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Ethics: Experiments on Animals


Experimenting on human has been done several times especially in the US. Philosophers believe that it is not good to carry experiments on human beings. Human beings should be treated as an end not as a means to an end. Kant claimed to have a solid reasoning behind it. Most examples which are of interest in this class involve experiments where the subjects, contra Kant, were used simply as a means to a scientific end. It is forbidden to experiment on moral subjects, but if there are reasons to disqualify a group from the sphere of moral consideration, then the barrier to experimentation may also be withdrawn.

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Some experiments have been carried out on humans who include the use of the radioactive substances. There is an instance where the radioactive substances were administered to small children to carry out an experiment with an aim of getting systematic data on the effects of ingesting radioactive isotopes. This has been done to get the effect of ingestion of radioactive substance incase the cold war arises.

Importance of animals

The efficacy, or usefulness, of animal experimentation has also been questioned. It is the basis of Peter Singer’s famous fork. Widening the class of subjects entitled to moral consideration to include all members of the human race and some animals qualify, narrow it sufficiently without including the non-human animals. There is a problem that animals often do not, in a given case, constitute good models for humans. There is a little point in experimenting on them in order to find results which can be applied to the human beings.

Singer argued that animals have been used by human beings in so many ways. Human beings have trapped and killed animals for food and clothing because they have no choice, whereas we are not because we do have a choice. Pure scientific research carried out experiments on animals not for any application but in an aim to find out things about animals such as their physiology, behavior and ecology. Animals like rabbits and rats have been subjected to very painful practices.

On the other hand, industrial research and biomedical research is often painful and most of the test ends up killing the animals. Experiments such as these often incur the wrath of the animal rights movement. For many philosophers, the case for animal experimentation is strongest in the area of biomedical research; particularly if we take a consequentiality stance which has more benefits than the suffering caused.

Koch and TB

Koch carried out a research on TB by taking some test animals such as rabbits, rats and guinea pigs. Koch chose some as controls and injected material from his dishes into various sites on the bodies of the others, and waited. After a couple of weeks all the injected animals began to show the typical symptoms of TB. After the experiment was completed the animals were killed.

Moral justification on experimentation using animals

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Philosopher Descartes just like other philosophers, believed that animals do not feel pain and humans would have the right to do whatever they like to animals. This is because they include the moral subjects in virtue of their use of minds, and being able to use language.

Singer argues against those, like Descartes, who propose a criterion like the use of language for moral consideration. His argument in such cases is essentially the same as that which proposed criterion of ruling out some sentient creatures. This clearly does not want to rule out, like members of our own species who lack the proposed ability or property.

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