Click on the images to listen to quotes from Bentham and Singer, and then consider the motion: ‘animal experimentation is immoral’.

Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham
Peter Singer Peter Singer

1. Singer’s extension of the equality principle to include all sentient beings is not necessarily shared by all utilitarians. It involves the assumption that we can impose our ideas of pleasure and pain on creatures that cannot articulate such pleasure or pain for themselves, and also that it makes sense to give such creatures ‘rights’ they do not recognise themselves (does a fox recognise the chickens’ right to live?).

2. Utilitarians invoke the greatest happiness principle – the idea that we should so act as to maximise the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people (two maximising ideas). Notice, though, that this is really net happiness i.e. the balance of happiness over pain.

3. Utilitarians have to predict consequences of their actions. So, for example, what might be the consequences for human happiness if we banned all animal experimentation? It could be argued either way – that the consequences will be good or that the consequences will be bad.

4. Maybe what we end up arguing for is a balance of probabilities. What is the most likely outcome of an action such as banning animal experimentation? Should we just focus on human happiness or should we include the happiness/misery of the animals – how might we determine what that happiness/misery of animals consists in? Is there such a thing as ‘humane animal experimentation’?