your 1st order

15off is your discount code
Order now
← Abortion Should Be Illegal

Buy custom Utilitarianism and the Failure of Animal Testing essay


            Several researchers, including Gruen (2011), have argued that ethics is not an appropriate system that is entirely noble in theory but not good in practice. Deontological approaches were identified, including rights approaches to ethics, as not practical in the real world scenario. Utilitarianism does not commence with rules but with goals, and therefore, it has significant normative specificity. This is because actions are proscribed or prescribed on the degree to which they further define goals. According to Mitchell (2010), utilitarianism is not linked to complexities required in making deontological moral theories, including rights theory, which is applicable in real moral scenarios. Traditional utilitarian approach considers a certain action as a right if it produces as much or more of an increase in happiness of all affected by it. These views about the nature of rights theory have profound effects on the rights of animals. In this regard, this paper discusses utilitarian approach and failure of animal testing.


            Utilitarianism deploys aggregation of benefits and harms in order to determine the right course of action. This might appear quite appealing because it reduces moral choices to simple arithmetic (Wolff, 2006). Nevertheless, how does an individual quantify benefits and harms, particularly in dealing with animal research? For instance, development of cardiovascular bypass integrated innumerable animal experiments, which is an enormous harm. However, it eventually resulted in success of open-heart surgery, which is an enormous benefit. The utilitarian calculation or argument might conclude that this was a justifiable use of animals.

            By claiming that bettering condition of animals, for example, by curing their diseases, could justify an experiment, Gruen (2011), takes an absolutist approach to animals and their rights. In addition, Gruen (2011), also acknowledges that there are variations between sentient species. Overall, humans are at extreme end of the spectrum of species yet they have a sophisticated language skills, an awareness of others, self-awareness and the ability to plan. As a result, they might have preference over other species. Just like humans, nonhuman primates might have preference over rodents.

            On the other hand, Mitchell (2010), has argued that animals also have rights. The life of an animal has intrinsic value to that animal, and bestows moral status to those individuals. Human beings have no mandate to exploit other animals regardless of the possible gains to human beings. Mitchell (2010), stated that the best we can do with regard to animals is not to use them for testing. Other philosophers have also fought in favor of animals on the grounds of contractarianism and reverence for life concepts. Though such concepts seem to have not received proper attention from the researchers.

Human Rights, Animals Rights

            The debate concerning the ethics experiments involving animals, resides on the issue of moral association between nonhumans and humans (Wolff, 2006). Over the centuries, Western philosophers have viewed humans from different perspective to the rest of the animal kingdom. For instance, Aristotle believed that there was a hierarchy of animals, with human beings at the top of it. According to Aristotle, humans were at the top due to ability to reason and rational thinking. Even within humans, there is hierarchy, with men being considered more rational than women. Descartes, on the other hand, considered nonhumans to be insentient machines. As a result, they could not feel pain. Because of this reason, they could be exploited ruthlessly. Other philosophers, such as Kant, acknowledged that animals could suffer, though they lack moral status. According to Wolff (2006), Jeremy Bentham, who lived in the 18th century, predicted that the time when the animals might acquire those rights that could have been withheld from them.  

            The way we treat nonhuman creatures, especially animals, indicates a distinction we make between humans, whom we consider as individuals, and nonhumans, whom we consider as things. Though one might consider some animals as having certain special features, we consider all those features to be dependent and tradable based on the judgment that the sacrifice of the features will benefit us. According to Mitchell (2010), this trade is often permissible even when the animal interest is significant and the human interest is admittedly unimportant. The use of animals for the purposes of entertainment such as rodeos or circuses reflects such scenarios where human interest seems to be more significant than animal interest. It is known that animals are neither persons under the law nor in moral theory. They are property, which implies that they exist solely as means to human disposure. According to Mitchell (2010), they have interests, which cannot be sacrificed, even when the benefit to be gained by human is mere amusement at the cost of great pain to the animal.

            On the other hand, persons refer to precisely those beings, such as corporations, having interest, which can be traded for consequential reasons alone. An example of person is de jure person, which implies that their personhood exists solely because they result from creation of the legal system. However, every person has at least some interests, though not essentially similar interests, which are safeguarded by both law and moral theory. According to Gruen (2011), these interests are safeguarded even if trading them will cause consequences that deemed to be desirables. 

            It is thought to believe that the theory of animal rights seeks to shift at least certain nonhuman to human side. The two reasons can support this movement. The first reason is that those supporting animal exploitation argue that nonhuman is qualitatively different from humans. As a result, animals can be classified as nonhumans (Gruen, 2011). However, animal rights proponents have argued that there is no such difference since some nonhumans will be in possession of the supposedly exclusive characteristic. It is not enough to argue that the difference of species alone is morally justified; after all, to depend on species alone as morally justified is to presume a difference that requires to be proved by individuals holding such views. Secondly, it is apparent some animals have certain characteristics that we often link to personhood. For instance, Gruen (2011), argues that empirical and theoretical considerations show that some animals possess desires, memory, intention, self-consciousness and sense of future. Attribution of several of these mental conditions shows that it is sensibly perfect to consider certain animals as psychological individuals faring well or ill during the course of their life. Since animals have desires, and the capacity to act in pursuit of their goals, they might also be considered to have preference autonomy, which is a significant characteristic for attribution of rights.

            A popular misconception is that animal activists argue that animals be granted similar rights as human beings. (Wolff, 2006). In addition, the criticism itself shows a primary confusion concerning the tights theory. In several ways, the animal rights theory is concerned about the inclusion of nonhumans on the humans. This inclusion should be differentiated from the matter of the scope of any rights that animals might have once we move them from the nonhuman side to human side. However, there is one sense that considering animals as persons is extremely different from considering addition humans within that class. If we acknowledge that an individual is not a “thing”, the protection we have given that individual is at the same time significant, but also the bare minimum to differentiate that individual from being a thing. Saying that an animal is included in the category of persons says nothing concerning the scope of the tights the animals might have other than saying that we will safeguard the rights of that animal in order to acquire personhood status (Gruen, 2011).

            Certain counterarguments hinge on whether animals are moral beings. Mitchell (2010), concluded that only autonomous beings have rights. As a result, animals fail to meet the requirements specified for being full members of moral community, and therefore, they fail to qualify for rights. From the same perspective, we need to distinguish non-moral from moral beings. Moral beings exist within a web of obligations and reciprocal rights created by their own dialogue. On the contrary, non-moral beings exist outside that web. Mitchell (2010), pointed out that it is both cruel and senseless to try binding non-moral beings into the web. Despite animals having no rights, we have duties and obligations to them. Mitchell (2010), also draws a division line between wild animals and those that man has made dependent on him. Certain form of contractualism provides us with the most appropriate approach to moral theory. From the moral theory discussed below, animals will be denied moral standings. Part of the problems experienced, when invoking the moral theory in solving ethical problems of animal experimentation, is the propensity to use address it using a single theoretical construct, be it contractualism  or utilitarianism, which is a rights-based, or any other. In the place of both contractualism and utilitarianism, an approach similar to that deployed in resolving ethical dilemmas in clinical practice might be helpful.

Moral Theory

            In order to assess claims concerning the normative indeterminacy of the rights theory,  two distinct components or levels of moral theory will be discussed in this paper. Comparative normative guidance of the deontological and utilitarian approaches in relation to every component will also be explored (Mitchell, 2010). The first level or component of moral theory is what the theory preferably seeks. The second level offers a normative guidance to the personal level with regard to what they theory ideally requires.

Ideal and Micro Component of Moral Theory

            This component of moral theory requires that we ask what the theory envisages as the appropriate state, which would be attained if the theory under consideration was accepted. For animal activists, the moral theory is a theory of abolition, and not regulation of institutional exploitation. Animal activists object to the treatment of animals exclusively as means to ends. As a result, they object to the property status of animals to be bargained away provided there is some kind of human benefit involved, which allows all their interests, such as their basic interest in physical security that is a requirement to meaningful acceptance of other interests (Mitchell, 2010). This would require complete abolition of those forms of animal exploitation, which are reliant on the status of animals.

            According to this component of moral theory, animal exploitation is unjust to the animals. The rights theory is considerably clear about this component of moral theory. As the rights theory condemns the institutionalized exploitation of nonhumans, it also condemns direct participation in exploitation of animals (Mitchell, 2010). If an individual proposes the abolition of human slavery due to its unjustness, that individual would seemingly conclude that ownership by a master is violative of the rights. Likewise, an individual exploiting animals by using them for experiments or eating their meat also perpetrates suffering among animals.

            However, a difficult moral issue remains unsolved. It is not possible to avoid participating in institutionalized exploitation of animals, because almost each aspect of our lives is some way linked to institutionalized animal exploitation. As such, animal activists and rights advocate are faced with difficult decisions, for instance, as to whether to utilize drugs tested on animals.

            Utilitarian theory is different from traditional animal welfare because it considers the long-term animal liberation. The long-term goal is more progressive than the conventional Welfarist approach provided every one of us agree on how to describe the competing interest. According to Wolff (2006), utilitarian theory is the same as animal welfare since it demands that we balance the interests of human beings against the interests of animals under circumstances threatening to compromise evaluation of animal interests in any event.

Macro Component of Moral Theory

            In order to assess the claim that animal rights is unrealistic, absolutist or utopian, we must examine the macro aspects of rights theory. Finding a single instance in which the advocates of animal rights support the concept that there is any possibility of immediate action, which will lead to the immediate abolition of all institutionalized exploitation is a difficult task (Wolff, 2006). The only way that such an effort could succeed is if we were willing to rise up in violent confrontation given the large numbers of people participating in institutionalized exploitation. However, if there is sufficient numbers of people to make such scenario, the confrontation would be unnecessary, because people would be capable of effecting dramatic changes in treatment of animals via political means.

            According to Gruen (2011), nothing in the rights theory essentially precludes the animal advocate from pursuing judicial change or incremental legislative. However, it is hard to think that we can speak meaningfully of legal rights for animals only if they are considered property. In order to put the issue in the context of my earlier discussion of basic rights, only if animals are property, then their rights or those that are a requirement for the enjoyment of other non-basic rights can be sacrificed provided some benefit is found to exist. If we can kill animals for food, use them for experimentation, imprison animals in cages at zoos for amusement, or shoot them for fun, then saying that animals have rights is merely an abstract sense. According to Gruen (2011), basic rights are a requirement to enjoyment of non-basic rights. In addition, possession of non-basic in the absence of basic rights is useless.

            The opponents would respond that each movement achieves rights incrementally. For instance, Gruen (2011), cited that progress is made incrementally in social movement via continual reform. Gruen (2011), tried to compare the incremental progress made in social movement to the incremental progress made towards obliteration of exploitation of animals. This attempt failed to for the reason that no other circumstance is comparable with regard to the baseline protection afforded to nonhumans. To put the issue differently, once we have individuals who are holders of basic rights, it makes sense to talk about making incremental reforms in rights.

Animal Testing and Ethics

            According to the opponents of animal testing, pain is an inherent evil, and any action causing pain to another creature, whether human or nonhuman, is not morally allowed. With regard to Wolff (2006), who is a utilitarian, animal activists claim that the moral question concerning animals is neither whether they can reason, nor whether they can talk. A researcher who forces rats to choose between starvation and electric shocks, in order to see if they can suffer from ulcers, does so, since he or she knows that rats have a similar nervous system as that of human. Pain is inherently an evil, whether witnessed by an adult, an animal or a child. If it is not right to inflict pain on people, it is also wrong to inflict pain on nonhumans.

            In addition, it is suggested that the lives of creatures, both small and large, have value and should be respected. The right to be treated with respect does not rely on the capability to reason. Just like an insane should be treated with respect despite inability to act rationally, animals should also be treated with respect, this does not involve people exploiting animals and depriving them of their right to life. The right to treatment with respect rests on a creature being a subject of life, with certain preferences, experiences and interests. Like human beings, animals are subjects of life. 


            Painful animal testing is not morally permissible. Utilitarianism does not commence with rules but with goals, and therefore, it has significant normative specificity. Utilitarian approach might appear quite appealing because it reduces moral choices to simple arithmetic. The way people treat nonhuman creatures, especially animals, indicates a distinction they make between humans, whom we consider as individuals, and nonhumans, whom we consider as things. There are certain counterarguments that hinge on whether animals are moral beings. The macro component of moral theory requires that we ask what the theory envisages as the appropriate state, which would be attained if the theory under consideration was accepted. Finally, issue can be supported by claiming that most scientific research involving animal testing has no scientific merit, since most scientific experiments are performed out of curiosity. Animals are shocked, burned, stared and poisoned as researchers look for information that might result in human benefit.

Buy custom Utilitarianism and the Failure of Animal Testing essay

Related essays

  1. Abortion Should Be Illegal
  2. The Routine Shaving and Skin Preparation of the Surgical Site