UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The ethics of animal experimentation: the Littlewood report Pittalwala, Raheema


The Littlewood Committee's defence of a laissez-faire approach to animal experimentation is ethically indefensible on grounds that non-human animals are sentient, autonomous beings who express an acute interest in their continued existence and demonstrate an aversion to the frustration of their interests; as such, non-human animals can be considered moral subjects. The defenders of the rationalist tradition discount the moral significance of welfare interests and therefore cannot satisfactorily explain our moral obligations to either non-rational humanity nor to the non-human animal, who both lack ac ontra-causal free will. Though the moral significance of our prereflective capacities establishes that there can be no equality of interests between the human and the non-human animal, an animal's will to live nevertheless precludes the compromise of its vital interests in other than exceptional cases in which the interests of the beneficiaries of animal research are mortally threatened and no alternatives to the animal model exist. A modified account of the interest theory of rights which emphasizes both the elements of will and interest not only satisfactorily explains our legal obligation to nonrational humanity, but also underlines the plausibility of extending the fundamental right to life and the right not to be harmed to non-experimentation which embodies both deontological and utilitarian principles is required and offers the best means for an objective evaluation of an experimental protocol, the ethical propriety of which is often obstructed by a strong presumptive case in favour of the researcher and by certain incoherent ideological commitments of the scientific and medical research establishment which claim that science is 'value-free' and that knowledge is an absolute value.

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