Utilitarian View on Animal Research

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Kaitlin May
Professor Bell
Humanities 4332
22 April 2013
A Utilitarian Argument in Favor of
Animal Experimentations
Though it has been criticized for its standard, universal means of measuring moral predicaments, utilitarianism still remains one of the most persuasive means of assessing normative ethics. With that said, any and every ethical conundrum should be first looked at through a utilitarian lens. If a satisfying conclusion is reached using the utilitarian approach, then no other approach is needed. If not, the utilitarian approach can be used along with other ethical assessment methods to gain additional insight or a clearer answer to moral conundrums. However, in looking at the ethics of animal experimentation, it is evident that only a utilitarian approach—one that gauges the greatest good for the greatest number based on the consequences of the actions performed within a situation—is needed to reach a satisfying conclusion. This research will prove that undertaking a utilitarian approach to animal experimentation reveals that animal experimentation is indeed moral, given that through the suffering of a few animals, more human lives are improved and saved. Animal experimentation is well known throughout the medical and scientific fields. The earliest references of animal testing are recorded among the Greeks. Early scientists—such as Aristotle, Erasistratus, and Galen (known as the father of vivisection) — practiced and performed experiments on living animals to gain knowledge of anatomy to later apply various medical practices safely to humans. Many early advances in medical research would not have occurred without the use of animals in some way, clearly revealing the enormous benefit to humanity animal experimentation has had. Some examples of extraordinary discoveries are Behring’s use of a mixture of isolated diphtheria toxin and anti-toxin to protect guinea pigs from developing certain diseases; in turn leading to a vaccine that could then be used in humans. Banting also experimented on dogs to determine functions of the pancreas in producing insulin, which prior to this discovery, diabetes was more or a less a death sentence. And finally Salk and his famous Rhesus monkeys led to the Salk vaccine, which reduced the incidence of polio. Their work would in turn influence Albert Sabin to use animals as hosts and grow the virus to make a live vaccine; by 1965 polio was virtually non-existent (Blackorby and Donaldson 2). Without the use of animals, medical research and the knowledgeable gained by this research in the medical field would have been crippled, and some viruses could still be around. Among the animals commonly used in experimentation are monkeys, mice, guinea pigs, and aplysia. All of these animals, in one way or another, contribute to bettering humanity. “One mouse can live through a maximum of three ‘rounds’ of antibody growth and removal. It seems reasonable to suggest that these mice are below neutrality, but are no worse off in the second and third rounds than in the first” (Blackorby and Donaldson 7). When an animal must be subjected to experimentation, its suffering must be limited. Laws dealing with animal suffering vary among countries, but they all maintain regulations for scientists when using live, nonhuman subjects. Mice can withstand one round of antibody growth, with follow-ups—none of which are any more painful than the first. Afterwards, depending on the type of experiment and what damage may have occurred during the experiment, euthanasia is the next step to relieve the animal if it continues to experience pain after the surgery. The animal, hence, no longer suffers. To determine an animal’s pain, most physicians monitor sections of the brain known to be associated with sensing physical and mental pain by using electrocenphalography (EEG), a non-invasive practice that records electrical activity along the scalp. By being able to get an idea of pain levels, physicians...
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