Should Products Be Tested on Animals?
It’s better to test new products on animals than to risk the health of humans.
Whether this is a Q1 violation depends on your position on a number of other issues, including respect for life and the moral status of animals. You may need to make the statement less global in order to preserve Q1 — by adding, for example, that it’s better if products are not tested on any living creatures at all.
There are a number of different reasoning paths that could be taken to reach this conclusion. You might be violating Q2 if someone else could use the same reasoning to be against something you do not object to (e.g., slaughterhouses, dairy farming, using animals to do work, keeping animals in zoos, or owning pets).
For most people, this statement is far too global. Today, it is widely agreed that cosmetic and convenience products should not be tested on animals. It is also widely agreed that it is more acceptable to perform scientific tests on less intelligent animals (such as mice) than on more intelligent animals (such as chimpanzees). But this still leaves a wide range for discussion.
Does human risk always outweigh animal risk? For example, if an experimental treatment is considered low risk, is it moral to give an animal a disease as part of researching a cure for that disease when humans with that disease might be interested in volunteering to be test subjects? If a drug’s efficacy and side effects in treating one condition are well known, should animal trials be conducted to test its efficacy in treating another condition?
If you draw a distinction among the moral value of various animals, what types of research would you say are important enough to justify experiments on higher animals such as primates? Is it only where there is no viable alternative? Only where the possible benefit to humanity is quite large? Or is this type of experimentation on primates never justified?
If you are against animal testing, are you against benefitting from animal testing that took place during less enlightened times? For example, a product that says that it was not tested on animals may be considered safe because its ingredients were all tested on animals in the past and found to be safe for humans. Would you be willing to benefit from knowledge gained by past experiments on unwilling humans?
And are you willing to accept risks that might be associated with not testing new products on animals? For example, if you took a new medication and were crippled by a side effect that would have been caught during animal testing, would you hold the drug company blameless if the only way they could have foreseen your condition would have been to do something you are morally against?
As new non-animal means of testing products become available — such as lab tests using human blood or computer simulations — how effective do you think these methods need to be before they replace animal tests. If a computer simulation was 75% as accurate as testing a product on a rat, would that be sufficient justification to not harm a rat?
Is it acceptable to risk the health of a human if the human volunteers to take the risk? Could a human volunteer to test a new medication if that meant a chimpanzee would be released into the wild? Should a person without health insurance be allowed to volunteer to test a new pain medication because it’s the only way for her to get free treatment? Should we put a chimpanzee on a space ship to see if humans can survive a trip to Mars?
There are quite a few topics periphery to animal testing that you may need to consider in order to avoid Q1 and Q2 violations. For example: How should animals used in experiments be treated during the experiment and after the experiment is over? Does it make a difference if the animal in question is a variety specifically bred for scientific testing and not found in the wild? Is it legitimate to use animals as practice subjects for other medical purposes (shooting a pig so that a medic can practice first aid, for example)? Is it moral to genetically engineer an animal so that it will have organs that can be harvested for human use? If we ever discovered an intelligent, non-human species, would there be any circumstances in which it would be moral to use them for scientific experimentation?
This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.