Philosophical approaches to animal research have typically asked whether nonhuman animals have rights that would prohibit such research or whether the benefit of such research on the whole balances out the harms to animals. The professional ethics approach instead promotes compliance with regulatory norms that aim to support science progress. In Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals: A Primate Scientist’s Ethical Journey (2016), John Gluck struggles with issues that relate to each of these ethical frameworks, but the notion of an ethical “journey” also raises questions of character that are underdeveloped in animal research ethics. This essay considers how virtue ethics may allow us to revisit the ethical significance of the research of one of Gluck’s mentors, Harry F. Harlow. Harlow’s torturous, but highly influential, experiments with infant macaques made him one of the most controversial figures in animal research in the second half of the 20th century. A virtue ethical approach to his case poses a unique set of questions, including: Was Harlow compassionate or cruel? Why are human-animal bonds important in ethical primate research? And what is a good life for a research monkey?
Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 61 (1) : 130-145Full article