sábado, 1 de outubro de 2011


This brief paper analyzes some bioethical aspects of the involvement of nonhuman animals in research – the so called animal experimentation.

The Facts

The facts about animal life and the involvement of animals in animal experimentation are, generally:
* the similarities between nonhumans and human animals in terms of physiological and psychological characteristics,
* the possible or actual pain or suffering by-produced by catering and manipulating animals in experiments
* imprisonment
* the possible or actual pain or suffering during experiments
* the premature death, intentional killing of animals,
* the benefits we can possibly or actually provide for other animals (a better life; fewer premature deaths)
* the benefits we can possibly or actually provide human beings (better life; longer life):
                  - knowledge
                  - medicines
                  - technologies
* the long tradition of animal experimentation meaning paradigmatic convenience and psychological safety in biological and medical sciences.

Ethical Evaluation

Applying the teleological approach on these facts, Peter Singer has concluded that the majority the present animal experimentation is wrong;

Singer thinks it is generally wrong because, in balance, it causes more harm than benefits for all affected beings impartially considered.

But Carl Cohen has concluded that it is right, exactly because it produced and produces more benefits than harm.

Applying the deontological approach, Tom Regan has concluded animal experimentation is wrong because it violates basic rights of moral patients.

But Jan Naverson thinks exactly the opposite, it is right because the concepts of rights do not apply to non rational beings.

Critical Ethical Evaluation

* Regan's moral test:
Rights and the case with vulnerable and weak human beings –
mentally disabled
(non human animals have the same physiological and psychological aspects as vulnerable humans)

* Singer’s moral test:
- the acceptance to use a mentally disabled newborn human orphan in human experimentation: if conscientious researchers do not accept to use this baby then, the same specific research is not right with sentient nonhuman animals either.
(very few experiments would be done, if so; any harmful experiments would be done)

An aspect under-considerated: THE HARM OF THE DEATH

* Based-preferenceTheory of the disvalue of death:
- “the disvalue of death is a function of the insatisfaction of present and future preferences”

* Based-opportunity Theory of the disvalue of death:
- “the disvalue of death is a function of the loss of future goods/benefits and opportunities”


 If we accept human rights in the wide sense of the expression, I mean, specially for protecting vulnerable human beings, then, we should conclude that the arguments against animal experimentation are stronger than the arguments for.

If we accept the opportunity-based theory of the value of life (and not the preference-based theory), we should conclude that the rights-based argument against animal experimentation is stronger than the consequence-based one.

Then, we ought to replace the (harmful) animal experimentation with (therapeutic) research with subjects of research: to follow the same guidelines we use for vulnerable human beings as subjects of research.

This is what ethical analysis seems to demand when we want to use nonhuman animals in research.


There is something important to be said about Cohen's belief, widespread among scientists, that without animal experimentation, medical advances would not have been possible, and will not be possible in the future. First of all, this is a factual hypothesis, and might be false. As writes David DeGrazia, "just because you gave me a metro ticket does not mean I needed it to get there. Maybe I could go on foot or by bus.
Some critics say that we have made progress in spite of the biomedical animal experimentation, not because of it. Lafollete Hugh and Niall Shanks (1986) have evaluated that the confidence in animal models has delayed the development of an effective polio vaccine for many years.

BONELLA, A. E. “Animais em Laboratório e a Lei Arouca”. In: Scientiae Studia, São Paulo, v. 07, n. 3, 2009. (acessível em http://www.scielo.br/pdf/ss/v7n3/v7n3a08.pdf)
DeGRAZIA, David. Animal Rights. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002.
COHEN, C. “Os animais têm direitos¿”. In: GALVÃO 2010, cap. 3.
GALVÃO, Pedro. Os animais têm direitos¿ Argumentos e Perspectivas. Lisboa, Dinalivro, 2010.
LAFOLLETE, H. & SHANKS, N. Causal Disanalogy II: the empirical evidence. In: Brute Science: Dilemmas of Animal Experimentation. London, Routledge, 1996.
RACHELS, J. “Darwin, espécie e moralidade”. In: GALVÃO 2010, cap. 7.
REGAN, T. Jaulas Vazias: encarando o desafio dos direitos animais. Porto Alegre, Lugano, 2006.
_______. “Direitos dos Animais”. In: GALVÃO 2010, cap. 2
_______. “Objeções e respostas”. In: GALVÃO 2010, cap. 5.
SINGER, “Todos os animais são iguais”. In: GALVÃO 2010, cap. 1.
______. Ética Prática. São Paulo, Martins Fontes, 2002.
______. Animal Liberation. 1990. New York, Random House, 1990.
NUFFIELD COUNSIL ON BIOETHICS. The ethics of research involving animals. Londres, 2005. (acessível em <www.nuffieldbioethics.org/animal-research>)
NAVERSON, J. “Animais e moralidade”. In: GALVÃO 2010, cap. 4.

Alcino Eduardo Bonella
Federal University of Uberlândia
National Counsil of Technological and Scientific Development

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