While my group decided to go ahead and allow the ointment to be tested on dogs, I disagreed. There are two main reasons I objected:
First, it seems unethical--of course, tentatively using the term ‘ethical’-- to threaten the lives of members of one species (in this case, dogs) in order to potentially benefit the lives another species (humans).
Second is the issue of consent. Because dogs are not able to voluntarily consent to be subjected to discomfort, pain, and possibly death, in order to (potentially) benefit humans, they should not be used in the study.
Those who are pro-animal research generally base their feelings off of an assumption of human superiority. Because of this assumption, the cost to the ‘lesser’ creatures doesn’t outweigh the benefits to us. Generally it is thought that humans are superior because we have the ability to reason and use language. As I said in class, I don’t think this fact makes it more ethical for us to dispose of other living creatures as we see fit. Rather, I think it makes us more responsible to act in an ethical way and protect the lives of other ‘subordinate’ creatures that cannot speak out and defend themselves.
I’d like to respond to the point made in a previous post about how animals are “just animals” and if we kill an animal we can “just get a new one and problem solved”. In order to put this in perspective, imagine the following scenario: Scientists want to conduct the same study with the same ointment. But instead of using dogs, they choose babies in orphanages, because, well, humans can always give birth to more children (we are grossly overpopulated after all) and clearly they are “just” babies. Now imagine scientists claim “well, some babies might die from the study, but it will be a minimal number we assure you”. I find it hard to believe anyone would be willing to comply with the idea that this study would be ethical.
Let’s combine this example with the concept of some sort of innate human superiority. It is not as if these infants can reason, speak, or contribute to society in any real way. In fact, they are doing nothing but wasting tax dollars; they are, in effect, a drain on society as a whole. Given this, would those in favor of animal research be inclined to say that since they lack these skills, as animals do, they should be used to benefit those living creatures that can reason, speak, and contribute? I think not.
One final point, since my post it getting rather long. I am more than willing to admit that medical progress has been made using animals in research (i.e. insulin). I cannot say if I think the same progress would have been made without the use of animals, but that is not the current issue. The issue is whether or not benefit to a species that is able to reason, speak, and ‘make progress’ can take precedence over the cost to a species that cannot do so. As should be obvious by now, I am strongly inclined to say no.