978-0-374-25420-9 / 9780374254209

The Scalpel and the Butterfly:The War Between Animal Research and Animal Protection


Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux



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About the book:

Biological experimentation, writes science journalist Deborah Rudacille, has long been the province of a scientific elite that has not much cared to explain its work to the larger public. That public, she continues, has responded with a kind of don't-ask, don't-tell policy "whereby society will permit animal experimentation--and certain types of research on human subjects--as long as it is protected from the details." With the rise of the Animal Liberation Movement and PETA, however, that unstated policy has increasingly come into question, and research scientists have found it ever more difficult to employ animals (or humans, for that matter) in their work.

In her engaged and illuminating study of these clashing sensibilities, Rudacille ponders troubling questions. Does an elevation in the moral status of animals, she asks, necessarily mean degradation in the moral status of human beings? (Certainly, she responds, this appears to have been the case under Nazi Germany.) Is the killing of laboratory animals--nearly 10,000 in the case of the Salk vaccine against polio--justifiable in the face of the human lives that can be saved? Is it ethical to use the mentally ill as research subjects in studies that may yield cures for their illness? Philosophical landmines surround every attempt at an answer, and Rudacille takes pains to consider all sides of these and kindred issues. Her thoughtful work should provoke reflection and discussion. --Gregory McNamee

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