Animal Studies Bibliography

Herzog, Jr., Harold A. 1990a. Philosophy, ethology, and animal ethics. Trends 6: 14-17.

Animal rights activists and scientists using animals in research each hold stereotypes of the other group. Activists think scientists are unfeeling and self-aggrandizing, doing frivolous and cruel experiments that produce few actual human benefits. Scientists, on the other hand, see animal rights activists as emotional, ignorant about science, and anti-intellectual. It is important to recognize, however, that the animal rights position has many thoughtful philosophers behind it. These positions must be taken into account if scientists are to provide a successful counter-argument and save their research enterprises. There are two major philosophical arguments behind animal rights: the utilitarian position and the rights position. The utilitarian position, expressed by Singer, asserts that because animals can suffer pain, they have the same interests in avoiding it that humans do, and therefore their pleasure and pain must be given equal consideration in determining the greatest good for all. Singer also argues that animal research rarely provides important medical advances and that other research methods are available or could easily be developed. There are two problems with Singer's argument. First, he draws an arbitrary line at mollusks as the place where equal consideration stops. The sophisticated behavior and psychology of some species thus left out, however, forces us to question this boundary, and this leaves us in the same predicament as before, requiring individual intuition to make the judgment. Second, it ignores qualitative differences in pleasure and pain, thus ignoring the question of whether human pleasures and pains might be worth more than animals'. The rights position, expressed by Regan, holds that animals have rights just as humans do. A problem with any theory of rights is determining who gets them and why. Animals are usually denied rights on the basis that humans have characteristics like language, self-concept, and the like, but many studies have shown that animals have more of these things than we might think. Further, these definitions are questionable in that they require us to give no rights to comatose or severely disabled people. Regan argues that humans and other animals are very similar and that extension of rights should be based on sentience and inherent value--all sentient creatures have inherent value and therefore must be equally respected. This position, however, does not explain what to do when rights of different creatures conflict. For example, most people would support transplanting an animal heart into a child, but animal rights activists would say that this violates the animal's rights and would reject it. There are many paradoxes presented to researchers by the nature of their work, which since Darwin has continued to show that humans and nonhuman animals are not so different. Further, animals are used because they are good models for human bodies and behavior, which in turn makes their use less morally justifiable. The questions animal rights activists put forth are made clearer by a hypothetical encounter with a superior species, like E.T. If E.T. wanted to take Elliot back to his planet for medical research, would that be okay? If not, we must admit that our arguments for animal research may in fact be speciesist, or a case of humans acting out might makes right. It is a troubling issue.




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