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Animal Testing

(formerly 'meat eaters')

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..1 ..1 TAS Posts: 2265
21 2 May 2011
FrancisM, next time you test on an animal, imagine that you are that animal. Everything you do to that animal, imagine it being done to you. Imagine the pain, imagine the fear, and imagine being put back in a cage, knowing that when that cage opens next you'll be forced to go through it all over again.
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FrancisM FrancisM VIC Posts: 62
22 2 May 2011
(I'm going to intersperse my responses here, to make it more readable, and deal with multiple in one post to avoid post-count inflation).

Karen said:
Thanks for taking the time to respond, FrancisM.
And thank you! I'm really glad for discussion

Karen said:
FrancisM said:
Animals are unlike us insofar as they are in some moral way not equivalent
...because...?
You absolutely hit the nail on the head here. The 'because' is the heart of the issue. Taking the 'because animals are less intelligent' issue isn't enormously convincing (philosophically) because as Peter Singer points out we do not test on humans of very low intelligence. Furthermore, the concept of intelligence is pretty messy anyway. One response to this, however, is that the reason we don't treat humans who may fall below the average intelligence of a higher primate on whom testing may be performed, is that our moral codes and standards are applied on the basis of 'normals' rather than exceptions. A human falling below the intelligence range of the average primate which might be experimentally would almost certainly be considered to be of abnormally low intelligence.
Certainly, real practices suggest that even if difference in intelligence is not be a philosophically sound position, then it certainly seems to be used as a heuristic in how acceptable it is perceived to be (by ethics committees for example) to perform research on particular animals. Getting approval to research slugs is substantially easier than getting approval for mice, which is easier than getting approval for rats, and so on for rabbits, sheep, primates/dolphins/whales. (I'm not sure if it would be harder to get approval for ocean mammals or primates; I don't know how much real research - not Japanese whale research - takes place using ocean mammals). This is intuitively consistent with the idea that the more intelligent the animal, the more the perceived 'moral cost' of using it for research.
Another possible argument is that animals can not be moral entities because morality is a human construct. Animals only have rights because humans assign rights to animals. When a cat catches, torments, and eventually kills a mouse we wouldn't typically say that doing so is 'morally' wrong because the cat is not a moral agent. Where this argument sort of falls down is that if a human were to do precisely those same things to the mouse, then we would accuse them of immoral behaviour. And rightly so, tormenting a mouse for personal pleasure is awful.

A third (weak) argument might be that the standard of life is so low for some of the animals tested that being experimented on is actually a better standard of living (regular food, essentially no predators, pain is only 'acceptable' - i.e. permissible except in the case of unexpected illness - if that is an absolutely necessary component of the research). A similar caveat applies to this argument. Most people would consider it abhorrent to 'breed' humans for research, even if that research meant living in luxurious conditions, and even if the research was fairly noninvasive. These humans would be in conditions well above average (better health, food, etc.) for their species, but nonetheless the process and such testing would be pretty widely considered immoral.

This argument, however:
Dark_Cherry said:
Human babies have low intelligence - but we don't not keep them in cages and perform painful tests on them.
is not very strong, because the fact is that human babies will (usually) become human adults, and so are widely treated with all the moral value of adults (or more so: consider the moral views on violence against a child vs. violence against an adult).

In short, I don't have a clear good philosophical argument for why it could be acceptable to use animals in research, rather than humans. It is worth considering, though, that humans are actually used in drug research - but only in small numbers, only voluntary - but only after extensive testing on animals has suggested that risk to humans is very low.

If one believes in an external source of morals (e.g. a god) then absolute rules are easy to come by. If you don't then it is much harder.

I'll think about this more and try to contribute more ideas as they come.

On to the next point...
Karen said:
FrancisM said:
I treat those animals with utmost care while they are alive, do the best I can to ensure that their suffering during or as a result of testing is minimised.
Pardon me for playing devil's advocate here, but if you don't believe there is anything morally wrong with experimenting and inflicting pain on animals why is there any need to minimise their suffering at all?
I'm pretty sure here I'm the one playing devil here =)
There are a few arguments about this one. Historically, one has been (which I don't agree with mind you) that there is morally nothing wrong with treating animals however one may want (because they have no souls) because of the effect on the animal. However, the argument went on that it *is* morally wrong with mistreating animals because they harden one's heart in the treatment of each other.
I actually do believe that the pain of animals does indeed matter, and not because of the effect it has on the humans causing the suffering. Although I don't necessarily believe animals are as intelligent as humans, or morally equivalent, I think that pain itself (of any creature) is inherently bad and should be avoided (including inflicting it) where there is not a greater overarching benefit. This is a very consequentialist position, and so does indeed suffer from the limitations of that argument (e.g. the 'is it morally right to sacrifice a long-term drug addict to harvest an organ to save the life of the most prominent surgeon in the world, who has a much higher surgical survival rate those from other surgeons).
Similarly, I think that the pain experienced by animals in the course of research should be absolutely minimised. However, the moral cost of such pain occurring is then offset against the benefit of the prospective outcome of the research (of course balanced against the likelihood of such an outcome). In my view, this is absolutely imperative in the role of ethics committees - deciding what are valuable outcomes, and what amount of pain is justifiable in achieving them.

The word 'suffering' is a funny one, and I probably shouldn't have used it. The capacity for many animals to feel pain is fairly indisputable; however, the capacity for them to suffer is a bit more debatable. Not because animals can't feel long periods of pain, and show all manner of behavioural and health effects of that. Rather, because the definition of suffering is a difficult one. It is like the definition of sentience - there is very little agreement on what the word actually means.

Anyway, that's my first-pass examination of why humans *may* be morally justified in using animals in research (i.e. why they have lower moral value, and thus humans can use them in such a way), and why the pain experienced by animals in the process matters.


Part 2: Addressing the latter part of Dark_Cherry's comment
Dark_Cherry said:
... We all feel joy, love, sadness, anger, fear and pain. We all deserve free lives.
Using and abusing any species in any way is wrong.
I don't find this convincing. Several of these things (joy, love, sadness) describe human constructs - we are only really able to understand them in our own human context. I think the reality of whether non-humans experience them is an empirical question, and I don't think (although I'm open to correction) that adequate research has been conducted to demonstrate that some equivalent construct exists in animals. If the research does exist, I will change my position on this. Until then, I think this is just anthropomorphism.


Dark_Cherry said:
"All beings tremble before violence.  All fear death.  All love life.  See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?
-Buddha
Sorry, but not all beings tremble before violence.

Humans certainly can fear death. Do animals fear death? I mean, it is evolutionarily inevitable that they will avoid things that will kill them, but do they actually fear death? That requires a conception of death, and a conception of time. Similarly, I think loving life implies acknowledging the existence of life, and the possibility of non-life. That is a pretty cognitively complex, and once again at least partially an empirical question which I don't believe has been answered.

Addressing Maggie:
Maggie said:
This made me feel rather sick.
Sorry about that, but I'm not sure which aspect(s) of it made you feel sick. It really wasn't my goal to make any queasy.

Maggie said:
FrancisM, next time you test on an animal, imagine that you are that animal. Everything you do to that animal, imagine it being done to you. Imagine the pain, imagine the fear, and imagine being put back in a cage, knowing that when that cage opens next you'll be forced to go through it all over again.
Despite what you may think, I (and others I work with) actually do think about this, and it is one of the things which leads to an ongoing drive to improve the testing procedures and animal welfare in housing and so forth. It leads to techniques being used which use reward-based rather than punishment-based training procedures.
One problem with trying to 'picture oneself as the animal' approach is that what may seem to be good for animal welfare may actually not be. Again, it is an anthropomorphism issue - what we think of as good for the animal, if not based in evidence (i.e. experimentation) may actually not be good for them at all.

FrancisM said:
I'm going to edit this to respond to all the various responses of others progressively this evening, because I don't want to wind up with a whole bucketload of posts no-one can follow.
I think I've responses to the comments of others now (although that certainly isn't to say that I've comprehensively refuted anything at all). If I've missed someone's comments, please feel free to point that out and I'll try to respond. I'm really glad that others are responding to this with their views and thoughts.
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Nobody Nobody QLD Posts: 593
23 2 May 2011
FrancisM said:
Dark_Cherry said:
... We all feel joy, love, sadness, anger, fear and pain. We all deserve free lives.
Using and abusing any species in any way is wrong.
I don't find this convincing. Several of these things (joy, love, sadness) describe human constructs - we are only really able to understand them in our own human context. I think the reality of whether non-humans experience them is an empirical question, and I don't think (although I'm open to correction) that adequate research has been conducted to demonstrate that some equivalent construct exists in animals. If the research does exist, I will change my position on this. Until then, I think this is just anthropomorphism.
You can't be serious.
Have you never seen an animal, such as a dog, sheep or pig, wag it's tail and jump in joy? What about an animal showing love toward a companion? The sadness that animals such as birds and elephants have shown when their mate has passed away? The anger expressed from animals that have been tormented by humans? The fear in the eyes of a fish suffocating out of water? The screams and frantic behavior of an animal in pain?
Animals may not understand the words or the meanings, but they do FEEL these emotions.

It's obvious you are set in your ways, but surely you understand our point of view?
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FrancisM FrancisM VIC Posts: 62
24 2 May 2011
Dark_Cherry said:
FrancisM said:
Dark_Cherry said:
... We all feel joy, love, sadness, anger, fear and pain. We all deserve free lives.
Using and abusing any species in any way is wrong.
I don't find this convincing. Several of these things (joy, love, sadness) describe human constructs - we are only really able to understand them in our own human context. I think the reality of whether non-humans experience them is an empirical question, and I don't think (although I'm open to correction) that adequate research has been conducted to demonstrate that some equivalent construct exists in animals. If the research does exist, I will change my position on this. Until then, I think this is just anthropomorphism.
You can't be serious.
Have you never seen an animal, such as a dog, sheep or pig, wag it's tail and jump in joy? What about an animal showing love toward a companion? The sadness that animals such as birds and elephants have shown when their mate has passed away? The anger expressed from animals that have been tormented by humans? The fear in the eyes of a fish suffocating out of water? The screams and frantic behavior of an animal in pain?
Animals may not understand the words or the meanings, but they do FEEL these emotions.

It's obvious you are set in your ways, but surely you understand our point of view?
To be fair, I don't imagine I'm the only one here who is at least a bit set in my ways. Plus, I'm not excluding the possibility that some argument may be presented which will totally sway me over to thinking animal research is wrong and bad. I think it's more likely I'll change my eating habits to be more consistent with my ethical feelings first though.

For the purpose of this discussion, I'm going to relate my claims to animals most frequently used in research - e.g. mice, rats and perhaps rabbits. I will accept that these *will* be different for different animals - e.g. a lot of the behaviours of the primates will resemble those which in humans we would recognise as expressions of emotional states, and there is sufficient cognitive complexity/capacity to potentially actually *have* these emotional states.
That said...

I'm certainly not going to argue that most animals do not feel pain. Certainly, the animals which are typically discussed when talking about the evils of research using animals have very adequately developed nervous systems to experience pain (insofar as they have some similar receptors, and communication systems to those which in humans we know are related to pain).
Likewise, I'm not going to argue that an animal cannot experience some form of positive 'emotion' (lets call it pleasure, for arguments sake). I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these animals under discussion have neural reward systems (which actually work very similarly to human ones).
Sadness is an interesting one. Some animals certainly do behave differently, and even to some extent in a way that we as humans would identify as sadness if they were expressed in another human. I think of sadness as a more complex emotion conceptually than pleasure or pain, but I may be conflating it a bit with grief.

Anger - well, certainly an animal can get snappy, nippish, and so forth. Such responses may be expected in response to something like pain although submission is another possible outcome of that (will depend a lot on species).
But joy? Love? These are complex concepts and emotions for humans. I don't want to be too disparaging towards the capacities of rats - I'm really fond of them - but I think that if I observe love in a rat it will be saying a lot more about my emotional and cognitive state than that of the rat.

But like I said, if you start talking about a chimpanzee, a bonobo, or so forth - well, I think the capacities of those animals to experience complex emotions are much higher.
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Karen Karen Australia Posts: 993
25 2 May 2011
Unleashed Admin
FrancisM, it seems that you have put a lot of thought into this (well, more than most anyway!). It also seems that you are concerned to ensure that the 'evils' inflicted by animal experimentation are balanced/outweighed by the 'goods' to humankind. I am guessing therefore that you are 100% behind our campaign to ban the import of cosmetics and toiletries that are tested on animals? Perhaps you even go so far as to avoid these cruel products (like most of us here do?)

The current situation in Australia, as you may know, is that it's illegal to test these products on animals here, but it's not illegal to import them. Consequently many of the most popular brands that people find in the supermarket (Colgate/Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, Cussons, Dove...) are all tested on animals. One can hardly call yet another 'new' shampoo an advance to humankind. I think the opposite is true if it comes at the expense of our compassion towards animals.

The second thing I'd like to put to you is similar to what Maggie originally posted. How WOULD you feel if experiments were conducted on you against your will? I'm not asking you to 'anthropomorphise' here -- it's a literal, hypothetical question. A bit of a thought experiment, if you will.

See, if you can justify testing on animals due to 'grades of morality', then you would have to accept that if some alien race that was more intelligent than us arrived on Earth, that you would have to accept their right to experiment on you, to take you from your family, put you in isolation, maybe even inflict pain, or death, for no benefit to you but only in order to advance their own species.

It seems to me that a * truly* advanced species would embody elevated compassion in tune with elevated intelligence, and personally I would not accept such a scenario to be morally okay. I'd fight back. For this reason I firmly believe it is our duty to focus our efforts in non-animal experimentation and advancing non animal alternatives, rather than continuing to inflict suffering on other living beings because we perhaps haven't worked out a more convenient way to conduct certain sciences... What do you think?
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James misty calvaruso James misty calvaruso NSW Posts: 77
26 2 May 2011
Good question. Personally I wish that people would just realize that by testing on animals it WON'T do anything for humans as we are different species test on yourself you dumb bunnies!
happy
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Nobody Nobody QLD Posts: 593
27 2 May 2011
FrancisM said:
I'm not excluding the possibility that some argument may be presented which will totally sway me over to thinking animal research is wrong and bad. I think it's more likely I'll change my eating habits to be more consistent with my ethical feelings first though.
There's some very informative video clips right here on Animals Australia, if you're interested. 'Earthlings' is the film that changed my life.

peace
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FrancisM FrancisM VIC Posts: 62
28 2 May 2011
Hi Karen,
I was actually not aware of the animal testing specifics of toiletries and cosmetics, but yes - I am certainly against the importation of such compounds tested on animals.

If such experiments were conducted on me against my will I'd be horrified, and if a more intelligent alien race arrived and decided that they wanted to test on me without my consent I'd be utterly resistant to the idea of them doing so. I think I'd be able to understand how they figured it was fine to do so, but I wouldn't be agreeable to it. That is, I could understand how *they* figured they had the right, but I wouldn't agree that they did have the right. I imagine if a rat were cognitively capable to understand its situation, and structure and present arguments, it would feel much the same way.
The way in which I can (to some extent) mitigate the apparent conflict between that, and me then testing on other (relatively less intelligent than us) animals is that I believe the concept of self-direction for a rat is not quite so important than for a human. And no doubt some 'superior' species to us would think similarly of us but I actually do think there is a point at which the complexity of the concept of self-direction, and the capacity to actually value it (as opposed to a ready and healthy food and water supply, cardboard boxes to gnaw and hide out in, pieces of muffin to nibble) changes. I don't necessarily think it is a clear line in the sand, and I would certainly put a large number of primate species, many aquatic mammal species, and possibly others on 'our' side of the line - i.e. a sufficiently high *need* for a level of self-directedness which requires very specific environmental features, and frankly close consideration for when it is ok to use them for research at all.

The ideal end-point for animal research is that it doesn't take place. Short of that, though, there are many possible interim steps (some of which some people will probably find more creepy than animal research itself). These could include:
Genetic modification or environmental influence such that animals are born with essentially no brain except the absolute minimum required for vital function (i.e. heart, breathing, etc). It would be hard to argue that suffering can occur when basically no brain is present. This would allow *some* testing which can presently only be carried out in fully-developed and thus maximally cognitively capable (within species limitations) animals.
Performing research on perpetually anaesthetised animals where possible: i.e. when research is to commence, the animal is given an anaesthetic which continue to be administered until the animal is killed. This means the animal can not suffer because it is incapable of 'experiencing' pain.
Growing the relevant parts of an animal from stem-cell lines and using biological scaffolds, and then testing on these animal-like constructions.

Ideally, human tissue (voluntarily donated, or grown from samples taken with consent) would be fantastic to test on when possible. An ideal (not for my research, because mine is mainly brain research) for some experimentation, not to mention medical training and so forth, would be the ability to grow an entire human excluding the brain. People will probably find that super-creepy but if it were possible then everything except behaviourally-related testing (such as I use at times) could be performed, and better yet - it could be performed in something which will respond almost exactly like a human. Plus, it has no brain so can't suffer or have feelings, desires, interests, or so forth.


Also, when I say 'when it is possible to use alternatives to animal testing' I actually do mean 'possible'. I'm not saying 'when it is convenient'; "when it isn't just too hard to have those cells in the dish for a while". I mean 'when to technique exists to perform the necessary testing, or the testing requires a functioning system rather than just grown tissue'. That's where the limits to alternatives really are.
An example of this is that if I want to test a compound for bio-compatibility because it is intended to be implanted in humans for at least several years, no tissue culture will last that long. Nothing except a fully functioning immune system and brain response system will come close to showing what will actually happen. The data from the experiment then gets published, and (hopefully) others learn from the findings and so the test doesn't get repeated unnecessarily. Hopefully, someone even uses the data to understand better the principles about bio-compatibility.
As understanding of biology does improve, the need for animal testing will change - it is likely many of the things we can't predict or don't fully understand now will become understood and so animal testing on those things will not be required. For better or worse, we'll probably discover further intricacies we don't understand and some animals will very likely be involved in learning about those finer details. Hopefully as computing power increases, computer modelling and prediction will be able to replace a lot of the bulk-testing (e.g. testing hundreds or thousands of potential drug compounds).

One other issue with this is that the skills required to develop testing strategies which are alternatives for animal testing are very specialised, and many labs simply do not have people will that skill-set to try to develop specific alternative non-animal testing methods for their work. Even if such people could be hired for each lab, there simply wouldn't be enough of them around. That doesn't mean that work isn't done on alternative testing approaches and so forth, just that substituting animals for some non-animal testing procedure is difficult - particularly because unforseen problems with the alternatives can make the entire experiment a flop, wasting time and money and then animals get used in the end anyway.
Everything is complex, and sorting it out is inevitably a process.

So yes, the ultimate end-goal is for animal testing to be completely unnecessary. But I think that's some time away.
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Beemo Beemo United States Posts: 1259
29 2 May 2011
There is some good information about the success and failure rates of animal  testing here:
http://www.vivisectioninformation.com/index.php?p=1_5_Is-animal-testing-better-than-pure-guesswork
I have not checked the validity of the references, so if anyone doubts the information supplied then they will have to check that themselves happy

Without a doubt cosmetics, food products etc. can successfully be tested without the use of animals. But what would be a replacement for animal testing in medical research? I am referring to the more dangerous testing they do which often causes instant fatality. Clearly they would not be allowed to do this kind of testing on humans and would need another way to carry out this kind of experimentation.

Even if there was no ideal alternative, I still don't believe that humans should be treating animals so horrifically to achieve minimal gain.
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FrancisM FrancisM VIC Posts: 62
30 2 May 2011
James misty calvaruso said:
Good question. Personally I wish that people would just realize that by testing on animals it WON'T do anything for humans as we are different species test on yourself you dumb bunnies!
happy
I wish people would realise that because of the common evolutionary ancestry of many species in the not-very-distant past, there is a lot of similarity in hormones, bodily system functions, cellular processes, between a huge number of animals.

You think the Krebs cycle was discovered on human cells? No, but it applies to them (and pretty much all cellular respiration across all species). Or people discovered how neurons function (and created mathematical models for it) based on human neurons? No, they are too small. They used the neurons and axons of the giant squid, the structure and responses of which are very similar across all vertebrates, and many invertebrates.

So as it turns out, we can and do learn a lot from animal research, despite the differences which do indeed exist.
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