(Some) animal rights philosophers say the darndest things!

Cheryl Abbate is a self-described feminist, philosopher and military officer.  She is currently a Philosophy PhD student at Marquette University and obtained her MA in Philosophy with Bernard Rollin at Colorado State University.

She was one of the animal rights activists who asked  me questions during the discussion of my talk at UW Madison. Ms. Abbate challenged my views on the topic, and we had a subsequent exchange in the comments here, but she has not been very clear where she stands.  So I thought some insight into her philosophy could be gained by looking up her Master’s thesis.

Here is the abstract:

Research on Prisoners: An alternative to animal testing.

Members of the biomedical community justify biomedical research on sentient beings by depicting the benign results which are regarded as necessary for scientific and medical progress, which in turn is absolutely necessary for maintaining human well being. Rather than take for granted that the burden of biomedical research should rest only on nonhuman animals, I will explore whether or not there is a more appropriate class of sentient beings that we should conduct our biomedical research on. I will argue, based on utilitarian principles, that if we can maximize overall happiness by conducting our research on a different group of beings, then we should opt to conduct our biomedical experiments on these beings. My central proposal is that our decision to experiment on nonhuman animals is not the best alternative available; rather, if we were to experiment on violent criminals, we would increase overall happiness. Since conducting biomedical research on this particular group of prisoners would fulfill the aims of retributive punishment, deter violent crime, and procure optimal scientific results, we would produce the maximal amount of benefits by experimenting on these transgressors. Thus when faced with the choice to experiment on either violent criminals or nonhuman animals, the morally commendable decision would be to perform research on violent criminals.

human trials

Sometimes animal rights philosophers say the darndest things!

What else does she think it would maximize our happiness? What about killing humans instead of mosquitos to achieve human population control?  Would that maximize happiness as well?  This does not seem unthinkable, as she holds human beings in very low regard.  In fact, she writes:

So, if we really want to make an interesting comparison between the harm of animal death and human death, why don’t we start by asking the question: “is it a greater harm, for the world, if humans or animals die?” In answering this question, we just might find that we should save the dog from the fire over the human being who is bound to live a life of destruction.

It is difficult for me to think of any other social movement that expresses so clearly a self-hatred for human life.  Some animal rights extremists are indeed more concerned with hating humans than loving animals.  It is not a movement based on compassion.  It is one based on hate towards fellow human beings.

This provides some basic background as to Abbate’s philosophical tendencies. If you are interested, and have the stomach for it, you can read the whole dissertation here.

This  introduction aside, the most serious charge she brings to my presentation is that I misrepresented the animal rights position. I reject the charges. Instead, it seems to me that she simply has some trouble living with the consequences of the theories.

In my talk briefly described a couple of dominant animal rights theories.  One based on a minimum level of sentience and another on the notion of being a subject-of-a-life.  I said that such theories are based on the shared postulate that we owe the same level of moral consideration to all living beings that cross a certain threshold.  I then applied the theory to different scenarios.  I noted some absurd conclusions that they lead to, such as the call to flip a coin between a mouse and a human when deciding who we will save in a burning house.

As a matter of fact, some activists in the audience willfully accepted the conclusion of the theory. I did not force anyone to raise their hand. I also noted that the same animal rights philosophers who proposed the theories are unable to bring themselves to follow this conclusion. Instead of taking the next logical step of rejecting their own theories, these philosophers came up with some vague “extreme circumstances”, or as Abbate calls them “genuine conflicts”,  where showing a preference for the human might be justified.

However, the theories do not clearly define what such “extreme circumstances” are.  A minimum requirement is to amend the theories to include a specific definition of when our moral consideration for normal humans can be higher than that of other living beings.

That such “extreme circumstances” outside the burning house scenario can be used to justify some types of animal research was already recognized by Peter Singer (1986) who challenged Tom Regan to consider:

 […] that a new and fatal virus affects both dogs and humans. Scientists believe that the only way to save the lives of any of those affected is to carry out experiments on some of them. The subjects of the experiments will die, but the knowledge gained will mean that others afflicted by the disease will live. In this situation the dogs and humans are in equal peril and the peril is not the result of coercion. If Regan thinks a dog should be thrown out of the lifeboat so that the humans in it can be saved, he cannot consistently deny that we should experiment on a diseased dog to save diseased humans. (Singer, 1986).

To be fair, when pressed, Abbate did offer  her own definition of what she means by “genuine conflict”:

“A genuine conflict, to me, is one that arises in nature and which we have not generated by using one being as a mere thing in the first place.”

So what about cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, AIDS, depression and the myriad of terrible diseases that affect us all?  Are they not natural enough for her? Apparently not. Ms. Abbate believes that many of these diseases are a direct consequence of our personal choices: “People have cancer because they eat meat” — she explained during my talk.

She is anti-vaccination as well: Since I have become vegan, I do not get vaccinations nor do I take any medication that is not natural (in fact, I haven’t been sick in the 4 years since I’ve been vegan- imagine that!).” She quickly adds But let’s say I do get into an accident and need some medical procedure that was developed from animal research. Yes, I would go ahead and accept medical treatment […]”.  In other words, she only envisions her health deteriorating in the case of an accident and not due to her choices or any other external factors.  (Are genetic risks and the environment a child is raised in accidents too?)

It is not the first time we have seen animal rights activists willing to be saved by animal research.  Indeed, there is nothing like being in a life-threatening situation to conveniently dump your moral principles at the curb.

But I digress…

Going back to my talk — I asserted that once we reject the extremes (the Cartesian and animal right positions) that all the remaining moral theories between the extremes are different versions of “animal welfarism.”  All of these are based on the notion that animals deserve our moral consideration, but not to the same degree than normal human beings. This wide range of positions allow plenty of room for disagreement.  I accepted that these theories are more complex and nuanced, and can sometimes lead to difficult moral dilemmas with no obvious solutions, but I asserted that they all allow for animal experimentation in different degrees.

The problem is that a moral universe that includes legitimate dilemmas is not one animal rights activists could tolerate living in.  That’s a proposition that crashes against the certainty of their perceived righteousness. And that is exactly our problem, as pointed out by Bertrand Russell:

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.”

In this regard, animal right extremists are no different than any other zealot.  Uncompromising and rejecting any potential resolution to moral disputes that includes  civil debate within society.  Instead, they self-apoint as legislators of the moral code for the rest of us.  And yet, they represent a minuscule, marginal faction of our society.

I am reasonably certain that I have represented the animal rights position  accurately.  One reason is that the response of respectable philosophers to my writings has not been “you misrepresent the animal rights view,” but rather that my argument constitutes “the best-argued defense of animal research I’ve yet seen” — as Peter Singer wrote to me in an email. This does not imply the arguments are correct by any means, but at the very least they must be reasonably clear and  intellectually honest.

81 responses to “(Some) animal rights philosophers say the darndest things!

  1. I’m not sure why but this website is loading incredibly slow for me.
    Is anyone else having this issue or is it a issue on my end?
    I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

  2. “It is difficult for me to think of any other social movement that expresses so clearly a self-hatred for human life. … It is not a movement based on compassion. It is one based on hate towards fellow human beings.”
    Can you provide evidence for that? I don’t see hatred here — I see a pragmatic recognition that sentient beings should not be harmed, and that when there ii is is (thought to be) necessary to inflict pain, we should consider the sentience of the animal (human or non-human).

    • Paul Watson:

      Paul Watson feels that “no human community should be larger than 20,000 people,” human populations need to be reduced radically to “fewer than one billion,” and only those who are “completely dedicated to the responsibility” of caring for the biosphere should have children, which is a “very small percentage of humans.” He likens humankind to a virus, the biosphere needs to get cured from with a “radical and invasive approach,” as from cancer.

      Hmmm.. Rick Bogle:

      And I couldn’t help but feel good, happier than in a while; giddy in fact, at the realization that I’m getting to be alive at a time when we could very well get our comeuppance. It’s hard to find anything other than marginal evidence (A huge thank you and shout-out to those of you in the margins!) that humans don’t suck.

      So, when you and I are dying of thirst, our parched skin cracking and oozing thickened blood, our eyes and eyesight long gone, you’ll be freaking out, but I’ll be smiling inside, knowing that hope for the Earth’s other beings — most yet unknown — is reborn. I’ll be hummingHallelujah with my bone-dry, cracked, bleeding vocal cords.

      Jerry Vlasak:

      “They would have us believe it’s either the mosquitoes or us. That’s just not the case. For one thing, there are way too many people on the planet…”

      And on and on….

  3. Just another response to Miguel, because his post was extremely offensive and is in need of thorough examining:

    1. Miguel writes: ‘I would like to believe that serious free thinkers (not mere dogmatists) would jump at the opportunity to have one of their opponents take them so seriously as to offer a long line of criticisms.”

    My reply: have you even looked at the message thread? I have spent the last two or three days (however long ago this post has been up) engaging in discourse with Dario.

    2. Miguel writes: “It is extremely disppointing to see Ms. Abbate play the victim card”

    —I’ve already responded to this, but I will ask again: at what point have I indicated that I feel victimized?

    3. Miguel writes “Overall, the tenor of the debate has been disappointing, much more talking head than thoughtful discourse.”

    My response: at what point have you offered one contribution to this discussion, besides jumping in to make unsupported, disparaging statements? If everyone is “so disappointing” why don’t you jump in and initiate a line of “thoughtful discourse.”

  4. Dario, Dario, you know I responded to this! I have copied and pasted my response (it is from the discussion we are currently engaging in up above!):

    A deontological, animal rights based position, i.e. a position that grants basic rights to sentient beings (including the right not be used as a means to another’s end). This is also to say that all sentient beings have inherent value, and should never be used as a mere resource, tool, instrument, and so forth. While a rights position would maintain that we have the same negative duties to all sentient beings (i.e. duties of noninterference), a fully developed account of animal rights will include a theory of positive duties to assist certain beings with whom we have formed a relationship of dependency and vulnerability. Of course, this idea of having special obligations to those you are in relationship does not only come from the animal rights position– most moral theories (besides utilitarianism) maintain that we have some sort of special obligation to family members, etc. Have you read Clare Palmer? She speaks to this issue of special duties specifically in the animal context.

    So, I have an equal duty to NOT intentionally harm both a human and a cat based on their equal rights and equal inherent value. However, when it comes to providing assistance, I have a special obligation to my cat (like I would other family members) over the human who I do not know.

    • Yes, I read it, and I asked you why I can’t use the same argument to say that I feel the rest of mankind is my extended family and thus I have a special obligation to them… Disease are killing them and we can do something. Your view is that we should not because “animals have rights”. To me that is meaningless. Animals cannot behave as full moral agents within a community of equals and cannot have the same rights as other normal humans. They have moral status. We have obligations to them. But they have no rights.

  5. Miguel, at what point have I played the victim card? These last few posts are so ridiculous (that is, the one from the “pro-science” community), I am questioning why I should waste my time continuing to respond. Examples: I have now been excused of being responsible for the fire bombing of vivisectors homes and now I have been accused of playing the victim. I would like for you and Dario to please copy and post a quote from me that can support either of these absurd claims. I have left a clear response to Dario’s initial post (even numbered to ensure clarity for you), and I have responded to everything Dario has asked me. I thought for a while there that Dario and I were engaging in respectful, and fruitful discourse (see the message thread up top), but when you resort to this sort of discourse, it really makes me question why I should bother engaging on this thread when certain individuals have found it necessary to resort to making unsubstantiated, false, demeaning claims. If you want to engage with animal ethicists (which I hope that is the point of these blogs), it would help if you offer some minimal level of respect, without accusing us of “playing the victim card” and “supporting violence” without anything to justify these claims.

    • Just for the record — Cheryl has not been playing victim. At the same time, I don’t think anyone has accused her of being connected to the violence. Certainly not me.

      In any case, I think we understand where we disagree — I see medical research as not relevantly different as a burning house scenario. She disagrees. The disagreement is that she feels it violates the rights of animals to bring them into the picture. Animal rights philosophers refer to such move as “coercion”. She is of the view that we must not interfere with other living beings. In contrast, I see medical research as the outcome that we share the same planet, where we both confront natural diseases, and we have to defend ourselves by means of scientific research that can and has saved millions of lives.

      That’s pretty much all.

      I still don’t understand what theory she invokes to save her cat over over a normal human being that is a stranger to her… she doesn’t seem interested to go there.

      But it seems all has now been said by now… We disagree. Fine. I hope she does not have the same ideas as Rick Bogle as to how one should go about resolving moral conflicts in society.

  6. Kimberly Engels

    I don’t approve of anyone firebombing anyone for any reason, and nothing I said implies that I do. I see nothing from your correspondence with Ms. Abbate that implies she would every approve of anything like this–so you bringing up firebombing is again irrelevant, and lumping her in with extremists who would resort to violence (which I am again saying is wrong, in all instances) is also unfair.

  7. A reminder that insulting remarks will not be tolerated and will be removed.

  8. I don’t trust the legal system enough to test on prisoners. If that were someone you knew and loved behind bars as a “violent” criminal- would you want testing performed on them? And where are you getting your facts on animal research burning, mutilating, and blinding animals for research? Are you aware of the multitude of laws and regulations that animal researchers must follow both domestically and internationally? Most animals used in research are rodents – rats and mice – for which pest control companies put ads on TV for extermination. I would say the majority opinion would care less about the use of a rat or mouse to save a human life (perhaps even their life) over the use of a prisoner.

    Using prisoners or criminals would not be sound science – what have they been exposed to? What preexisting conditions do they have? Are they on other medications or other compounds? How will you relieve their pain (which IS considered in animal studies)? Is humane euthanasia acceptable in the event of extreme morbidity (almost always an option in animal research)? Again – if this research on criminals was considered for someone you love, how would you feel about it? Personally I hope testing in prisoners is NEVER an option.

  9. This remark is highly derogatory to those who oppose animal research on scientific grounds, You are tarring with the same brush extremists, your fellow scientists, MD’s and heath care professionals throughout the globe who decry the ongoing use of animals, given their lack of predictive value to human health situations. Our parent group, the ADAV Society, was actually firebombed at the time that we succeeded in ending pound seizures in this jurisdicton – something told us we had struck a nerve with hard-line vivisectors at that time, but you don’t see us tarring you with that same reactionary brush….

    • A statement of fact cannot be derogatory. There were animal activists in the audience that publicly agreed that violence is an expected consequence of animal rights theory.

    • I find this very hard to believe. Do you have ANY evidence that a firebombing at the ADAV was done by “vivisectionists”?

  10. Kimberly Engels

    In spite of your disagreement with Ms. Abbate, Dario I find it extremely unprofessional that you would personally attack a graduate student and cherry pick quotes that aren’t directly relevant to the ongoing conversation you were having. And your “say the darndest things!” tactic was extremely derogatory and childish. This is not coming from an animal rights advocate or even from someone who has much at stake in the debate. This comes from someone with experience in academia, and having observed the ongoing conversation you were having on other blog posts, I can say with certainty that this attack was completely out of line, unprofessional, and shameful.

    • I am attacking her ideas, nothing else. I did not know she was a graduate student we began, nor should that matter. Her views are relevant to the debate. If you have experience in academia you should know that scholars are being firebombed at their homes by animal rights extremists (eg, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avP2eK0lBpQ ). This is not an abstract debate. These are ideas that are wrong and dangerous.

    • Ms. Engels: It is the role of the philosopher to challenge and be challenged. I would like to believe that serious free thinkers (not mere dogmatists) would jump at the opportunity to have one of their opponents take them so seriously as to offer a long line of criticisms. It is extremely disppointing to see Ms. Abbate play the victim card – she has an opportunity to engage with an influential and ideologically opposed individual who is willing to spend as much time examining her ideas as she is his – that is an extremely valuable commodity. Especially in the echo-chamber of current social media and academia.

      Overall, the tenor of the debate has been disappointing, much more talking head than thoughtful discourse.

  11. I agree 100% with Dr. Abbate on her positions. I am so glad people are willing to challenge the self-justifying dribble they spread here.

  12. NonexistentApparition

    So, just to be clear (I’m really just trying to understand) you are arguing that we may not be entitled to being able to cure some diseases?

    • Yes, we may not be entitled to cure some diseases, by animal testing. But that may also be the catalyst for finding better ways to develop cures.

      The animal research program will cost something, a certain number of dollars, say, to save a certain number of lives. Before concluding that we’ve gotten a good deal, we need to ask if we couldn’t have achieved as great or greater gains for the same money, spent some other way. There is not an a priori answer, but in a world in which we know that much serious illness is due to dietary and lifestyle choices, it seems that nutritional or lifestyle education — the same education mentioned by someone in an earlier post — might well produce greater returns than animal research.

      Additionally, many of the alleged advances in medical science using animal testing were failures and ended up being harmful to humans even though they were not harmful to animals. Vioxx was tested extensively on monkeys and proven to be beneficial to monkey hearts, but this mistake will cost Merck & Co. billions of dollars to settle over 26,600 personal-injury lawsuits. Vioxx is just one example of many failures.

      So that implies a simpler argument that testing is either morally or scientifically dubious: The animals must be a great deal like us for the results to be scientifically unproblematic, but very different from us in order to be morally unproblematic. When we want scientifically useful results, the more like us they are, the better. When we want clear consciences over causing disease, suffering, and death to innocent creatures, the more like us the animals are, the worse.

      Can’t have it both ways:-)

      • And how is it that you propose to add this all up? The idea that the benefits and costs can be neatly assigned doesn’t realistically represent scientific understanding or scientific process. Among other things, how would you like to assign the value of basic research that produces advances across fields and the foundation for discoveries that address many diseases? Take the discovery of a neurochemical like serotonin for example. Long process starting in 1930s continuing over 40 years to result in rational drug design that provided new and effective treatments for a range of disorders. Involved many different types of animals during different stages of discovery. The initial work, performed by Erspamer was aimed at understanding substances in the gut that contributed to muscle contraction (http://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v21/n1s/full/1395355a.html). The development of hormonal birth control will provide another example. The role of animals in testing the initial MRI machine another. In each case, it is clear that the benefit to humans and other animals is tremendous and will continue to accrue. Yet at the onset, those advances and the range of impact would have been difficult – or impossible – to predict accurately.

        This is exactly why it is a challenging process to seriously evaluate potential benefit and potential harm, but also why it is important to understand the basic scientific process.

  13. NonexistentEntity

    I’m sorry, but have those of you who are anti-animal research ever actually looked at the ethics protocols all researchers must adhere to in order to be allowed to work with animals? They are very strict and I’m pretty sure that the torture of animals through burning, mutilating and blinding (I’m assuming with a red hot poker) aren’t allowed…Also, how would you propose that we study genetic diseases? Can we force violent criminals that have those genetic defects to breed and use their children?

    • I’ll just repeat what I said above: When animal advocates maintain that animals matter in their own right, that amounts to acknowledging the possibility that something could be beneficial to us, but still morally dubious. There may be advantages we’re not entitled to or that it would be wrong for us to seek out and pursue. If so, there may be hard questions about what we must be prepared to give up and hard questions about our own moral responsibility.

  14. What I see is a grown man so bothered by a young woman challenging him that he has to intimidate and harass her by putting a LOT of personal information about her on his blog–far more than is necessary to address the arguments. This is a CLASSIC tactic of misogynists who wish to intimidate and silence women. I run an academic blog myself, but I have NEVER felt the need to outline a full character profile of the people representing the *arguments* I have issue with. But this isn’t about arguments, this is about the feminist threat. More than once you have mocked her feminism, which only lends weight to the real nature of this blog…your miffed male supremacy. It’s weird isn’t it? When men don’t have their way 24/7, when their subjects don’t always comply? It’s uncomfortable when your entitlement is challenged! Well, you can get away with torturing mice, but we women call bullshit. You won’t do the same to us.

    • What personal information are you talking about? All the information posted is about alternative views on the relationship between human and non-human animals.

    • Allyson J. Bennett

      Corey, the discussion is about views of animal research, including weighing its benefits, harms, and the potential outcome of the very different courses of action suggested by very different moral philosophies. What Dario posted was academic work (thesis) and writing (blog) of the philosopher, not personal information. Those writings are relevant to understanding the philosophical perspective on this issue and they are writings that she has chosen to place in the public sphere for such consideration. Choices about vaccination and her own health, is information that she contributed to the comments on this blog. Those also clarify her position on the issues that are under discussion. Not sure how you see these as a personal attack. In fact, the posts and continuing exchange of comments provides a good example of engagement in an academic exchange free of the kind of threats or intimidation that many scientists receive from some in the animal rights community. Maintaining a venue for exchange free of threats is one of the goals of this blog and the individuals involved in Speaking of Research.

      By contrast, representing the people who have disease and health problems as “lazy and reckless” (as this philosopher has done, see “most of the diseases and sicknesses scientists attempt to cure are human induced by improper eating, laziness, and recklessness; http://aphilosophersblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/dario-ringach-wrong-again-on-animal-research-2/) does seem like quite a personal attack. It is also one that misrepresents the complexity and range of human and animal health issues that are the target of scientific research,fails in understanding what we know from science, and fails in compassion. Each of those points are what is being addressed here and throughout the blog.

  15. “It is not the first time we have seen animal rights activists willing to be saved by animal research. Indeed, there is nothing like being in a life-threatening situation to conveniently dump your moral principles at the curb.”

    It is not at all inconsistent to object to animal research while utilizing benefits that have been developed from past research. We all use roadways throughout the country built by slaves. Since I assume you are against slavery, do you avoid them? I don’t think so. Should American presidents refuse to occupy the White House because it was built by slaves? Of course not! There are thousands more of examples of this simple principle. Just because someone objects to animal testing or slavery doesn’t mean they must refuse to utilize benefits derived from these past wrongs. The point is to correct the wrongs and not repeat them.

  16. But it’s true that that “many of these diseases are a direct consequence of our personal choices”. Surely you’re not questioning that?

    The diseases that cause most of the illnesses and death in the United States are chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. And these diseases are most often due to lifestyle choices, which means they are largely preventable.

    According to the American Cancer Society:

    “Tobacco use, physical inactivity, obesity, and poor nutrition are major preventable causes of cancer and other diseases in the US. According to their own figures, roughly two-thirds of all cancer deaths are preventable. The American Heart Association concurs, saying at their website that heart disease is “mostly preventable.” The American Diabetic Association publishes similar estimates and analysis. In other words, the major killer diseases are largely self-inflicted. And those estimates don’t even include less deadly afflictions like arthritis, ulcers, cataracts, or common ailments like flus, colds, and allergies, etc. – many of which are also caused or exacerbated by diet and lifestyle.

    People know all this, but still refuse to stop smoking, change their diets, lose weight, or make other beneficial lifestyle changes. Doctors suggest all these “cures” in a casual way, but they know most people will not make the recommended changes. As members of the instant-gratification generation, people would rather abuse themselves now, and call on doctors later, to prescribe the newest little purple pill or perform the latest heart-bypass procedure to treat problems that could have been prevented in the first place.

    The serious ethical question is: why should millions of innocent animals be tortured and sacrificed to find treatments for largely self-inflicted diseases in people who refuse to take responsibility for their own choices?

    Granted, some people make responsible lifestyle choices and still get disease. But if we accept scientists’ estimates that two-thirds of the major diseases are preventable, we could at least significantly reduce animal testing. The majority with self-inflicted chronic diseases must face the moral dilemma. It should not just be accepted without question that when people are irresponsible, animals can be tormented and sacrificed to save them.

    We never hear researchers or animal-testing advocates address this ethical question. Why not? Well, one answer is that there is not a lot of money in seriously promoting prevention, so doctors and pharmaceutical companies are happy to oblige their patients. An entire mega-industry is built upon this kind of irresponsibility and greed, and it rides on the backs of animals.

    When animal advocates maintain that animals matter in their own right, that amounts to acknowledging the possibility that something could be beneficial to us, but still morally dubious. There may be advantages we’re not entitled to or that it would be wrong for us to seek out and pursue. If so, there may be hard questions about what we must be prepared to give up and hard questions about our own moral responsibility.

    • Great point: and I asked this at his talk. His response “human’s aren’t responsible for their actions.” It’s interesting that people often decide to reject the notion of free will when it suits their argument.

      • No, I said it was a combination of personal choice and inherent risk taking behavior that you may have little control over. I gave the example of addiction — http://www.brainfacts.org/diseases-disorders/addiction/ and its relationship to the mechanisms of reward in the brain – http://www.brainfacts.org/diseases-disorders/addiction/articles/2011/addiction-and-brain-circuits/

        I insisted that the only reasonable way to deal with irresponsible behavior is through education. You prefer to be a moral judge, where some people receive medication (including yourself) but others do not.

      • It’s incredible for someone to suggest that humans have “little control” over their bad lifestyle behaviors. Usually, people who say such things are the very ones who try to elevate humans above the other animals, arguing that animal testing is okay because they believe “humans have rationality” and are superior in that way.

        While I agree that some addictiveness may be a component of some sorts of bad behaviors (eating sweets, smoking, drinking, etc.), you can’t possibly argue that people have NO control over these actions. In fact, humans do have control over their bad lifestyle behaviors. If they didn’t, then they would not be able to stop doing those harmful behaviors– stop smoking, lose weight, or get in shape, which millions of people succeed at every year?

        But consider this. If I grant –for the sake of argument — that people are led by their cravings and addictions and have zero control over these destructive behaviors, then they still have no excuse for sacrificing innocent animals. Those people should say to themselves, “I can’t control my bad behaviors, but it isn’t right for me to insist that innocent creatures sacrifice their lives for me, so the only fair and moral thing for me to do– if I want to continue living this decadent lifestyle — is NOT to insist on animal sacrifice to save me. In other words, take responsibility for my own choices.

    • Patrick, consideration of the potential, extent, and range of both harm and benefit of the work is part of the process by which scientific ideas move from conceptualization to proposal to conduct. The process has multiple stages and involves both scientists and others. It is also true that scientific findings and evidence– including that from basic and translational animal research– can and do guide public decision-making about behaviors relevant to health. The question of boundaries and what should be done (or not) are questions that should receive public discussion and consideration that is serious and grounded in fact. If you believe that some diseases do not merit additional scientific research aimed at prevention, intervention, or treatment you should make that case, but should also propose a model for how that decision-making should happen. The existing model includes, among other things, evaluation by scientific review panels, the federal agencies charged with health research, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees.

      Here is more information on the process.
      https://speakingofresearch.com/2013/03/04/a-closer-look-at-how-animal-research-progresses-from-idea-to-study/

      • I am familiar with scientific review panels, the federal agencies charged with health research, and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees. My spouse served on some of them and he assures me that they are mostly skewed towards the mainstream view. But the decision-making should focus less on what is beneficial for humans and focus more on the ethical implications of what they want to do. That’s where the philosophical arguments are important. And yes, it will take time for things to change.

        • Familiarity with the fact that there are panels and your spouse’s assurance that they represent the mainstream view doesn’t provide a lot in terms of a proposal for how and why you think they are insufficient for ethical consideration and what you would propose as an alternative. The post I linked also provides the case that the selection of research questions and the methods used to address those questions are informed by consideration of potential benefit and harm. Your initial argument was that:

          “Granted, some people make responsible lifestyle choices and still get disease. But if we accept scientists’ estimates that two-thirds of the major diseases are preventable, we could at least significantly reduce animal testing. The majority with self-inflicted chronic diseases must face the moral dilemma. It should not just be accepted without question that when people are irresponsible, animals can be tormented and sacrificed to save them.”

          So if you believe that the current system in insufficient, what is your proposal for sorting which diseases and which science is worth continuing? What kind of philosophical and scientific expertise should contribute? What about patients? And how would you evaluate the basic research that contributes to scientific understanding across fields?

    • Patrick is here providing a 2013 version of the “Just say no” myth.
      http://unlikelyactivist.com/2012/09/11/the-mysteries-of-addictions-3-unraveling-the-just-say-no-myth/

      In this myth, any disorder which depends upon a behavior (he calls it a choice) is the fault of the individual who engages in the behavior, and therefore, that individual is not deserving of humane and responsible research that seeks to address his/her issue.

      Yes, people who ultimately develop an addiction first “chose” (his words, not mine) to use the drug. But what Patrick doesn’t tell you is that the disease of addiction is one that depends upon an underlying biological foundation of risk. As noted in my blog:

      “Many people in our society misuse or abuse illegal drugs; in 2010, government statistics show that as many as 1 in 5 people aged 18-25 were using illegal drugs. What is more, many people use illegal drugs repeatedly over fairly prolonged periods of time. Yet only a surprisingly small fraction of all of these people develops what we refer to as a clinically significant substance use disorder (“addiction”) – a pattern of life-impairing, compulsive drug use. Yes, the choice to take an illegal drug is a necessary step in the pathway to becoming addicted to it, but it is not sufficient. Other factors are clearly in operation that alter the way a subset of people will respond once their drug experience has begun. A different way of saying this is that some people are vulnerable or susceptible to the development of a drug addiction, while others are resilient.”

      Moreover, by extending his argument, one arrives at the conclusion that there is (in essence) very few common diseases that don’t involve “poor life choices”.

      Cervical cancer often results from voluntary sexual intercourse.
      So do many cases of HIV/AIDS.
      Diabetes (type 2) often results from dietary choices.
      Getting the flu results from choosing to co-mingle with other people at school/work/the grocery store.

      Individual behaviors are often necessary for certain diseases. This is also true for health problems in animals.

      Perhaps Patrick’s solution is that people should never have sex, should only eat the diet from a vegan manifesto and never socialize with others. If true, they might well avoid a fair amount of disease. Or, they might just have other problems (psychological problems, protein deficiencies, etc.)

      People and animals alike deserve medical interventions. Those medical interventions depend upon animal research. Animals involved in research deserve to be treated humanely during responsible research that is conducted in accordance with the 3Rs, appropriate review and veterinary oversight.

  17. Also, I think it’s pretty sexist and creepy to be offended by a woman who rightfully questioned your problematic ethics and then go and dig up a bunch of personal information on her and personally attack her (and her feminism?) on this blog. That is a form of male violence.

    • A Master’s thesis is not personal information, no more than any of Dario’s research papers are.

    • What information? Her Master’s dissertation? It seems to me she is uncomfortable making her honest views known. Her gender is irrelevant.

      • People here do not seem to understand that philosophers try to present the many different arguments for or against a topic, based on logic, and their own views don’t have to mirror those arguments. They examine every perspective. For example there may be Utilitarian, virtue ethics, or consequentialist arguments (and others), all of which are different, but all relevant. To say a philosopher is “uncomfortable making her views known” is nonsense. What matters is the actual arguments and whether you can refute them, not whether they are designated as personal views or not.

        • Ms Abbate applied utilitarianism to argue her view is that we ought to experiment on human prisoners “to maximize overall happiness.” That much is clear. As to philosopher views, I agree, they have a tendency to examine different perspectives without telling others what their actual views are. I find that annoying. I was invited to give a talk about my views, not about what this or that person think. The only writing I found on her own views speaks volumes.

      • At what point have I indicated that I am “uncomfortable making my views known”? That is absurd, since the quotes of mine you included in this blog come from my *public* blog and the comments I left on your *public* blog. I also opted to have my Master’s thesis available online. The only regrets I have about it is the quality of the writing since I wrote it at such an early stage in my academic career– I have no doubts, or discomfort about the actual argument itself.

        • You seemed to object that I printed your abstract. I did it for the simple reason that I did not want to misrepresent your views (as you claimed I did with others). Happy to know that you are proud of your work.

      • Darioringach said he/she found it “annoying” that philosophers are taught to consider all the arguments on both sides and try to answer them objectively. But Objectivity is the best way to go about examining any issue — examine all perspectives and arguments.

        Most people are interested in discovering the truth of issues, which means that personal views are irrelevant. I’m not the least bit interested in your own “personal view” about philosophical issues, any more than I’m interested in your personal sexual views or your personal religious views. Just give me the facts and arguments about the issues.

        • Yes, I find it annoying… Why? Because I cannot accept that anyone would sit back and ponder about the strengths and weaknesses of various moral theories while patients die in our hospitals. We as a society do not have the luxury of waiting. It would be unethical. If philosophers find current practice to be untenable they have to propose something else. They should stand for something, instead of standing for nothing. And if they stand for saving their cats ahead of other humans they should justify their position and say it aloud and clear.

    • Darior.. said: “Because I cannot accept that anyone would sit back and ponder about the strengths and weaknesses of various moral theories while patients die in our hospitals.”

      That seems like nonsense. People must ponder the moral arguments about all sorts of things in life, including many life and death issues in order to be able to take the proper action.

      Should I send this $400 to a starving children fund or spend it on a new sofa? Should doctors euthanize terminally ill patients when they desire it, to relieve them of suffering? Is it moral to use animals in bio-medical research? Should this dollar go here or there?

      There is a good utilitarian case that not much in the way of
      scarce resources should go to support medical research at all , or for that
      matter to medical treatment for citizens of the wealthier countries of the
      world. The reason is that most research and treatment goes to providing
      therapies and interventions that marginally extend life or enhance
      quality of life for people who are already are exceptionally fortunate. For the foreseeable future, there are and will continue to be millions of children in the less developed countries of the world who can be given a chance at decent lives at far less expense than adding another six months or two years to the end of already long lives of people in western countries.

      If you don’t have the ethical answers to these sorts of questions, you really can’t help people dying in hospitals.

      • I never said we should not have a moral debate. To the contrary. I went to the UW to have one. But if there is going to be a battle among different ideas you have to submit yours. For example, I am still waiting for Cheryl to submit her theory which justifies her choosing of her cat over a normal fellow human.

      • While I appreciate the debate about abolitionism and pro-animal research, the same arguments are tossed around and it seems odd that you would devote your whole topic to this issue (especially when you are talking at a pro-research institution as it is). Your main conclusion was that “animal research is acceptable because it’s a necessity”- did you really think that this conclusion would sway audience members one way or another? My guess is (judging by the questions) the audience was 1/2 scientists and 1/2 animal rights activisits. The animal rights activists left your talk unchanged; same with the scientists. While again, I sincerely say that I appreciate your efforts, your talk did not open up an avenue for meaningful discourse.

        I think it would be more effective if you say “let’s take for granted animal research is necessary (without proving the necessity), and from there, determine what ethical issues remain.” I would like to see scientists address the specific issues with animal research– and when specific issues were asked, such as about review boards, animal care committees, my question about what to do when we have a medicine that is effective in one species, but harmful in another, these questions were dismissed.

        So on your blog, I do not see ANY posts concerning the ethical issues regarding standard of care in certain research projects (even if the research is “necessary”). I do not see any points about discussions about drawing the line at which research projects are necessary and which we can do without (besides a reference to the obvious cosmetic testing).

        • No, I was not expecting it would sway anyone that rejects facts. There is plenty of information about the regulations and guidelines that underlie the work. Look closer.

          https://speakingofresearch.com/facts/animal-welfare-the-3rs/

          https://speakingofresearch.com/facts/research-regulation/

          https://speakingofresearch.com/facts/veterinary-benefits/

          • Ok, I did not look throughly enough as I misssed these. Thanks.

            So, it seems that focusing on these sorts of issues would make for a very interesting discussion for your next talk. I think it would also calm passions and emotions when you set the argument up as “taking for granted animal research is justified.”

            So for instance, I am working on a project on sexual assault in the military. Sexual assault, I argue, stems from the hypermasculine culture of the military. Hypermasculine traits, however, seem to be the quintessential traits of a warrior, i.e. effective killers. I could set up my question by asking: is killing another human being in war justified? But, if I set up the debate this way- I won’t get anywhere regarding the problem of sexual assault. So, rather than addressing such a larger question that no one will possibly come to an agreement on in one hour, I set my talk up by taking for granted the killing in war is justified, from there, ask how we can train soldiers to be effective killers without encouraging them to foster anti-social hypermasculine traits which are responsible for perpetuating a culture of sexual assault.

            It seems, to have an effective discourse, we need to back some very big assumptions to make any progress.

  18. (Some) white male western patriarchal human supremacist heavily privileged scientists say the darndest things!

    “It is difficult for me to think of any other social movement that expresses so clearly a self-hatred for human life. ” Yes, then it is clear that you have difficulty thinking period. Do your research before you misrepresent and embarrass yourself. The animal rights movement is PRO-life, animal exploitation is closely linked to human exploitation. Ending animal exploitation means ending human exploitation. See David Nibert’s work if you care…but you don’t…because then you’d have to think critically. Cheryl is right, the vast majority of the problems that science and medicine seeks to solve are actually created from our stubborn insistence on eating animal products. If you are going to deny that, then you clearly have no respect for animal rights theory OR actual scientific evidence.

    Anti-vivisection efforts aren’t anti-human, saying so is an obvious straw-person argument. Its like people who say we have to eat meat because we have canines! Derp! It’s just lazy…and obnoxiously incorrect.

    Ugh. Please fast forward us 100 years from now when posts like this will be looked at with remorse and disgust.

    • We are 100 years into the future. Your arguments are not much different from those of Frances Power Cobbe.

      “The animal rights movement is PRO-life…” Really? You think it is PRO-life to experiment on human prisoners? What is your stance on abortion? Are you PRO-life here too? Or do you think the interest of the mother can trump the interest of a fetus? And if the interests of the mother can trump the interests of a fetus, why it cannot trump the interests of a mouse?

  19. Another point:

    Me: “A genuine conflict, to me, is one that arises in nature and which we have not generated by using one being as a mere thing in the first place.”

    Dario: So what about cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, AIDS, depression and the myriad of terrible diseases that affect us all? Are they not natural enough for her? Apparently not. Ms. Abbate believes that many of these diseases are a direct consequence of our personal choices: “People have cancer because they eat meat” — she explained during my talk.

    Yes, certain diseases arise in nature– but given that, how do you then explain how the animal comes into the picture? So consider this: I develop Alzheimers. Where is the conflict between me and the animal? I am no more in a “conflict” with an animal than I am with another human, who would serve as an even better research model than an animal. The fact that an animal can be used as a research model does not entail that it is in conflict with me, just like a human is not in contact with me because she might happen to serve as a (even better) research model.

    I’ve pressed you on this question on your previous blog, and again, you’ve failed to answer.

    • The conflict in research arises from the following:

      We have an ability to study and understand nature, including the basic biological principles underlying life and disease processes. The knowledge gained can be stored in perpetual form, securing benefits to all future generations.

      Undeniable, historical evidence that such scientific work produced tremendous benefits that alleviate suffering in both human and non-human animals.

      Overwhelming scientific consensus that such cellular & molecular data in intact organisms are required to understand the mechanisms of health and disease and to advance medical knowledge and human health.

      We do not currently have alternative, non-invasive methods that would allow to study disease at a cellular and molecular level in living human subjects.

      We believe that animals are worth of moral status but not the same as that of human beings. Thus, if we can do something to prevent suffering and disease it is morally permissible to use them in responsible ways.

      • Let me ask you this: you are in a burning house and you can save a 20 year old human being or a 90 year old human being. Who would you consistently save? My guess: the 20 year old woman.
        Does this entail that the 90 year old woman has a lower moral status than the 20 year old?
        If you say that saving the human over the mouse entails that the mouse has lower status (and thus can be used as an instrument in medical research, which you wrongly assume to be a genuine case of conflict), then you are committed to saying the fact that we would save the 20 year old over the 90 year old entails that the 90 year old also has lower status aand thus can be used as a tool for research.

        Now you might say, the reason why we wouldn’t research on a 90 year old, is because animals have an even LOWER moral status than them. Thus since animals are available, that’s why we perform research on them and not 90 year old women.

        But imagine a possible world where there are no nonhuman animals: there are just humans. So, in this world, do you find that your theory of “unequal moral status” is committed to performing research on 90 year old human beings?

        • Let me ask you this — haven’t we already established that you would save your cat over any other (normal) human stranger?

          Let me be clear, nothing I said was meant to imply the interests of ALL humans are above the interests of ALL animals ALL the time.

          I can give plenty of examples to the contrary.

          If that’s what you think is my position, then you are wrong.

          • So you’re not going to answer my question? This seems to be a common theme with you. You cherry pick questions you want to answer and avoid the ones that try to shed light on the counter-intuitive consequences of your view.

          • I stood in front of an audience answering questions for over an hour, including yours. I also answered most of your questions here as well. I will be happy to continue if you are willing to enlighten us as to your position as well. So, please explain, what moral theory do you subscribe to that justifies saving your cat over a normal human?

      • A deontological, animal rights based position, i.e. a position that grants basic rights to sentient beings (including the right not be used as a means to another’s end). This is also to say that all sentient beings have inherent value, and should never be used as a mere resource, tool, instrument, and so forth. While a rights position would maintain that we have the same negative duties to all sentient beings (i.e. duties of noninterference), a fully developed account of animal rights will include a theory of positive duties to assist certain beings with whom we have formed a relationship of dependency and vulnerability. Of course, this idea of having special obligations to those you are in relationship does not only come from the animal rights position– most moral theories (besides utilitarianism) maintain that we have some sort of special obligation to family members, etc. Have you read Clare Palmer? She speaks to this issue of special duties specifically in the animal context.

        So, I have an equal duty to NOT intentionally harm both a human and a cat based on their equal rights and equal inherent value. However, when it comes to providing assistance, I have a special obligation to my cat (like I would other family members) over the human who I do not know.

        • According to your “duty of noninterference” we should not build cities nor drive. Noninterference throws out of the window much of environmental ethics, which calls for us to actively interfere to preserve the environment and other species. Is that what you want?

          What is also rather curious is that you approve of yourself saving your cat because it is “part of your family”, but if I prefer to save another human as being a “member of the human family” you object.

          Here is more:

          http://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/philosophy/people/faculty_pages/docs/Kittay_Margins.pdf

          • Absolutely, I want us to build less and drive less.

            But furthermore, even if someone were to build a house and perhaps some animals lost their home, etc. as a result, this is still not comparable to what is done in research labs, where the sole purpose of the animal’s life is to serve as a mere instrument or tool for human progress.

            I think it’s fine if you want to give preference to human beings in genuine conflict- but I think we are in massive disagreement about what constitutes a genuine conflict.

          • “Absolutely, I want us to build less and drive less.”

            Not less, your theory calls for zero. That is what non-interference is. Or are you calling for “a little bit of interference.”

            As I mentioned in my talk, driving kills more animals than medical research. Why not stop driving altogether? It would save more animal lives that if we were to stop animal research… and, of course, animals that end up as road kill are not anesthetized.

          • Again, there is a difference between intentional and unintentional harming or killing. Bringing an animal into a lab in order to perform painful and lethal experiments is an example of not only intentionally killing a being, but also pointedly using the animal as a means to achieve some desirable consequences for humans.
            You are right, driving kills animals- but the death of the animal is an unintended side effect of driving. Furthermore, the death of the animal is not a MEANS to driving, like the harm/death of an animal is in research.

            Are you familiar with the doctrine of double effect? It is commonly used to explain how we can justify performing certain actions that have foreseen negative consequences/bad effects (for deontology that is). It requires 4 conditions to be met:

            1.The act must be morally neutral or, better yet, good
            2.The bad effect cannot be a means to the good effect
            3. The bad effect cannot be intended
            4. The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect
            Performing research on animals most definitely fails at #2.

            Driving one’s car might fail at 4, but it would depend on why someone is driving the car in the first place. If one is driving a car on the way to the emergency room for some medical emergency, it would seem to pass all conditions of the DDE. Again, I agree that we should severely limit how much we drive- but there might be cases when driving is permissible.

          • “You are right, driving kills animals- but the death of the animal is an unintended side effect of driving.”

            I disagree.

            You know exactly the expected number of animals that will end up as road kill this year.

            You know with certainty that those animal lives can be spared if we stop driving.

            Don’t try to tell me that we are ignorant about the consequences of human driving.

            Knowing the outcome of an action and insisting on executing it implies intention.

            We just don’t stop driving because we think our interests in using efficient transportation trumps the interest of the animals.

            Your non-intererence theory stipulates we should not drive.

            The same applies to many other problems where human activities interfere with the environment — that’s pretty much everything we do.

            Which moral theory allows you to knowingly harm animals for driving, but does not allow you to knowingly harm animals to develop a polio vaccine?

            In any case, I suppose you drive a car more than just to go the emergency room (we know you are a healthy vegan). How do you justify your driving?

            And if you are allowed to say a “little driving is Ok but we should all drive less” why can’t I say “a little animal research is Ok but we should aim to do less.”

          • 1. You state that you disagree with the following claim:

            “You are right, driving kills animals- but the death of the animal is an unintended side effect of driving.”

            What part of this sentence do you disagree with?
            1. Driving kills animals (true)
            2. The death is not intended (true)

            (Unless, for some reason, you get into your car and think “I am going to drive around just for the purpose of killing animals.” But I certainly don’t.)

            2. The DDE takes into account that the bad effects are foreseen. (This is a common theory used in just war theory to justify collateral damage—e.g. you foresee that dropping a bomb on an enemy hideout might kill an innocent human being, however, since the intent was not to kill the human being, the bombing can be justified). The reason why I bring up just war is to demonstrate that this idea that we can justify performing acts with unintended, foreseeable negative effects is not radical or an idea that stems from the animal rights position- it is a standard add-on to deontology. It can be, and is often applied to, a number of applied issues such as abortion and euthanasia.

            3. You write: “Knowing the outcome of an action and insisting on executing it implies intention.”—I don’t know of any ethicist who would agree with that claim. For instance, you know that by taking showers, flushing the toilet, washing dishes, etc. you are depleting our water resources and contributing to environmental problems. Do you intend this? Absolutely not.

            4. You write: “In any case, I suppose you drive a car more than just to go the emergency room (we know you are a healthy vegan). How do you justify your driving?”— well, again, it will depend on why you are driving and you must weigh this against the possibility that you might run over an animal.

            5. You write: “And if you are allowed to say a “little driving is Ok but we should all drive less” why can’t I say “a little animal research is Ok but we should aim to do less.”— I already explained why performing any amount of research, despite how “little” it might be, fails the doctrine of double effect because it: uses a nonhuman animal as a means to achieving the good effect! This absolutely fails condition #2 as I explained.

            6. On a side note, you write: “You know exactly the expected number of animals that will end up as road kill this year.” You do realize that when we drive, there are also human casualties? You know the number of humans who will end up dead from driving. Therefore, do you intend their death when you drive your car? Can you then justify performing research on humans now?

            So essentially, if I follow your argument, you are claiming:

            1. We kill animals by driving. Since we continue to drive, even knowing animals will be killed, we should then be open to killing them in research.

            But the SAME argument can be made about humans:

            2. We kill humans by driving. Since we continue to drive, even knowing humans will be killed, we should then be open to killing them in research.

          • Are you telling me that if you are targeting one terrorist with a drone in Afghanistan, and you know for a fact that you are likely to kill between 20-40 civilians, it is all fine because you stated beforehand that your intention is just to kill one person? And you agree with this?

          • No, because that would fail the fourth condition of the DDE (the proportionality requirement). In order to perform an action with foreseeable, unintended consequences, all four conditions must be satisfied. 20-40 civilian deaths is not proportional to one terrorist (well, I guess that might depend on how dangerous this terrorist might be).

          • Not sure how this proportionality calculation works… So help me out here:

            Suppose your terrorist is called cancer.
            It kills half a million people a year in the US alone.
            To kill cancer you have to step over 10,000 mice.
            What do you do?

          • *negative consequences

          • Thanks for the article, I will try to get to it this weekend.

      • Also, I think it’s odd that you are unwilling to answer my question just because you answered questions for an hour in Madison. You are the one who initiated this blog! Why would you think you would be off the hook from answering questions?

        • I only asked you put your competing moral theory on the table to have a real discussion. I assume you have one. You know — the one that allows you to pick your cat over a normal human in the burning house. And to clarify, I am not on anyone’s hook. After all, you saw the distribution of answers you get in the population when faced with the heart valve scenario. The burden of convincing others of the animal rights position is on you and those that think like you (<3% of the total population, which is the estimated percentage of vegetarians in the US).

  20. 1.I would not mistake your inability to follow the logic of an animal rights position as a lack of clarity on my part. How have I not been clear? Well first, I’ve never even explained my position to you—I have merely attempted to illustrate to you, time and time again, how your understanding of the animal rights position is flawed in that you have taken one sentence from one animal rights theorist (Francione) and used it as a foundation to discredit every animal rights position. There are more positions that exist beyond Francione’s. My position is that all sentient beings have inherent worth, meaning they should not be treated as mere resources, things, instruments, tools, etc. This does NOT mean, that in genuine conflict, i.e. in situations (that arise naturally, i.e. are not manufactured by humans) where we must choose to override the rights of at least one being, then we might be permitted to override the rights of an animal in order to save the human. Examples of GENUINE conflict would include the burning house example from Francione or the lifeboat scenario from Regan: situations where we must choose between one of two beings, lest they all die. In such a situation, yes, by all means, choose to save the being who would be harmed the most by death (and we might argue that this is the rational human). Animal experimentation is NOT a case of genuine conflict in that researchers manufacture conflicts by breeding lab animals into existence to serve as our resources. Breeding animals into labs so that they can be burned, mutilated, blinded, and so forth for human “benefit” is a CLEAR violation of a being’s right to be treated in a way that respects its inherent value. I suggest you read Tom Regan, because he clearly lays out what it means to have inherent value and how animal research violates an animal’s basic right to respectful treatment.

    2.As you point out, I do not find it problematic to benefit from past research. Benefitting from past research is in fact in line with the animal rights position, in that by benefitting from past research, you are not violating the rights of any animals. The best argument for NOT benefitting from *certain* types of past research would come from virtue ethics—a compassionate person with integrity would not derive *unnecessary* benefits from medicine, cosmetics, households good, etc. that have its roots in cruel practices. This is a whole different story when it comes to medicines that might be necessary to save one’s life since the motivation is completely different. Also, I pointed out that human supremacists, like yourself, fall prey to the same problem in regard to benefitting from the Nazi’s experiments. You responded by claiming that it is acceptable to benefit from these experiments because the Nazis are no longer alive and thus they are no longer performing research; this is quite a peculiar response since it makes the rightness of benefitting from problematic research contingent upon whether or not someone is alive. So benefitting from past research on animals, for animal activists like me, is wrong today, but tomorrow if all vivisectors died, it would be acceptable? Seems a bit odd, especially when deontological positions, like animal rights positions, are primarily concerned with the nature of the act itself. In addition, you argue that Nazis are “no longer around” so it’s okay to benefit from the research they performed. Well, perhaps the vivisectors who helped developed whatever life saving cure I might need in the future are no longer around. Is it okay, then, for me to save my life? The point is, if you are going to attack me for saying that, in extreme cases, I would benefit from medical discoveries that have already been discovered through animal research, you must be willing to criticize yourself for benefitting from human research. And we all know that human research did not stop with the Nazis—as I’m sure you know, the Beecher Reports and Human Guinea Pigs by Pappworth demonstrate that unethical human research has a place in our own scientific history and we continue to have issues with unethical research on human subjects today. So, once again, your benefitting from the Nazi experiments also entails that you support unethical human research.

    3.I’m not sure why you copied and pasted by Master’s Thesis abstract without offering any critical response besides indicating what an “anti-human” I must be. Again, you probably did not even read it: you saw the title and those dang intuitions got in the way of actually challenging yourself to consider an ethical view that deviates from the “majority opinion.” Let me ask, are you a cultural relativist? Every single argument you make, and every single attack you make, has its foundations in the “majority opinion” and the “intuitions of the masses.” Also, since we are talking about the “intuitions of the majority”: do you know how many people, when they are presented with two options: (1) perform research on rapists, murders, etc (2) or perform research on innocent furry animals, would, without hesitation, claim that we should perform biomedical research on violent criminals? Now, if you were writing this thesis, you wouldn’t have to do any further research. You would say “majority rule!! Let’s test on them prisoners.” On the other hand, I’ve actually spent adequate time researching theories of punishment, illustrating how biomedical research might fit the goals of deterrence and retributive theories. Oh but wait, you also don’t think humans are responsible for their actions (as you said in your talk). So you probably can’t even justify punishing serial rapists in the first place.

    4.I never said “cancers come from meat”; I said a good majority of cases of heart disease, cancer (70%), and obesity can be traced back to the consumption of animal flesh and product. If you don’t believe this, google the China Study. Or better yet, just google the negative effects of consumption of animal flesh- there is no shortage of studies and information to verify this claim. But then again, scientists worry about preventative measures, because without human beings remaining in a perpetuated state of sickness, they will not have any jobs.

    5.Also, my blog post that you cited was a response to utilitarianism; it is obviously not the view I support. But thanks again for cherry picking quotes out of context so you can attempt to show how anti-human I am.

    6.I wouldn’t pride yourself too much on receiving a congratulatory email from Peter Singer- he has sold out nonhuman animals more than any animal ethicists I know.

    7. How do I stand on the moral status of mentally disabled children? It’s interesting that you are asking me this, since my view of moral status (that sentience is the criterion of moral status) would in fact grant mentally disabled children equal protection, unlike YOUR view, that reduces the value of these sorts of beings to whether or not their parents love them. In all actuality, you’ve attributed the same moral status to mentally disabled children as companion animals currently have today. It’s only bad to experiment on mentally disabled because their parents might be sad, just like so many assume its only bad to torture kittens because the owner might be sad. What “intuitive” implications your own theory has.

    • “I’ve never even explained my position to you”

      Well, enlighten us all… What is your position?

      • Since you evidently did not read my response, i have copied and pasted it for your viewing convenience:

        My position is that all sentient beings have inherent worth, meaning they should not be treated as mere resources, things, instruments, tools, etc. This does NOT mean, that in genuine conflict, i.e. in situations (that arise naturally, i.e. are not manufactured by humans) where we must choose to override the rights of at least one being, then we might be permitted to override the rights of an animal in order to save the human. Examples of GENUINE conflict would include the burning house example from Francione or the lifeboat scenario from Regan: situations where we must choose between one of two beings, lest they all die. In such a situation, yes, by all means, choose to save the being who would be harmed the most by death (and we might argue that this is the rational human). Animal experimentation is NOT a case of genuine conflict in that researchers manufacture conflicts by breeding lab animals into existence to serve as our resources. Breeding animals into labs so that they can be burned, mutilated, blinded, and so forth for human “benefit” is a CLEAR violation of a being’s right to be treated in a way that respects its inherent value. I suggest you read Tom Regan, because he clearly lays out what it means to have inherent value and how animal research violates an animal’s basic right to respectful treatment.

        • So in the heart valve scenario, despite our ability to save Peter with an artificial heart valve made from pig tissue, you would let him die. Correct? You don’t see the fact that we can actually save him as putting his life and that of the pig in conflict. Instead, you argue that the pig has the same right to life as a normal human being, and thus cannot be used. On the other hand, if you find Peter and the pig in the burning house then it is Ok to save Peter over the pig? What about Peter Singer’s argument? Would you approve of research for diseases that affect animals and humans alike?

          Yes, I read Tom Regan. All 422 pages of “The Case for Animal Rights”. If anyone is going to base a theory on the concept of being a subject-of-a-life you would think this would be a central part of the book. But you have to wait until page 243 to find out that being a subject-of-a-life is essentially how close to being human you are… and the flawed idea that such property is all or none. Either you are a subject of a life or you are not.