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The use of animals in scientific research

The use of animals in scientific research cannot be justified on moral grounds. Animals have rights; philosophers have debated the extent of these rights for centuries. Recently, the American public has made significant strides in re-examining the inhumane treatment given to nonhuman creatures in the name of scientific advancement.

The current debate about animal rights is based on precedent set by Cartesian and utilitarian philosophers. Rene Descartes, the French philosopher, likened animals to machines because nonhuman creatures lacked the ability to reason and think. Animals, who learned only by experience, were inferior to human beings, who possessed the ability to learn through a variety of means. To Descartes, the inferior status of animals justified their exploitation as experimental research subjects. Descartes' basic arguments have been extrapolated by modern scientific researchers to rationalize their use of laboratory animals. Scientists argue that animal experience is related exclusively to the present. Therefore, animals lack the capacity to anticipate pain or to recall past suffering.

The utilitarian argument in favor of animal rights was led by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Bentham argued that the key issue was whether or not animals could suffer. Assuming that animals could, then nonhuman creatures possessed the same rights as human beings to lives free of suffering, pain, and death at the hands of others.

Utilitarianism is based on the concept of society as an impartial benevolent observer who, regardless of conflicting interests and consequences, is equally sympathetic toward all affected parties. The basic principle of utilitarianism is that decisions should maximize utility even though the maximum utility is not always best for everyone concerned. The appeal of utilitarianism to animal rights supporters is egalitarianism in which discrimination based on nonhuman status is disa...

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The use of animals in scientific research. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:17, October 23, 2021, from