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Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

Enter here to explore ethical issues and discuss the meaning and source of morality.
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PriestofPoppycock
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Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#1 Post by PriestofPoppycock » October 14th, 2008, 10:40 pm

This is something I have wondered about for a long time, and I think I can get some interesting, intelligent, and hopefully honest answers from these forums: is there essentially any moral difference in performing medical experiments on non-human animals and humans, and if there is a moral difference, what determines the difference?

Some humans who are profoundly handicapped as well as infants may be less sentient, less aware of the self and suffering than adult chimpanzees. Is there a difference between experimenting on one rather than the other? Certainly intelligence or level of awareness cannot be used to defend the humans against experimentation in such a scenario.

James

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Alan C.
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#2 Post by Alan C. » October 14th, 2008, 11:26 pm

Personally, I don't think it is morally right to experiment on any animal, be it spider, rat, chimp, or human.
There are surely better ways of "testing" cosmetics and cleaning products in the 21st century, that don't involve the suffering of animals.
Some humans who are profoundly handicapped as well as infants may be less sentient, less aware of the self and suffering than adult chimpanzees.
I would certainly be in favour of testing some of these products on the "celebrities" that lend their name to these products, if theyre going to endorse them, then they should be the first to try them out. :twisted:
Is there a difference between experimenting on one rather than the other? Certainly intelligence or level of awareness cannot be used to defend the humans against experimentation in such a scenario.
I don't quite understand you're last sentence, (maybe the punctuation) but suffice to say, I am against all or any experiments on animals.
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PriestofPoppycock
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#3 Post by PriestofPoppycock » October 14th, 2008, 11:34 pm

By the last sentence I meant that one cannot argue against human experimentation in all cases based on intelligence or level of awareness. For instance, some individuals who are severely handicapped are less intelligent and aware of suffering than an adult chimpanzee. A very young infant is also less intelligent and aware than an adult chimpanzee, yet we do not experiment on infants or people who are handicapped even though we experiment on more intelligent chimpanzees.

James

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jaywhat
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#4 Post by jaywhat » October 15th, 2008, 4:39 pm

Humans can give their agreement - and get paid.

Nick
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#5 Post by Nick » October 15th, 2008, 7:50 pm

PriestofPoppycock wrote:This is something I have wondered about for a long time, and I think I can get some interesting, intelligent, and hopefully honest answers from these forums: is there essentially any moral difference in performing medical experiments on non-human animals and humans, and if there is a moral difference, what determines the difference?

Some humans who are profoundly handicapped as well as infants may be less sentient, less aware of the self and suffering than adult chimpanzees. Is there a difference between experimenting on one rather than the other? Certainly intelligence or level of awareness cannot be used to defend the humans against experimentation in such a scenario.

James
I think there is an answer, or more properly, perhaps, an explanation. We humans, as a species, have a propensity to look after our own. We have an evolutionary yuk factor to treating our fellow humans as we ourselves would not want to be treated, in the same way that lions do not (in general) eat lions.

This does not mean that cruelty amongst humans does not occur. Far from it. But these tend to occur when 'normality' breaks down. During war or other non-standard circumstances. As a general rule, the further away from human the 'victim' is perceived to be, the less we worry about it. Though a human may have less than the intelligence or sentience of a chimp, the fact that we perceive it, as a human, as being a kindred spirit, imparts its own morality. If this leads to the implication that morality is itself a human construct, then so be it. I find it impossible to think of morality as something separate from the human experience. That fact notwithstanding, it is still appropriate from us to consider we take to be moral.

I am not holding this out to be a justification, merely an explanation. All to often, explanations are treated (by those who object to them) as being (other people's) justifications, and thus prevent a proper examination of the subject. Racism could be such an issue. By merely decrying racism as a 'bad thing' (which it is) it prevents investigation as to why it occurs.

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jaywhat
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#6 Post by jaywhat » October 16th, 2008, 6:31 am

Nick said, 'We humans, as a species, have a propensity to look after our own. We have an evolutionary yuk factor to treating our fellow humans as we ourselves would not want to be treated....'

Not sure what this means,Nick.

And you then go on to say, '... cruelty amongst humans.....tends to occur when 'normality' breaks down. During war or other non-standard circumstances.'

This is the opposite of what I seem to see. War and conflict are hardly unusual and IMO humans can be the most cruel animals on the planet.

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Paolo
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#7 Post by Paolo » October 16th, 2008, 12:57 pm

There are physiological similarities between us and some other animals that can be used to argue against animal experimentation, mostly involving responses to stress and pain – we can empathise with that. Unfortunately, the similarities are precisely why some animals are used in experimentation – what would be the point of testing a drug on an animal with a totally different physiology?

Lower intelligence is not the main reason for animal testing to be deemed acceptable when human testing is not (although legislation on testing is tighter on animals with higher perceived intelligence). The main point is that animals can’t complain to their friends, family or MP, they can’t write a letter, make a report to the police or file a lawsuit. Animals may not be stupid, but they are dumb.

As has been said previously, human experimentation has been undertaken before and this has been in situations where the individuals involved have been in a position where they are deemed to be outside society – thus their ability to complain has been removed. In the modern Western world we feel that it is our right to complain about everything and expect our complaints to be taken seriously. We are so used to the idea of society being all-inclusive that some people feel that animals should be considered under the same sets of rules as other humans. I’m not saying that this is wrong, but I feel that pragmatic decisions like this have to be made and they should be made by society rather than by individuals.

In short, humans are human, so they are protected. Animals closely related to humans share more characteristics with humans than other animals, so they receive more protection than animals that are less similar to humans. Animals with little in common with humans receive no protection. It’s all about familiarity.

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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#8 Post by Nick » October 17th, 2008, 6:42 pm

jaywhat wrote:Nick said, 'We humans, as a species, have a propensity to look after our own. We have an evolutionary yuk factor to treating our fellow humans as we ourselves would not want to be treated....'

Not sure what this means,Nick.

And you then go on to say, '... cruelty amongst humans.....tends to occur when 'normality' breaks down. During war or other non-standard circumstances.'

This is the opposite of what I seem to see. War and conflict are hardly unusual and IMO humans can be the most cruel animals on the planet.

Hmmm. Let's see if I can explore this some more. I am taking the view that humans share many characteristics with other mammals, though they are much further evolved. Compare us to other pack animals. Lions do not tend to eat the other lions in their pride. However, they do adopt 'violence' if their pride, or their position in it, is threatened. Likewise, rats (so I'm told) will attack each other if they are kept in overcrowded conditions.

Humans, by virtue of our greater intelligence and the greater complexity of our personalities and societies, has much greater scope for variation. Though humans are capable of great cruelty, the dominant behaviour is co-operation with at least those closest to us.

Sadly, our greater intelligence and dexterity allows us to be more cruel too, in both devising cruel acts (crucifixion, say) and more capable of carrying it out (machine guns, say). It is our superior capability for co-operation which make armies possible. Sadly, modern society, vast numbers of people, closely packed together, with centuries of development of armaments accounts for the war and conflict we see around us.

I'm aware that things can change over time. Not everything is down to our genes. I don't think we would treat executions as a great day out these days. I'm not sure why the change has occurred, but think it shows that societies can 'evolve' more quickly than is biologically possible.

I'm not academically qualified to defend this theory, but I've based it on my readings, such as they are, particularly Desmond Morris. I'd be interested to hear what others may think.

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jaywhat
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#9 Post by jaywhat » October 18th, 2008, 6:25 am

Nick, you say > I don't think we would treat executions as a great day out these days. I'm not sure why the change has occurred, but think it shows that societies can 'evolve' more quickly than is biologically possible<

This depends what part of the world you live in. I have a much more synical attitude to human behaviour than you do. I am often embarrassed to be a human being.

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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#10 Post by Nick » October 18th, 2008, 10:34 am

I know what you mean, Jaywhat. That's why I included that paragraph, as it challenges my central thesis. I don't know quite where to go from here....

gregory
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#11 Post by gregory » October 18th, 2008, 11:11 am

Interesting that the Scottish Pagan Federation are discussing this subject in their current newsletter maybe its because it Autumn or something.

The Pagans try to go by the guideline "an harm none do what you will" and in the newsletter a Pagan scientist explores his concerns regarding experimenting on animals. Pagans are supposed to greatly value the natural world including animals but they aren't all vegetarian though by any means so its more to do with the balance of nature I would think.

Anyway this Pagan scientist just feels that if we can stop experimenting on animals then that would be the ideal but if one doesn't then a lot of diseases in humans wouldn't be cured and that would be a form of harm (although the term neglect would perhaps be more accurate.)

There are people who join groups to stop animal experimentation and maybe in the future it can be stopped without jeopardising human health. As a selfish human being (not all humans are selfish) I wouldn't sacrifice my own life instead of an animal but if we can get to the point when we do not need to experiment then that would be wonderful.

Many people try not to buy cosmetics which have been tested or made from animals. There is a firm called Beauty without Cruelty 0- ior there used to be. So even if we still experiment for medical reasons at least cosmetic reasons can be avoided.

I think the criteria for abuse is whether or not pain can be felt. I do not think that small children and even the very handicapped would not feel pain although there may be exeptions. Generally speaking lots of people do not like experiments on apes but do not always mind experimenting on rats. It is strange who the human is related to because yes we are mammals and yes we are related to apes but I read somewhere that bats are also primates. Of course these are protected in Britain.
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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#12 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » October 18th, 2008, 1:54 pm

gregory wrote:It is strange who the human is related to because yes we are mammals and yes we are related to apes but I read somewhere that bats are also primates.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s there was a theory, known as the flying primate theory, that what are informally called megabats [---][/---] fruit bats or flying foxes, members of the family Pteropodidae [---][/---] were more closely affiliated to primates than to the microbats (members of the suborder Microchiroptera), and that megabats and microbats evolved flight separately. But as I understand it, this theory has been discredited by more recent genetic studies. Bats are bats, all members of the order or clade Chiroptera.
gregory wrote:Of course these are protected in Britain.
In any case, in Britain we don't have any megabats, just microbats, like the common pipistrelle.

Emma

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#13 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » October 18th, 2008, 2:47 pm

Alan C. wrote:Personally, I don't think it is morally right to experiment on any animal, be it spider, rat, chimp, or human.
There are surely better ways of "testing" cosmetics and cleaning products in the 21st century, that don't involve the suffering of animals.
Absolutely! But PriestofPoppycock was talking about medical experiments, not the testing of cosmetics and cleaning products. I completely agree with you that there is no justification for testing inessential products on animals, and I'm glad that since 2003 it is no longer legal to test cosmetics on animals throughout the European Union, and that the testing of ingredients will be phased out by 2009. There will also be a ban, by 2013 at the latest, on the sale of any cosmetic in the EU where the product or its ingredients have been tested on animals when a nonanimal test could have been used instead. Meanwhile, one needs to be a little bit careful when buying products made outside the UK, and make sure they carry clear messages about not testing products or ingredients on animals.

Sadly, there is still no EU law preventing the testing of cleaning products on animals, and no sign of this changing any time soon. But we can avoid using products that have been tested on animals. I don't use much in the way of cleaning products, and I don't find it too difficult to get cruelty-free ones. The Co-op's own-brand products get a good report from Animal Aid, as do Clear Spring, Bio-D and Honesty. And you can do pretty well with washing soda, bicarbonate of soda, and white spirit vinegar.
Alan C. wrote:I am against all or any experiments on animals.
Well, so am I, in theory. But when it comes to medical experiments and testing, I do find the whole issue much more complicated. I certainly use medicines that have been tested on animals, because all new medicines are tested on animals. I'm not prepared to boycott those medicines at the expense of my health, and of course I don't consider homoepathic remedies to be a viable alternative. I am not persuaded that we are already in the position where we don't need to use animals in the development and testing of treatments that have the potential to reduce suffering and save human and animal lives. I support the work of the Dr Hadwen Trust in trying to reach that point. I did not sign the People's Petition. But I stop short of demanding that all animal medical testing should end immediately. It comes back to the issue that Chris Clayton has mentioned elsewhere about not causing "unnecessary suffering". I can't quite bring myself to argue that all the suffering involved in medical experimentation and testing is unnecessary, although I'm sure that much of it is. I find at least some of the arguments put forward by the Coalition for Medical Progress and Understanding Animal Research in Medicine persuasive.

Emma

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Alan C.
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#14 Post by Alan C. » October 18th, 2008, 7:03 pm

Emma
Well, so am I, in theory. But when it comes to medical experiments and testing, I do find the whole issue much more complicated.
I'm not disagreeing with anything you have said.............But is testing a drug on an animal a sure way of finding out if it's safe for humans?
I am thinking in particular of warfarin and rats, (correct me if I'm wrong) but doesn't warfarin kill rats? Yet it helps countless people, (my mother included) to stay alive.
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Paolo
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#15 Post by Paolo » October 19th, 2008, 12:23 am

Warfarin helps people by thinning their blood. It kills rats in the same way - effectively they bleed to death internally due to the blood thinning action. It's the dose that turns a poison into a medicine. Without testing on rats it would not be possible for Warfarin to be used as a medicine, since the data on doses required for safe use would not be available.

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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#16 Post by gregory » October 19th, 2008, 9:59 am

Thank you for telling me the facts about bats. The article I read was a more general praise of bats and not an in depth article so they did not explain the differnces.

The animal rights lobby do say that testing on animals is not effective but then they would say that. I suppose the truth is that in some ways it may not be that effective but it can give some dindication.

Doesn't the Ecover products come under ethical too as I use these but also Kim and Aggie tell us about the safer old fashioned products to use for cleaning. I usually avoid anything which looks to new they are often heavily packaged too.
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LilacHamster
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#17 Post by LilacHamster » October 19th, 2008, 6:06 pm

The Safer Medicines Campaign (formerly Europeans for Medical Progress) are calling for an independent scientific review of animal experimentation to ascertain whether there is anyting in the frequently trawled out argument that animal experiments save human lives. They are not an animal rights group, they are science based and show us the compelling scientific reasons why animal testing has consistently failed us.

http://www.curedisease.net/

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Alan H
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#18 Post by Alan H » October 19th, 2008, 6:18 pm

LilacHamster wrote:the compelling scientific reasons why animal testing has consistently failed us.
I doubt it is fair to say it has consistently failed us. There are certainly cases where medicines have harmed humans after being tested on other animals first, but there are many that are perfectly safe on humans that have been tested on animals. The testing may not always be perfect, but that may be because of the differences in animal physiology, but the use of animals for testing is an important step along the road of ensuring they are safe for humans.
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Paolo
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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#19 Post by Paolo » October 20th, 2008, 8:36 am

Increasingly sophisticated methods of non-animal testing are being developed and implemented, which is great, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that animal testing has provided a testbed for pretty much every pharmaceutical used in modern medicine. Without animal testing there are many drugs that would not be identified as useful, dangerous doses could not have been calculated, side-effects could not have been observed. Animal testing may not be an infallible method, but it's better than the blind guesswork that would have been required for medicines developed more that 5-10 years ago. Even as new methods are developed there is still valid scope for animal testing, since potential side effects of medicines can be behavioural/whole system rather than just a localised physiological response and it is hard to identify behavioural/whole organism variation in a tissue culture or computer model.

It is hard to see how animal testing does not "save human lives" when so many life-saving medicines have been developed by use of animal testing methods. To quote from the website Lilachampster pointed us to
The effectiveness of animal tests has never been measured against a panel of state-of-the-art techniques (emphasis added) based on human biology. We propose a unique comparison between the two approaches, the case for which is compelling.
It would be interesting to see the outcome of such a comparison, but it should be noted that such a comparison is only now available, since the state-of-the-art techniques required have only just been developed. The safest method of addressing the fears of The Safer Medicines Campaign would be to use state-of-the-art techniques and animal testing - to ensure maximum scope for the identification of problems with medicines.

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Re: Question Regarding Animal Experimentation

#20 Post by Ted Harvey » October 20th, 2008, 12:32 pm

I have to go back to the start of this thread as I'm still very troubled by the statement:
Some humans who are profoundly handicapped as well as infants may be less sentient, less aware of the self and suffering than adult chimpanzees. Is there a difference between experimenting on one rather than the other?
I don't accept the efficacy of the and suffering bit in the first sentence - for me it's in the same realms as making self-referencing judgements about the worth and/or quality of individuals' lives. How do we take it upon ourselves to judge to what extent or quality any ohter being is aware of suffering? I'm aware that in the animal rights realm just now there is much debate over the issue of to what extent that cold blooded species like fish feel pain - and therefore are 'entitled' to certain norms of respect.
I'm also very circumspect on the assertion about awareness of self and just how this would relate to not having suffering inflicted.
On being against all or any experiments on animals; I believe that that is just too simplistic - for example, are we then not to be allowed to experiment on animals with possibly better methods of care, or even with possibly humane methods of animal slaughter (all for whatever purpose?)

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