Animal Testing is Unreasonable
Professor Charles R. Magel has stated, “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 OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘Because the animals are not like us.’ Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction” (“Animal Testing 101”). Besides, in actuality, animals are not like us. Carl Cohen agrees with this view, for he believes that animals cannot have rights as humans do seeing that animals do not understand the meaning of having rights. In other words, animals are not like us because they are not part of a community made up of moral agents that are able to respond to moral claims. Furthermore, animals cannot make moral judgments. Hence, it is morally OK to experiment on animals.
Animals are not like us mainly because there are various biological dissimilarities between humans and animals, making it absolutely unreasonable to compare humans with animals. As an example, morphine is supposed to calm human beings, but it excites cats. Cortisone does not cause birth defects in humans; it only does so in mice. Penicillin can kill guinea pigs and hamsters, and aspirin can poison cats and cause fetal deformities in rats. Digitalis is used by human heart patients, but raises the blood pressure of dogs. Had we relied on the results of experiments conducted on animal subjects, we would not have discovered the benefits of penicillin to humans, nor the life saving value of digitalis to those people who are suffering from heart disease. We would never have known the common anesthetic we now know as chloroform either, seeing that it is toxic to dogs. Many steroids, adrenaline, insulin, and certain antibiotics are also harmful to animals albeit medically beneficial to mankind (“Animal Experimentation: Cruel and Unnecessary”). All the same, Cohen refuses to take this research into account when he claims that an adequate utilitarian calculus of animal testing reveals that the benefits of animal experimentation outweigh its costs. Moreover, he thinks that we should increase, rather than decrease the use of animals in medical experimentation. Cohen further believes that it is wrong to decrease the use of animals in medical experimentation. All the same, Cohen’s theory is incomplete given that he has not taken modern scientific research into account while formulating his theory on animal experimentation. The philosopher has not considered, for example, that if we had relied on cat experimentation to know about aspirin, we would never have know the benefits of aspirin to ailing human beings.
Regardless of Cohen’s beliefs, research has shown that animal experimentation does not always benefit mankind. It is therefore illogical for scientists to use animals for research that is meant to benefit mainly humans. I do not disagree with the fact that it is good for humans to know more about the animals who occupy the planet with them, just as it is good for us to know about the other planets of the solar system, the stars, the nebulas and dark matter in the cosmos. There are general benefits of knowledge realized by all those who possess it. In the past, animal experimentation has helped us to gain more knowledge. After all, it is through our failed research with drugs using animals that we have come to realize that animals are not like us. Hence, we should not move forward with such research. Human intelligence is to learn from our mistakes, even if a mistake is made only once. There is no reason to put animals to torture by giving them harmful medicines, later to discover that these medicines are actually beneficial for humans. Besides, countless animals are abused in the laboratories of the experimenters. People who care about animals complain to PETA about it all the time (“Animal Testing 101”). After all, animals also have families; they live, breathe, feel pain, cry, and die, just as we do. Yet, Cohen would disagree with the people who go to PETA with complaints. According to him, it is morally permissible to overlook animal pain. To put it another way, Cohen believes that animal pain is far less important than the significance of animal experimentation. And, I believe that Cohen’s thinking is based solely on the fact that animals cannot fight for their own rights. They do not stage protests outside the White House. Neither have they ever formed groups to kill the experimenters in the laboratories. Just because animals do not have a voice in our media, philosophers like Cohen want animal experimentation to go on.
Despite the research reports on the unreasonableness of animal experimentation, approximately one hundred and fifteen million animals are still being experimented on and later killed in the laboratories of U.S. experimenters year after year. According to Stop Animal Tests, “Much of the experimentation—including pumping chemicals into rats’ stomachs, hacking muscle tissue from dogs’ thighs, and putting baby monkeys in isolation chambers far from their mothers—is paid for by you, the American taxpayer and consumer, yet you can’t visit a laboratory and see how the government has spent your money” (“Animal Testing 101”).
When experimenters say that it is morally OK to experiment on animals because “animals are not like us,” I am reminded of those racists around the world who go on killing people that are not like themselves. The Nazis experimented on and killed countless Jews similarly, simply because the latter appeared inferior to them and could not assert their rights before the ruthless Nazis. The fact that today’s experimenters use the same explanation to experiment on and kill the animals makes me want to ask: Would scientists be willing to believe that it is OK to experiment on and kill everyone that is not like us? Is this a logical explanation for racist behavior, or for unnecessary animal killing? Just as different groups of people around the world are killing day by day those that do not appear like themselves – scientists are killing the animals, even though it is morally wrong to do so. Even so, Cohen would say that since speciesism is unlike racism, it is inappropriate to compare animal killing in the laboratory with racist killing. I believe that Cohen has no evidence to support this view.
Scientists are supposed to be some of the most intelligent people in the world. I believe that they should have understood by now, from past experiences with animal testing, that it is illogical to use animals for tests meant to benefit humans in the long run. I can only imagine how many drugs of benefit to humans scientists may be getting rid of because these drugs do not work on animals in the laboratories. Some of those drugs may cure AIDS or cancer. By finding out that those drugs do not work on animals, scientists may very well be doing away with the idea of such drugs altogether. Cohen’s arguments are failing in these cases. In his view, animal experimentation was meant to be of benefit to humanity. In cases where new drugs are discarded simply because they do not work on animals – animal experimentation is, no doubt, failing to benefit mankind. Who is responsible for this failure? I believe that Cohen’s theory and the arguments of other philosophers that think along the same lines, are responsible for the loss in benefits we are experiencing through animal experimentation.
Scientists had been using rats for cancer research before it was reported in the year 1993 that using rats for cancer research is essentially pointless given that the gene repair system of rats makes them unusually susceptible to cancer. In other words, there are significant differences in the way the genes of rodents and humans are repaired (“Animal Experimentation”). Although this fact is out – I expect that scientists who give in to illogical theories and explanations may continue to use rats for cancer research. In point of fact, Cohen’s arguments are still believed by countless people. To stop the scientists from misusing our valuable resources – finances, in addition to the ecological advantages of animals – I believe that the government should step forward and put an end to animal experimentation in medicine altogether. Animal testing is unreasonable, and there is no reason to argue about it anymore.
ANIMAL EXPERIMENTATION IS UNREASONABLE Page # 6
1. “Animal Experimentation: Cruel and Unnecessary.” Retrieved from http://members.iinet.net.au/~rabbit/aniexp.htm. (12 March 2007).
2. “Animal Testing 101”. Stop Animal Tests. Retrieved from http://www.stopanimaltests.com/animalTesting101.asp. (12 March 2007).
3. Cohen, Carl. “The case for the use of animals in biomedical research.” The New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery, Volume 315, 1986.