Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Moral contradiction and the world of administrators

The following is an excerpt from the transcript: ‘Behind the scenes: animal experimentation ethics committees’ All In the Mind (Australia: Australian Broadcasting Commission Radio National, 19 January 2008).
Natasha Mitchell: Carole Webb, can I come to you, you are a vet and you're an animal welfarist as well, and you've been on numerous committees at the national and also the local levels, animal ethics committees. What motivated you
to take on that role? It's not an easy one.

Carole Webb: No, and I think as Mike says there is an inherent conflict in what we call a category C member which is the animal welfare member in that our platform is quite clearly that we oppose the use of live animals in experimentation. But we acknowledge that the community at this point in time understands the value of research, they are OK with it being conducted as long as it's being done humanely. And so that's our role, to actually refine the protocols to make sure that the numbers of animals that are being used are justified, that the protocol will have benefit to the community -- the cure perhaps for cancer, for diabetes -- and it weighs that against the impact that the experiment or the protocol will actually have on the animal itself. And whilst we don't approve of experimentation, I think the end result is a protocol that I suppose we agree to.

Natasha Mitchell: Well I guess you don't approve of experimentation on animals but you are approving experiments on animals?

Carole Webb: Yes, and that's the conflict for us.[1]

The payoff for the animal welfarists whom Dr Webb represents on the Animal Welfare Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council is that the committee has been influenced towards replacement of animal experimentation with other methods, reduction in the numbers of animals used, and refinement of methods to minimise animal suffering. The payoff for scientists includes doing better science. For example, neuroscientists studying brain augmentation in mice were helped by the animal rights representative to realize that laboratory mice considered normal in the past, had underdeveloped brains due to under-stimulation, and so were unsuitable as a control group. It was therefore better science to improve the environments in which laboratory mice were kept. The contradiction that a group which cannot approve of experiments on animals approves experiments on animals, would not arise for Australian animal welfarists like Dr Webb if, like their English counterparts, they were kept from the conflicted world of administration. The world as experienced by administrators is a world of moral contradiction.[2]

[1] Transcript: ‘Behind the scenes: animal experimentation ethics committees’ All In the Mind (Australia: Australian Broadcasting Commission Radio National, 19 January 2008). Dr Carole Webb, Executive Officer, Cat Protection Society of Victoria, Member, Animal Welfare Committee, National Health and Medical Research Council, (amongst other ethics committees).
[2] G. Priest and R. Routley, ‘First historical introduction: a preliminary history of paraconsistent and diathelic approaches’ in Graham Priest, et. al. (eds.), Paraconsistent Logic: Essays on the Inconsistent (Munich, Philosophia, 1989) p. 3. “Admission, or insistence, that some statement is both true and false, in a context where not everything is accepted or some things are rejected, is a sure sign of a paraconsistent approach…recognition…that that is how things are, that, in effect, the world is inconsistent.”

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