Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why Animal Experimenters Should Be Vegetarians

By Joel Marks, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of New Haven and a Bioethics Center Scholar at Yale University.

When antivivisectionists protest the use of animals in biomedical research, they are commonly met with retorts like this:

“Our faculty members employ animals only when there are no alternative models for advancing their research; our laboratories comply with or exceed all federal regulations and independent accreditation standards. As we continue to advance modern medicine, and provide hope for millions of patients and their families, [our] scientists will sustain their commitment to the humane use of animals in research.” (Yale University press release, July 13, 2010.)

This press release is in line with the so-called 3Rs – replacement (of animals with nonanimal alternatives), reduction (in the number of animals used when their use is deemed essential), and refinement (in the treatment of animals so as to minimize their pain and distress) – the standard of animal research since the 1950s. Nevertheless, it is possible to question whether the use of animals in laboratories may not have been or at least no longer is crucial to medical advances. And even if it is, it does not automatically follow that it should be done or is even morally permissible.

Why not? Simply consider the human analogue. It would no doubt be even more useful to use human beings for the same sorts of medical research that animals are used for; after all, what could be a better “model” for human disease than a human being? But the contemporary consensus is that that would be unconscionable. But then utility, even to the point of “necessity” (for example, to find the cure for cancer as quickly as possible), does not by itself justify laboratory research on a sentient being.

But let us suppose that animal research were both useful for medical progress and morally permissible due to some relevant distinction between human and other animals. Apparently this is what the medical community itself believes, judging by its support for animal research. What I want to argue now is that it would follow that medical researchers should be vegetarians.
Much more ...


Anonymous said...

Absolutely right. This tells us more about researchers real beliefs about the moral status of animals than all their pronouncements. If you're willing to kill and cause to suffer animals for trivial ends such as pleasure and convenience, how could anyone take you seriously when you judge whether medical advances will offset animal suffering in the lab?

Having meat eaters sit on IACUC's is sort of like having a serial rapist be your sexual harassment officer.

Phasy Res said...

Article should implies that everyone should be vegetarians and not only the animals'experimenters. I have a tough time to understand the logical evidences that the author has proved why the animals experimenters should be vegetarians. Moreover, the paper is too short to make a convincing argument.

Rick said...

I recommend that you (Phasy) read the discussion on the original page, linked to in my post. Dario Ringach seemed also unable to understand the logic of the author's argument. I suspect that the argument cut so close to the bone that he (and perhaps you) was overcome. He seemed to react only with a denial of plain fact. On this issue, he is unable to think very clearly.