Nicoll & Russell on Animal Ethics

Selections from this page: http://www.ucalgary.ca/~powlesla/personal/hunting/rights/ 

HUMAN SUPERIORITY

The predator Homo sapiens has a set of adaptive advantages that are an
expression of the functional capacities of our greatly enlarged
cerebral cortex. These advantages include our capacity to reason, to
develop and use languages, to think creatively and in the abstract,
etc. It does not matter to what extent these higher intellectual
functions may be shared, in part, by a few other nonhuman species. The
fact that we are the only species that has all of these capacities and
we use them to create our overwhelming technology makes us superior to
any other animal on Earth. By equating a human being with a labratory
rat, you are demeaning humans.

[paraphrased from:
Sharon M. Russell and Charles S. Nicholl. "A Dissection of the
Chapter "Tools for Research" in Peter Singer's Animal
Liberation". Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology
and Medicine. February 1996, Vol.211 No.2. pp.109-138]
 
CRITIQUE OF ANIMAL LIBERATION

"Abstract. The book Animal Liberation by philosopher Peter
Singer, is frequently referred to as the bible of the animal
liberation/rights movement (ALARM). Thus Singer is regarded as a
major moral standard-bearer of the ALARM. Some have suggested
that his book provides "intellectual rigor" to the moral
arguments for animals' equality with humans which had previously
been based largely on emotionalism and sentimentality. We have
analyzed the contents of the chapter "Tools for Research" which
criticizes the use of animals in biomedical research as well as
for drug and for product-safety testing. In order to discredit
these practices, Singer "documents" his arguments with 138
"notes," some of which are to the same reference and others of
which contain multiple references. Of the 132 different
references, we attempted to verify the accuracy of 49 of them. Of
these, 16 (33%) were inaccurate or we could not find. In
addition, Singer mischaracterizes the cited studies in various
ways. He quotes selectively and out of context from numerous
research projects. He never mentions the objectives of these
projects, except occasionally when, in our opinion, he distorts
or trivializes them. Singer also cites supposedly damning
"evidence" published by other antivivisectionists, even though
this evidence has been refuted in the literature.

Singer supposedly embraces utilitarianism, a philosophy which
holds that the harm done by a practice should be balanced against
the gain realized from it. However, he makes virtually no attempt
to consider objectively the benefits that have been realized from
animal-based medical research, and he greatly exaggerates the
costs. To him, animal research is "all pain and no gain".

We believe that Singer's moral arguments for animal equality are
not convincing. The lack of objectivity and the reliance upon
distortion and selective quotation that characterize Singer's
"scholarship" are surprising when one considers that he presents
himself as an ethicist and moralist." [p.109]

Sharon M. Russell and Charles S. Nicholl. "A Dissection of the
Chapter "Tools for Research" in Peter Singer's Animal
Liberation". Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology
and Medicine. February 1996, Vol.211 No.2. pp.109-138


SINGER RESPONDS

[deleted for brevity]

Peter Singer. "Blind Hostility: A Response to Russell and
Nicholl". Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and
Medicine. February 1996, Vol.211 No.2. pp.139-146


RUSSELL AND NICHOLL REPLY

"We were not surprised by the tone of Peter Singer's response to
our commentary but we admit to astonishment at the minor points
of criticism that he selected to attempt to rebut." [p.147]

"We believe that it appropriate to allow Singer the last word in
this debate. In a letter to the editor of an Australian newspaper
complaining about a columnist's opinion piece about Singer's
views on euthanasia, Singer and, his occasional coauthor, Helga
Kuhse conclude:

"There are other serious errors in Mr. Dominguez's articles, but
two are enough to make our point. A writer who makes such
flagrant errors does not deserve to be taken seriously - or
published in a newspaper that wishes its opinion pages to be
taken seriously."

We could not have said it better ourselves." [p.154]

Sharon M. Russell and Charles S. Nicholl. "Reply to Singer's "Blind
Hostility"." Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and
Medicine. February 1996, Vol.211 No.2. pp.147-154