Animal Research: Beyond usefulness
Animal People (April 2012) includes an article by Kim
Bartlett entitled, Proposal for an Accord between Animal Advocates and the
Biomedical Research Community (Proposal; http://www.animalpeoplenews.org). A
number of responses to the proposal are published in the May issue. In this
blog I would like to comment on one position taken in the proposal.
Based on my experience
with the science and ethics of animal research (Shapiro, 1998, Human Models of Animal Psychology), I
support much of and welcome the Proposal. However, there is one issue that I
would like to examine and underscore because it has enormous implications and
the document is, arguably, inconsistent in addressing it.
Most contemporary legislation
and regulation of animal research uses the language of cost-benefits (C-B). Although
at one point the Proposal accepts that limited frame ("the use of animals is
approved only when any harm done to the animals is greatly outweighed by the anticipated
benefits of their use"), at another it states, "Compulsory guidelines would
specify the types of experiments and levels of pain that would not be permissible regardless of potential
benefit (emphasis added)."
These are radically
different positions for the latter preempts or trumps the cost-benefit or
utilitarian frame by asserting that some procedures are inherently
objectionable, independent of usefulness. As our Bill of Rights prevents the
tyranny of majority rule, the prohibition of certain research procedures
overrides any calculus of costs and benefits.
This is critical at
several levels. As it has been shown in the literature that any C-B analysis is
notoriously impractical and of questionable reliability (little agreement among
judges; Plous & Herzog, 2001), politics carry the day. As the Proposal
points out, the composition of animal research committees is biased toward
those who take a Research First position.
Even more importantly,
the acceptance of a regulatory frame that defines certain procedures involving
nonhuman animals as inherently objectionable independent of their usefulness to
us greatly enhances their status and opens the door to significantly more
progressive policy in the several areas of their current exploitation.
Published by admin on 05/25/2012 14:19:16