We experiment on other animal species, because we assume that they are different enough from us that what we do too them doesn’t really matter because they aren’t intelligent/sentient like us, and they don’t suffer like us and our needs are more important than theirs.
And yet we assume that other animal species are so much like us that our experiments on them produce results that somehow apply to us. Many modern day scientists and ethical thinkers are arguing that this reasoning is flawed. It has been proven time and time again that conclusions drawn from experiments on one animal species don’t automatically apply to other animal species, such as humans. This has resulted in some medical disasters as well as some missed opportunities, and forward-thinking organisations like the Practitioners Committee for Responsible Medicine are arguing for a non-animal-based model for experimentation. These new technologies are proving far more accurate and effective than the old animal experimentation model.
Most of us deplore and punish animal cruelty amongst the general community but turn a blind eye to the suffering inflicted on animals by the scientific research community. We quietly assume that science is ‘doing what it must’ and being ethical about it at the same time. And yet science seems to have a strange psychological and empathetic disconnect when it comes to animal experimentation.
If other animals, like rodents, are assumed to be so physiologically and psychologically akin to us that we can draw human-health conclusions from experimenting on them, then should we really be experimenting on them? It seems like a serious flaw in logic to say animal experimentation is valid because animals and humans are ‘so alike’, and yet perfectly acceptable ethically because animals and humans are ‘so different’. If we are basing our human health on animal experiments then we are also saying that animals have the same physiological and psychological capacity to suffer as humans do.
Other animals are enough like us that they do indeed suffer from deprivation of liberty and the infliction of physical and psychological harm ‘all in the name of science’. But each species is unique, and it seems illogical to assume each species will respond in exactly the same way in psychological and physiological studies.
Here are some good resources if you would like to do some more research on this topic:
PCRM (Practitioners Committee for Responsible Medicine)
Medical Research Modernisation Committee