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Laboratory animals and the art of empathy


Consistency is the hallmark of a coherent ethical philosophy. When considering the morality of particular behaviour, one should look to identify comparable situations and test one’s approach to the former against one’s approach to the latter. The obvious comparator for animal experiments is non-consensual experiments on people. In both cases, suffering and perhaps death is knowingly caused to the victim, the intended beneficiary is someone else, and the victim does not consent. Animals suffer just as people do. As we condemn non-consensual experiments on people, we should, if we are to be consistent, condemn non-consensual experiments on animals. The alleged differences between the two practices often put forward do not stand up to scrutiny. The best guide to ethical behaviour is empathy—putting oneself in the potential victim’s shoes. Again to be consistent, we should empathise with all who may be adversely affected by our behaviour. By this yardstick, too, animal experiments fail the ethical test.

  • APC, Animal Procedures Committee
  • CMP, Coalition for Medical Progress
  • HLS, Huntingdon Life Sciences
  • RDS, Research Defence Society
  • animals
  • consent
  • consistency
  • empathy
  • suffering

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