Sacrificed for Science:
Are Animal Experiments Morally Defensible?
There is no impersonal reason for regarding the interests of human beings as more important than those of animals. We can destroy animals more easily than they can destroy us; that is the only solid basis of our claim to superiority. We value art and science and literature because these are things in which we excel. But whales might value spouting, and donkeys might maintain that a good bray is more exquisite than the music of Bach. We cannot prove them wrong except by the exercise of arbitrary power. All ethical systems, in the last analysis, depend upon weapons of war.
Some 140 million animal experiments are performed annually. 2 Protests against these and other practices involving animals (including the fur trade, battery farming, hunting, trapping, circuses, zoos, and rodeos) have, in recent years, increased significantly. 3 Though many experiments inflict pain and distress on animals, it is worth noting that some do not. Nor will all be 'sacrificed', the researcher's euphemism for killing. 4 Moreover, it is hard to deny the fact that eating animals 'is responsible for a vastly greater quantity of death and suffering than experimentation'. 5
While what follows is confined to the use of animals in scientific research, any analysis of this difficult question entails a consideration of our attitude to, and relationship with, non-human animals. 6 I shall, however, make four assumptions, none of which is uncontentious, in order to facilitate a clearer statement of what seem to me to be the principal issues.