Experiments on Animals

  • Les Brown


First let us review the moral argument up to this point. Chapter 2 discussed the principle of an equal consideration of the interests of animals and of humans, according to their respective natures. Chapter 3 has now thrown further light on this principle in demonstrating the importance of a moral standpoint on animals being armed not only with benevolence and impartiality, but also with relevant knowledge of their natures. Moral debt was explained in the earlier chapter as denoting no more than what is owing to an object (animal or human) with possible application in several ways: first, in a way that is forward-looking, as when our moral principles indicate what we owe to an animal prior to the performance of a moral act relating to it; second, in a way that is backward-looking, and then occasionally forward-looking, as when we refer to human acts leading to animal harm or suffering, leaving us with a debt that only in some circumstances may be repaid; third, in a way that is backward-looking in appreciation of an animal’s past services to us, and still more seldom forward-looking, since we normally have no intention of attempting any kind of compensatory benevolence.


Vested Interest Animal Suffering Royal Commission Practical Morality Paralytic Poliomyelitis 
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  1. 11.
    See W. M. S. Russell and R. L. Burch, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique (London: Methuen, 1959) pp.18–24. Pain is described as one source of distress, which to physiologists is the inclusive term. The degree of distress of pain is ‘a matter of central nervous analysis’ (p. 19), carried to the brain by sensory nerve endings in the skin. The other main sources of distress in experiments are fear and conflict. Except in special conditions of primate societies, conflict states are believed never to persist in nature, when ‘automatic mechanisms’ operate. Under experimental conditions these natural mechanisms cannot function, so both fear and conflict are experienced. (For various interpretations of ‘pain’ and ‘distress’ see the Preface above.)Google Scholar
  2. 21.
    G. Lapage, Achievement: Some Contributions of Animal Experiments to the Conquest of Disease (Cambridge: W. Heffer, 1960) pp. 35, 37. The curare experiment is reported in Anaesthesiology, vol. 8, pp. 1–14.Google Scholar
  3. 22.
    W. W. Keen, Animal Experimentation and Medical Progress (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1914) p. 3. In 1914 Keen was enthusiastic about Koller’s discovery of cocaine, our nearest approach, he thought, ‘to the ideal anaesthetic’ (p. 10).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Leslie Melville Brown 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Les Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.University of New South WalesAustralia

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