Millions of animals fall prey to death each day, much like humans do too. However, the distinguishing factor is that these animals die in much larger proportions to humans, than vice versa. These killings usually occur for the perceived benefit of the Homo sapiens. From factory farming, large scale fisheries, animal testing and even through deforestation for infrastructure. It’s usually quite easy to argue against such acts and we can easily claim the moral high ground by saying that we shouldn’t condone such cruelty. However, these arguments are much less clear cut when it comes to the lesser known forms of animal cruelty, that being animal research (vivisection).
Animal research or experiments are usually conducted to test new medicines and to test the safety of other products, sometimes, these animals are put through harsh conditions, and some species of animals are bred for the sole purpose of experimentation. Though we do not think about them consciously, most of the products, or the conveniences we take for granted have gone through a form of animal testing, sometimes through federal regulations. These experiments generally cause direct pain to the animals involved, and or reduce the quality of their lives, either in permanent impairment, or even death.
Ethically, this is a very complex argument and there can be many philosophical approaches to it depending on the individual. Through the utilitarians, it might be that these forms of testing are a necessary evil, and that it will ultimately result in a greater benefit. Likewise, those who do not condone animal violence argue that no form of violence should occur at all, regardless of the overall benefit. These opinions are usually very polarised and vary greatly depending on each person, as a result, it’s quite challenging to reconcile both the idea of a necessary evil for the greater good, and the fact that we should always take the path involving the least pain.
Throughout the years, animal experimenters have been well aware about this ethical problem and have tried to acknowledge a solution around this moral dilemma. In 2012, the British Psychological Association released a code of ethics for animal research, detailing the procedures appropriate for animal experimentation. In addition to that, the 3 “R’s” have also been implemented in scientific research, that being reduction, refinement, and replacement. These 3 “R’s” in concept aim to reduce the number of animals used, whether in sheer numbers or in suffering, and by replacing animals used through less invasive techniques, such as through computer models, or testing on cell cultures.
Though these techniques do aim to mitigate the suffering of animals, it still does ultimately bring up questions whether animal experiments are ethically justified. The cognitive dissonance that we possess on the matter really illustrates how challenging this dilemma is and opinions are very divided. With these recent advancements in biomedicine, or the advent of more complex computer models, we will eventually come to a point where we might be able to phase out animal testing. However, until we are able to programme accurate models, we will still have to decide where we stand on the matter of animal experimentation.
With vegan lifestyles and vegan philosophies on the rise, these arguments do tend to gain traction, though they might not be on the forefront of issues talked about. Morally, it would be appropriate to say that animal testing is completely cruel, and should be outright banned. However, through trials of animal research, we have brought forth medication or products that greatly enhance our quality of life, including reduced mortality rates in human beings. When all things considered, we have to wonder if the individual value of a single human life, is equivalent to the lives of the animals being tested.
Resolution is much harder to reach in these situations, not unlike many moral or philosophical dilemas, but it does pose for an interesting line of discussion, regardless of where you stand on this opinion. Whilst discourse on this subject might feel irrelevant to some, it is still a very important discussion to hold as we gradually head into the 4th industrial revolution. If we reach the technological singularity, where will the animals stand? Should we extend an olive branch and give them an opportunity to live with us? Are we making a mistake by anthropormorphising them and thinking that deserve “human” rights? Are some animals equal, or should the line of protection be drawn at certain species? Do you think that animals are less superior than we are, and where do you draw the line in the sand?