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Utilitarianism and Animal Testing

By mjf667 Oct 13, 2014 1769 Words
Animals and Utilitarianism
When one commits a good act, they are in the right. When one commits a not-so-good act, they are in the wrong. On paper, this appears as a proportionate distinction of right and wrong and can thus appropriately navigate human behavior in this funny little place we call “life”. But what happens when a not-so-good act takes place but produces a greater outcome for the whole? Does that act suddenly loose its negative value? Many people like to view the world in which we live on a black and white canvas painted with two extremes: extreme A and extreme B. However, what people fail to realize when making a decision or judgment is that there is in fact a huge shade of grey where many extenuating circumstances lie. In today’s modern society, persists a wide variety of issues that trigger both scandal and controversy, such as, abortion, capital punishment, suicide, etc. Each have been trending hot topics for years and till this day have not settled comfortably in the minds of society. Similarly, there is one issue in particular which has also been a prevalent topic and deserves some further attention, animal testing. Also known as “animal experimentation” or “animal research”, has been a worldwide practice stemming from at least 500 BC. Popularly, the nature and features of animal testing has caused many to question its significance and overall legitimacy as it tends to resonate a sense of cruelty among the animals in examination. Proponents and opponents of this practice argue sides of justice and injustice, thus marking the act itself as either a good one or a bad one. Seeing how there are both pro’s and con’s to the rightness of animal testing, it makes it difficult to determine the issue as inherently wrong. Defenses for either side may come from a moral, biased, objective, or even a subjective approach, all of which are valid standpoints and do not hold dominance over the other. One approach in particular that can be used as an application method for understanding the issue of animal testing is utilitarianism. But before we can apply this method of reasoning, a more thorough understanding of the issue at hand must first be developed. In essence, animal testing is the use of non-human animals in experiments simply for the uses of developing and advancing medical treatments, determining the toxicity of medications, checking the safety of products designed for human use, and other biomedical/commercial health care uses. Its researching techniques include what is referred as “pure research” such as genetics, developmental biology, and behavioral studies, as well as applied research [biomedical research, xenotransplantation, drug testing, and toxicology tests, including cosmetics testing] (Animals in Scientific Procedures, Publications.Parliament.Uk) . As previously mentioned, arguments have been offered from each end, advocating or opposing the issue; but for organizational purposes, one side will be focused at a time, beginning with the supportive. Proponents of animal testing claim that examinations conducted at this level in some way are virtually responsible for every medical achievement in the 20th century. Additionally, it has enabled the development of many life-saving treatments for both humans and animals, tat there is no alternative method for researching a complete living organism, and that strict regulations prevent the mistreatment of animals in laboratories. Furthermore, they go on to defend their practice with the indication that despite the intelligence of sophisticated computers, they still are not advanced enough to model the interactions that occur between molecules, cells, tissues, organs, organisms, and the environment, thus making animal research necessary in many areas (Animal Testing, ProCon.org). On the other hand, opponents of animal testing question the legitimacy of it and argue that it is cruel and inhumane, an element of poor scientific practice, and that it is poorly regulated. They also believe that medical progress is being held back my misleading models, some of the tests are outdated, it cannot reliably predict effects in humans, that the costs outweigh the benefits, or that animals have an intrinsic right not to be used for experimentation. In addition, alternative methods are now said to be available to researchers so that they can replace the need for animals for testing, and that animals are so different from human beings that research on animals yields irrelevant results (Animal Testing, ProCon.org). After having acknowledged that there are both positive and negative affects associated to the realm of animal testing, one can sense the existence of an ethical dilemma. From this action, comes an effect that appears to harm one side but simultaneously helps the other. A defense from a moral approach might suggest the act of animal testing as inherently wrong, granted that it poses a physical threat to innocent animals and violates the rights granted to them from animal activists and the Animal Welfare Act. However, a defense from an objective approach might suggest the act of animal testing as valid seeing how it has contributed to many life-saving cures and treatments and there is no comparable or adequate alternative to testing on a living, whole-body system. The challenge is that not one of these arguments holds a greater amount of significance over the other, thus making it difficult to form a sole correct judgement. A utilitarianistic approach would offer an interesting argument when applied to this issue but first, the concept of utilitarianism must be defined so that it can be better understood. Utilitarianism in and of itself is a theory in normative ethics which believes that the most suitable course of action is the one that maximizes utility (Doing Ethics, Vaughn). In short, this can be reduced to maximizing happiness and reduced suffering. One of classic utilitarianism’s most influential contributors, John Stuart Mill stated in his book (Utilitarianism), “the golden rule [is] to do as one would be done by, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself [which is what] constitutes the ideal of perfection of utilitarian morality”. This is the principle of utility which, in other words, communicates that utilitarianism is the moral belief that an action is right if it produces the greatest good for the most number of people. Thus, the greatest happiness for the greatest number of souls. To reach this end, utilitarianism is based on the calculated consequence or outcome of a certain action. For instance, if you think an action will bring the maximum amount of happiness to the most number of people, then it is therefore the right thing to do. Since the concept of utilitarianism has been addressed, it can now be attributed to the issue of animal testing so that a defense for or against can be casted. As previously stated, this ethical framework essentially suggests “the best outcome for the greatest number of people” so that happiness is maximized while suffering is minimized. One can already depict the negative effects of animal testing as they have been mentioned to include the cruel and inhumanity inflicted on animals. This will account for extreme A. As a positive effect, according to the California Biomedical Research Association, nearly every medical breakthrough in the last 100 years has resulted directly from research using animals. This will account for extreme B. In this case, it appears as if extreme B triumphs over extreme A in that extreme B ensures the greatest good for the most number of people as it is directly related to mankind. This can be further seen with statistics provided that support animal testing. For instance, Chris Abee, Director of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s animal research facility, states that they wouldn’t have a vaccine for hepatitis B without chimpanzees and that the use of chimps is their best hope for finding a vaccine for Hepatitis C. a disease that kills 15,000 people every year in the United States. Although millions (26 million) of animals are used every year in the U.S (Animal Testing, ProCon.org) for animal testing, there are hundreds of millions (316,148,990 million) (U.S. and World Population Clock, Census.Gov) of people who are easily susceptible of falling victim to various if not multiple aliments and diseases. If these tests were not done then the human race, which happens to outnumber the animals being tested), is at great risk. Animal research has also factored into the major advances in understanding and treating conditions such as breast cancer, brain injury, childhood leukemia, cystic fibrosis, malaria, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, and more. Additionally, this was a key element in the development of pacemakers. cardiac valve substitutes, and anesthetics. Despite the fact that there is a great outlier of sticky circumstances, utilitarianism would deem that overall the action of animal testing would bring the maximum amount of happiness to the must number of people so thus it is the right thing to do. After becoming further acquainted with the issue of animal testing and the concept of utilitarianism, it is hard for myself to determine whether I agree or not. For instance, the ruling that utilitarianism casts upon the issue makes sense for it is simply adhering to a law and structure but then again, who is to say that method is the right one? Ultimately, I would say that I do agree. The utilitarianism approach reminds me of democracy and the favor of majority rule, which I feel is the most fair way opinion can be regulated. If majority of the people feel one way about something then chances are that’s the right way to feel (and I use that loosely). Additionally, despite my love and soft spot for animals, I feel that when principle comes into play, human life does take precedence over animals as it is mankind who come from the word of god and are the most evolved species. However, that does not mean I feel animal testing in itself is currently fine as is. Technology is an ever-growing process and for that alternative methods should be explored to alleviate the cruelty and suffering of animals, but I don’t believe that it should be eliminated since human life is at stake. Works Cited

"Animal Testing." ProConorg Headlines. N.p., 29 Jan. 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <http://animal-testing.procon.org/#background>. "House of Lords - Animals In Scientific Procedures - Report." Publications.Parliament. N.p., 2002. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200102/ldselect/ldanimal/150/15004.htm#a7>. "Population Clock." Population Clock. US Department of Commerce, 14 Apr. 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <https://www.census.gov/popclock/>. Vaughn, Lewis. Doing Ethics: Moral Reasoning and Contemporary Issues.New York: W. W. Norton, 2013. Print.

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