Discourse about the use of animals in research has characterized the domain of science for a couple of decades now. Debate about whether animals should be subjected to experimental research remains divided, with advocates suggesting that this is a matter of necessity (Francione, 2007), whereas critics use the ethical bandwagon to demonstrate that use of animals in research settings is neither ethical nor justified (Portaluppi et al., 2010).
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The present paper argues that it is ethically justified to use animals in research settings if the goals of the research process are noble and oriented towards the advancement of human life.
As postulated by Kent (2003), “…research using animals has led to substantial advances in our understanding of the biological mechanisms which results in sickness, disability and premature death” (para. 3). In the absence of this knowledge it is clear that much of what is known today would still exist in the realms of the unknown, with the consequence that researchers would now be further away from the prospect of making timely and accurate diagnosis for various diseases affecting certain segments of the population.
Equally, individuals would be constrained in their application of effective treatment regimens that have been made possible courtesy of the knowledge acquired from animal-based research. Consequently, it can be argued that the noble goal of availing medical breakthroughs to solve health issues that have been affecting mankind justifies the inclusion of animals in research.
Critics to animal-based research often point out to the pain subjected to animals in scientific research laboratories as comprising enough ground to do away with the practice. More importantly, they argue that scientists should use alternatives to conduct their research rather than subject animals to intense pain and death in the name of making scientific discoveries (Francione, 2007).
But when critically evaluated under the ethical lens, these assertions are without justifications because it is yet not possible to exclude the use of animals entirely without compromising the safety and health of humans in dire need of medical interventions to cure their ailments, with the consequence that the pain or harm subjected to animals in research settings would be transferred to individuals in the form of disease prolongation, ineffective therapeutic interventions, as well as lack of scientific data regarding the pathophysiology of various diseases that continue to affect mankind (Kent, 2003; Francione, 2007).
Scientists who have realized this noble goal are currently experimenting on monkeys to understand and cure the Parkinson’s disease (Portaluppi et al., 2010).
Of-course it is inherently wrong to inflict “unnecessary” suffering on animals to derive pleasure, amusement, or mere convenience (Portaluppi et al., 2010). However, the goal of advancing knowledge for the advancement of mankind supersedes other issues presented by critics, including the argument that animals are sentient and have an interest in not being subjected to suffering (Francione, 2007).
Indeed, this author further posits that “…we can ignore that interest when it benefits us to do so because animals lack some characteristic supposedly unique to humans – must usually a cognitive characteristic – and are thereby the natural inferiors of humans” (p. 245).
This assertion demonstrates that the goal of human advancement is supreme to any other argument; however, it should be the task of scientists using animals in research settings to ensure their comfort, proper housing, feeding, sanitation, as well as minimal exposure to painful experiences through the application of anesthesia.
Francione, G.L. (2007). The use of non-human animals in biomedical research: Necessity and justification. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 35(2), 241-248.
Kent, A. (2003). The ethics of research involving animals: A response to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Consultation from the Genetic Interest Group. Web.
Portaluppi, F., Smolensky, M.H., & Touitou, Y. (2010). Ethics and methods for biological rhythm research on animals and human beings. Chronobiology International: The Journal of Biological & Medical Rhythm Research, 27(9/10), 1911-1929.