Why Animal Experimentation Matters: The Use of Animals in Medical Research

By Haack, Susan M. | Ethics & Medicine, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Why Animal Experimentation Matters: The Use of Animals in Medical Research


Haack, Susan M., Ethics & Medicine


Why Animal Experimentation Matters: the Use of Animals in Medical Research Ellen Frankel Paul and Jeffrey Paul, Editors. New Brunswick (USA) and London (UK): Transaction Publishers, 2001. ISBN 0-7658-0685-1; 224 PAGES, PAPERBACK, $24.95 /£18.95

Recent protests by animal rights activists at Oxford University form a pertinent contextual backdrop for the book Why Animal Experimentation Matters: the Use of Animals in Medical Research. This collection of essays seeks to promote public understanding of the work and dedication of scientists to the advancement of human knowledge through animal research, for which, they contend, there is no sufficient substitute.

While the editors acknowledge the accusation of animal rights activists that no distinguishing criterion has been identified that would permit the sacrifice of animal lives to human interests (attributed to the ideologies of Peter Singer and Tom Regan), they, likewise, fail in that endeavor. Despite various attempts to ground moral justification for animal research in utilitarian, Darwinian, and humanistic arguments, the authors are ultimately unable to do so while simultaneously prohibiting both the abuse of animals and the use of vulnerable humans-their moral arguments cannot simultaneously accommodate both ends of the moral spectrum.

The most provocative essay was by H. Tristam Engelhardt, Jr. who, believing that morality is a human construct and that secular moral authority is grounded in consent, carries his assertion to such absurdity that his essay could be read as a work of irony reminiscent of Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal'. He claims that animals have "rights" granted them by humans (since only humans are "ends in themselves"), but the "rights" so granted are to be used for human welfare, including the "right" to be hunted, skinned, eaten, used for entertainment, etc.

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