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Animal Experimentation: The Moral Issues.

Animal Experimentation: The Moral Issues. Edited by Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum. Buffalo, N.Y: Prometheus Books, 1991. 182 pp. $14.95.

Baird and Rosenbaum seem attracted to the tricky task of putting together undergraduate-oriented anthologies on just those issues that rive us most deeply, hard on the heels of their earlier Prometheus collection, The Ethics of Abortion, comes Animal Experimentation. The book opens with four brief, readable essays that aim both at engaging the emotions and introducing the ideas that fuel debate: the significance of animal research to medical progress; analogies and disanalogies between speciesism, and racism and sexism; rights-oriented versus consequentialist attempts to sort out what's owing to animals; the so-called argument from marginal cases. "

The next section, pressing harder at the foundations of animal ethics, rounds up the usual suspects: Peter Singer makes the case that animal interests, rooted in sensitivity to pain and pleasure, must be accorded equal consideration with human interests in determining moral courses of action; Tom Regan argues that animals who are "subjects of a life"-who have memories, anticipations, desires, persistent identities-are protected by rights as stringent as those protecting human subjects of a life. These ideas, while a tad dusty by now, have been so influential that their inclusion is virtually mandatory. Picking the other side offered the editors more scope for creativity. While Singer and Regan are rich in critics, most attack their arguments while agreeing with the broad direction of their conclusion: animals are getting a bad deal, and we need to make some major changes. The problem here is illustrated by the choice of Mary Anne Warren as balance for Regan. A keen philosopher, Warren alerts us to obscurities in some of Regan's key ideas, but in the service of her own, rather less uncompromising animal rights view. Singer's critics-two animal researchers, J. A. Grey and William Timberlake-are well chosen; they point to complexities in the concept of suffering and in moral relationships worth taking seriously.

The second half of the collection includes Carl Cohen's (in) famous call for more and better animal research, with critique by Edward Hettinger. Singer examines the ethics of extreme responses to animal research-lab break-ins, animal "liberations," and property destruction-and Bernard Rollins makes the interesting suggestion that animal research proposals be vetted by citizen panels. We're also treated to a few samples of very fresh drinking indeed. Peter Harrison tries to make a blend of Darwin and Wittgenstein yield a Cartesian conclusion: animals don't feel pain after all! Alan Freeman and Betty Mensch offer a "postmodern," theologically influenced approach to interspecific moral relationships.

As interesting as these two pieces are, teachers may well regret that the space wasn't used to introduce the undergraduate audience to some of the excellent and more professionally influential work not cast in the Singer-Regan-and-critics mold: writers such as Mary Midgley and Steven E Sapontzis are conspicuous by their absence. Still, Baird and Rosenbaum do a very decent job meeting expectations which, while not precisely incompatible in a book designed for a broad readership, are not exactly friendly, either: prose that is generally clear and lively, a reasonably thorough, balanced presentation of basic argumentative moves and countermoves; and some discussion that breaks-or at least scuffs-new ground. James L Nelson is associate for ethical studies, The Hastings Center
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Author:Nelson, James L.
Publication:The Hastings Center Report
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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