rights.

Although human beings exploit animals for multiple different purposes, the use of animals in scientific research, especially in research where they are deliberately subjected to harm, has long provoked intense controversy and debate. Every year, in Europe and in North America tens of millions of animals are used for scientific research, for the testing of drugs and consumer goods as well as for educational purposes including dissection, and surgery practice. The Draize test and the LD50 (lethal dose 50 percent) in particular have been criticized for their animal cruelty and have gained increasing resistance on the part of the animal liberationists and the general public. The Draize test, which involves testing the acute acidity of cosmetics and household products on rabbits’ eyes, and the LD50, in which the toxicity of a substance by determining the dose required to kill fifty percent of the test group within fourteen days, however, are merely two example of the cruelty experienced by animals in biomedical research laboratories.
The two most prominent current defenders of strong status for animals are neo-Kantian philosopher Tom Regan and utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer. Although they undertake this defence from two different theoretical perspectives, as neo-Kantians defend this position in...

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