Essay:Against Animal Testing

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It's true, what the rumours are saying about me. I have to come clean, be true to myself and admit the horrifying truth I've spent so long trying to conceal. I, RockyRob97, am opposed to animal experiments. *gasp*

  • How can you be so stupid, so anti-science, so anti-human?
  • Do you use ANY form of modern medicine? If so, you are a fucking idiot and a hypocrite
  • You better kill yourself then you fucking moron because you wouldn't be alive without animal testing
  • PETA Retard - humans are more important than animals, DEAL WITH IT
  • Fucking extremist/hypocrite/terrorist/idiot/libtard
  • It's a necessary evil, you fucking stupid overly-emotional devoid-of-logic child
  • Do you want a child to die because we didn't test the medicine on a fucking mouse?
  • Are you going to volunteer yourself for the experiments? If not, sit down and shut the fuck up.

Yes, yes I've heard it all before. However, all I ask is an open mind and that you give me a chance to explain first.

Ethics[edit]

I am well aware that animal testing has resulted in significant benefits and medical cures for both humans and animals. I do understand that. I’ll even concede to the whole “Nearly every medical advancement in history came from animal testing”. The problem I have with animal experimentation, however, is the speciesist nature of it.

Now before you click away from this article, hear me out.

We humans, collectively, view it as justified to abuse and kill hundreds of millions of animals annually for the sake of research into curing illness or injuries in potentially millions of humans. However, I don’t think that anyone perpetuating this view would ever argue that it would be right to experiment on any amount of humans to find cures for a greater number of humans. Consider the following possibilities:

  1. An experiment that will sacrifice 50 animals and will find cures for thousands of humans
  2. An experiment that will sacrifice 500 animals and will find a cure for one human
  3. An experiment that will sacrifice 3 humans and find cures for thousands of other humans
  4. An experiment that will sacrifice 6 humans and find cures for millions of animals.

In examples 1, 3 and 4, from a utilitarian perspective ("the greater good"), the benefits would greatly outweigh the negatives. However, the vast majority of people would agree that only examples 1 and 2 would be justified morally, but examples 3 and 4 would be morally reprehensible.

In the case of example 2, the argument is made that humans are more important than animals. It is always worth it to abuse and kill X amount of animals to save Y amount of humans, no matter how much X is greater than Y. I will come back to this point in Argument 1 below.

A more interesting case is the response to examples examples 3 and 4. It is typically (and rightfully) argued that the humans should not be sacrificed in these cases, every human is deserving of protection and freedom from abuse and torture, regardless of how beneficial doing otherwise may be for others. Even if there was medical knowledge that could only be acquired by researching on humans, most people would agree we should forego it.

I don’t accept that these protections shouldn’t also be afforded towards animals.

At this point a mix of five core arguments are made to justify this double standard. Namely:

  1. Humans are more important than other animals because we are more intelligent / self-aware / evolved etc.
  2. We have a duty/obligation/right to be more loyal to own species over any other
  3. Researching on animals is more practical than researching on humans
  4. We have no choice, what else do you propose we do for medical research?
  5. You use the benefits of animal testing don’t you? So you should go fucking die if you really are opposed to it that much are a hypocrite.

Let us consider these arguments separately:

Argument 1: Humans are more important than other animals [because we are more intelligent / self-aware / evolved etc.][edit]

Note: The part in square brackets is rarely ever included in this argument, instead people just say "Humans are more important than animals" as if it's a fact in and of itself (it's not).

Many people think that less intelligent animals don’t feel pain the same way we do. In truth, we know very little about how specific animals may "feel" except that they must also submit to the universal law that causes every organism dying by unnatural means to suffer greatly before that final release. But it’s nonsense to say that the animals do not suffer, or even suffer less than we do, because they have a lower order of intelligence. Pain is pain, conveyed by nerves to the brain, and there are other nerves than those of intelligence, nerves such as sight, smell, touch, and hearing. And in some animals these nerves are much more highly developed than in man. To quote the famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins:

"I see no reason at all why there should be a positive correlation [between capacity to feel pain and mental dexterity]. Pain feels primal, like the ability to see colour or hear sounds. It feels like the sort of sensation you don't need intellect to experience.....I can see a Darwinian reason why there might even be be a negative correlation between intellect and susceptibility to pain. I approach this by asking what, in the Darwinian sense, pain is for. It is a warning not to repeat actions that tend to cause bodily harm. Don't stub your toe again, don't tease a snake or sit on a hornet, don't pick up embers however prettily they glow, be careful not to bite your tongue......Isn't it plausible that a clever species such as our own might need less pain, precisely because we are capable of intelligently working out what is good for us, and what damaging events we should avoid? Isn't it plausible that an unintelligent species might need a massive wallop of pain, to drive home a lesson that we can learn with less powerful inducement?"[1]

A second problem with this argument is that, in certain circumstances, some severely cognitively disabled humans may be less intelligent and/or self-aware than say a fully-grown pig, mouse or chimpanzee, yet it would be (rightfully) considered barbaric to experiment on humans like this to find cures for other’ diseases just because they are less intelligent or self-aware. We recognize that even though they may be less intelligent/aware, they are still capable of suffering as much as us, and thus to inflict this type of suffering on them would be wrong. In the same way, even though animals are less intelligent/aware than us, most suffer just as much as we do. Thus, it makes no sense to claim that their suffering should be viewed as "not as important" in the face of achieving “a greater good” than a similarly (or even lesser) intelligent human’s suffering would be.

Argument 2: We have a duty/obligation/right to be more loyal to own species over any other[edit]

While this may appear to make some kind of sense, unfortunately, this type of reasoning has been used throughout history to justify all sorts of discrimination such as the rich not caring about the interests of the poor, men not caring about women and whites not caring about blacks. If it is wrong for a man to always value men more than women, and wrong for a white person to always value white people more than black people, it similarly should also be wrong for humans to always consider humans to be more important than other animals. Any criteria one uses to explain why humans are always more valuable than animals will always fail in at least one case, since there is no known morally relevant ability that all humans have that all non-human animals lack.

Let's say for instance, instead of intelligence, you take ability to reason to be your criteria. The argument would then take the form of "It is not ethical to sacrifice humans for scientific progress, but it is ethical to sacrifice animals because humans have an ability to reason that animals do not have". This sounds good. However, not all humans have an ability to reason, such as very young infants, the senile and the cognitively disabled. And some non-human animals (particularly primates) probably have a greater ability to reason than those humans. So, if we want to keep the position that ability to reason is what matters morally then we have to accept that some humans can be experimented on and some animals cannot. Thus, ability to reason cannot be our criteria for valuing all humans above all animals.

Now, the boundary begins to collapse. Replace ability to reason in the above paragraph with any criteria you want (intelligence, understanding, sense of morality, language, ability to use tools, higher level of consciousness, ability to feel greater pain etc.). You will see that you can never find any justification for valuing all humans above all non-human animals. The only way to do this would be to say "They are more valuable just because they are human", which is nothing more than speciesism. It has the exact same form of every other discrimination that has ever existed. Group A is more important than Group B just because. No logic, no rationality, no justifications, only "just because". This is the exact argument that was used by sexists and racists to justify their denying of rights to women and blacks when they realised that they couldn't use logic to do it.

1900s - "Why are men more important than women?" - "Because they are men, you idiot" (no further explanation was apparently needed)

1950s - "Why are whites more important than blacks?" - "Because they are white, you idiot" (no further explanation was apparently needed)

Today - "Why are humans more important than other animals?" - "Because they are human, you idiot" (no further explanation is apparently needed)

Thus, the boundary between human and "animal" is completely arbitrary. There are far more differences, for instance, between a great ape and an oyster, for example, than between a human and a great ape, and yet the former two are lumped together as "animals", whereas we are considered "human" in a way that supposedly differentiates us from all other "animals.". After all, if laboratory animals are so like us that we can substitute them for testing instead of using humans, then surely those animals must also have the very attributes (ability to suffer physically and mentally, conscious awareness) that mean they deserve to be respected and be protected from harm – as we would wish for humans.

"But ALL animals are speciesist!!"[edit]

I'm not sure how true this actually is, but let's assume it is. Does that necessarily mean we should act the same way? Remember first that animals exhibit all kinds of behaviours that you would seek to avoid, for instance, violent territorial disputes, and for example, male lions will kill the cubs of a female he wishes to mate with because she won't mate while she has cubs around. We don’t usually consider animals to be valid ethical role models.

The position that we should give rights only to those able to respect ours is known as the “Reciprocity Argument”. This seems to be the underlying position beneath the "All animals are speciesist though" defense. Unfortunately for the pro-vivisectionist, the "Reciprocity Argument" is unconvincing both as an account of the way our society works and as a prescription for the way it should work. Its descriptive power is undermined by the simple observation that we give rights to a large number of individuals who cannot respect ours. Again, these include some elderly people, some people suffering from degenerative diseases, some people suffering from irreversible brain damage, the severely cognitively disabled, infants, and young children. Future generations are unable to reciprocate our concern, for example, so there would be no ethical harm done, under such a view, in dismissing concerns for environmental damage that adversely impacts future generations.

The key failing of the position lies in the failure to properly distinguish between the following capacities: (A) The capacity to understand and respect others' rights (moral agency) and (B) The capacity to benefit from rights (moral patienthood). An individual can be a beneficiary of rights without being a moral agent. Under this view, one justifies a difference of treatments of two individuals (human or nonhuman) with an objective difference that is RELEVANT to the difference of treatment. For example, if we wished to exclude a person from an academic course of study, we could not cite the fact that they have freckles. We could cite the fact that they lack certain academic prerequisites. The former is irrelevant; the latter is relevant. Similarly, when considering the right to be free of pain and suffering, moral agency is irrelevant; moral patienthood IS relevant.

The assumption that animals don't care about us can also be questioned. Companion animals have been known to summon aid when their owners are in trouble. Dogs for example will readily attack other dogs trying to attack their owners. They have been known to offer comfort when their owners are distressed. They show grief when their human companions die.

Argument 3: Researching on animals is more practical than researching on humans[edit]

When the ethics arguments start to fall apart, the argument then becomes one of practicality. Common points made include:

  • Animals can be purpose-bred much more easily, quickly and cheaply than humans could be
  • Animals can be controlled more easily
  • Scientists can know much more about laboratory animals since they are often bred from a small genetic pool and kept in a controlled environment which also makes the results more reliable than say taking humans from the general public whom would have more variations. If we used humans from the general public it would be difficult to determine what variations are a result of their lifestyle and what are from the tests but not so with low variability animal subjects
  • Laboratory animals have shorter lifespans than humans, they can reach adulthood more quickly than humans and their shorter lives can help us see the effect of medicine over a subject's life more quickly

Yes, this is all true. However, to respond to this argument, we need to be clear on what exactly is the point the opponent is making with this argument. I will assume the arguer is effectively saying "Yeah we would test on mentally-impaired humans if it was practical and efficient, but it isn't, so we use animals instead":

  1. If this is not the arguer's position, then we are back to square one, the original question of the speciesist bias still isn't being addressed. This argument is clearly just a smokescreen. Once again, the question is: Why do you find it acceptable to research on animals but would not on humans at comparable mental levels?.
  2. If this is the arguer's position, then where do I begin? Is this really the only thing you would consider wrong about experimentation on mentally-impaired humans - just that it would be inefficient? The fact the humans would be harmed is completely irrelevant? Do you feel that the Nuremberg Code from the Nuremberg Trials was right to be implemented because experimentation on "healthy" humans would be morally outrageous, but on cognitively disabled humans just because it would be inefficient and impractical? Also, what about cases where there is no difference in practicality, for example when we send animals to space instead of humans?

Argument 4: We have no choice, what else do you propose we do for medical research?[edit]

So the argument goes: There are simply no other viable alternatives, so vivisection is truly a “necessary evil”, otherwise medical progress would come to a complete standstill.

Many animal rights groups propose various types of alternatives that could be used to reduce or replace animal testing, such as PETA[2], the ALF[3], ADAPTT[4] and HSUS[5]. Other groups dedicated exclusively to fighting against animal testing like PISC[6] and PCRM[7] are even more thorough (see references). These mainly fall into three broad categories of (1) in vitro methods, (2) in silico methods and (3) clinical tests on human volunteers. I am not a scientist, so I cannot comment on the effectiveness of these methods over animal testing, though I think it goes without saying that if any of these methods could reduce or replace animals, they should be.

Unfortunately, the argument of "there is no viable alternatives" can be viewed as a consequence of our speciesist culture. Considering how standard and accepted vivisection is in modern society, there is actually very little research being actively carried out by scientists to try to find viable alternatives. In 2015, the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget of gave well over $10 billion of funding for projects that included animal testing and experimentation[8]. I can find no figures for how much money (if any) was contributed to research into finding animal testing alternatives, but I think that we can make a reasonable assumption that it would be similar to the situation in the European Union. The 27 Member States in the European Union spent around €250 billion in science research and development in 2011. In a survey of the 27 countries, it was found that just €18.7 million of this amount had been given by just seven countries into funding research into finding alternatives to animal models, other countries didn't respond (or openly gave nothing)[9]. This is a joke.

As a thought experiment, let's imagine that all vivisection was ended tomorrow. If this happened, most of the money being continuously invested at present into animal-based research could instead be invested into current and new research initiatives into finding other alternative methods and refining current ones. Even though there hardly any funds being contributed towards this at present, progress so far has already shown immense potential. Scientists have developed advanced microchips that use real human cells and tissues to construct fully functioning postage stamp–size organs to allow researchers to study diseases and also develop and test new drugs to treat them[10]. Other scientists have used human brain cells to develop a model “microbrain,” which can be used to study tumors, as well as artificial skin and bone marrow[11]. We can now test skin irritation using reconstructed human tissues[12], produce and test vaccines using human tissues, and perform pregnancy tests using blood samples instead of killing rabbits[13]. A wide range of sophisticated computer models that simulate human biology, the progression of developing diseases and can predict the ways that new drugs will react in the human body have been developed.[14] [15]. Imagine how much more we could achieve with more funds and focus[note 1].

Look, even if we did accept that it is highly unlikely that we could ultimately find methods of research as good as animal models, does that mean we shouldn’t try? People still play the lottery when odds are 187 million to one, and all they get is money. Avoiding abusing and killing hundreds of millions of animals annually is arguably an even bigger payoff.

"OK, but what about the types of research where there really are no alternatives?"[edit]

If so, so what? Remember that we are happy enough (today) to forego knowledge that could only be acquired at the expense of commandeering humans into service (for example, those suffering from types of diseases for which animal models are unsatisfactory such as AIDS). That is, a prior ethical decision was made that rules them out from experimentation, and that foregoes any potential knowledge that could be gained. For the reasons discussed in the points above, to be fair and consistent, we need to extend this same line of consideration for all animals, regardless of which species they are a member of.

Argument 5: You use the benefits of animal testing don’t you? So you are a hypocrite.[edit]

The old "tu quoque" fallacy: "Your actions are inconsistent with what you are claiming, thus what you are claiming is false!!!!"

I should probably just dismiss this as a tu quoque fallacy and leave it there, but instead I'll try to explain in a few different ways:

  1. With existing treatments derived from vivisection, the damage has already been done. Nothing is gained by refusing the treatment. Similarly, many other things in our society we regularly use came about through others’ exploitation. For instance, many of the roads we drive on were built by slaves. Consider a piece of knowledge obtained through vivisection. If vivisection were abolished, the knowledge could be used repeatedly without endorsing or further supporting vivisection. We can’t change the past; those who have already suffered and died are lost. What we can do is change the future by using non-animal research methods from now on.
  2. Had the vivisection not occurred, the knowledge might well have been obtained through alternative, moral methods. Are we to permanently foreclose the use of an abstract piece of knowledge due to the past folly of a vivisector?
  3. Consider a thought experiment: assume that we find that the local water company employs child labor and we object to child labor. Are we obligated to die of dehydration because the water company has chosen to violate the rights of children? No, of course not. We would be obligated to support the abolition of this use of children, but we would not be obligated to die.
  4. If the Nazis had made significant medical breakthroughs from their experiments on the Jews, would you consider it unethical to use the information gained from this research? Wouldn't not using this information have made the suffering and deaths of those tested on be in vain? If someone did take advantage of these discoveries to alleviate their suffering or prevent their death, would that mean that they condone the method of research used to obtain this information?

If you find all of this unpersuasive, consider that I and most other animal rights advocates really do want to end all animal testing. If this is achieved, this point will become irrelevant.

A Note on the Laws and Regulations "Protecting" Lab Animals[edit]

"You retard! There are laws protecting animals from unnecessary cruelty and abuse. Scientists coming along to torture animals just for shits and giggles is NOT how it happens!"

Besides the fact that this totally misses the fucking point ignores the ethics of doing the research in the first place, it is demonstrably false. The Animal Welfare Act was signed into law in 1966. It is the only Federal law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals in research[16], and is for most intents and purposes useless. It allows animals to be burned, shocked, poisoned, isolated, starved, forcibly restrained, addicted to drugs, and brain-damaged. No experiment, no matter how painful or trivial, is prohibited—and painkillers are not even required. Even when alternatives to the use of animals are available, U.S. law does not require that they be used—and often they aren’t. Because the AWA specifically excludes rats, mice, birds, and cold-blooded animals, more than 95 percent of the animals used in laboratories are not even covered by the minimal protection provided by federal laws. Because they aren’t protected, experimenters don’t even have to provide them with pain relief.[17].

A Note on Xenotransplantation[edit]

I have to hand this one over to Gary Yourofsky:

Xenotransplantation is an experimental procedure in which animal organs or tissues are transferred into human bodies. This is obscenely unethical because animals weren't created to be our spare parts, just like they weren't put here to be sandwiches. Trying to justify one unethical, immoral practice (meat-eating) with another (xenotransplantation) is vicious and invalid. It's like saying, "Since children are molested, we might as well make child pornography films." One evil act should not perpetuate another .......... If America instituted Europe's PRESUMED CONSENT, there would be no shortage of organs, and people wouldn't be looking to exploit animals further. Presumed consent means that everyone who dies is presumed to be a donor UNLESS stated otherwise. So people have a right to opt out of organ donation, but one has to take the initiative to opt out. [18]

Quotes[edit]

"Vivisection is a social evil because if it advances human knowledge, it does so at the expense of human character" - George Bernard Shaw

"Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: "Because the animals are like us." Ask the experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: "Because the animals are not like us." Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction". - Charles R. Magel

"Atrocities are not less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called medical research." - George Bernard Shaw

"Vivisection is the blackest of all the black crimes that a man is at present committing against God and his fair creation." --Mahatma Gandhi

"What I think about vivisection is that if people admit that they have the right to take or endanger the life of living beings for the benefit of many, there will be no limit for their cruelty." - Leo Tolstoy

"I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn't...The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further." - Mark Twain

"I would not want to promote research on animals. Fortunately, only my back is twisted, not my mind." - Linn Pulis

Notes[edit]

  1. It is far from the usual complaints that those opposed to vivisection are “anti-science”. Some of the greatest inventions and information in science were discovered by accident or while scientists were looking for other things. Essentially, it is rather plausible that if there was a dramatic increase in scientists looking for alternatives, we would (A) discover new sophisticated scientific methods because we would be forced to and (B) inventions and methods created to replace animal testing that fail in doing so, may be useful in other ways in other fields or for different purposes.
  1. https://boingboing.net/2011/06/30/richard-dawkins-on-v.html
  2. https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-experimentation/alternatives-animal-testing/
  3. http://animalliberationfront.com/ALFront/FAQs/labs_faq.htm
  4. http://adaptt.org/animal-rights/whats-wrong-with-vivisection.html
  5. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/alternatives-animal-tests
  6. https://www.piscltd.org.uk/alternatives/
  7. https://www.pcrm.org/ethical-science/animal-testing-and-alternatives/human-relevant-alternatives-to-animal-tests
  8. https://www.navs.org/the-issues/the-animal-testing-and-experimentation-industry/#.XC_VaFz7TIV
  9. https://lushprize.org/how-much-money/
  10. https://wyss.harvard.edu/technology/human-organs-on-chips/
  11. https://microbrainbiotech.com/
  12. https://www.mattek.com/products/epiderm/
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit_test
  14. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0019544
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12842603
  16. [1]
  17. [2] Section 2132(g)
  18. http://adaptt.org/animal-rights/whats-wrong-with-vivisection.html