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Animal Experimentation: Unethical According to Utilitarianism

By mizblonde03 Oct 10, 2011 2038 Words
Animal Experimentation: Unethical According to Utilitarianism Introduction:
One of the most debated ethical issues is Animal Rights. Animals are so much a part of our lives and world that it is impossible to ignore the ethical issues we are faced with pertaining to the treatment of animals. What is difficult about these issues is that although animals have many similar attributes as humans they lack the developed brain function that humans have. Although many animals can feel pain, experience happiness, even form attachment, they are not able to speak for themselves and so humans take charge of their fate. A highly debated topic within the focus of Animal Rights is the morality of Animal Experimentation and under what circumstances, if any, it is morally permitted. In order to address this issue there are two questions that must be answered. The first is, whether or not animals have intrinsic value. The second being, if they are have intrinsic value, in compliance to Utilitarianism is the experimentation producing more harm than good. Assuming that the answer to both questions is yes then aaccording to utilitarianism, because animals have intrinsic value it is unethical to practice animal experimentation. Background information:

Before delving into the morality of animal testing it is important to understand what animal testing entails. Recent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics list a total of 1,136,841 (a one-year increase of 7%) primates, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and other species as being subjected to experimental procedures. The species by species listings include: 72,037 dogs, 69,990 primates, 65,615 pigs, 236,511 rabbits, 22,687 cats,172,498 hamsters, 31,106 other farm animals, 13,240 sheep,136,509 other animals and 207,257 guinea pigs. There are thousands of different types of animal testing. Two examples of animal testing are Xenotransplantation and Toxicology testing. Xenotransplantation is used to deal with the shortange of human organs for organ transplantation. It involves transplanting organs from one species to another. Currently many tests are done using primates as the recipients of organs from pigs that have been genetically-modified to reduce the primates' immune response against the pig tissue. Toxicology testing, also known as safety testing, is conducted by pharmaceutical companies testing drugs. According to 2005 EU figures, around one million animals are used every year in Europe in toxicology tests; which are about 10% of all procedures. According to Nature, 5,000 animals are used for each chemical being tested, with 12,000 needed to test pesticides. Many times animals are used in psychological experiments. In these experiments animals are put under stressful situations where they are forced to react in a certain way due to an out side stimulus. In many cases the stimulus is an electric shock given to the animal and depending on the goal of the experiment, forces the animal to react in different ways. It is easy to think about animal experimentation in an emotional way. It is never easy to see an animal suffer in pain. Many oraganizations such as PETA use the emotional side to create an argument against using animals for experimentation. While this may be an effective way to tug the heart strings of others, it does not put forward actual ethical theories that prove that animal experimentation is unethical. Therefore by using intrinsic value and utilitarianism one comes to the same conclusion: animal testing is not ethical. Intrinsic Value is often thought to be at the heart of many ethical dilemmas. Many ethical questions generally come down to whether or not an agent has intrinsic value instrumental value. Instrumental value means that something is only valuable because of its use. For example, a pen is only valuable because it enables us to write. To have intrinsic value means to have value because of what the agent is itself, in its own right. The problem that philosophers face is how one determines what has intrinsic value and what does not and then whether or not it also is a moral object. Philosopher Peter Singer “restricts the bearers of intrinsic value to those with interests, and to have interests, for singer, one must be capable of suffering or experiencing pleasure.” He also has a pathocentric view which states that anything that can feel pain is also a moral agent. Therefore, animals are moral agents. Utilitarianism is the notion that the morality of an action is determined solely by its usefulness in maximizing utility/minimizing negative utility. Utility can be defined as pleasure, preference satisfaction, knowledge and so on. It is thus a form of consequentialism, which means that the consequences of an action are what whether or not it is ethical. Intrinsic value is important when dealing with Utilitarianism because the goal is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain for moral agents. Because Animals are moral objects and therefore are subject to Utilitarianism here are the factors that contribute to the minimization of pain and maximization of pleasure in the following examples. Ethical Arguments:

In order to look at animal testing through a utilitarian lens one must be able to compare the pleasure and pain of all agents involved. I believe that the best way to look at a situation objectively is to use apllied ethics and create a value system for each of the agents and their interests. Therefore in case one and two I have created 5 categories that either give pleasure or create pain. Each category is assigned a numeral value and at the end the total is added up and the outcome will either be positive (pleasure) or negative (pain). The Categories are as follows: Pain the animal feels during procedure, pain the animal feels after the experiment, living conditions for the animal prior to or after the experiment, benefits to humans, and alternatives to the experiment. Case 1:

The Draize Test is an acute toxicity test first started in 1944 by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) toxicologists John H. Draize and Jacob M. Spines. Initially used for testing cosmetics, the procedure involves applying 0.5mL or 0.5g of a test substance to the eye or skin of a restrained, conscious animal, and leaving it for four hours. The animals are observed for up to 14 days, for signs of erythema and edema in the skin test, and redness, swelling, discharge, ulceration, hemorrhaging, cloudiness, or blindness in the tested eye. The test subject is commonly an albino rabbit, though other species are used too, including dogs. The animals are euthanized after testing. Since alternative tests have been validated for corrosivity, meaning acids, bases and other corrosive substances are no longer required to be Draize tested on animals Pain during ProcedurePain after ProcedureLiving conditions of animalsBenefit to HumansAlternative Method

Total: -7

The Pain during Procedure category received a -5 because of the pain that the chemicals cause as soon as they enter the eye. The Pain after Procedure received a -5 because of all the symptoms that occur during the 14 day period after the initial injection. The Living Conditions of Animals received a -1 because the animals used the test are immediately euthanized after the test. The Benefit to Humans category received a 5 because the information we get from this experiment is helpful to the wellbeing of humans because we can avoid using certain chemicals in our products. The Alternative method section received a -3 because there are other approved ways of testing for chemicals besides using animals. The total comes to -7 which means that the test is not ethical because it causes more pain than it does pleasure.

Case 2:
At the University of Harvard they tested the effects of electric shock on the behavior of dogs. Forty dogs were put into a device called a “shuttlebox” which consists of two compartments which are separated by a barrier at the height of the dogs back. The dogs were then shocked by hundreds of electric shocks through the floor. The dogs then learned to jump over the barrier into the other compartment. The goal of the experiment was to eventually get the dog to anticipate the shock and then eventually put glass between the barrier so that the dog has no escape. At the end of the experiment after twelve days, the dogs no longer tried to jump away from the shock. The dogs merely stood there and absorbed it.

Pain during ProcedurePain after ProcedureLiving conditions of animalsBenefit to HumansAlternative Method
Total: -2

The Pain during Procedure categorie got a rank of -5 because the entire experiment is based off of the pain that the dogs feel and how they react to it under the circumstances. The Pain after Procedure categorie got a -2 rank because of the observed after pain of the electric shock. Living conditions of animals received a zero because as far as one can tell there was no evidence given pertaining to the living conditions of the dogs. The Benefit to Human category received a 2 because the experiment gave us only elementary knowlegde about what dogs do under these circumstances. It did not give us any medical break through or help us better our living condition. The Alternative Method Category received a 3 because it would be fairly difficult to do this study about the reaction of dogs any other way. The total comes to -2 which means that there is more pain than pleasure and therefore this experiment is not ethical.

Case one and two both illustrate how animal experimentation is unethical which is clearly illustrated in the value system. In both cases the positive effects on the humans do not out way the pain and suffering the animals are forced to endure.

Differing View Points:
Some believe that the utilitarianism pertaining to animal experimentation is invalid because we can not actually prove that animals feel pain. Because animals function at a different brain level than humans we can not tell if what we call “pain” is really what animals feel. Therefore, the idea of intrinsic value being given to beings that feel pain does not apply to animals because one can not be sure if they actually do feel pain. This argument lacks basic human senses. It is true that one can not truly no what an animal feels when it is electrocuted. But for anyone knows, every other human being could be a fantastically constructed robot. It is impossible to know for sure. But when we see an animal wriggle in pain or yelp at the touch of an electric fence it is only reasonable to conclude that the animal is in pain.

Another point of view is that animals only posses instrumental value inspire of whether or not they feel pain. Anthropocentrists believe that only humans have intrinsic value and therefore the utilitarian theory does not apply to animals. Therefore if one adopts this view it would be ethical to use animal experimentation. Anthropocentrists suffer from what Peter Singer calls specieism. Specieism means that because other species are different from humans they must not have enough value to be worth saving. However if this was true then the same would have to apply to humans who are also different from the “norm”. What separates us from animals is the different level of brain function. But what about humans with different brain function such as the mentally impaired? Would we allow experimentation of someone who suffered brain damage? Do they no longer have intrinsic value? Of course not. The Anthropocentrists merely suffer from a narrow minded view of the world.

Utilitarianism provides the ethical proof to show how unethical animal experimentation is. Although there are many different ethical theories about animals and their value, Utilitarianism is the only one that takes into account the interests of both animals and humans. Science and technology have exponentially improved that quality of life for humans but it should not be at the expense of our fellow living beings. More and more scientists are finding other ways to experiment other than animals. Hopefully one day we will be able to completely illuminate animal experimentation.

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