The Ethics of Animal Testing and being Carnivorous

Fattening beef, commercial "farming" (photo from Animal farm Life)

I was recently asked about the ethics of animal testing. While I’m aware that it is a very contentious issue for “animal rights activists” it is not one I have thought much about. Though, since I grow animals to eat, I am closer existentially to that related issue than someone who gets their meat from the supermarket.

It seems to me there are some simple principles that provide guidance:

  • God made animals so we have a general responsibility to care for them like for the rest of creation (see Gen 1)
  • God explicitly allowed the use of animals for human benefit including killing them to eat (see Gen 9:3) n.b. I’d see this extending to the next line…
  • Research and testing which is of other great benefit for humans should also therefore be considered within God’s will.

We have a duty to care for God's creation - including other creatures we use for food.

This leads to the tentative conclusions:

  1. We have the right to use animals for our benefit. (This is an extension, but a small one of the permission to eat them in Gen 9:3. Testing products for safety would (to my mind) fall under this category.
    BUT
  2. We have a responsibility to care for them, and so the testing should not be cruel nor unnecessary.
I suspect that in NZ the Government and the SPCA ensure testing is not cruel and is “necessary”. So, cautiously, I am in favour of animal testing.
OTOH, especially now that I am involved in rearing animals for meat, it seems to me that much that today goes by the name of “farming” is unnecessarily cruel and therefore ethically indefensible. To keep animals penned up in small areas to make human food cheaper or more tender is wrong. Much pork and chicken and some beef (not so much in NZ where most is free range grass fed) transgresses the criterion of care.

2 comments on “The Ethics of Animal Testing and being Carnivorous

  1. kima

    I’m for animal testing. why should we risk an human for a mice,rat, or other rodents.There better off in an lab then in garbage, otherwords help prevent diseases then catching and giving them to the beings of there surroundment!!!

    -just so u know im 13. in class where doing debates so im getting pratice……

    1. tim

      Hi, Kima (Alexander?),

      I’m sorry I only just saw your comment, somehow the usual email to tell me someone had commented went astray :(

      I pretty much agree with you, though I do think that we have a responsibility to animals whether they are wild, farmed for food or to work, pets or used for testing. We hould try to give them a good and fair life. But like you I also think humans come first.

      So in terms of testing there is a balance between the two, testing new medecines etc. like you are talking about is quite clear, but a cruel test or bad conditions just to test a possible new cosmetic I’d say was wrong…