It is a testament to human exceptionalism that so many of us care very deeply about animals and their proper care. Indeed, animal welfare and animal rights are among the most emotionally-charged issues of our day.
As much as we love them, there is no denying that we receive tremendous good from the proper and humane instrumental use of animals. That’s right and proper–depending on the human good received and the suffering (if any) caused to animals based on animal welfare analyses.
One of the greatest goods we receive is in medical research. Yet, it is under sustained attack by animal rights activists, with the latest Gallup Poll finding that an alarming 39% think such work is immoral.
I wholeheartedly disagree. I go into the issue at some length in my book, A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement. I also get into the issue in my current First Things column. From, “The Grim Good of Animal Research:”
If animal research were prohibited, scientific advances would be hopelessly stymied. Such a prohibition would stop basic research—investigations into how organisms behave or function, which could never be conducted ethically in human beings.
Moreover, a prohibition would also thwart applied research—meaning experiments that look for solutions to identified problems—such as the Alzheimer’s mouse experiments.
Animal testing also provides a crucial safety check that can inform scientists what won’t work, so unnecessary [and unsafe] human experiments aren’t conducted.
I give an example of research into a treatment for AIDS in which serious liver damage in the animal studies saved human subjects from almost sure death. The scientists then went back to the drawing board and reconfigured the drug so as not to cause such damage–ultimately saving countless human lives.
At some point, drugs, procedures, and treatments have to be tested in living organisms. That means either humans or animals. I choose animals, first–as required by the Nuremberg Code.
The next time an animal rights group claims that animal research provides no human benefit, stop and think about the astonishing medical advances made over the last fifty years. Because scientists experimented with research animals, vaccines were developed, new lifesaving medical and surgical techniques were perfected, diseases were cured—extending our lives and alleviating incalculable amounts of human suffering.
It is undeniable that we receive tremendous benefit from research conducted with animals. It is hard, but an essential “grim good.”