ETHICS OF ACTIVISM
Due Wednesday, May 13
Due Wednesday, May 13
Consider these activities of animal rights activists:
1. There have been several firebombings of the homes of research scientists in California in recent years. Although no one has claimed responsibility, the police believe that they are the work of animal-rights extremists. There have also been many cases of personal threats, harassment, and vandalism of researchers’ private property. For instance, last February six masked intruders tried to force their way into the home of a UC-Santa Cruz researcher during a birthday party for her young daughter. One of the researchers targeted by a firebomb is a neurobiologist who uses mice in studies of how the mouse’s visual system develops (see handout).
2. The anti-whaling organization Sea Shepard attempts to damage the property of whaling ships which operate in a legal grey zone or illegally. The organization has said, “"Yes we have sunk whaling ships, rammed whalers and drift netters, boarded poaching vessels and destroyed equipment used for illegal exploitation of the oceans.”
3. In 2004 animal activists illegally broke into a private egg production facility owned and run by Wegmans in Wolcott, NY. The facility housed 750,000 laying hens in battery cages and, other than being a very large farm, was similar to other egg farms across the country. The activists filmed the conditions, including dead and sick chickens in unsanitary conditions, and made the film widely available. The animal activists were sued by Wegmans, and Wegmans eventually sold the egg farm (though still uses it as a source of eggs).
4. A number of animal rights activists have created alternatives to animal dissections in schools and colleges. These include models, videos, and interactive computer simulations.
Pick one of these activities of animal rights activists and evaluate whether it can be ethically supported. If it cannot be supported, explain why. If it should be supported, evaluate whether doing so is an obligation or merely a consideration (that is, a nice thing to do but not a moral duty). Depending on the case you pick and your argument supporting it, you might need to distinguish whether your position is in the realm of personal responsibility (individual action) or public policy (collective action). Support your view with one of these ethical frameworks: Kantian deontology, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, or the justice framework.
Keep your position and your support as focused and specific as possible. Also, be realistic about what is at stake and what various parties actually do. For example, although some academic researchers who experiment using animal models are contributing directly to curing human disease, many animal researchers have other scientific goals. Also, some animal dissections are used to train future surgeons, while most are performed by students in middle and secondary schools.