Animal testing is one of the most controversial and misjudged of all animal rights issues. Since the medical and scientific benefit to human is so great, opposing animal experimentation is regarded as heresy, as though one doesn’t care about human suffering.
As it turns out, dropping animal testing as a practice could not only clear society’s conscience, but consumer safety and scientific progress may potentially be better off without it.
Animal testing is one of the darkest ways in which we exploit animals. It is the reduction of individuals into objects – objects to be used for the benefit of the dominant species.
This is a tremendous abuse of power – we mutilate, weaken and kill innocent beings to further our own species’ longevity. If someone said that you can prosper, but to do so you must take advantage of, and physically main and mentally injure another, we would say no, that is unethical.
But don’t you care about human suffering?
Opposition to animal experimentation is quickly reduced to this simple, narrow argument: “Stopping animal testing would hinder the development of medicine and science, which would harm humanity considerably.”
This line of thinking misses the big picture. Animal rights advocates recognise that no matter how desperately we want human medicine to advance, no matter how much we want to reduce human suffering, there is a moral limit to the methods we use to achieve this. Those who believe that other animals deserve not to be tormented and suffer in the name of medical progress care just as much about human suffering, however they recognise that the moral cost of animal experimentation is too high a price to pay. We cannot choose to ignore the injustice and harm caused to animals who are imprisoned and sacrificed on our behalf, just because we happen to benefit.
Misunderstanding the Issue
The issue of animal testing is often misrepresented through some form of the following question:
“Is a human life not worth more than a (non-human) animal’s life?”
This question is dangerously misleading as it reduces the entire issue of animal testing to a simplistic dichotomy of human vs other, automatically sidestepping the issue of animal rights. Rather that attempting to quantify the value of a life of one species relative to another, it is better to consider the morality of the deed itself.
An animal’s right to not be used as property trumps all other considerations. If we are suggesting that if a great enough reward was gained, it would be permissible to commit moral crimes, then by that reckoning theft or even murder would be tolerable if you stood to gain “enough.”
Lessons in Morality
If one was to steal $1 000 000 and then proceed to donate it to charity, does that morally excuse the theft?
Let’s try a more ridiculous case. If eating babies enabled you to live to be 1000, would that make it okay? If the end benefit is so great, are the means justified? Even if those means are deeply deplorable?
What about torturing and subjecting fellow conscious, sentient beings to prolong your own life?
Animal testing teaches us that if the reward is considered great enough by the more powerful party, they are permitted to exploit the weaker party, no matter how extreme and barbaric the exploitation is.
We pay for our increases in medical knowledge with the torturous exploitation of hundreds of millions of animal beings. We reduce fellow animals into mere tools, which is a gross breach of individual liberty. This is ethically reprehensible, yet most of us are oblivious to the significance of this. It is haunting to consider that – as a society – we are seemingly comfortable with inflicting colossal amounts of pain and suffering onto hundreds of millions of animal beings each year, justified by our own sense of self-importance.
Ending Animal Testing in Medical Research
There are various areas in which animal testing is unnecessary or of highly limited use. Ending cosmetic testing on animals, as well as the pointless experiments satisfying scientific curiosities, face little opposition. Animals suffering and dying for our vanity and curiosity, almost all would agree, is unnecessary.
When it comes to medical research though, the moral line becomes harder to distinguish for most people. Since the rewards of violating animal rights become greater, people find it more difficult to acknowledge the moral wrong in using animals for medical research. Cosmetics and scientific curiosity are easy to dismiss as justifications, yet when human suffering and medical gain are entered into the equation, we hesitate in condemning the abuse.
Part II will explore the obstacles to abolishing animal experimentation, as well as taking a look at the alternatives in development.