argument top image

Is animal testing ethical?
Back to question

Animal testing is ethical if all human benefit outweighs all animal suffering

According to utilitarian ethics, the most ethical choice is the one that will produce the greatest good for the greatest number. If the findings of animal experimentation are to the greatest benefit of all humans, then we can disregard the harm inflicted on animals in the process.

The Argument

Utilitarianism is an ethical theory. It defends that we should act in ways that bring about as much happiness as possible in the world. Disvalue consists of either suffering, that is, negative experiences or frustrated preferences. Positive value consists of either happiness, that is, positive experiences or positive preferences. We should try to maximize the aggregate sum of positive values minus disvalue.[1] In the case of animal testing, disvalue is the animal suffering, whereas positive value is the human benefit. The human benefit may include finding new treatments for diseases or expanding scientific knowledge. The use of animals in experiments is acceptable if the value their exploitation leads to is greater than the harm it causes.[2]

Counter arguments

According to Peter Singer (a utilitarian philosopher), the morally appropriate action is the one that will maximize the interests of those affected. Singer argues that it is necessary to weigh any adverse effect on animals’ interests from human actions in assessing the consequences of our actions. Other utilitarianists who think otherwise have failed to do this because of species bias (speciesism).[2] Singer suggests that the only way to justify animal testing is to maintain that species differences alone justify the harm inflicted on animals. However, this is equal to saying that differences in race or sex alone justify differential treatment among humans.[3] Overall, Singer’s utilitarian theory diverges from the classic utilitarian theory. From Singer’s perspective, utilitarianism considers animal testing (and the suffering that it causes in animals) unethical.



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Wednesday, 14 Oct 2020 at 02:30 UTC

Explore related arguments