Q. How can animal experimentation be ethically acceptable? Don’t animals have rights?
A. The concept of rights arises where there is a conflict of interests. In this case it is a question of measuring animal as against human rights.
A duty towards animals is recognised and accepted by all responsible and compassionate people, but man is a higher species, granted at the time of creation: "dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over every living thing that creeps upon the earth" (Gen. 1:16, 28).
Hence two principles arise: one, that animals may be used for man’s benefit, and two, that this use must be limited and controlled, for the animal’s benefit.
Ethicists would probably agree with Albert Schweitzer, who said: "Those who experiment with operations or the use of drugs upon animals, or inoculate them with diseases, so as to be able to bring help to mankind with the results gained, must never quiet any misgivings they feel with the general reflection that their gruesome proceedings aim at a valuable result.
"They must first have considered in each individual case whether there is a real necessity to force upon any animal this sacrifice for the sake of mankind, and they must take the most careful pains to ensure that the pain inflicted is made as small as possible."
The following guidelines on the experimentation on animals for the purposes of medical science were formulated by the Israeli Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists:
• One should avoid inflicting pain to animals regardless of whether it is direct or indirect.
• Prohibition of pain to animals does not rule out using animals for the benefit of man.
• Causing pain to animals for the sake of an individual is a problem, but an experiment for the benefit of all mankind, such as the evaluation of medical techniques, is permissible.
• If it is possible to reduce the amount of pain without affecting the utility of the experiment, it should be done.
• Once the experiment for human benefit is completed, animal pain must not be continued.
• An animal experiment planned with no benefit to mankind is forbidden.
Rabbi Dr. Raymnd Apple, AO RFD is Emeritus Rabbi of the Great Synagogue, Sydney. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem, where he publishes OzTorah, a weekly email list and website with Torah insights from an Australian perspective..