Harming Some to Enhance Others

  • Gary Comstock
Part of the Health, Technology and Society book series (HTE)


Generally speaking, we modify animals’ genomes to give their progeny traits that will indirectly improve human life. So-called intentional genetic ‘enhancements’ of animals, then, usually make the target animals worse-off. What rules should govern animal experimentation in which we harm some directly to enhance others indirectly? I criticize the abolitionist conclusions of animal rightists that all animal enhancements should be banned, and I criticize the permissive conclusions of speciesists that all such procedures should be allowed. I argue that current animal welfare law provides a defensible platform on which to begin building ethically justifiable policy in this area.


Agricultural Biotechnology Moral Standing Human Enhancement Genetic Enhancement Enhancement Research 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ali A. and Cheng K.M. (1985) ‘Early egg production in genetically blind (rc/rc) chickens in comparison with sighted (Rc+/rc) controls’, Poultry Science, 64(5) May, 789–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aqua Bounty Technologies Inc. (2010) ‘Environmental assessment for AquAdvantage® Salmon, an Atlantic salmon (Salmo Salar L.) bearing a single copy of the stably integrated Α-form of the op AFP-GHc2gene construct at the Α-locus in the EO-1α Line’,…/UCM224760.pdf.Google Scholar
  3. Bostrom N. (2003) ‘Human genetic enhancements: a transhumanist perspective’, The Journal of Value Inquiry, 37 (4), 493–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cohen C. (1986) ‘The case for the use of animals in biomedical research’, New England Journal of Medicine, 315, 865–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Comstock G. (2000a) ‘An alternative ethic for animals’, in Hodges J. and Han I.K. (eds), Livestock, Ethics and Quality of Life ( Wallingford UK and New York: CABI Pub ).Google Scholar
  6. Comstock G. (2000b) Vexing Nature? On the Ethical Case against Agricultural Biotechnology ( Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers).Google Scholar
  7. Comstock G. (2013) Research Ethics: A Philosophical Guide to the Responsible Conduct of Research ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  8. Daniels N. (2000) ‘Normal functioning and the treatment-enhancement distinction’, Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 9 (03), 309–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Darling F. and Dolan K. (2007) ‘Animals in cancer research’, Lab Animal Europe, October, Scholar
  10. Directorate-General for Communication (2010) ‘Special Eurobarometer 341–73. 1: Biotechnology’ (Bruxelles: European Commission ), Scholar
  11. Domina D. and Robert Taylor C. (2009) ‘The debilitating effects of concentration in markets affecting agriculture’ ( Lincoln NE: Organization for Competitive Markets ), Scholar
  12. GAO-09–746R Concentration in Agriculture (2009) ‘Agricultural concentration and agricultural commodity and retail food prices: briefing for congressional staff’ ( Washington: U.S. Government Accountability Office ), Scholar
  13. Government of Canada, Health Canada (2002) ‘Report of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Expert Panel on rbST [Health Canada, 1998]’, Scholar
  14. Hare R.M. (1981) Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Methods and Point ( New York: Oxford University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. LaFollette H. and Shanks N. (1996) Brute Science: Dilemmas ofAnimal Experimentation ( London and New York: Routledge).Google Scholar
  16. Lee S., Barton E.R., Lee Sweeney H. and Farrar R.P. (2004) ‘Viral expression of insulin-like growth factor-I enhances muscle hypertrophy in resistance-trained rats’, Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda MD), 96(3), 1097–104, doi:10.1152/ japplphysiol.00479.2003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. McMahan J. (2002) The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life ( Oxford: Oxford University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McMahan J. (2005) ‘Our fellow creatures’, The Journal of Ethics, 9(3/4) January 1, 353–80, doi:10.2307/25115832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. McPherron A.C. and Lee S.-J. (1997) ‘Double muscling in cattle due to mutations in the myostatin gene’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 94(23) November 11, 12457–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Nobis N. (2004) ‘Carl Cohen’s “kind” arguments for animal rights and against human rights’, Journal of Applied Philosophy, 21 (1), 43–59, doi:1 0.1111/j. 0264–3758.2004. 00262.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Overall K.L. and Dunham A.E. (2002) ‘Clinical features and outcome in dogs and cats with obsessive-compulsive disorder: 126 cases (1989–2000)’, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 221(10) November, 1445–52, doi:10.2460/javma.2002.221.1445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Overall K.L., Hamilton S. and Chang M. (2006) ‘Understanding the genetic basis of canine anxiety: phenotyping dogs for behavioral, neurochemical, and genetic assessment’, Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 1(3) November, 124–41, doi:10.1016/j.jveb.2006.09.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pursel V., Pinkert C., Miller K., Bolt D., Campbell R., Palmiter R., Brinster R. and Hammer R. (1989) ‘Genetic engineering of livestock’, Science, 244(4910) June 16, 1281–8, doi:10.1126/science.2499927.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Regan T. (1983) The Case for Animal Rights ( Berkeley: University of California Press).Google Scholar
  25. Regan T. (2005) Empty Cages: Facing the Challenge of Animal Rights ( Lanham MD: Rowman and Littlefield).Google Scholar
  26. Rekha J., Chakravarthy S., Veena L.R., Kalai V.P., Choudhury R., Halahalli H.N., Alladi P.A. et al. (2009) ‘Transplantation of hippocampal cell lines restore spatial learning in rats with ventral subicular lesions’, Behavioral Neuroscience, 123(6), 1197–217, doi:10.1037/a0 017655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rollin B.E. (1995) The Frankenstein Syndrome: Ethical and Social Issues in the Genetic Engineering of Animals ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Salgirli Y. and Dodurka T. (2011) ‘The first report of self-directed aggression in a stray dog in Turkey’, Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 6(6) November 1, 351–4, doi:10.1016/j.jveb.2011.03.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sandoe P., Nielsen B.L., Christensen L.G. and Sorensen P. (1999) ‘Staying good while playing god–the ethics of breeding farm animals’, Animal Welfare (South Mimms UK), 8(4), 313–28.Google Scholar
  30. Savulescu J. (2006) ‘Justice, fairness, and enhancement’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1093(1), December 1, 321–38, doi:10.1196/annals.1382. 021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Silverman J., Suckow M.A. and Murthy S. (2006) The IACUC Handbook ( Boca Raton FL: CRC Press).Google Scholar
  32. Singer P. (reply by) and Regan T. (1985) ‘The dog in the lifeboat: an exchange’, The New York Review of Books, April 25, Scholar
  33. Streiffer R. (2005) ‘At the edge of humanity: human stem cells, chimeras, and moral status’, Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, 15 (4), 347–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Streiffer R. and Gavrell Ortiz S. (2010) ‘Animals in research: Enviropigs’, in Comstock G. (ed.), Life Science Ethics, 2nd edn ( Dordrecht: Springer ), pp. 405–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Varner G.E. (2008) ‘Utilitarianism and the evolution of ecological ethics’, Science and Engineering Ethics, 14(4) October, 551–73, doi:10.1007/s11948–0 08–9102–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Varner G.E. (2012) Personhood, Ethics, and Animal Cognition: Situating Animals in Hare’s Two-Level Utilitarianism ( Oxford: Oxford University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Zhou Z., Sheng X., Zhang Z., Zhao K., Zhu L., Guo G., Friedenberg S.G. et al. (2010) ‘Differential genetic regulation of canine hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis’, PLoS ONE, 5(10) October 11, e13219. doi:10.1371/journal. p one. 0 013219.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Gary Comstock 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary Comstock

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations