Dilemmas in Science: Animal Testing

Image credit: Via Flickr: Eric Kilby

Humans are irrational creatures. This is best demonstrated by their attitude towards other species that occupy their planet.

Put simply, humans have questionable ethical boundaries when it comes to other animals. Take animal testing. The compromise is that animal suffering is necessary for reducing human suffering. The plight of humans is consistently held to be more important than animal hardship.

This fact even coloured coverage of the killing of Cecil the lion, whose death cannot have escaped the notice of many people. In the aftermath, debate broke out concerning how much more attention was given to the animal’s death than the deaths of those migrants in Calais, nicely summarised in The Telegraph. Giving attention to an immoral act committed against animals over those to which humans are subjected is deemed immoral in itself. Again, humans are found more important than animals. But why is this the case? The answer that’s always given is our “higher intelligence”.

Intelligent? Pfft. The UK slaughtered just over 19 million birds in June 2015. That’s one month! For what, a nice snack or meal? Is that any different to killing for trophies? Are either of those futile killings different to animal suffering for drug testing? Why is there one response for Cecil and another for farm animals and lab rats? What about the other, more major, causes of lion killing like habitat destruction?

For vet students like me these ethical quandaries are always at the back of our minds. It’s confusing when some of that “immorally killed” meat goes to other animals, who we deem as somehow more deserving of better treatment. Weird, right? More than that, why is it that we wouldn’t dream of having our pet (or a random lion) being slaughtered but do naff all against all the other animals suffering because of humans?

Don’t worry if you made an angry Facebook status about Cecil. We’re all angry. But you, like me, are a hypocrite. If you care so strongly about animal rights, firstly, you should be eating insects – who don’t feel pain – rather than chickens. Secondly, you should be advocating against the testing of drugs on any organism before human use. More animals suffer as a result of this than of hunting, and more wild animals like Cecil die due to human expansion. So finally, I guess we should stop human expansion, too?

Of course not. We get pleasure and improved lives out of certain kinds of animal suffering. And, with seemingly no real justification at all, some actions are more frowned upon than others (think Cecil vs. Nando’s). The truth is, the use of animals in science is probably one of the more morally sound actions. But what do I know? Humans are irrational. And, with animals, they're the worst.

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