Article: Laboratory animals and the art of empathy
Author: David Thomas
Journal of Medical Ethics, (May, 2005), pp. 197-202
In his paper, Laboratory animals and the art of empathy, David Thomas presents his case against animal experimentation. According to Thomas, the obvious comparator with animal experiments is non-consensual experiments on people and if the latter is considered unethical, so should be the former. He proposes that consistency is the hallmark of coherent ethical philosophy and at the same time admits that nothing can be proved or established in ethics, with the result that what we are left to operate with are people’s feelings i.e. it is not possible to demonstrate something as morally wrong and it can only be hoped that most people feel strongly against it.
Thomas makes three claims in his paper:
1. that we should empathise with all creatures who can feel pain and suffer,
2. that we should be consistent in condemning things based upon a similar degree of suffering involved and so treat like cases alike, and
3. that we should take consent seriously, and, where the possibility of consent is absent, take seriously the notion of the best interests of the creature involved.
Thomas concludes his paper with “we should look at things from the perspective of the victim, human or animal, not that of the would be exploiter. By this yardstick, animal experiments are as immoral as non-consensual experiments on people. In each case, the degree of immorality is in direct proportion to the degree of suffering caused—experiments causing severe suffering are more immoral than those causing only mild, transient suffering. Crucially, however, an experiment causing severe suffering to an animal is as immoral as one causing severe suffering to a person.”