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Peter Singer Supports Animal Tests

Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.

Peter Singer, remember, is a utilitarian. And he is not now, nor has he ever been, someone who thinks humans shouldn’t be using animals (or harming animals) ever.

Be that as it may, don’t think the pro-vivisectionists aren’t going to have a field day with his endorsement of experimenting on monkeys in the hope of developing surgery for Parkinson’s and other diseases, on the BBC2 documentary "Monkeys, Rats and Me: Animal Testing."

Animal testing can be a Gray Matter for some people. Food is easy–no one needs to eat animals. Ditto with the usage of fur and leather, supporting circuses and zoos, and buying pure breeds. None of that is necessary. But animal testing, for some, is different.

Let’s deconstruct:

  • If you think it’s immoral or unethical to conduct an experiment–particularly a harmful one and one that will end in the "disposal" of the "sample"–on someone without their consent, you, my friend, are not a utilitarian, and would disagree with Singer. You think animals are not ours to use–period.
  • If, however, you realize that humans have indeed benefited from some of the tens of millions of animals harmed in laboratories, and as long as we responsibly, humanely experiment on them (assuming there is such a thing), we should continue to do so, you would agree with Singer. You, my friend, think animals are ours to experiment on. Period.

This reminds me of the abortion debate (stay with me on this): the pro-choice team argues about the choice, but the anti-abortion team argues about the abortion. In their public arguments, they don’t take on the same aspect of the issue. Similarly, anti-vivisectionists address the moral/ethical dilemma, and pro-vivisectionists argue that vivisection can help people (the moral dilemma, if there is one, isn’t the primary consideration. The question is one of utility and the greater good).

How about this:

  • As long as we continue to pump money (i.e., your tax dollars and mine) into the system (breeding animals for research, transporting them, experimenting on them, killing them, disposing of them) that may or may not produce effective results for humans,
  • and we refuse to support (federally) stem cell research (because, well, that would be a moral dilemma),
  • we will not create the technology necessary to provide large-scale, inexpensive alternatives to animal testing.
  • Where alternatives to animal testing exist, every researcher should be using them.
  • Where alternatives don’t exist, shift the funding from animal experiments and re-allocate it to the development of alternatives. That has already happened in the private sector, but what we need is a shift on a larger scale–one that demonstrates where we as a culture are headed.

Remember, where you put your money tells the world what you think is important, what you think is a moral issue, and where you stand. That’s as true for nations as it is for individuals. We are telling the world–loud and clear–how we define morality. Worthy of our concern are all things–human.

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