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    The foundation of animal rights theory is the elimination of the property status of animals. [I]t is
    wrong to treat animals in a completely instrumental way, just as it is wrong to treat humans in a
    completely instrumental way.  And it is wrong because, at the least, animals that are
    subjects-of-a-life have inherent value, and they have it because all subjects-of-a-life are relevantly
    similar.  There is simply no nonspeciesist way of differentiating human subjects-of a-life from
    nonhuman ones, which have inherent value for precisely the same reason that humans do: because
    their life matters to them apart from whether it matters to anyone else.
        -Gary L. Francione, Rutgers University Law School
 

    I think we can talk principles forever, but what the public wants is not to be sick.  And if we help
    them not to be sick, they'll be on our side.
        -James D. Watson, Nobel Laureate

    At times it appears that it will be impossible to bridge the chasm that separates those who believe
    that under no circumstances is it permissible for animals to be used in scientific experimentation
    (or for humans to order the natural world according to their own needs and desires) from those to
    whom the natural world, including even the human genome, is a plastic and infinitely malleable
    tool. We may soon have within our grasp the power to remake ourselves, at the most basic level.
    What might be the outcome of this experiment none can now foresee. But it is certain that history
    has something to teach us about the dangers of both scientific hubris and public ignorance of
    science.  Somehow these two problems seem a matched set, both a cause of the conflict described in
    the pages of this book and its direct result.
        -Deborah Rudacille, The Scalpel and The Butterfly

If bridging the chasm described above was Deborah Rudacille's goal in this book, it would have to be considered a failure.  But her goal seems to have been more modest, to present a history of, and some of the reasons for, this unbridgeable gap.  On this count she definitely succeeds.  The resulting book is a terrific primer on the controversies surrounding man's relationship with the animal world, particularly in the field of scientific experiment, but one which steadfastly refuses to make core judgments between the two sides, leaving it to the reader to do so.  Though this may have been intended as simple fairness, it also represents a failure to follow the logic of her own presentation to the inescapable conclusions toward which it points.

As a threshold matter, Ms Rudacille does a terrific job of walking the reader through a host of varied topics--antivivisection movements, Nazi medicine and animal laws, the fight against polio, breakthroughs in cloning, and so on--to provide a background against which the moral questions play themselves out.  Her technique, of focussing on a couple of the especially interesting personalities involved in each historic episode, makes for almost a novelistic effect; she puts a very human face onto what might otherwise be fairly abstract controversies.

Within each section though, she leaves important moral questions hanging.  In the very first chapter she notes that early experimenters agreed with  Descartes, who believed that : "Lacking the ability to reason, expressed in language, and unable to reflect on its own nature and existence, an animal was an automaton, a machine that contains its own principles of motion." But that later :

    Unlike the French philosopher, who found rationality expressed in language the hallmark of a
    morally significant subject.  [Jeremy] Bentham said, in a phrase that was to serve as a rallying cry
    for the modern animal protection movement, 'The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they
    talk? but, Can they suffer?'

She then notes that :

    This crucial distinction, which shifts the focus of moral significance from the ability to reason to
    the ability to feel, may at least partially explain the gulf that has often existed between scientists and
    artists on this matter, and a similar statistical discrepancy between men and women that has
    persisted into the modern era.  Any group that tends to highly esteem 'feeling' as a guide to morals
    and behavior will no doubt follow Bentham in granting animals a higher value than those who find
    'reason' to be the final arbiter of conscience.

But there she leaves it.  She has certainly identified a "crucial distinction," perhaps the most important such distinction of the past few centuries.  The emphasis on feeling over reason represents a fundamental challenge to centuries, even millennia, worth of Western moral understanding.  One feels it incumbent on the author to examine this a little more closely to determine the consequences of such a revolution in thought.  At a minimum, a moral system should apply generally to all those covered by it; yet animals obviously don't adhere to the ethos propounded by animal rightists; it's not as if they are vegans for instance.  Nor can they comprehend such a morality.  What justice is there in a system which forbids man to kill cobras, but can not bring any moral suasion to bear on the cobra to stop killing man?  Ms Rudacille does not undertake such an examination and thus the philosophical underpinning of the entire animal rights movement is simply accepted as a kind of valid competitor to traditional morality.

Similarly, in the section on Nazi Germany she considers the seeming paradox which saw passage of rigid animal protection laws by a regime that had virtually no regard for human life and which actually used human slaves in medical experiments.  As a result, she asks the question :

    Does an elevation in the moral status of animals inevitably result in a degradation in the moral
    status of human beings?

She acknowledges that such was the case in Nazi Germany, but surely the question must be answered in more general terms.  And if, as I would argue, the answer is : yes, then this has obvious ramifications for the whole idea of animal rights.  Try a simple thought experiment : the Titanic is sinking and there's room in the lifeboat for one more passenger.  The sixty year old animal rightist yields her spot to the pregnant poodle.  This is a sensible enough outcome if animals are to be treated as morally equivalent beings to human; yet who would argue that it does not represent a degradation of the moral status of human life?

This omission of serious discussion of core moral issues is really unfortunate.  I don't know that it's necessarily a cop out, but it does make one take the book less seriously than one otherwise might.  That's too bad because she has provided the raw does evidence and alternatives to make some convincing arguments.  For instance, after reading about the conditions which lab animals often face (or faced), about the potentially inaccurate responses that these conditions may produce when the animals are tested, and about the emotional toll taken on people who work with the animals, it is awfully hard not to support the idea of the "Three R's" developed by Russell and Burch  : Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement :

    Replacement means the substitution for conscious living higher animals of insentient material.

    Reduction means reduction in the numbers of animals used to obtain information of given amount
    and precision.

    Refinement means any decrease in the incidence or severity of inhumane procedures applied to
    those animals which still have to be used.

But nowhere in the book does she tie this all together and make the argument for it, which is particularly odd since she does apparently argue it in professional journals.

The other marked weakness of the book is that she argues that the animal rights movement is on the side of human freedom.  She says that antivivisectionists are driven by the "fierce desire to assert human freedom, over and above scientific determinism' and that :

    This desire to assert free will over scientific determinacy is consistently minimized and
    misunderstood by those seeking to defend the supremacy of the scientific worldview.  What is
    generally condemned as 'irrationality' by individuals committed to the type of reductionist
    rationality embodied in science may well be a completely rational response to the philosophical
    arrogance of science, an attempt to defend something precious and important from a worldview
    committed to the suppression of all that will not bow to its epistemology.

This borders on the hilarious.  I yield to no one in the belief that science and the claims of scientists should be examined with a skeptical eye (see Orrin's review of The Beak of the Finch).  But, though you may hold a rock in your outstretched hand and proclaim the primacy of free will over scientific determinacy to the heavens, your free will governs only your decision of when or whether to release the rock, once you let go, gravity takes over and the rock falls.  You needn't bow to Newton's epistemology, but it will function upon you nonetheless.  The assertion of an unrealizable freedom from scientific laws is not ultimately a claim of liberty, but rather a departure from reason and from reality.

Moreover, later on she seems to correctly, albeit unintentionally, yield the high ground of defending freedom to those who oppose restrictions on animal research.  Towards the end of the book, in a discussion of why the nations of Europe have generally adopted much more restrictive regimes of animal protection, she quotes andrew Rowan, senior vice president for Research, Education, and International Issues at the Humane Society of the United States, who concedes that :

    Europeans have grown up in societies more willing to accept social controls on behavior, while the
    U. S. developed as a country where individual rights are paramount.  Laws and regulations
    constraining the rights of individuals are frowned upon here, while in Europe it is recognized that
    in order to live compatibly, it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice some of one's own individual
    preferences.

We'll pass by the rather novel concept that Europeans "live compatibly," the real insight here is that a system of regulations sufficient to guarantee animal rights would have to drastically impose upon human freedom, impose in such a way that it seems far-fetched to imagine Americans tolerating these governmental social controls.

As I said, Ms Rudacille convinced at least me that adoption of the Three R's is a worthwhile goal.  But it should be voluntary and the reasons for adopting them are grounded not in animal rights but in scientific reason and human ethics.  It simply makes good sense to treat the animals better in order not to create false data, which might flow from overstressed and mistreated animals.  And most importantly, we should try to avoid the coarsening effect that harsh treatment of animals must have on human handlers.  If you've ever spoken to anyone who uses animals in laboratory experiments, you'll be familiar with their deep ambivalence about the matter.  On the one hand, they recognize the importance of the work, but on the other, they hate what they are forced to do to the animals.  And when we consider that a classic sign that a youngster is a potential serial killer is sadistic treatment of animals, we must carefully consider the effects on individuals, and on society as a whole, of potentially unnecessary reliance on animal experimentation.

In the end, the book is well worth reading, especially as a basic introduction to the history of the animal rights movement and as an overview of the conflicts that exist between rightists and scientists.  But it could have been a much a stronger book if the author, who was a writer at Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, wasn't trying quite so hard to be impartial.  The Twentieth Century was turned into a bloody wasteland by intellectual elites who tried disposing of traditional Western morality and imposing their own new moral vision.  Those, like the animal rights crowd, who still harbor the desire to try similar social engineering experiments upon humankind must clear some pretty high philosophical hurdles in order to justify their radical new plans.  In trying to be fair to both sides, Ms Rudacille chooses not to put animal rights morality to such a rigorous test.  However, the questions that she raises, but leaves unanswered, suggest that they would not easily pass the test.  It's possible that her intent is simply to allow readers to reach these conclusions on their own, but it sure feels like she abdicated a moral responsibility by not forthrightly spelling out these conclusions herself.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (C+)

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
    -Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing
    -ESSAY : Development of Alternatives to Animal Use for Safety Testing and Hazard Assessment (Deborah Rudacille, solutions-site.org)
    -ESSAY : Animals and Alternatives in Testing History, Science, and Ethics (Joanne Zurlo, Deborah Rudacille, and Alan M. Goldberg)
    -ESSAY : The Three R's: The Way Forward (Joanne Zurlo, Deborah Rudacille, and Alan M. Goldberg)
    -ESSAY : Public Support For Research Depends On Humane Treatment Of Lab Animals (Joanne Zurlo, Alan M. Goldberg, and Deborah Rudacille, The Scientist)
    -BOOK SITE : The Scalpel and the Butterfly : The War Between Animal Research and Animal Protection By Deborah Rudacille (fsb associates)
    -REVIEW : of Scalpel and the Butterfly (Rebecca Skloot, Chicago Tribune)
 

ORGANIZATIONS:
    -Alliance for Animals
    -Animalearn: Animals, Ethics and Education - the education division of the American Anti-Vivisection Society
    -Animal Liberation
    -Animal Liberation Action Group - Homepage
    -Animal Liberation Collective
    -Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA
    -Animal Rights; Ethics
    -Animal Rights Resource Site
    -Animal Welfare Information Center, USDA
    -Animal Welfare Institute
    -Anthrozoology Institute
    -Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care
    -Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching
    -Center for Laboratory Animal Welfare
    -The Coalition to End Primate Experimentation
    -Ethics and Public Policy Center
    -FDA Information on Cosmetic Testing
    -FRAME: Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments
    -Humane Society of the United States
    -ICCVAM: Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods
    -ILAR: Institute for Laboratory Animal Research
    -IVTIP: In Vitro Testing Platform
    -MEGAT: Middle European Society for Alternative Methods to Animal Testing
    -MIT Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (SETA)
    -The Netherlands Centre Alternatives to Animal Use
    -NIEHS Factsheet on Alternatives
    -No Compromise: The Militant, Direct Action Magazine of Grassroots Animal Liberationists & Their Supporters
    -Norwegian Reference Centre for Laboratory Animal Science and Alternatives
    -Office for Laboratory Animal Welfare (OPRR), NIH
    -PETA People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
    -Satya: a Magazine of Vegetarianism, Environmentalism and Animal Advocacy
    -Scientists Center for Animal Welfare
    -UFAW: The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
    -University of California Center for Animal Alternatives

GENERAL:
    -ESSAY : Rights for Rodents Is a Bad Rx : Expensive and unnecessary regulations. (Michael Fumento, National Review)
    -ESSAY : Of puppy love and gorilla rights  (Mark Trapp, Enter Stage Right)
    -ESSAY : Dehumanization Triumphant (Leon R. Kass, First Things)
    -ESSAY : Facing Up to Infanticide (J. Bottum, First Things)
    -ESSAY : The Legal Logic of Euthanasia (Michael M. Uhlmann, First Things)
    -ESSAY : Animal Liberation: Do the Beasts Really Benefit? (Richard Milne, Leadership U)
    -ESSAY : The Idea of Moral Progress (Richard John Neuhaus, First Things)
    -LINKS : Clone Encounters (Leadership U)
    -ESSAY : Begetting and Cloning (Gilbert Meilaender, First Things)
    -ESSAY : Children for Sale (Peter Alig, American Outlook)
    -REVIEW : of THE ETHICAL CANARY: SCIENCE, SOCIETYAND THE HUMAN SPIRIT By Margaret Somervill (Jonathan Kay, National Post)
    -REVIEW : of RATTLING THE CAGE Toward Legal Rights for Animals. By Steven M. Wise (Cass R. Sunstein, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of CREATED FROM ANIMALS The Moral Implications of Darwinism. By James Rachels (Robert Wright, NY Times Book Review)
    -ARCHIVES : "animal rights" (NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : Aug 12, 1999 Bill McKibben: Nature Without People?, NY Review of Books
       Requiem for Nature by John Terborgh
       The Condor's Shadow: The Loss and Recovery of Wildlife in America by David S. Wilcove
       Continental Conservation: Scientific Foundations of Regional Reserve Networks
    -REVIEW : Mar 5, 1992 David J. Rothman: Rationing Life, NY Review of Books
       Who Lives? Who Dies? Ethical Criteria in Patient Selection by John F. Kilner
       Strong Medicine: The Ethical Rationing of Health Care by Paul T. Menzel
       What Kind of Life: The Limits of Medical Progress by Daniel Callahan
       Setting Limits: Medical Goals in an Aging Society by Daniel Callahan
       Just Doctoring: Medical Ethics in the Liberal State by Troyen A. Brennan
       Patrimony: A True Story by Philip Roth
       Someday by Andrew H. Malcolm
       Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying by Derek Humphry
        -ESSAY : Rights, Animal and Human (David R. Carlin, First Things)
    -ESSAY : Science and Self-Doubt : Why animal researchers must remember that human beings are special. (Frederick K. Goodwin and Adrian R. Morrison, Reason)
    -COVER STORY : Animal Emotions  (Laura Tangley, US News and World Report)
 

PETER SINGER:
    -Peter Singer Web Site: A Call to Arms
    -Princeton's University Center for Human Values
    -ESSAY : Peter Singer: On Being Silenced in Germany, NY Review of Books
    -ESSAY : Aug 14, 1980 Peter Singer: RIGHT TO LIFE?, NY Review of Books
    -REVIEW : of SELECTIVE NONTREATMENT OF HANDICAPPED NEWBORNS Moral Dilemmas in Neonatal Medicine. By Robert F. Weir (Peter Singer, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : Feb 2, 1989 Peter Singer: Unkind to Animals, NY Review of Books
       Animal Liberators: Research and Morality by Susan Sperling
       Use of Laboratory Animals in Biomedical and Behavioral Research
    -REVIEW : Jan 17, 1985 Peter Singer: Ten Years of Animal Liberation, NY Review of Books
       Modern Meat: Antibiotics, Hormones, and the Pharmaceutical Farm by Orville Schell
       Farm Animals: Husbandry, Behavior, and Veterinary Practice by Michael W. Fox
       Of Mice, Models, and Men: A Critical Evaluation of Animal Research by Andrew N. Rowan
       Victims of Science: The Use of Animals in Research by Richard D. Ryder
       Man and Mouse: Animals in Medical Research by William Paton
       All That Dwell Therein: Animal Rights and Environmental Ethics by Tom Regan
       The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan
       Animals and Why They Matter: A Journey Around the Species Barrier by Mary Midgley
       Rights, Killing, and Suffering: Moral Vegetarianism and Applied Ethics by R.G. Frey
       Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals by R.G. Frey
    -REVIEW : Apr 9, 1992 Peter Singer: Bandit and Friends, NY Review of Books
       Beyond Beef:The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Industry by Jeremy Rifkin
       Taking Stock: Animal Farming and the Environment by Alan B. Durning and Holly B. Brough
       Against Liberation: Putting Animals in Perspective by Michael P.T. Leahy
       Bandit: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog by Vicki Hearne
       Animals and Society: The Humanity of Animal Rights by Keith Tester
    -REVIEW : Jun 29, 2000 Ian Hacking: Our Fellow Animals, NY Review of Books
       The Lives of Animals by J.M. Coetzee
       Ethics into Action: Henry Spira and the Animal Rights Movement by Peter Singer
    -REVIEW : Feb 15, 1990 Peter Singer: Salt of the Earth, NY Review of Books
       The Savour of Salt: A Henry Salt Anthology edited by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick
    -REVIEW : Feb 2, 1989 Peter Singer: Unkind to Animals, NY Review of Books
       Animal Liberators: Research and Morality by Susan Sperling
       Use of Laboratory Animals in Biomedical and Behavioral Research
    -REVIEW : Feb 27, 1986 Peter Singer: Unspeakable Acts, NY Review of Books
       The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World by Elaine Scarry
       Torture by Edward Peters
    -REVIEW : Jan 17, 1985 Peter Singer: Ten Years of Animal Liberation, NY Review of Books
       Modern Meat: Antibiotics, Hormones, and the Pharmaceutical Farm by Orville Schell
       Farm Animals: Husbandry, Behavior, and Veterinary Practice by Michael W. Fox
       Of Mice, Models, and Men: A Critical Evaluation of Animal Research by Andrew N. Rowan
       Victims of Science: The Use of Animals in Research by Richard D. Ryder
       Man and Mouse: Animals in Medical Research by William Paton
       All That Dwell Therein: Animal Rights and Environmental Ethics by Tom Regan
       The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan
       Animals and Why They Matter: A Journey Around the Species Barrier by Mary Midgley
       Rights, Killing, and Suffering: Moral Vegetarianism and Applied Ethics by R.G. Frey
       Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals by R.G. Frey
    -REVIEW : May 31, 1984 Peter Singer: Sex & Superstition, NY Review of Books
       Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility by Germaine Greer
    -REVIEW : Mar 1, 1984 Peter Singer; Helga Kuhse: The Future of Baby Doe, NY Review of Books
       The Long Dying of Baby Andrew by Robert Stinson and Peggy Stinson
    -REVIEW : Nov 6, 1980 Peter Singer: Revolution and Religion, NY Review of Books
       Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith by James H. Billington
    -REVIEW : Sep 25, 1980 Peter Singer: Dictator Marx?, NY Review of Books
       Marxism After Marx by David McLellan
       The Two Marxisms: Contradictions and Anomalies in the Development of Theory by Alvin W. Gouldner
       Marx on the Choice between Socialism and Communism by Stanley Moore
       Karl Marx and the Anarchists by Paul Thomas
       Marxism: For and Against by Robert L. Heilbroner
    -REVIEW : Dec 20, 1979 Peter Singer: On Your Marx, NY Review of Books
       Marx and History: From Primitive Society to the Communist Future by D. Ross Gandy
       Marx's Interpretation of History by Melvin Rader
       Marx's Theory of History by William H. Shaw
       Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence by G.A. Cohen
    -REVIEW : Mar 22, 1979 Peter Singer: Human Prospecting, NY Review of Books
       The Arrogance of Humanism by David Ehrenfeld
       The Illusion of Technique: A Search for Meaning in a Technological Civilization by William Barrett
       The Paradox of Cause and Other Essays by John William Miller
    -REVIEW : Aug 5, 1976 Peter Singer: 'Bioethics': The Case of the Fetus, NY Review of Books
       Research on the Fetus: The Report of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research US Department of Health, Education and Welfare
       The Ethics of Fetal Research by Paul Ramsey
    -REVIEW : Mar 6, 1975 Peter Singer: The Right to Be Rich or Poor, NY Review of Books
       Anarchy, State, and Utopia by Robert Nozick
    -REVIEW : Peter Singer: Looking Backward, NY Review of Books
       Radical Paradoxes: Dilemmas of the American Left, 1945-1970 by Peter Clecak
       Four Reforms: A Guide for the Seventies by William F. Buckley, Jr.
    -REVIEW : May 2, 1974 Peter Singer: Discovering Karl Popper, NY Review of Books
       Karl Popper by Bryan Magee
       The Philosophy of Karl Popper edited by Paul A. Schilpp
       Objective Knowledge by Karl Popper
    -REVIEW : Apr 5, 1973 Peter Singer: Animal Liberation, NY Review of Books
       Animals, Men and Morals edited by Stanley Godlovitch, Roslind Godlovitch, and John Harris
    -PROFILE : The ethics of baby-killing : His protesters call him a Nazi, a hater and a snob, but the most interesting truth about Peter Singer is that there are many more like him. (JASON ZINOMAN, Salon)
    -ESSAY : The utilitarian horrors of Peter Singer : Other People's Mothers (PETER BERKOWITZ, New Republlic)
    -ESSAY : Princeton and Its Principles (J. Bottum, Weekly Standard)
    -ESSAY : Life and Death at Princeton : Prof. Peter Singer is pro-choice and he is the abortion-rights movement's worst nightmare (George F. Will, Newsweek)
    -ESSAY : Why Are We Afraid of Peter Singer? : The world's most reviled philosopher just wants more happiness for everyone  (JEFF SHARLET, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -ESSAY : Singer deserves to be heard (EDWARD JOHNSON, Ph.D., What's Happening in Philosophy?)
    -REVIEW : of A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution and Cooperation by Peter Singer How the Left Got Darwin Wrong : Philosopher Peter Singer argues that the Left must radically revise its outdated view of human nature. (LEIGH VAN VALEN, Scientific American)
    -REVIEW : of RETHINKING LIFE AND DEATH The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics. By Peter Singer (Daniel J. Kevles, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE GREAT APE PROJECT Equality Beyond Humanity. Edited by Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer (Mary Midgley, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of May 15, 1980 H.L.A. Hart: Death and Utility, NY Review of Books
       Practical Ethics by Peter Singer

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