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nikipedia's avatar

Under what conditions is animal research ethical?

Asked by nikipedia (27780points) September 20th, 2008

I thought killing flies for research wasn’t going to bother me. After decapitating and removing the brains of a dozen or so, it turns out it does. This particular project seems useful in a general knowledge sense, but isn’t saving any lives or substantively bettering humanity (unless you think pure knowledge is a benefit unto itself).

So is animal research ethical? All animals? All research? Why?

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14 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

It depends for me. Research that will help people with a real tangible problems is mostly OK with me. Seeing if the eyeliner hurts the cats eyes is not OK.

I know.. Weak answer but I just woke up.

girlofscience's avatar

There was an excellent argument for animal research in Neil Carlson’s Foundations in Physiological Psychology. I agree that it is ethical in nearly all research settings. I am a meat-eater, but I feel that animal research is far more ethical than eating meat.

One aspect of Carlson’s argument for animal research that was particularly interesting was the fact that less than one percent of intentional animal mortalities are the result of animal research, and yet, something like 68% of animal rights arguments are directed against animal research. There’s quite a discrepancy between the actual harm caused by animal research and the amount to which it is protested. (Many other types of animal harm that cause much more harm are protested far less!)

Additionally, there are so many stringent guidelines that researchers are required to follow in animal research, and research animals (those that are used live) are typically far better cared for than the average household pet.

It’s been awhile since I read the article, but I did find Carlson’s points quite convincing when I read them.

tinyfaery's avatar

I refuse to use products that are tested on animals—shampoo, cleaning products, make-up, soap, etc… Why should an animal suffer when there is ABSOLUTELY NO NEED! Medical research is more understandable, but only if absolutely necessary. Useless medical research occurs all too frequently; that needs to be stopped whether or not animal research is involved.

Why is it necessary to research on animals. Haven’t some sort of computer programs been developed to mimic the processes of the human body. How much is a mouse or rabbit like a human anyway?

Lightlyseared's avatar

when the research hasn’t been done before. When it could only be done by using animals. When the knoledge that would be gained is worth the sacrifice.

Mind you I have no qualms volunteering myself for research. Which is why I spent last week full of ketomine.

scamp's avatar

I don’t think there is an all or nothing type of answer to this question. My opinion is that some of the others. I think it’s ok for medically necessary research only, and after other means have been exhausted.

marinelife's avatar

I hate the need for it. It is cruel and vile. Just because in the wild, animals lives’ may be nasty, brrtish and short does not make it OK for us to inflict anything on them.

What I wish would happen is that scientists would spend time finding appropriate alternatives using all our new technology to minimize the need for it and eventually eliminate it.

shilolo's avatar

As someone with experience in this type of research, I will say that computer models or in vitro tissue culture models are no substitute for legitimately designed and ethically managed animal research. It is a pipe dream of the animal rights’ movement that a computer can simulate a number of physiologic systems (many of which are incompletely understood) and provide meaningful results.

Harp's avatar

I agree that it’s not helpful to think in absolute terms in matters of morality. Let me just suggest one possible way to clarify this question (and I think it’s a valid way of looking at the whole meat eating issue, too).

What if, instead of basing the morality of actions on some objective measure, you look at morality subjectively, in terms of the effects your actions have on your personal sense of compassion toward others. If doing a particular thing has the effect of diminishing your sensitivity toward the welfare of others, then that could be considered morally undesirable. If doing something hightens your sensitivity to the welfare of others, then it would have a positive moral value. So in this paradigm, the goal is to become as sensitive to the well-being of the world as possible. Compassionate, in other words. A big heart.

Looking at lab animals or farm animals, one could say that they only exist to fill our research or food needs; we caused them to be born to die for us. That argument has a kind of objective appeal, but does it pass the compassion test? It’s clear that the act of killing or causing to suffer desensitizes us to killing and suffering (there was a policy in the stockyards of not leaving workers too long in the role of slicing animals’ throats).

But equally clearly, there are times when causing suffering and killing serves to abate more suffering and more killing. This doesn’t arise often, but it can. We can’t always make clear assesments of whether the benefits that we’re hoping for will actually materialize out of our actions. But we can look at the effect our actions are having on our own compassion. If we’re acting with a view toward decreasing suffering in the world, then our compassion won’t diminish as a result. A bad sign would be that the killing or causing to suffer becomes progressively easier. There are times when it’s necessary, but it should always be the last resort, and never be easy.

pinky134's avatar

In my ethical opinion. There are no circumstances. None. I don’t care if it save human lives. None.

shilolo's avatar

That’s a valid point pinky. I suggest you avoid all medicines, antibiotics, vaccines, surgeries, cancer treatments, etc. That will put you morally and ethically in the clear.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@pinky fancy volunteering for some first time in human trials? It’s fun.

nikipedia's avatar

@pinky134: Okay. Why?

@tinyfaery: I hope that we can get there someday, but as Dr. S pointed out, we don’t understand these systems well enough to do that, which is why we’re still doing research on them. Mice and rabbits are very similar to humans in some ways and very different in others, so whether they’re applicable depends a lot on what kind of question you’re trying to answer. Picking the right animal for your experimental paradigm can be a huge breakthrough—Thomas Hunt Morgan was the first scientist to use drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) to study genetics, for which he earned a Nobel Prize in 1933, and Eric Kandel began the practice of using the sea slug Aplysia californica to study learning and memory, which earned him his own Nobel Prize in 2000. So yes, not all animals are appropriate for all research paradigms, but some are excellent for specific problems.

But ethically, does it matter what kind of animal you’re using? Is it less awful to kill fruit flies or sea slugs than to kill chimpanzees or bunnies?

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i think in cases in which they’re trying to discover the cure for cancer, etc, it’s not completely unacceptable. normally i am absolutely anti-animal cruelty, however if they find a cure for cancer by testing on say 50 animals (i know it’s tons more than that), that cure is going to potentially save millions more human and nonhuman animals. however i am still iffy about that, because most of the people who are pro-animal testing wouldn’t want to be tested on themselves for the same ‘noble cause’.
humans, dogs, rats, etc are all animals. i don’t understand why nonhuman animals are viewed as so inferior. i guess it’s because they can’t talk like us and they aren’t as greedy as us.

oasis's avatar

I think Animal Testing is fundamentally wrong,for a starter they dont get any tuition.

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