UK Right to Reduce Animals Used in Research

Human exceptionalism strongly supports animal welfare–just as it opposes animal rights.

The UK has recently issued a report about how it intends to reduce the number of animals used in research–as it properly defends such experimentation as necessary for scientific advancement and the improvement of human lives–a perfectly consistent approach with HE values.

The report is long, but allow me to pull out a few items to illustrate important ways that animal welfare differs from animal rights in this field. 

1. Welfare promotes human good: Animal research is absolutely necessary for scientific advancement and the amelioration of human disease:

The use of non-human primates in Parkinson’s Disease research has been invaluable in identifying the subthalamic nucleus as a surgical target for deep brain stimulation in human patients. This work was initially carried out at the University of Oxford and has since progressed through human trials to become an effective treatment for reversing the debilitating tremors experienced by Parkinson’s patients

2. Animal welfare does not treat animals as equals: Just as animals are not equal to us, so too, our duties to some animals are higher than to others. In other words, it requires a proper analysis of the uses of animals’ scientific usefulness, a determination of their differing capacities to suffer, etc:

As the research potential offered by genetically altered rodents and fish has increased, so the number used has risen significantly and this is reflected in total numbers between 1995 and the present. However, the trend for many other species – for example dogs, cats and non-human primates – has generally declined over the same period since much work previously done in these species can now be done on speciies of perceived lower sentience such as mice or fish.

3. The UK continues to promote the “three Rs,” e.g., reduction, replacement, and refinement:

The NC3Rs champions animal welfare and high standards in animal research. It has funded research to improve the assessment and alleviation of pain in laboratory animals, and to ensure that rats and mice are killed as humanely as possible at the end of studies. The Centre reviews all applications submitted to the major bioscience funding bodies that involve the use of non-human primates, cats, dogs or horses, identifying opportunities to further implement the 3Rs. It also hosts an annual meeting for scientists, vets and animal care staff who use non-human primates to discuss welfare issues; recent meetings have included topics such as training animals to cooperate with procedures such as blood sampling in order to minimise any stress they might experience and the use of imaging technologies.

Do you see how superior and more nuanced the welfare approach is than the “rights” ideology? Under the latter, the mice are the same as the monkeys, are the same as people, e.g., no use of animals in research and a collapse of an entire scientific sector.

That would not only cause us great harm, but would impede research that helps us improve animal welfare and our understanding of the natural world.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More