Friday, October 17, 2014

Moral Similarities Continue to Confound Vivisectors

Call to Action: UW-Madison head vivisector says caring people should not let Ned Kalin's experiments continue.

At about 54:21 in the video, a UW-Madison faculty member asks university spokesperson Eric Sandgren, and I'm paraphrasing: "If the baby monkeys in Ned Kalin's project are being used because their emotions are so much like a human child's how is it ethical to use them?"

This question, which I have posed innumerable times and has even been printed on t-shirts, can be boiled down to this:
How like us need they be?
That question is at the heart of every decision we make regarding the way we treat each other. The question isn't one that gets answered very often by people who hurt and kill animals or by those who actions cause them to be hurt and killed.

I've asked that question a number of times in public debates with vivisectors. They respond in one of two ways. They say that the question is too hard for them to answer or they simply don't understand what is being asked. You'd think that Eric Sandgren, the university's spokesperson who I have debated at least twice, would have an answer since the question always comes up, but he doesn't, I've transcribed his latest sidestep below. Paul Kaufman, the head of the UW-Hospital's ophthalmology department (he experiments on monkeys' eyes) who I have debated twice, says that the question "is above his pay grade."

The other response is telling as well. When the question was put to Jon Levine, director of the university's primate center, and primate vivisector David Abbott during a public presentation, they appeared confused. They did not understand what was being asked. The concept of similarities between humans and monkeys having ethical implications was so alien to their world view that the could only look at each other in what appeared to be complete puzzlement.

Anyway, this was Eric Sandgren's response this time:
An outstanding question, and I think the answer is embedded somewhere in, the answer that each of us would get is embedded somewhere in our sense of what other animals are like in relationship to us. So, what is a monkey compared to a human? If you consider them to be equivalent, in relevant moral ways, then you would not let this happen to those animals. If you consider them to be different, in morally relevant ways, even if they're similar, if you consider them to be different then you could allow something like that to happen. I don't know that I want to, or even could, go into a real detailed description of what are the morally relevant differences, but I do know that there's a great deal of, there are many different opinions on that. I do not feel that monkeys are the same as humans in certain ways that would allow me to decide its okay in a case like this to do it.... I think it really is based on how we view other species.
[Be sure to listen to Jeffry Kahn's follow-up.]

This sidestepping non-response from Sandgren is circular and suggests as well that he really doesn't give a hoot about humans after all. He says he can't point to the morally relevant differences between humans and monkeys and so its okay to act as if they don't exist. He says that he knows that there are many different opinions about those difference but hasn't taken the time to consider them because he really doesn't care what other people think, apparently the morally relevant differences between him and those opposed to the experiments are so great that those other opinions need not be considered or even understood well enough to be able to refute.

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