Utilitarian View on Animal Research Essay

MillKaitlin May Professor Bell Humanities 4332 22 April 2013 A Utilitarian Argument in Favor of Animal Experimentations Though it has been criticized for its standard, universal means of measuring moral predicaments, utilitarianism still remains one of the most persuasive means of assessing normative ethics. With that said, any and every ethical conundrum should be first looked at through a utilitarian lens. If a satisfying conclusion is reached using the utilitarian approach, then no other approach is needed.

If not, the utilitarian approach can be used along with other ethical assessment methods to gain additional insight or a clearer answer to moral conundrums. However, in looking at the ethics of animal experimentation, it is evident that only a utilitarian approach—one that gauges the greatest good for the greatest number based on the consequences of the actions performed within a situation—is needed to reach a satisfying conclusion.

This research will prove that undertaking a utilitarian approach to animal experimentation reveals that animal experimentation is indeed moral, given that through the suffering of a few animals, more human lives are improved and saved. Animal experimentation is well known throughout the medical and scientific fields. The earliest references of animal testing are recorded among the Greeks. Early scientists—such as Aristotle, Erasistratus, and Galen (known as the father of vivisection) — practiced and performed experiments on living animals to gain knowledge of anatomy to later apply various medical practices safely to humans.

Many early advances in medical research would not have occurred without the use of animals in some way, clearly revealing the enormous benefit to humanity animal experimentation has had. Some examples of extraordinary discoveries are Behring’s use of a mixture of isolated diphtheria toxin and anti-toxin to protect guinea pigs from developing certain diseases; in turn leading to a vaccine that could then be used in humans. Banting also experimented on dogs to determine functions of the pancreas in producing insulin, which prior to this discovery, diabetes was more or a less a death sentence. And finally Salk and his famous Rhesus onkeys led to the Salk vaccine, which reduced the incidence of polio. Their work would in turn influence Albert Sabin to use animals as hosts and grow the virus to make a live vaccine; by 1965 polio was virtually non-existent (Blackorby and Donaldson 2). Without the use of animals, medical research and the knowledgeable gained by this research in the medical field would have been crippled, and some viruses could still be around. Among the animals commonly used in experimentation are monkeys, mice, guinea pigs, and aplysia. All of these animals, in one way or another, contribute to bettering humanity. One mouse can live through a maximum of three ‘rounds’ of antibody growth and removal. It seems reasonable to suggest that these mice are below neutrality, but are no worse off in the second and third rounds than in the first” (Blackorby and Donaldson 7). When an animal must be subjected to experimentation, its suffering must be limited. Laws dealing with animal suffering vary among countries, but they all maintain regulations for scientists when using live, nonhuman subjects. Mice can withstand one round of antibody growth, with follow-ups—none of which are any more painful than the first.

Afterwards, depending on the type of experiment and what damage may have occurred during the experiment, euthanasia is the next step to relieve the animal if it continues to experience pain after the surgery. The animal, hence, no longer suffers. To determine an animal’s pain, most physicians monitor sections of the brain known to be associated with sensing physical and mental pain by using electrocenphalography (EEG), a non-invasive practice that records electrical activity along the scalp. By being able to get an idea of pain levels, physicians can limit the pain and determine when to give more anesthetic (Blackorby and Donaldson 12).

The data provided from these experiments can lead to promising results and sometimes a cure, as with Salks vaccine leading up to Albert Sabin’s elimination of polio. The data collected from experiments on mice can lead to limited deaths of human lives taken each year as a result of disease. When considering the massive potential benefit that utilizing knockout mice in labs could (and would) contribute toward treating and curing serious diseases, it is relatively easy to see how the positives outweigh the negatives.

Breeding knockout mice could be seen as creating a life only to destroy it; on the contrary, it is creating (and often consequentially destroying) a life to take one more step toward saving thousands. Mice are usually the chosen animal to experiment on due to their close anatomy to humans (Singer 1). They can easily be bred in the lab, and their life span is relatively short, thus reducing the amount of times an individual mouse will go through any experiment.

Procedures such as the use of antibiotics, blood transfusions, dialysis, organ-transplantation, vaccinations, chemotherapy, bypass surgery, and joint replacement—and almost every present-day protocol for the prevention, healing, treatment, and control of disease—were made possible through some type of knowledge gained by experimentation with animals. Animal testing is needed in order to assure safety of humans, provide possible treatments and cures for epidemic viruses, and to take greater strides in learning the various functions, pathways, and workings of all human anatomy.

If experimentation with animals were to end, even the non-invasive social studies of animals, which are also used for experimentation, would cease to be further investigated and would rob humanity of lives and put millions at greater risk. Animal experimentation has always grasped the attention of philosophers debating whether the action can be deemed moral. Their interests equal weight with the like interests of humans, lies in the consequences of denying animals this equal moral standing-and historically, most moral philosophers have either denied animals moral standing altogether, or discounted their interests because they are not human.

Thus Aristotle thought that all animals exist for the sake of man. Aquinas took over this attitude, adding that we do not even owe charity to animals. (Singer 6) If one were to base his or her approach from a utilitarian point of view, then yes, the action is moral so long as the action produces the best outcome and most satisfying happiness for the majority. Some other ethical theories, however, concerning animal experimentation may disagree. From a naturalist’s view, one should recognize that animals are a type of kind. Humankind is not the only type of kind.

If one would eliminate this view, then humans will fail to be moral in other ways than just this instance of speciesism (Singer 7). Humans failing to recognize that all nature, including animals, is important will lead them to believe nothing else is important but their own kind. With this view in tact, humans would believe the moral standing of animals to be significantly less than their own, which leads to question if humans really are above animals, the question cannot be proven ethically. To a naturalist though, animal interests should still be considered so long as human interests are considered.

Another area of concern is whether animals can suffer. Based on the behavior of animals, it is determined that they too can experience pain. Since animals can suffer, then it is assumed they have interests. Interests involve avoiding pain and enjoying pleasure, both of which animals can experience, shows that animals can express an interest in what they feel. This sounds familiar to what naturalists maintain or perhaps an avid Darwinian: interests of animal kind should be considered so long as humankind’s interests are since both are equal; both are a type of kind.

To deny that animals have interests brings up the concerning matter of speciesism, which, if Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct, then humans are directly from primates; making us no more superior than any other animal. If humans deny the interests of animals, believing they are of more concern, then this could lead to human beings losing the ability to hold any morals altogether. Denying nature and its beauty would lead humankind into a simple hedonist society: all things would be based on simple pleasures, selfishness, and the chaos of competition amongst one another.

Ultimately the concerns of most are whether the costs are worth the benefits; are the suffering of animals worth the experiments taking place? One cannot simply conclude that the benefits that are of value to humans outweigh the costs incurred by animals in experiments. The number of animals used for scientific experimentation certainly outnumbers the cures, treatments, and medical breakthroughs that have been made. This may imply that many of the ways scientist use animals are virtually unneeded since results, cures, and treatments are so rarely discovered.

How the scientists treat the animals they experiment on is of growing concern. Many research grants are not awarded, meaning researchers will do what they can to cut costs anywhere, leading to inhumane acts. Environments, such as cages, will be so small that animals cannot find comfort. If the animal is in a permanent state of stress, then one must question if the experiment is being compromised in some way. Stress can compromise any test, and animals that are subject to confined, poorly lit, and damaged cages will certainly show signs of stress.

If scientists continue to treat the animals in their care inhumanely, then what might one expect from years and years of scientists who do this? More than likely an increase in desensitized humans will occur. If this were to occur, then the naturalists are right yet again; it will lead to the destruction of humanity being able to care and appreciate anything, including all things in nature. Depending on which doctrine is to be accepted, the practice of animals in any scientific experiment may or may not allow humans to justifiably continue to torment and finally euthanize these animals.

To the opposing side of animal experimentation, humanity would be at risk of having no ethical morals at all. Every one would fall under a hedonist influence, or fall under a natural state, in an open wilderness full of competition and deceit. It is obvious that from early childhood development, children, and later adults, live for the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. This becomes the basis of utilitarianism, Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure.

It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think…. (Bentham 1) Utilitarian ethics can be traced as far back as ancient Greece, with the Greek hedonist philosopher Epicurus, who believed seeking pleasure above all else. The notion later expanded into utilitarianism by philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

Mill would later expand and revise Bentham’s take on utilitarianism by explaining the difference of higher and lower pleasures. While for the most part, utilitarians use the same basis, they differ in their understandings of happiness and who is entitled to it. Utilitarian ethics holds that happiness is good in and of itself and therefore is of value. It emphasizes that the consequences of our actions are what determines whether an act is right or wrong. The most important consequences to the theory are pleasure and suffering.

There is no misconception about moral acts when it comes to utilitarianism; it is simply the act that produces the greatest pleasure for the greatest number and least amount of suffering. There are two types of utilitarian theorists: act-utilitarians and rule-utilitarians. The first type maintains that all individuals should determine every outcome of an act, consider whether it is right or it is wrong, before performing. The act will be just or unjust by the calculations of its consequences; it must produce the most happiness for the greatest number, and it must be the best action over all actions considered.

The type second, rule-utilitarian, holds that making laws or policies will promote more utility because actions are usually forced. To gain great utilitarian values, one must perform certain actions. These practices should be evaluated on their utilitarian qualities. Overall, both sides agree that producing the greatest amount of pleasure and the least amount of pain is key to a great life. According to the utilitarianism theory, one must determine what is right, or acceptable, by calculating the amount of pleasure or suffering one’s actions may cause.

The right action will lead to the one that gives most pleasure, or least suffering, to the majority concerned. Ultimately, animal experimentation will outweigh the overall suffering of a nonhuman animal, “… the pain argument has nothing to say to the countless millions of painless and relatively painless animal experiments performed throughout the world; and these, I should have thought, vastly outnumber the painful ones” (Frey 3). So as long as the benefits of using animal experimentation outweighs animal suffering, then according to the utilitarian approach, this is morally acceptable.

If the amount of pain can be reduced for an animal involved in experimentation and the limited pain it must go through will benefit the majority, then it is morally suitable for this animal to be involved in furthering the pleasure of the majority, “Elsewhere [Bentham] says that if the suffering of one animal would have the result of curing all forms of cancer, that suffering would be justifiable” (Donovan 352). Pleasure and pain are of great matter, and concern, for the utilitarian because they are part of what humans, and nonhumans, desire and seek to avoid.

The rightness, or wrongness, of the act is of no concern for this theory; it is all about the consequences of the action and the result it makes. Thus, while the theory recognizes feelings and treatment of entities, utilitarianism tries to gauge pleasure and pain through quantifiably methods. If the suffering of animals is for a greater cause, such as sustaining a longer life, curing any disease, or providing a tool to lead to more promising research in new drugs, so long as it benefits a greater number, then animal experimentation is moral and must be carried out.

Most of the experimentation mentioned would all be for medical causes. Whether the reasons are cures to multiple diseases, treatments, or elimination of genes causing certain illnesses, all animals are suffering to some extent to find these discoveries. However, their suffering can be limited, and most laboratories do try to limit any pain or discomfort as possible. This is why one of the reasons rats are bred specifically for laboratory use: life span is low, they breed quickly, and some are specifically bred to remain in laboratory settings.

Laws are furthering restrictions on scientists in treatments of the animals they use. With the laws enforced correctly, many of the worries are eliminated, such as inhumane treatment, poor environment, and even the welfare of the individuals involved in having to perform the actions to the animals. Since actions are taken to prevent and eliminate much of the suffering nonhuman animals must endure and it promotes the most happiness for the majority, as far as utilitarians are concerned, the action is right.

The animals are protected under the theory in that suffering must be limited, and that the action must count towards a greater cause. Many humans benefit off of animal experimentation and studies that prevent, possibly even cure, diseases. Treatments are always further investigated so long as the study is promising in the lab. Further advances in finding answers to problems for humans will result in less death, illness, and even help the economy by less individuals having to be put into hospitals or use expensive drugs.

It is for all of these reasons that animal experimentation in just in that the results it has on more human lives outweighs the pain some of the animals have to go through. It is through the ethics of utilitarianism that animal experimentation is indeed moral. Despite the few nonhumans that suffer, more human lives are enhanced and spared from death. Animal research is the fundamental element that will lead to advances in scientific endeavors that will help prevent modern medical disasters that the world produces.

If not for the use of animal experimentation, and the developments in medicine and treatments is produces, surely the number of human deaths would outnumber all animal deaths that occur naturally. Animal experimentation is necessary for all human kind to continue to survive and prosper; therefore, as utilitarian ethics concludes animal experimentation is a moral practice. Works Cited Bentham, Jeremy. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. 1907. Library of Economics and Liberty. 27 April 2013. <http://www. conlib. org/library/Bentham/bnthPML1. html>. Blackorby, Charles, and David Donaldson. “Pigs and Guinea Pigs: A Note on the Ethics of Animal Exploitation. ” The Economic Journal 102. 415 (1992): 1345-69. Print. Donovan, Josephine. “Animal Rights and Feminist Theory. ” Signs 15. 2 (1990): 350-75. Print. Frey, R. G. “Vivisection, Morals and Medicine. ” Journal of medical ethics 9. 2 (1983): 94-7. Print. Singer, Peter. “Utilitarianism and Vegetarianism. ” Philosophy & Public Affairs 9. 4 (1980): 325-37. Print.

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