Why are humans different from other creatures


What human dignity is, what it excludes and what not, is one of the increasingly controversial questions in law and between law and politics in ...

What human dignity is, what it excludes and what not, is one of the increasingly controversial questions in law and between law and politics in Germany (the disputes over the SPD candidate for the Federal Constitutional Court, Horst Dreier, who relativized the ban on torture, were eloquent for this Example). But if there is human dignity, is there also animal dignity? And a plant dignity? And how far do they go? In Germany this is at best a marginal issue. A few years ago, the Frankfurt Administrative Court briefly summarized the discussion status in a guiding principle: “The guarantee of human dignity in Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and in Article 1, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law only protects human dignity, not animals. A right to ethical animal protection cannot be derived from the guarantee of human dignity. ”(VG Frankfurt, NJW 2001, 1295, Az.:1 G 429/01 (V)).

In Switzerland it looks very different. There the Federal Constitution stipulates that the “dignity of creatures” must be taken into account. The Swiss Animal Welfare Act, revised in 2008, formulates the purpose of the law as “protecting the dignity and well-being of animals”. What that means, to what extent the dignity of animals differs from that of humans and why, is evidently also controversial among the confederates. In particular, the legal regulations on animal dignity in Switzerland apparently have consequences for the possibility of carrying out animal experiments, which is why the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SAMS) has now spoken out and reflected in a statement on the relationship between animal dignity, options for weighing up interests and animal experiments. The animal ethicists are particularly keen to work out that animal dignity has already been preserved when it has been determined in a comprehensive weighing of interests whether an animal experiment is justified in view of the pain and fears it can cause in the animal. On the other hand, there is the position that in addition to pain and fears, the dignity of the animal is a separate test point in the weighing of interests: that may sound academic, but is of enormous importance in practice. The ethicists of the SAMS represent:

"Respect for the dignity of the animal is not tied to certain characteristics or actions, but requires an ethically responsible approach to it, that is, a careful weighing of interests and orientation towards the result."

If, on the other hand, one assumes that dignity demands more and perhaps something else than just taking pain, fears, suffering or damage into account, then the “orientation on the result”, which is usually required in animal experiments, will be difficult to justify.

I am also interested in the question of what effects this debate about animal dignity has with regard to human dignity: On the one hand, it could be argued that a very pragmatic approach to animal dignity also negatively affects the discussion about human dignity in the long term, because it stands for that dignity in itself is a concept that can be put into perspective. On the other hand, the argument also makes sense the other way around: Just by making it clear that the dignity of animals follows a different concept than human dignity, one underlines the special, singular character of human dignity. Today people are accused of “speciesism” for this - I can live with that. However, I find a number of the animal experiments that are (are to be) carried out today, and which could be countered for the first time in Switzerland through the introduction of the concept of animal dignity, also highly questionable, for example the experiments on macaque monkeys that the Federal Court in Lausanne is carrying out of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (a judgment which probably also gave rise to the SAMS statement mentioned here). At the Institute for Neuroinformatics, the following attempt was approved (and only later banned against the protests of the scientists):

“The researchers plan to mount four rhesus monkeys - a primate species from the genus of macaques - in two operations performed under anesthesia, each with a head restraint on the cranial bone and insert a lead chamber, through which the measuring electrodes are inserted, under the roof of the skull. In a training phase of 3 to 12 months, the monkeys should get used to the primate chair and the solving of visual tasks. This is followed by the actual trial phase of one year. The individual test sessions last - provided the test animal does not refuse to cooperate - two and a half to three, at most four hours. During the session, the animals, which are fixed to the head in the primate chair so that they can no longer move it, have to solve tasks to determine what is known as Vernier visual acuity: For this purpose, two vertical lines are shown on a screen, of which the the lower one is slightly shifted to the side. The monkeys can indicate whether the line is shifted to the left or right by pulling a lever in front of the chair. For a correct answer you will receive a few drops of diluted fruit juice. On the days of the trial sessions, the animals are deprived of free access to the water in order to motivate them to cooperate. If a test animal cannot meet its fluid requirements during the tests, it is given additional fluid a few hours later. An animal is used in this test arrangement for about one and a half to two years until it is euthanized for a more precise anatomical localization of the recordings made. "

However, I ask myself whether such experiments could not be forbidden without the concept of animal dignity, which in my opinion is rather confusing.

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Keywords: monkeys, bioethics, federal court, ethics committee, SAMS, Switzerland, animal welfare, animal experiments, dignity
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Is the dignity of the animal inviolable?

By Oliver Tolmein

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