A2 - Psychology - Ethical issues with non-human animals

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Ethical issues with non-human animals

Value of non-human animals

Although the vast majority of investigations in psychology involve the sudy of humans, there are several reasons why psychologists ma choose to carry out research usin non-human animals.

  • Non-human animals may be sudied simply because they are fascinating to study in their own right and such research may ultimately benefit non-human animals.
  • Animals ofer the opportunity for greater control and objectivity in research procedures.
  • Human beings and non-human animals have sufficient of their physiology and evolutionary pas in common to justify conclusions drawn from the one being applied to the other. Although it can be argued animals tested under stressful conditions ma provide very little useful information.

Wider benefits to society  The bottom line is that we use animals when research procedures would not be possible with human beings. Animals are used because they 'cost' less and the benefis of such research outweigh the costs to te animals.

Moral Justification

The question remains as to whether 'science at any cost' is justifiable.

Sentient beings  Do animals experience ain and emotions, i.e. are they sentient? There is evidence that tey respond to pain but this ma not be the same as conscious awareness. There is evidence that animals other than primates have self-awareness and are therefore sentient. In fact, in December 2009 the Treat of Lisbon, which governs the European Union, declared that 'all animals are sentient' so it appears that the arguement is resolved.

A different line of arguement, in relation to sentience, is that some humans lack sentience, such as brain-damaged individuals or infants, but we would not use them in research without consent. The conclusion must be tat lack of sentience does not provide moral justification for the use of animals.

Speciesism Peter Singer (1975) argued that discrimination on the basis of membership of a species is no different from racial or gender discrimination and thus suggested that the use of animals is an example of 'speciesism', similar to racism or sexism. However, Jeffery Gray (1991) argues that we have a special duty of care to humans, and terefore speciesism is not equivalent to, for example, racism.

Animal rights Singers view is a utilitarian one, i.e. whatever produces the greaer good for the greaer number of individuals is ethically accpetable. This means that, if animal research can alleviate pain and suffering for a large number of people, it is justifiable. Tom Regan (1984), however, argued that there are no circumstances under which animal research is acceptable (an absolutist position). Regan claimed that animals have a rigt t be treaed with respect and should never be used in research.

The 'anaimal rights' arguement can be challenged by examining the concept of rights- having rights is dependent on having responsibilities in society…

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