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Unformatted text preview: T here is no question about it: the number of animals used in laboratory experiments is go- ing down. In the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany and several other European countries, the total has fallen by half since the 1970s. In Canada, mammals have largely been replaced by fish. The figures for the U.S. are unclear. The U.S. uses between 18 and 22 million animals a year, but exact numbers are unknown for roughly 85 percent of these—rats, mice and birds. Primate use has stayed constant, whereas the use of dogs and cats is down by half since the 1970s. No one reason accounts for the de- cline, but several factors are obvious. In 1975 the animal-rights movement ex- ploded onto the scene with the publica- tion of Animal Liberation by the Aus- tralian philosopher Peter Singer. The book’s depiction of research, and a se- ries of exposés by suddenly vigilant ac- tivists, threw a harsh spotlight on scien- tists. In the following years, public per- ceptions of animals became increasingly sympathetic. Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall and other ethologists related to an en- thralled audience tales of love, sorrow, jealousy and deceit among primates. Al- though not so popular with scientists, such anthropomorphic views of animals fueled the passage of laws regulating experimentation. And the scientists have changed. Those entering the biomedical profession in re- cent decades have imbibed at least some of the concerns of the movement, if not its ideals; many are willing to acknowl- edge the moral dilemmas of their craft. Some experiments that were applauded in the 1950s would not be done today, because they would be deemed to cause too much suffering. Oftentimes biotech- nology is allowing test tubes to be sub- stituted for animals. And a few research- ers, cognizant that only their expertise can help reduce the need for animals, are avidly seeking alternatives. All these efforts are bearing fruit. The Philosophers T he underlying force behind these changes appears to be society’s evolving views of animals. These per- ceptions owe a great deal to philosophy and to science—and very little to reli- gion. The Bible is unequivocal about the position of animals in the natural order: God made man in his image and gave him dominion over all other creatures. And although Hinduism and Buddhism envisage a hierarchy of organisms rath- er than a sharp division, their influence on the animal-rights movement is limit- ed to vague inspiration and vegetarian recipes. The real roots lie in secular phi- losophy. In 1780 the English barrister Jeremy Bentham asked what “insupera- ble line” prevented humans from ex- tending moral regard to animals: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” The question became more poignant in 1859 with the advent of Charles Dar- win’s theory of evolution. The theory provided a scientific rationale for using animals to learn about humans, and Darwin endorsed such use. But he also believed in an emotional continuum be-...
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This note was uploaded on 06/18/2008 for the course LS 2 taught by Professor Pires during the Spring '08 term at UCLA.
- Spring '08