I'm not big on animal experimentation. Even with all the "advancement" such experimentation has provided our species, I believe it has been carried out in a most unjust way. Sentient animals are created (bred) in laboratories as a means to our end. Our end may be noble(?); the eradication of sickness and disease, among so many other things. I just think that the way we are achieving these ends are unjust. In many institutions (UPEI, for example), scientists will ask a simple question to themselves (and a group of their peers) before they test on an animal. The question is: "Would I be willing to perform this test on myself if it was required?" If the answer is 'No', then the test is not carried out. Aside from the minority of instances this question is asked, there is another, much more fundamental question which man can never ask the animal to be experimented upon: "Do you wish this upon yourself?" It is the issue of consent, and I think this is why all but the most minimal experiments are fundamentally unjust. Animals never give their consent to be used as a means to our end, nor can they. In this regard, they are most vulnerable, and we take advantage (and liberty) with this fact.
I neither think that just because we may derive a benefit from testing on animals, that such a reason justifies doing so. While I have indeed, and currently undoubtedly do, derive such benefit at the cost of these animals, I seek ways to ever-minimize such inadvertent use. The truth is, we use animals in such a vast amount of ways that actual true veganism is a virtual impossibility. In regards to testing on animals, I do not think that breeding sentient animals for the sole purpose of experimenting them is actual advancement. If all human diseases were cured off the backs of these animals, I still think we trade one form of scientific advancement for a form of moral declination. I think of Robert Louis Stevenson, who "strenuously opposed experiments on proverbial guinea pigs, even though the experiments were designed to provide a cure for a disease from which he suffered" (p.255). This is admirable, although the majority of those I share society with would regard it as the highest foolishness.
Regardless, if you and I cannot agree on any moral conclusion of using animals in scientific research, we, hopefully, can agree that these animals have some sort of worth. What I find kind of strange is that these very scientists are acknowledging such worth as well. It must be said that the vast majority of those involved with using animals for research are not moral monsters, but are simply utilitarians. They are trying to maximize the 'good' in this world. Andrew Linzey writes that "there are few memorials . . . to mark the many millions of animals who have been killed or abused in order to make the lives of human beings easier or more comfortable" (p.119). But, interestingly enough, memorials for animals used in research are popping up around the globe. The one above this post in Novosibirsk, Russia, is dedicated to all the animals used in scientific research. In the statue, a mouse is knitting DNA, which they helped humans map. Another monument, in Battersea, U.K., is in remembrance of a "brown . . . mongrel terrier" [illegally] vivisected in 1902/3. This act became known as the Brown Dog affair.
Yet another monument, dedicated to the animals 'sacrificed' on the altar of science is at the University of Guelph, in Ontario. This site is unique in the fact that an annual memorial service is conducted which recognizes the impact animals have made in the lives of human beings. A plaque at the stone marker reads: "In recognition of the animals used by the University of Guelph community in support of excellence in teaching and research" (p.223-5).
But alas, as interesting as these monuments are, their very existence is a kind-of contradiction. Such people acknowledge that these creatures are sentient, and 'human-like' (in the fact that we can extrapolate their test results). If these characteristics are scientifically accepted, then it remains to be seen how such creatures can be used against their wills (non-consenting). This is the moral problem with using these kinds of animals in experiments.
In a way, the existence of monuments actually deter a moral advancement in our treatment of animals, as they teach us that, yes, animals are worthy of our gratitude and sympathy, but, in the same breath, we are justified in using them as a means solely to our ends.
This post is limited in scope, and is not intended to be a thorough treatment of the subject. It is just some thoughts I had after a fellow student directed me to the mouse monument in Novosibirsk. My point here, in its most narrow sense, is that animals are worthy of such monuments, but not because of how much we learn from experimenting on them without their consent; they are worthy of such veneration because they enrich our lies in ways that other humans cannot. Without them, we would be less human.
I truly long for the day science celebrates animals for what they are themselves, not for what benefit they can be to us; a day when the barbarity of animal experiments are completely replaced on ethical/moral grounds.
Things are indeed changing, but whether this is seen in my lifetime or not is questionable.