Several medical research centers utilize non-human animals as testing subjects. During these tests, animals are subjected to experiments while others are altered to conditions aimed at gaining researchers’ desired knowledge about human behaviors and possible treatment for emerging human health complications. Because nonhuman animals such as rats and mice share several genetic and psychological resemblances with humans, they are increasingly utilized to assist in advancing medical science. Nevertheless, there is an emerging debate surrounding ethics of using nonhuman animals to conduct scientific experiments. From one perspective, strong opponents of unethical practice advocate for stoppage basing their argument on the perception that using animals as tools for advancing knowledge is purely wrong. This school of thought maintains that nonhuman animals have the right of living the full life without any inducement, suffering, or pain. Proponents of this practice argue that although abusing animals is ethically wrong, their use in experimentation should proceed because animal models provide scientific resource. However, strong opposition, basing arguments on theoretical and philosophical models, counters this debate.
On an annual basis, studies show that more than 100 million nonhuman animals are used in scientific experimental processes (Nash, 2009). Among these animals, more than 30 percent die as others suffer from physical and psychological effects. Before dying, the lab rats are induced to inhale toxic chemicals to monitor their behavioral conducts. Among the common practices is inducement of ecstasy and speed in rats. To worsen the tormenting experiences, studies show that animals are withdrawn from normal environmental conditions through confinement, social isolation, and exposure to psychological traumatizing experiences (Ideland, 2009). Ideland argues that the experience of rats exposed to biological experiments is comparable to disposable lab research apparatus. This process raises concern from advocates of animal rights.
After closer examination, it emerges that various positions emerge in dispute over ethical perspective of animal experimentation. The two perceptions signify opposing positions towards both ends. Therefore, the ongoing research into anti-social drug related behavior has led to an experiment where rats are forced to induce ecstasy and speed. This study analyzes the ethical issues surrounding this experiment and discusses whether such ethical issues be overruled if the experiment produces results that may benefit humans. The argument presented in this study aims at opposing the practice, based on theoretical and philosophical support.
Historical Background of Animal Experimentation
The first documented nonhuman experiment occurred in ancient Rome. However, researchers started embarking on serious scrutiny of the human body functioning during renaissance. Between 1453 and 1520, Leonardo da Vinci accompanied other researchers in anatomic study of animal bone and muscle structure (Franco, 2013). Later between 1576 and 1657, Harvey William made a significant discovery of human blood circulation in an experiment that involved a sentient deer. Afterwards, there were increased scientific studies that involved living nonhuman animals. These studies were justified by Descantes’ discovery (that was later refuted) that animals are insensitive to pain. For instance, Jeremy Bentham was among the first philosophers to refute Descantes’ claims (Franco, 2013). In one of his early publications on principles of ethics and legislation, Bentham claimed that animals suffer. Therefore, this argument formed the basis for a series of ethical debates on the use of nonhuman animals in researches. Public disputes over use of nonhuman animals in scientific experiments targeted French scientists. In fear that the trend could spread to their territory, England passed the initial legislation that controlled scientific experiments. The law “Cruelty of Animal Act” was passed in 1876. This series of conflicts between human ethical concern and scientific need to conduct research resulted in the foundation of scholarship and activitivism of 20th century (Franco, 2013).
From mid-20th century, a significant number of activists and scholarship work linked to animal use has increased rapidly. The current animal rights groups are led by Philosopher Peter Singer (Franco, 2013). In his book titled Animal liberation, Preece (2002) argues that animals are capable of experiencing suffering and pain. In support to Singer’s perception, the LIFE magazine covers significant issues affecting animals such as animal experimentation, animal brutality, and pet theft (Tremayne-Lloyd & Srebrolow, 2007). The two articles have created awareness to the public on animal testing and use in laboratory research. Scientists, lawmakers, activists, and lay people have established exciting and comprehensive historical background on animal welfare, as well as animal rights over the past few decades.
Ethical Debate. Speciesism
Definition of speciesism is shaped from varying angles. For instance, Colantuono (2009) views speciesism as unpardonable hurtful treatment or consideration of animals that are not grouped to specific species. Later, theorists disqualified this definition as unclear and inconclusive. Richard Ryder views the term differently by explaining that speciesism can be understood from two perspectives (Colantuono, 2009). The theorist maintains that speciesism involves discrimination and manipulation of species. From another angle, Ryder argues that speciesism is the unfair detrimental treatment of animals that are not categorized under a specific species for reasons that are unbeneficial to the affected species. However, this argument faces opposition (Colantuono, 2009).
Another effective dispute targeting speciesism is developed by Singer (1985). This argument centers on what this theorist refers as the principle of equal consideration (PEC). Under this principle, Singer (2010) maintains that indiscriminate consideration should be given to all the parties affected by a particular action. Singer (2010) argues that PEC incorporates what modern society views as human equality. The principle maintains that human beings should favor interest of one group over another. In addition, the principle encompasses equality between male and females, and between animals regardless of their species. As Singer (2009) understands, anyone that agrees with the principle of equal consideration should also agree that it encompasses both human and nonhuman animals. The principle maintains that human beings should not exploit other animals in an effort to satisfy their needs. They should gain from the effort that they are capable of making and not the effort of other animals (Colantuono, 2009). From this perspective, it is apparent that the theory advocates for use of human beings in scientific experimentation, as opposed to using non-human animals. Because human and nonhuman animals experience pain, they have importance in evading painful experiences. Undeniably, Singer (2009) says that the ability to experience pain is a condition that should form the basis for ethical debate. Philosophers argue that there is no reason for justifying that some species are more important than others based on sex and race are. Therefore, the subject of avoiding pain should not be more relevant when it touches on human beings than non-human animals. Therefore, principle of equal consideration is applicable to human and non-human animals. From this argument, it emerges that speciesism, just like sexism and racism, is unethical and unacceptable in contemporary society (Colantuono, 2009).
The debate on speciesism attracts more support from Max A. Fox and R.G Frey (Franco, 2013). According to these philosophers, all species are significant because they are characterized or linked to distinct abilities that are ethically significant. However, some opponents argue from a different perspective. Franco (2013) claims that several abilities that have been explained are autonomy or moral agency, certain intellectual ability, wisdom, and language utilization. Autonomy involves being able to spontaneously, pensively, and purposively act based on ethical standards and doctrines. Therefore, if an animal is incapable of acting based on moral values, how does it qualify to be defended as an entity that should be protected from exploitation? This is a major question by philosophers justifying animal experimentation. Speciesists argue that all human beings have distinct capabilities that make them more superior than non-human animals. Therefore, they claim that animals are unqualified to receive similar concern (Franco, 2013). Franco (2013) claims that speciesism is incomparable to sexism and racism.
Further Argument against Animal Experimentation
In an effort to oppose the use of inducing ecstasy and speed in rats, Hurmane Research Australia (2013) revisits studies examining the long-term social behavioral impacts of repeated doses of methamphetamine and methylenedioxymethamphetamine on rats. In an experiment documented by Hurmane Research Australia (2013), researchers injected methamphetamine and methylenedioxymethamphetamine to Albino Wistar rats sixteen times for a period of four months. While administering these drugs, reactions were monitored and recorded. During the seventh week of drug administration, the research observed a reduction in social contact among the rats exposed to drugs. In order to induce despair and stress in these rats, these were introduced in water for prolonged duration. However, the objective of this study elicits ethical debate. Hurmane Research Australia (2013) adds that this study was conducted to compare effects of continuous exposure to some chemicals with the results obtained in a single day study that targeted the same rat species. In this research, researchers admit that use of ecstasy and speed drugs trigger long-term neurological and cognitive behavioral changes in human beings. This research went ahead to attract funding from Medical Research Council. Critics question whether the comparison of human beings and rats response to drugs could trigger exposure of these nonhuman animals to painful experiences. They maintain that the research is wasteful to available resources, as well as depicts unethical practices that disrespect animal rights (Hurmane Research Australia, 2013).
According to Hurmane Research Australia (2013), similar studies exposing rats to ecstasy and speed have been conducted in numerous instances, especially in University of Sidney. In another research published by the same university, experimenters exposed 59 rats to training to enable self-administration of speed in high temperature confinement. The study was conducted in nightclubs whereby high heat was generated. In this environment, consumption of speed drugs took place in a confined area with high temperature. To enhance self-administration, the rats underwent surgical implantation of an indwelling catheter on their veins. During the surgical procedure, a screw was inserted to assemble heat while enhancing recording of lever presses and speed intake. At the end of the experiment, the involved rats suffered from hyperthermia. Moreover, confinement in high temperature area triggered increased consumption of drugs by rats. Before embarking on this research, the researcher’s objective was approved and the Medical Research Council issued them with a grant. This is an indication that not only is animal rights abuse promoted by individuals, but also recognized institutions are supportive to this unethical trend. From one perspective, Hurmane Research Australia (2013) adds that issuance with a grant proves that the research conducted is ethical. After further scrutiny of the research, contrary findings emerge because non-human animals are exposed to painful procedures.
To show disapproval for scientific lab experiments targeting rats, Medical Research Council has supported and approved various research initiatives. Hurmane Research Australia (2013) revisits another scientific experiment financed by Medical Research Council whereby researchers exposed male Wistar rats to acute impacts of ecstasy. In this study, researchers admitted that continuous use of ecstasy in human beings induced high sensitivity to desirable impacts of drugs. Consequently, it established that human beings increase the consumption of this drug as time progresses. Therefore, the researchers wanted to establish whether the impacts portrayed in human beings are similar to those portrayed in rats. Critics question this experiment, citing unethical practices that contravene human rights. Moreover, the significance of this study does not justify exposure of rats to risky experiences. At the end of these experiments, experimenters have to make assumptions due to lack of conclusive findings. In particular, they assumed that rearing on hind legs among rats depicted antisocial behaviors, which is one of the impacts of exposure to ecstasy.
Sherry (2010) firmly claims that studies that force rats to induce ecstasy and speed are unquestionably insignificant. This argument forms the basis for strongly differing with psychopharmacological experiments based on various grounds. For instance, experimental studies on rats are aimed at replicating in nonhuman animals the findings that are already identified after targeting human beings (Green, 2003; Lin, 1992). Therefore, such studies are wasteful to financial resources that can be used for other beneficial and applicable studies. Moreover, use of nonhuman animal findings to generalize human behaviors is unscientific. In support to this argument, Rudy (2013) argues that rats are small and incomparable to human beings in terms of physical size and ability to react to drugs. The social, physiological, anatomical, and behavioral differences between rats and human beings are too large to replicate findings to humans. Despite the fact that Medical Research Council and ethics boards in respective universities supported the experiments, they are evidently cruel to nonhuman animals and have insignificant implication. Medical Research Council’s readiness to financially support the studies proves that the high amounts of public funds are wasted on unimportant researches. Alternatively, these finances could be utilized in implementing human study findings such as initiating campaigns on drugs abuse impacts awareness (Rudy, 2013).
In an experiment questioning the value of non-human animals, Linzey and Barry (2005) claim that nonhuman animals are entitled to moral status. Numerous opponents of non-human animal experimentation maintain that any form of action that inflicts physical or mental damage to animals is unjustified. This argument departs from the past, whereby scientists sought ways of improving human health by conducting experiments that denied animal their rights. In today’s society, the question seems to swing from the direction of questioning moral value of animals to assessing the level of moral status entitled to animals ((Linzey & Barry, 2005).
Another opposing argument is reckoned from the animal welfare activists (DeMello, 2010). According to the activists, exposing animals to pain through experiments would eventually end scientific advancement, as more harmful that beneficial impacts would engulf the society. Revisiting DeMello (2010) argument, animal activists maintain that most experiments targeting rats are performed out of sheer curiosity with limited accompanying benefits. The experiments result in starving and mistreatment of animals, as experimenters seek for clues that may benefit human curiosity. DeMello (2010) recounts an experiment in which scientists submerged a polar bear and rats in water with an aim of establishing whether they would survive. This experiment raised criticism and outcries from the human rights activists that question its significance. As Akinrinmade and Akinrinde (2013) maintain, it is out of utter practice or ease that researchers continue inflicting pain on animals in instances whereby alternatives would be enforced. In case of inexistence of alternatives, Sunstein and Nussbaum (2004) add that scientists have the responsibility of making more discoveries that discerns from unethical practices of nonhuman animal experimentation.
This paper introduces the ethical debate surrounding the use of non-human animals in scientific experiments. In particular, this research explores ethical issues surrounding inducing of rats ecstasy and speed. After examining numerous studies, ethical debates, philosophical arguments an animal rights advocates’ perception, the conclusion for this paper is apparent. Abuse of animal rights continues to be witnessed in current laboratory experiments. These experiments contravene with the argument developed by Singer (2010), maintaining that human and non-human animals are entitled to equal rights. Despite the outcries surrounding this ethical debate, rats and mice continue to be incorporated in scientific researches that inflict psychological and physical impacts. The scientists have the challenge of making alternative discoveries without targeting animals. From the argument developed in this paper, it is apparent that alternate methods should be continuously developed in an effort to ensure nonhuman animals will not be targeted by scientific laboratories in the future. Therefore, scientists have the responsibility of making more discoveries that discerns from unethical practices of nonhuman animal experimentation.
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