Reading 6: The Moral Status of Animals - Monamy.
One of the points discussed in this reading is that animals should be given the same amount of consideration as humans because they were sentient. That is, they are able to experience both pleasure and pain. Going on this rationale, does this mean that if an animal was not able to experience pain, using them for testing purposes would be justified? Animals that were to be used for testing could be administered some form of anaesthetic so that they could not feel any pain, but for me that idea sounds absurd. I feel that this idea of sentience cannot provide justification for animal testing.
Another idea that is put forward in this reading is that because animals are conscious of themselves, we should not hurt them for the purposes of testing. An experiment conducted by Derek Denton on chimpanzees proved that they could recognise their own reflection and hence are aware of themselves. Although this may prove true for chimpanzees - what of other animals? Has this type of experiment been conducted on other species? How are we to know that rats for example, which is an animal commonly used for laboratory testing, are not aware of themselves? I think that the idea of self-consciousness as a justification for not hurting animals is although admirable, it needs to be made consistent. This type of experiment should be used with all animals used for testing but the challenge will be measuring the results. It may be difficult to gauge whether some animals will be as easily measured than chimpanzees.
This idea is also shared by Aldo Leopold who extends it to include moral consideration for the land and environment. Once again, we do not know whether or not trees for example, are conscious of themselves. To date, there are no methods available to measure this so based on this; we should not be cutting down trees for any reason.
It was enlightening to read the viewpoints put forward by the many theorists on animal rights.