Ethical Problems with Animal Use

The Question is “Can They Suffer”?

How can we justify the tragedy of each individual life caged in an artificial environment which deprives them of experiencing life as nature intended? 

It has been said that the moral progress of a society can be measured by the way it treats animals. So what does it say about our society that we not only allow, but encourage, hundreds of millions of animals to be exploited and sacrificed in the name of science every year?  

Why do we turn a blind eye to the physical pain, deprivation and emotional distress experienced by animals who are cut up, poisoned, burned, irradiated, gassed, shocked, dismembered or genetically designed to suffer?   

In addition to the scientific fallacy of using animal models as stand-ins for humans, the use of animals carries with it an abundance of ethical problems.  

Thinking Young Monkey

The worst atrocity we inflict upon innocent creatures may be the act of removing them from their natural habitat and placing them in the artificial environment of a laboratory cage, with no hope of having the kind of life nature intended for them.

Defenders of animal experimentation argue that nonhuman animals are enough like humans to make them scientifically adequate models of human diseases or to test treatments or the safety of products. They also contend that other species are different enough from people to make it ethically acceptable to use them in experiments. 

In fact, it is the way that humans and nonhuman animals are similar that provides the basis for the ethical objection to animal experimentation. Perhaps the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham said it best when he asked, “The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But can they suffer?” 

In the end, we as a society have a choice. Do we treat our fellow creatures with cruelty and callousness—or with compassion, respect, and justice? As humans, we have the freedom to make that choice. And with this freedom comes the moral obligation to make responsible, ethical decisions. 

Animals have no such choice. Because they cannot say no, they are completely vulnerable to whatever the researcher has in store for them, no matter how much pain and suffering is involved. Animals are unable to understand or claim their right to be alive, to be free from pain and suffering, and fulfill their biological potential.  

It is, therefore, up to us to recognize and protect those rights for them.