Ethics in Animal Care and Use
Dr. William Soderberg
October 29, 2014
As I have worked on an Animal Care and Use Committee over the years, I have wrestled with the question “What am I doing here?” In the views of some, I join a group of “moral primitivists” when I give my approval to research on animals. Such claims have led me to question whether I should even be involved with animal research, and they have led me on a journey of the mind and conscience.
On one occasion when I attended a session at the National Institutes of Health on Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs), a speaker referred to the IACUC as the conscience of the institution. Reverend Michael Hamilton, former canon of the National Cathedral, responded and said that each person has a conscience. He was raising an issue that points to the first question I wish to explore in this talk: Does a small group of people serve as the conscience of a community, or does each person have the capacity to exercise conscientious actions?
I have also heard the IACUC described as the police of the institution. A question comes to mind when I hear this assertion: “Are there any police actions to which a person may give consent?” I think of a caretaker at a corporation where I once served on the IACUC. At a meeting the day after three members of the committee received notice they were being let go from the company because of financial difficulties, one of the members who was leaving spoke about her relief when IACUCs were established by law. When she first came to the company, she was asked to participate in experiments in which rabbits were operated on without anesthesia. She appreciated the attention that activists drew to such practices; in her judgment, the activism contributed to public awareness which, in turn, led to the legislation.
As I listened to the animal caretaker, I realized she was consenting to the “police action” of the IACUC, because she agreed with the legal requirements for engaging in animal experimentation. In addition to the question regarding the few and the many as the voice of conscience, I wish to explore a second question: Are there any restraints on the use of laboratory animals to which persons—including those involved with animal research and testing—can give consent? Closely related to this second question is a third: What are some sources of duties or obligations in animal research and testing?
Part of my misgiving about work on the IACUC has been prompted by the violence directed against researchers. Why, I have asked myself, have some people been driven to such extremes by the work that goes on in research and testing facilities? I have detected a mistrust of persons engaged in the research and testing that fuels the violence, and I have probed for sources of this mistrust.
My search for a moral framework to help me deal with issues in animal testing initially took me back to my religious upbringing. My first encounter with a framework for morality and meaning occurred when I was a child growing up in the Roman Catholic tradition. In the version of religion that I was raised in, I was taught that humans had immortal souls but animals did not and that humans could reason, but animals could only follow instincts. I inferred from these claims that human interests were more significant than animal interests. This view was reinforced when I read in the bible that humans should “subdue and dominate the earth.”
This account of animals seemed to be confirmed by my experience growing up on a dairy farm. The animals seemed to follow a set of behaviors that were almost programmed, in contrast to the variety of behaviors that humans could engage in. The view that animals were very different from humans simply seemed to make a great deal of sense.
Several experiences woke me from my dogmatic slumber that the role of humans was to subdue and dominate. When I became involved with an IACUC, I was rather surprised at how much weight the veterinarians, caretakers, and in many cases the scientists on the committee gave to animals’ interests. Many people I encountered questioned the use of animals—not only for medical research and product testing, but also for hunting and agriculture. Their concerns helped to rouse me from the simple belief of my youth that animals’ interests were simply less important than human interests.
I was intrigued by the amount of care and attention given to the welfare of animals as I served on the Animal Care and Use committees. Animals were being treated in ways that did not simply regard them as creatures to be subdued and dominated. Many of their interests were addressed by the caretakers, who sought to minimize pain and enhance the environment of the animals. The fellow members of my committee did not seem to be “moral primitivists.” Indeed, they seemed more morally “advanced” than I had been in my early childhood view that animals could simply be subdued, dominated, and used for human purposes.
While the members of the committee were quite tuned in to the animals’ needs, neither they nor many in my culture treated animals completely in the same way that they treated humans. The researchers would, for the sake of their investigations, sacrifice the lives of the animals. Many in my culture were also carnivores, a diet that required the killing of animals for food. The people I was working with as well as many people in the surrounding culture accepted the use of animals for food, sport, and research. While they addressed some of the interests of animals, they did not respect all of the animals’ interests. They did not, for example, respect the animals’ interest in continuing to live.
The failure to respect the animals’ interest in living and the use of animals for human purposes led some writers to create the category “moral primitivists.” I faced the question as I searched for a moral framework to make sense of my activities: Are the concerned individuals with whom I serve on the Animal Care and Use Committee and the carnivores in my culture moral primitivists? Am I somehow less morally advanced than those who give equal and identical respect to both animals’ and humans’ interest to survive?
A utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham defended equal respect for animal and human interests with this claim: “The question is not whether they think; the question is whether they suffer.” When people sympathize with the suffering of animals, according to some moral philosophers, they have a direct duty to prevent the animal’s suffering. These philosophers, who fall in the same utilitarian camp as Bentham, state that all duties owed to humans are also owed to animals.
As I examined the utilitarian tradition, I realized that the basis for duties in this tradition differed dramatically from the basis in the Catholic tradition. Interests of beings that could feel pain and pleasure were the basis for duties in utilitarianism, while God’s commands were the basis in the Catholic tradition. According to the utilitarians, the motive of morality is sympathy or altruism—in contrast to the desire to do God’s will. These philosophers were turning to human nature rather than divine nature to look for a source of duties.
I found utilitarianism to be more helpful as an explanation for people’s concerns for the interests of animals than the God’s will theory of morality. It helped to explain the concerns for animals expressed by the members of the Animal Care and Use committees. It provided a good reason to be moral—namely, sympathy for the interests of beings that could suffer.
As I examined utilitarianism as a possible alternative to God’s will as a framework of morality, I gradually realized it had some difficulties that prevented my completely adopting it. In requiring respect for animals’ interests, it did not seem to offer a way of separating out the interest in life from the interest in an absence of pain. Persons who subscribed to the utilitarian approach would avoid killing any animals for any purpose. Yet members of my community regularly killed animals for food, sport, and research. Did I have to accept that they were “moral primitivists”?
The utilitarians who required respect for all animal interests seemed to go too far. This led me to explore further, and I came upon a philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, a philosopher who defended a morality of self-interest or moral egoism, maintained that the only duties anyone has are duties to oneself. This sounded quite intriguing, and I investigated Hobbes’ notion of the state of nature. There is no right or wrong in the natural state that Hobbes outlines; there are only hungry creatures who can and will do anything to survive. Every creature looks out solely for self-interest. People and animals may run in their respective groups or packs, but they do so ultimately for the sake of their own survival.
The approach of Thomas Hobbes claims that everyone acts out of self-interest—and the main interest is their own survival. While Hobbes’ description of the state of nature looked very attractive as a realistic way of understanding life and people’s relationships with each other and the rest of nature, his account fell short when I tried to apply it to the animal research setting. If I act simply out of self-interest, my only duties are to myself. I may then use animals to my own purposes, and I may use them in any way I see fit.
In a Hobbesian state of nature, I have no direct duties to animals. The only duties I have are indirect—that is, I can respect animals insofar as they are useful to me. They may be treated as property and acquired or disposed of as any other piece of property. I owe no considerations to animals any more than I owe considerations or respect to the glass I use to drink water. If the glass falls and breaks, I sweep up the pieces and dispose of them. Just as I associate no pain with the glass, I need not consider the pain of an animal. If the animal is useful to me, I can respect it for its usefulness. I need not take into account any pain of the animal since my only duties are to myself.
In contrast with the Hobbesian view, the sympathy that motivates a person in the utilitarian moral framework leads many utilitarians to the conclusion that all the duties owed to humans are also owed to animals. Some people who subscribe to this view tend to see it as a morally advanced position—advanced, that is, over moral primitivism. With Hobbes’ self-interest theory, on the other hand, no duties are owed to animals.
These two extreme views—that animals possess the same rights as humans supported by utilitarianism and that animals are entitled to no sympathetic concern in Hobbes’ state of nature—are polar extremes in morality. The members of the IACUCs I have worked with regularly make decisions that neither of these extreme views takes into account. These individuals generally hold the view that some duties are owed to animals. They reject that the very same duties owed to humans are also owed directly to animals, and they reject as well the view that only indirect duties—which amount to no duties—are owed to animals.
At this point in my journey I found a third philosophy that turned to human nature to discover a source of duties. I encountered a thought experiment that resonated with me. The person who devised the thought experiment was Ronald Green, a student of John Rawls. I modified the game to play it with my students, but the basic outline is drawn from the “Rawls Game” as described by Ronald Green.
The participants in the game adopt the roles of legislators on a remote island with an agricultural economy. The first two rounds of the game are played with the “cards face up.” People know where they are in the society—that is, whether they are in the most favorable positions or in the least well off positions. Self-interest as a basis for decision-making is explored in the first round by voting on a proposal to deal with a drought situation. A small percentage of the population lives on a mountain and has access to water from a snowcap. Most of the island’s people live on the flatlands and are suffering from the drought. The people on the mountain have traditionally flourished economically because of their access to the water from the snowcap, while those on the flatland have barely eked out an existence due to sparse rainfall. The proposal is brought forward to set up an irrigation system that would bring water from the mountain to the flatlanders. If the water is rationed, enough will be available for every farmer on the island. In a short time, the mountaineers will come down from a high economic scale and the flatlanders will improve economically until everyone is approximately equal in income.
The ground rules for decisions in the legislature require a unanimous vote. I have yet to get a unanimous vote for this proposal when I play it with my classes. The vote to defeat the proposal illustrates a problem with self-interest as the basis for policy-making—namely, a tyranny of the powerful minority can arise. A few can treat the many in an arbitrary fashion when questions of well-being are raised.
After some discussion and a decision to use majority rule rather than unanimous votes, we then imagine ourselves in another situation some years later. In the second round of the game, we examine the new situation from the perspective of sympathy or altruism; this situation involves a serious disease that is rapidly taking lives. A highly successful vaccine has been discovered in the form of an enzyme that only a few people on the island possess. To extract the enzyme, these few individuals will have to be hooked up to a machine 24 hours each day, 7 days a week, for at least two years. One of the individuals is a two-year-old child.
Each time I have played the game in the classroom, the majority in the second round of the game has favored the proposal. After the vote, we discuss the impact on the child, who at age two is incapable of meaningful consent. The problem that emerges from this vote may be described as a tyranny of the majority’s interests: the interests of the many prompt a decision to use an individual incapable of consent. The impact on the child’s development from being hooked to a machine for two years could be devastating, but intuitions tell us that “the greatest good for the greatest number” justifies this impact.
I then invite discussion on an approach to making decisions that could minimize the chances of both forms of tyranny. A proposal often comes forward to play the game with the cards face down.
We then play a third round of the game with the cards face down. Students do not know until after the vote comes in whether they are among the best off or the least well off. In the third round, I make an outrageous proposal—namely, to have slavery on the island. Invariably, the vote is unanimous against this proposal since, with the cards face down, the voters do not know whether they will be a slave or a master.
Let me illustrate the three perspectives of Hobbes, Bentham, and Rawls—self-interest, altruism, and fair-mindedness—with a little story. One time I was driving by myself to an appointment on Rockville Pike, and I was running a little late. I came to the intersection of Viers Mill and Rt. 355, the busy and complex intersection just south of the Rockville Metro. The light turned yellow as I was approaching it, and I debated trying to make it through, knowing full well it would probably turn red as I entered the intersection. I decided to stop.
As I sat at the red light, suddenly three passengers from the history of ideas began a conversation in the back seat of the car. Thomas Hobbes was talking to two other passengers, Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant. (John Rawls places his position in the tradition of the philosopher Immanuel Kant.) Hobbes, Bentham, and Kant were discussing why I stopped rather than running the light. Hobbes said: “He stopped because he didn’t want to get hurt or punished.” Jeremy Bentham replied: “No, he stopped because he didn’t want to hurt other people.” Immanuel Kant, after a short pause, said: “He stopped because he put the light there.”
The explanations given by Hobbes and Bentham are quite straightforward. Hobbes implied I was acting out of self-interest; in his writings, he claims that a person has duties only to himself or herself. Bentham attributed my stopping at the light to altruism or compassion for others. Moral duties or obligations arise, according to Bentham, from the sympathy that people feel toward others.
Kant’s reply takes a bit more explanation. According to Kant, a person imagines
different scenarios and chooses among them. As a driver, I imagine the intersection of Viers Mill and 355 with no arterial whatsoever—neither stop sign nor stop light. Drivers would often have to wait in long lines to try to make it through the intersection, and long delays would be likely. Then when they approach the intersection, drivers would have to jockey their way through and run an increased risk of accident—with injury and property damage a greater possibility. Anxiety would run high in this scenario. Then I imagine a second scenario: a traffic light is in place that allows traffic through the intersection in platoons. Drivers wait for their line of traffic to go through, and the danger and anxiety levels are greatly reduced.
Kant claims that when I see the good reasons for putting a traffic light at the intersection, I am in effect placing the light there—that is, consenting to the presence of the light. Because I have given my consent, I would be inconsistent if I failed to abide by the regulations I have chosen in consenting to the light.
According to Kant, I have chosen between different worlds—in this case, the small world of the complex intersection at Viers Mill and 355. This choice stands in contrast to the choices that Hobbes and Bentham describe. When the inclination of self-interest or the feeling of sympathy is the grounds for action, people choose actions rather than worlds. When people imagine possible worlds and choose among them, they are exercising a capacity for reason and not mere inclination or feeling.
The third round of the Rawls Game is meant to illustrate Kant’s account of moral obligation. While fair-mindedness is the motive behind choices when the cards are face down, self-interest and altruism are also present in Kant’s account. I may very well choose to put the light at the intersection because I want to avoid any injury to myself—which is a motive of self-interest. Similarly, I could choose to put the light there because I feel sympathy for others and want to avoid injuring other people. Altruism or sympathy is also required to turn the cards face down in the first place.
Basic rights are created, according to Kant and Rawls, by a hypothetical unanimous vote from a cards-down point of view. When in the course of history persecutions and inquisitions in the name of religion became insufferable, a right to religious liberty was created. When slavery became oppressive, a right not to be enslaved was created. The image of voting from the impartial perspective of turning the cards face down is a metaphor to explain the fair-minded decisions to allow religious freedom and to prohibit slavery.
I asked Ronald Green in correspondence whether he thought of the cards-down perspective as a religious perspective. He replied: “Yes, the best, not the worst, of religion.”
I believe this game resonated with me in part because turning the cards down—or adopting a fair-minded point of view—is precisely the perspective we were being trained to adopt in the Catholic seminary (where I spent ten years before I left just two years prior to ordination as a priest). This perspective calls for imaginatively and vividly placing oneself in the position of those who are least well off—the marginalized or the vulnerable.
In many Western religions, the religious perspective involves a covenant. People out of a sense of justice or fairness enter into an agreement. A drawback with the fair-minded perspective in the Catholic setting as I encountered it was that only a few people were viewed as capable of fair-mindedness—or what was referred to as “godliness” or “holiness.” These few allegedly fair-minded individuals were then selected to be ordained as priests. The inscription “Many are called, but few are chosen” appeared in a prominent place and was repeated often in our seminary.
If the Rawls Game were played according to the tradition of “official” Roman Catholicism, the cards would be distributed to only a few individuals—and each of these individuals would be male. These males would determine what is fair and just for the rest of the people. This emphasis on the few as the voice of conscience, I came to realize, was a serious drawback. The persecutions, crusades, and genocides were related to the question of who can and who cannot enter a covenant. These practices reflect the worst of religion.
The loss of trust in the clergy may be traced to the clergy’s lack of accountability. The clergy members were selected by the previous generation of clergy, so the few in the previous generation selected the few who would lead in the next generation. This arrangement made the leaders unaccountable to the people at large. The people were required to accept a noble lie, the gist of which was that those chosen for the clergy had been born with a sense of fair-mindedness. This deception fostered a non-transparency that contributed to the eventual demise of the clergy as trustworthy political advisers during the late Middle Ages.
Lessons borne of such historical difficulties—encapsulated by the efforts of people in various human and civil rights movements—have led many to shift away from the view that only the few are capable of fair-mindedness. The view that the many are capable of fair-mindedness has come to the fore in recent centuries. When Canon Michael Hamilton commented that the many—and not just the few—have a conscience, he was reflecting this shift. Coming from a familiarity with the “best, as well as the worst” of religion, he was quick to reject the suggestion that any small group—IACUC committee, regulatory agency, or the like—is the conscience of a larger group.
When only the few are said to be capable of fair-mindedness, these few are prone to “subdue and dominate” nature—as well as other human beings. No duties are owed to animals in a religious tradition that advocates an attitude of subdue and dominate. The domination is reinforced in this framework by the belief perpetuated by the few that humans have immortal souls but animals do not.
I came to accept the view that each person has a conscience and is capable of turning down the cards and expressing judgments on the rightness or wrongness of a practice. The more informed a person, the more reasonable and free is his or her judgment concerning the fairness of a practice. “Con-science” in its Latin root means “knowledge with.” This I interpret as “knowledge with other people.” It is knowledge that people share with each other when they adopt a fair-minded perspective.
I have also observed that in the modern era scientists came to replace the clergy as advisers to policymakers. Science enjoyed a wave of acceptance by the public during the early period of industrialization; however, since applied science has generated many environmental problems and contributed to the creation of weapons of mass destruction many people have become skeptical of science and its applications.
Now you may very well be asking—as I asked myself—whether this notion of turning the cards face down and obtaining a unanimous vote isn’t simply nonsense. Rawls himself responded to this question in his Theory of Justice. Rawls maintained that we do, in fact, take the perspective seriously. I once told a former legislator about the cards-down perspective—when he asked about this “John Rawls fellow”—and he quickly described the cards-down viewpoint as “a statesman’s point of view.” Rawls calls the cards-down perspective a hypothetical perspective that we use to explain where rights come from. I prefer to call it a metaphorical perspective that helps us to make some sense of our world—as do the images of poets, songwriters, and novelists. In this case, the cards-down metaphor helps us make sense of how we attempt to create fairness in the face or wake of injustice. Such efforts to achiever fair treatment provide meaning for the lives of many people in many settings.
I suggest that people can adopt the cards-down perspective on behalf of those who are unable to speak for themselves. Future human generations, for example, can have their interests in an unpolluted environment represented by those who adopt a cards-down point of view and negotiate the contract. The negotiators of the contract can balance competing goods and values and decide policies according to the values they assign to the competing goods. Future generations will evaluate the success of the present generation in doing so.
If future generations can be given a voice from the cards-down perspective, so too can animals. Since animals are unable to represent their own interests in the face of human control over their habitats and lives, animals may be said to be voiceless and vulnerable in these matters. A contract negotiated from a fair-minded perspective can assign direct duties that humans owe to animals. The contract negotiated from the cards-down perspective on behalf of animals, then, may be said to give a voice to the voiceless. As such, it may be called a care or welfare contract.
Humans are capable of balancing competing values and taking into account the perspective of the least well off. Since direct duties to animals may be negotiated from the cards-down perspective, the welfare of animals depends on the conscientious, informed choices of the negotiators. Appropriate data and information pertinent to the informing of choices must be available to the negotiators of the welfare contract.
Activism may become extreme. When the expressions “morally primitive” and “morally advanced” are used in the debate, the language itself reflects extremes of division and polarization. A moral certainty creeps in when people identify with one or another of these categories.
The balancing of competing values is reflected in another type of language. “Conscientious individuals” replaces the language of “primitive” and “advanced” when people attempt to understand and balance the values that conflict in a particular setting. When people make a concerted, sincere effort to express and balance the conflicting values, they make their choices and live with the uncertainty that accompanies moral choice. Rather than morally primitive or morally advanced, choices of this sort may be described as morally mature.
The wisdom that comes from “the best of religion” may also find a place in the fair-minded approach. When the voice of the many, and not just the few, is expressed within religious frameworks, the language of “stewardship of nature” rather than domination of nature is heard. Stewardship emphasizes caring relationships with the world and all that is within the world. In this view of religion, each person has the light of conscience within. No small group of a few individuals can claim special insights into what is right, fair, and just. Every viewpoint and every voice counts, including the voice given to the voiceless by fair-minded negotiators of the care or welfare contract.
The duties to animals do not arise from a feeling of sympathy, altruism, or kindness alone. They result rather from the unanimous consent of fair-minded negotiators of the welfare contract. The cards should be turned down to negotiate the welfare contract for animals, since the animals can suffer. Because humans themselves can suffer, they can sympathize with the suffering of animals and adopt the fair-minded or cards-down perspective on behalf of animals.
Practices that each negotiator places out of bounds from this perspective are practices that must be avoided as a matter of duty. Because the individual has chosen the rules or terms of the contract, the individual is bound by the rules.
I have presented a Kantian-Rawlsian argument in regard to duties to animals. Tom Regan gives another Kantian argument in his claim that animals used in research, testing, hunting, and agriculture are used as a means to the ends of humans. He proposes that the animal is a subject of a life and possesses inherent value; for these reasons, the use of animals for human ends is wrong. Regan writes:
All have inherent value, all possess it equally, and all have an equal right to
be treated with respect, to be treated in ways that do not reduce them
to the status of things, as if they existed as resources for others. My
value as an individual is independent of my usefulness to you. Yours is
not dependent on your usefulness to me. For either of us to treat the
other in ways that fail to show respect for the other’s independent
value is to act immorally, to violate the individual’s rights.
Regan echoes Jean-Paul Sartre’s version of what these authors purport to be Kant’s categorical imperative—namely, never treat another as a means but always as an end in itself. Kant’s version was more qualified than Regan’s or Sartre’s version. Kant wrote: “Never treat another as a means only, but always as an end in itself.”
At first glance, the difference seems quite trivial; on closer examination, however, the difference is critical. If the Kantian directive is never to use another as a means to our own ends, we could not perform most of the actions we do each day. At the grocery store, I use the clerk at the checkout counter as a means to my end of purchasing the groceries. At school, a student uses the teacher as a means to passing a course and eventually graduating. We regularly use people.
Kant’s addition of the word “only” is a highly significant qualification. If the clerk or teacher receives no compensation for his or her work, is forced to do the work and regarded merely as the property of others, the clerk or teacher is enslaved. Under these conditions, I would use the clerk or teacher as a means only to achieve my ends. On the other hand, when they are paid and consent to their roles, it is still true that I use them as a means to my ends. However, if they have consented and receive adequate compensation, I am also treating them as ends in themselves.
While Regan is correct in his claim that our value is independent of our usefulness to others, we regularly use others and are used by others. We can have value, to be sure, and still be useful to others. The important question is not whether we are used, but whether we are used exclusively as a means to another person’s ends. To be used exclusively as a means is to be abused by others.
The question of whether people are treated as means only or are also treated as ends in themselves may be addressed by the contract negotiations. If the parties unanimously agree with the cards face down that slavery, for example, should be outlawed, they create a right not to be enslaved. If they are enslaved, however, their right not to be enslaved is violated. If adequate compensation and consent to work for that compensation place a person outside the category of slave, that person’s right is not violated when he or she performs the task—of clerk or teacher. If persons are enslaved, they are treated as means only—that is, they are abused. If they are not enslaved, they are treated as ends in themselves.
If a person or an animal has a right, another has a duty to respect the right. Rights are created when people finally say about a practice “enough is enough” and, in effect, unanimously vote the practice out with the cards turned face down. When rights are created by negotiations, people have direct duties to respect those rights.
Tom Regan’s argument that a full set of direct duties are owed to animals turns on his claim that humans use animals as means. Regan’s interpretation of Kant allows no room for negotiations of rights. Yet the creation of rights in the Rawlsian interpretation of Kant that I have presented is a product of negotiation.
The results of the negotiation of the welfare contract for animals, I suggest, reflect a very different list of rights than Regan grants for animals. Rather than the full set of rights granted to humans, only some rights would be granted to animals. Those who are capable of adopting a fair-minded point of view—namely, humans—would grant a set of rights that would include the considerations concerning socialization, pain, food and water, and death with minimal or no pain.
The terms negotiated in the care or welfare contract for animals are likely to include protecting the animals’ interests in socialization, access to food and water, and minimal pain—including death with minimal or no pain. Interests or rights to life, health, liberty, and property—that is, the full set of rights granted to humans in many societies—could be excluded by reasonable negotiators if certain conditions are met.
These conditions include good faith efforts to refine animal experiments to minimize pain, reduce the number of animals used and the incidence of redundant experiments, and replace animals with alternative testing methods whenever possible.
These measures on behalf of animals do not result from mere kindness. While sympathy or kindness may prompt the adoption of a fair-minded perspective, the duty to adhere to the measures follows from unanimous consent to the measures given when the cards are face down. The unanimous consent is given not only by researchers and those involved in medical research and product testing, but also by the members of the public who try to balance the competing goods of community health, consumer protection, and respect for life.
The moral framework that I have been drawn to in my search may be described as a quest for fairness. It acknowledges that problems are simply part of the human condition, and it invites an imaginative approach to managing these problems. In regard to the use of laboratory animals for medical and product testing, the fair-minded approach could prompt those who engage in research and testing to several courses of action:
• Publicize the benefits of animal research—after proprietary issues are resolved.
• Critically evaluate the strength of the analogy between animal and human systems for testing and experimentation.
• Stay in the forefront of changing to cell cultures or other methods that do not involve live animals.
• Stay alert for and report practices regarding lab animals that are difficult or impossible to justify from a cards-down (fair-minded) perspective.
• Know what the larger community associates with the treatment of lab animals. Many in the larger community think critically and avoid the stereotyping of lab animal treatment.
• Keep up-to-date with the Animal Welfare Act.
• Read and adhere to the guidelines from ILAR.
• Follow the work of a groups such as SCAW (Scientists Center for Animal Welfare), ILAR (Institute for Laboratory Animal Research) that balance benefits to society with the costs to the animals themselves as well as promoting best practices in the use of laboratory animals.
When these and similar expressions of fair-mindedness are given, those involved in research and testing show good will in their attempts to balance conflicting goods and to preserve the values that come into conflict in the lab setting. Among the conflicting goods to be balanced are community health in research, consumer protection in testing, and the refine-reduce-replace goals in the use of animals. Good will generates trust among the people. Activism emerges when the efforts to balance values tip too far in the direction of Hobbes’ self-interest or Bentham’s altruism. Adhering to the fair-minded regulations may serve in some degree to restore public trust in the applied sciences.
Jeremy Bentham, Introduction to Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), New York: Hafner Press, 1948.
Ronald Green, “The Rawls Game,” Teaching Philosophy, 9:1 March 1986, pp. 51-60.
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651), Penguin Classics, 1985.
Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1949.
John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971, p. 587.
Tom Regan, “The Case for Animal Rights,” in PETER SINGER (ed.), In Defense of Animals
New York: Basil Blackwell, 1985, pp. 13-26.
Jean-Paul Sartre, “Existentialism Is a Humanism,” (1946), which may be found at