The Absurdity and Paradox of Life

by Layfon on February 10, 2015 - 12:50pm

           “Lab rat” is a rather frequently used term by the general populace and seems to be accepted by society although the existence of such beings is a moral dilemma for many. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, more than 100 million laboratory animals are killed in the United States annually and many of them suffer cruel treatments such as being subjected to “severe pain near, at, or above the pain tolerance threshold of unanesthetized conscious animals.”  (“Annual Report Animal Usage). How can the laboratory experimentations be allowed on animals if they weren’t allowed on humans? Are we superior to non-human animals?

            From the 13th to the 18th century, for five centuries, there was such a thing as an animal trial (“Animal Trial”). Animals, including insects, were brought in court for their crimes such as manslaughter and thievery. They had lawyers representing them and could face convictions such as execution and exile. The people believed that if the rules were good enough for humans, they should also be good enough for animals. Many religious beliefs also support the equal treatment to all life forms and this form of laboratory practice does not conform with those beliefs. This deontological perspective is very popular and around 40% of the American population supports it (Goodman 68).

                Generally, people would like to think that humans are superior to other species because of the humans’ capacity for love, complex/abstract reasoning, compassion, hatred, suffering, etc. However, many animals such as primates, elephants, and dolphins are capable of those things and are self-aware (Mercado 17). One of the major differences however would be the awareness of the absurdity and paradox of life. On this point, it would be arguably crueler to end a non-human creatures’ life because humans are aware that their life will end sooner or later, while animals will try their hardest to survive anything.

            Although it can sometimes be cruel, it also has its benefits. According to the American for Medical Progress, its usefulness far outweighs its casualty. Since 1975, new cancer drugs tested on laboratory animals have increased the life expectancy of Americans by 10.7% in only 40 years and the cancer treatments have become “kinder and gentler” (“Animal Research Means Medical Progress”). However, that is not everything. The existence of laboratory animals such as laboratory rats has greatly helped the medical research development of many major medical advances in the past century, including: vaccines for the prevention of measles, mumps, polio, and hepatitis C, organ transplants, heart and vascular surgery, and medication for high blood pressure and arthritis. That is not all, animal research does not only benefit humans, but also benefits other animals. It allows humans to be able to understand the body of animals better, therefore being able to treat more diseases.

            Personally, I would approach this dilemma with an utilitarian mindset. Although some animals’ life is rougher than we can ever imagine, the trade-off is worth it. The sheer number of lives saved and helped by their contribution is significant. Yet, this contributes even more to the absurdity and paradox of life.




Work Cited

“Animal Research Benefits.” Americans for Medical Progress. n.p., n.d. Web. 3 Feb 2015.

“Animal Trial.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.

J.R. Goodman, et al., “Mounting Opposition to Vivisection,” Contexts 11 (2012): 68-9. Print.

Mercado, E. III, Uyeyama, R.K., Pack, A.A., & Herman, L.M. (1999). Memory for action events in the bottlenosed dolphin. Animal Cognition, 17-25. Print.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Annual Report Animal Usage by Fiscal Year. 27 July 2011.


Thank you Layfon for providing a such detailed description of this animal testing issue. The statistic you have provided was really a shock to me, and it somehow reinforced my determination to be a vegetarian. I am glad to learn from your article that the life expectancy of our fellow Americans has increased by so much in so little amount of time. I am also happy that the human society has greatly benefited from animal testing. Nevertheless, there is one thing in your article which leaves me puzzled. I’d like to comprehend how is the animal testing issue a dilemma? How is animal testing a trade-off? Animals have never made the choice of sacrificing themselves for humans nor did humans ask for their consent before killing hundreds of millions of animals in the laboratory. If on one hand we have animals that are tested, tortured and killed by the research and on the other hand the humans who benefit from the research and live a painless, happy and long life, we are not talking about trade-off here, we are talking about exploitation.

You are perfectly correct in saying that it is exploitation. What I meant by trade-off is that we lose some of our humanity for some average life expectancy and health benefits.

It is a dilemma because both options aren't perfectly right: to sacrifice the life of animals that we have no right to decide for great benefits for the humankind versus to let the animals live their own life by neglecting problems a lot of our kins are suffering from, which are sometimes lethal.

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