Animal Conciousness and Ethics in Asia and the Pacific

Journal: Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 10 (1998): 249-67.
Author: Darryl R. J. Macer

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The interactions between humans, animals and the environment have shaped human values and ethics, not only the genes that we are made of. The animal rights movement challenges human beings to reconsider interactions between humans and other animals, and may be connected to the environmental movement that begs us to recognize the fact that there are symbiotic relationships between humans and all other organisms. The first part of this paper looks at types of bioethics, the implications of autonomy and the value of being alive. Then the level of consciousness of these relationships are explored in survey results from Asia and the Pacific, especially in the 1993 n International Bioethics Survey conducted in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, The Philippines, Russia, Singapore and Thailand. Very few mentioned animal consciousness in the survey, but there were more biocentric comments in Australia and Japan; and more comments with the idea of harmony including humans in Thailand. Comparisons between questions and surveys will also be made, in an attempt to describe what people imagine animal consciousness to be, and whether this relates to human ethics of the relationships.

Descriptive, Interactive and Prescriptive Bioethics

Bioethics is both a word and a concept. The word comes to us only from 1970, yet the concept comes from human heritage thousands of years old. It is the concept of love, balancing benefits and risks of choices and decisions. This heritage can be seen in all cultures, religions, and in ancient writings from around the world. We in fact cannot trace the origin of bioethics back to their beginning, as the relationships between human beings and other members of our biological community, planet and God, are formed at an earlier stage then our history records. The history of bioethical reasoning is influenced by our genes, and the forces that shaped these genes into the organisms, society and cultures that we have. We now have the power to change not only our own genes, but the genes of every organism, and the power to remodel whole ecosystems of the planet.

Some academics have tried to define what bioethics is, what are the basic principles, and how we should apply these to our lives. To make good choices, and choices that we can live with, improving our life and society, is certainly a good thing. The choices that need to be made in the modern biotechnological and genetic age are many, extending from before conception to after death - all of life. The choices to kill, to eat, to farm, to encage, or set free the stray bird, are not new but we can see the dilemma occasionally expressed over millennia in stories from all cultures.

The term bioethics should mean the study of life ethics, but it has often been viewed only as a part. The concern with medical ethics has meant that while many people, or committees, are called "bioethics" committees, they only consider medical ethics. Likewise, ecological and environmental ethics must include human-human interactions, as these interactions are one of the dominant ecological interactions in the world. Both extremes are incomplete perspectives. In the conclusion of an earlier book, Shaping Genes (1), I said that we have much to learn from the issues raised by genetic technology, not just the nature of our genes, but the nature of our thinking about what is important in life. New technology like genetic engineering can be a catalyst for our thinking about these issues, and has stimulated thinking about bioethics in the last few decades.

There are three ways to think of the term bioethics, one is as descriptive bioethics - the way people view life and their moral interactions and responsibilities with living organisms in life. It would ask what is common sense? Another is as discourse or interactive bioethics, the debate over the principles of bioethics and between persons of different views or with different interests. It includes relationships between different organisms. The other is prescriptive bioethics - to tell others what is good or bad, what principles are most important; or to say something/someone has rights and therefore others have duties to them. Both these concepts have much older roots, which we can trace in religions and cultural patterns that may share some universal ideals.

One way to examine the reasoning people have is to ask them in surveys of opinion. Scholars may go through literature, and historical studies, but often these studies are selected by their choices, rather than the peoples of the culture or tradition that thy claim to speak on behalf of. We need to look at more than history, and more than policies that governments have developed, we need to reach into the hearts of people. In 1993 the International Bioethics Survey was performed across ten countries of the world, including Australia, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, The Philippines, Russia, Singapore and Thailand (2). The results can be compared to surveys in North America and Europe. The purpose was to look at how people think about diseases, life, nature, and selected issues of science and technology, biotechnology, genetic engineering, genetic screening, and gene therapy. People made very interesting comments. The diversity of comments was found to be the same in different countries, suggesting that reasoning about these issues goes deeper than cultures, or religions.

Evolution of a capacity to respect as autonomy

Although societies may look different, surveys suggest people and families are similarly diverse. If we put the question from the perspective of the animals, then although the life of animals varies between farms, nature and house in each country, it could be argued that these differences do not define whether they have consciousness or not. The differences could define whether they enjoy life or not, but the capacity to consider whether they enjoy or experience pain and happiness could be one definition of consciousness.

All living organisms are biological beings, and share a common and intertwined biological heritage. The term bioethics reminds us of the combination of biology and ethics, topics that are intertwined. We can compare humans with other species and see where differences may be. We may also look at individual humans and ask whether there is any significant difference between individual members of the human species that could influence the ethical duties we have to them. The method of our creation appears to be via a process of evolution, like all life on this planet. This is most consistent with the data we have. There is no conflict between a belief in the creation of the world by God described poetically in the Bible, or other scriptures and the theory of evolution.

Respect for the autonomy of individuals is a fundamental principle of ethics, and is found in early times in those religions which recognized freedom of belief. If we respect autonomy of human beings we should respect their right to have at least some property, or territory, and control over their own body. We are animals, and most animals (social insects excepted) have individual control over their bodies. In humans the possession of moral wills is used as the basis for autonomy. We should ask whether all people have this and whether animals also have some capacity for free moral judgment? Beings that are incapable of exercising, or responding, to moral claims may not possess the same sort of rights as those which do, which has been the basis for human rights, or the Great Ape Project (3).

Another language is the person. A person is generally referred to as someone who is rational, capable of free choices, and is a coherent, continuing and autonomous centre of sensations, experiences, emotions, volitionfs and actions. A crucial part is self-awareness, or personal identity. One of the important reasons for religions to place a high value on human life is belief in the soul. Each individual is precious and unique because they possess a soul, a spiritual status. The timing of ensoulment in humans varies between different religions, and within people of the same religion. In a tradition where the presence of a soul is the source of autonomy and protecting human life, the characters of personhood are less important in assigning autonomy.

Behaviour is influenced by both genes and environment. By the year 2000 we will obtain the gene sequences of all of the human genes that are involved in our life, including up to 75% which may be involved in determining our behaviour. Obviously knowledge of the complete genetic sequence of humans, and comparison of the genetic similarities and differences to other animals poses many implications. Humans are primates, and the species most related to humans is chimpanzees, and we are in a small group with higher primates including orangutans, gibbons and gorillas. Already we know there is great similarity between chimpanzees and humans, how will it change our opinion if we find there are only 100 genes different between these two species? By difference I mean new genes or missing genes, rather than the vast majority of genes which are the same between these two species having only a few nucleotide base changes in their DNA. The similarity may be a great shock to many of us, especially considering some people still deny the similarity we already know.

James Rachels in Created from Animals (4) advances the view that in secular philosophy we should not be speciests, but judge animals as individuals with differing moral worth which may be similar to humans. The book claims that Darwinism has undermined theological underpinning's of human superiority over animals, which is something many people will refute, especially those who are religious. At the other extreme, the views of Aquinas, who thought animals had no rights, are incompatible with what we know about the biological continuum between animals, and humans. Our ethics must build on the knowledge that we have, and change when that knowledge informs us of new ethically important qualities of animals such as pain, self awareness and rationality.

Love and Justice

The autonomy is limited by respect for the autonomy of other individuals in the society. Organism's well-being should be promoted, and their values and choices respected, but equally, which places limits on the pursuit of individual autonomy. We should give very member in society equal and fair opportunities, this is justice (5). Society should also include the future of society, future generations are also an essential part of society. Animals are part of the biological community in which we live, and we also have to consider the implications of whether they possess autonomy.

Human beings are organized into societies, and our social groups such as family and tribe often including non-human species. Data suggests that the complete diversity of attitudes and characters of human individuals are represented in any one society. A failing of human thought is that people view their society as being different from another, with sweeping generalizations. Animals are also organized into societies, and together we are organized into multi-species ecosystems.

Language is central to social structure. Linguistic trends are consistent with migrations of humans over the planet traced by genetics (6). We see languages and communication in other animals also, but it is unclear what relationship they have to symbolism and thinking. Some studies on language origin suggest that language may have only began in the last 40,000 years. This is the same time that we see engravings or sculptures appearing. That would be 60,000 years after the appearance of modern human species. The anatomical structures of the vocal tract and larynx also suggest that other land animals cannot talk, neither could pre-modern Homo species (7). However, individual communication systems are found in other social mammals and birds, and they are used to discriminate between individuals. In human cultures we may also see differences in vocal / non-vocal communication for the same concept. This raises differences about our interpretation of primates like chimpanzees that have been taught to use symbols or signs to convey emotions. In some human cultures displeasure is not spoken while in others it is. Some other behavioural systems may also be shared with other animals, for example, love, altruism and selfishness, and animals.

The spiritual origins of humanity are less mixed than the social ones, and these have been used as transnational boundaries in the past, and also today. Religions vary in whether they ascribe souls to animals, the sign used by Descartes to define consciousness, although he claimed only humans have it. Despite the scientific world view that is prevalent among academic writings, most people find religions to be a much more important source of guidance in life than science. In questions of ethics, this is true of most people. Any theory of bioethics that will be applied to peoples of the world must be acceptable to the common trends of major religious thought. At a first look some philosophers have suggested that the religious differences are too great and have looked towards a new type of foundation for bioethics based on humanism (8). However, we should look again at whether the differences between religions are actually so important when it comes to our respect for fellow organisms.

A fundamental way of reasoning is to balance doing good against doing harm. We could group these ideals under the idea of love. We need to also examine whether the altruism of animals was the precursor to love in humans or whether love is something extra - God-given. In evolution it is assumed that selfishness is required for selection. Natural selection means survival of the fittest, and selfish behaviour allows an individual to leave more offspring. At the genetic level it means a selfish gene will try to replicate itself and leave more progeny (9). When we look at animals we see that some animals exhibit non-selfish behaviour, called altruism. Some even give when there is no hope to receive any genetic benefit, helping unrelated individuals. We must therefore ask the question is altruism the basis for love? The origins of our selfishness and altruistic (giving) behaviour are fundamental to how we behave. Excessive concern with personal autonomy could be called selfishness, and there is obviously a balance between too little recognition of autonomy which is against the dignity of a person, and too much which can clash with justice as discussed below. Autonomy should not be the most valuable principle of bioethics, even if it is the most dominant feature of human behaviour.

The Value of Life

There are dangers to making autonomy dependent upon revealed characters of behaviour, or an act-centred definition, because not all individuals are able to show acts or even have the potential for future acts. An extension of love to other species could be considered under the concept of stewardship. Stewardship can apply to both the way people use other humans and the rest of nature. The inter-relatedness of all living organisms can be readily seen, as is a feature of the biocentric view of ethics more than the anthropocentric one. All organisms need water, all organisms have the same genetic code and share similar genes. All creatures appear, at first sight at least, to be temporal, they live and they die. This relatedness is expressed by the idea that they are all alive. They share something - life.

We need to examine where the value of life comes from, and because of this value we should not do harm. Many want to protect nature, not because of its value or property, but simply because it is there. For this the idea of a Japanese word "inochi" is useful. Inochi can be translated as life, nature, the energy that holds things together. There are various images, as shown in the comments at the back of this book, but the inochi of every living organism is distinct, unique, and equal (10). The inochi departs when an organism dies, and is distinct from the idea of a soul. All organisms share the same amount of life, they are either dead or alive.

A similar idea is expressed in some ancient Greek thinking, and the idea continued in Western thinking with the idea of vitalism. This thinking was challenged by the discovery that the chemicals found in living organisms were the same as those found in inorganic matter. Even if it is possible to synthesize DNA from chemicals, and to use the information in such DNA to make proteins, such as an active enzyme, we may still believe that life itself is special, no matter how it comes into being, or how much of the process we understand. Even if we understand the reason for a blooming flower we may still value its beauty. This value is distinct from the value given to a being because it has a soul, but there are similarities as mentioned above with regard to autonomy.

Early human cultures worshipped the mystery of life in various ways. There are numerous symbols that have been used for the world, Mother Earth, a feast, or the dance, the theatre, as music or as play. These ideas unite the things of the world together (11). In a similar spirit, recently the Gaia hypothesis has been advanced, that the earth as a whole is alive (12). In a Judeo-Christian view, nature is created by God, nature itself is not divine but is the handiwork of the Lord. The Biblical view of the relation of man and nature is that they are both continually dependent on God. A Christian's vocation is to continue the "good" work of creativity (13). The world was made good, but humans chose evil. A very common alternative world view is that humans are innocent, but trapped in an evil world. We see this view in some Asian traditions that look on the visible universe as illusory or insignificant or evil. Matter is seen as relatively bad, goodness is only attributed to the spirit, and the religious task is to transcend the world. Another metaphor is that the earth is just as a machine. This has led to a segregation of the divine from the world, including the world of human beings, and ultimately leads to atheism, that the world machine, and human beings, can function without God. It also leads to devaluation of nature and life (14).

There have been some who argue for a reverence for all life, such as Albert Schweitzer (15). This approach makes no distinction between higher and lower life forms, saying that we can not judge other lifeforms in relation to ourselves. It does make the point that it is very difficult for us to understand or judge the importance of other living organisms in the natural order. The only reason for harming life he sees is necessity. However, what is "necessary" can vary widely between cultures. This is consistent with the use of ideals in bioethics, as useful principles for decision making.

We should emphasize the value of being alive and the principles of do no harm and environmental stewardship common to the roots of all people's beliefs.

Ethical limits of animal use

In most people's minds there are some differences between animals and plants. Philosophers can argue that there are morally significant differences between animals and plants, such as the capacity to feel pain. If we are going to harm life, a departure from the ideal of doing no harm, it must be for a good motive. Such a motive might be survival, and we can see this as natural - all organisms consume and compete with others. Destruction of nature and life by humans is caused by two human motives - necessity and desire. Basically, it is more ethically acceptable to cause harm if there is necessity for survival than if it is only desire. This distinction is required ever more as human desire continues to destroy the planet.

Beyond the motive, another important criteria we use in judging the use of animals is@Beyond the motive, another important criteria we use in judging the use of animals is@avoiding the infliction of pain. Some distinguish pain from "suffering", but they are both departures from the ideal of avoiding harm. Suffering can be defined as plonged pain of a certain intensity (16), and it is claimed that no individual can suffer who is incapable of experiencing pain. The capacity for suffering and/or enjoyment has been described as a prerequisite for having any interests (17). The difference between pain of animals and responses of plants (which include electrical response like animals), is that a signal is only a signal, whereas pain is something after the reception and processing of the signal in the nervous system.

We can think of intrinsic ethical factors such as value of being alive, capacity to feel pain, self-awareness, future planning, and consciousness; and extrinsic ethical factors such as disapproval of other animals, balancing human necessity / desire, human sensitivity to animal suffering, brutality in humans, and religious status of animals. At the practical level, the first principle is to minimize doing harm, and the second to avoid inflicting pain. These are independent of whether the beings have so-called higher consciousness. The third principle depends upon self-awareness, future planning or consciousness. We do need to consider the findings of animal studies on the level of self-awareness that some may possess, especially higher apes, and cetaceans. Our bioethics must have a basis from all data, including reasoning, philosophy and biological knowledge, and be open to reason.

The creation of very diseased animals as models of human disease, for example cancer, and many other genetic diseases, is becoming routine. In this case we must try to balance the pain caused by the benefit, and this is not done well (18). There are agricultural reasons to make faster growing animals, or using animals to make products ("bioreactors"), as mentioned above. To make a chicken lay an egg full of interferon, a protein that can treat some cancer, is novel, but not beyond the daily use of animals. Ethically, if such proteins can be made in soybeans for similar cost it is better, and if the interferon can be delivered to the body by eating only beans - that would be a great advance. Research to make edible vaccines in vegetables or bananas, is underway, which most people would accept if it can provide cheap, just and safe medical care to more people in the world.

A response to the ethical objection that it is wrong to cause pain could be to make animals that don't feel pain to use for experiments, food, or other utility to humans. We could call such animals vegemals (vegetable animals) (19). Because pain is a basic sensation we may object to manipulating it permanently out of strains of animals. These type of experiments involve altering the mental requirements of animals to suite our means. In fact these futuristic beings could be engineered to give consent, and there would be no question of their consciousness. The motive is anthropocentric and the means used are not interested with the life of the animals themselves, however, if they did not suffer pain than they could be regarded by many as being better off then beings that do, and many organisms that are currently used for human benefit. If we object to these experiments, we would probably be forced away from arguments based on pain, or consciousness, as the pre-eminent quality on which attitudes towards the treatment of that being by others is based. If we object to these painless animals being made, it may be because we hold religious views according to which we should not grossly alter the creatures of the earth, because it is "unnatural". It could be based on each being having a self, suffering being viewed as the threat to characteristic, worldly related activities which threatens the integrity of the self (20), as would the removal of sentience. We may also have concerns about changing our own values, but farming already treats animals as the long-term property of humans, and decides when or how they come into existence and die, and their reproductive choice.

People will continue to eat animals, and practical ethics must improve the ethical treatment for all animals. One area of particular concern is whether animals should be in a field or in a caged box, or factory farm. The main ethical question is confinement of animals, such as veal calves, pigs and poultry in small cages. There have been several countries which have banned the use of battery caged hens. It is interesting that many farmers in the International Survey expressed concerns about animal use, they clearly perceive images of what is a "natural" and "just" life for an animal, and what is not. People need to decide how much more they are prepared to pay for better treatment of animals, such as the costs of eliminating battery farming, or the costs in not using new animal treatments that produce cheaper milk or meat such as bovine growth hormone. The quality of life is more important for most people than the length of life. There is little value in being alive if the quality of life is terrible. However, when we see animals struggling to live after being injured in an accident for example, it raises questions about whether we know the priority of length over quality, and how to balance this for other animals. For different people we also vary.

Images of animals that people have

An analysis of comments made by respondents to the International Bioethics Survey conducted in 1993 in 10 countries of the Asia-Pacific region that mentioned animals found there were more comments including animals in response to the open question on images of nature than images of life. In total nearly 6000 questionnaires were returned from 10 countries during 1993, and the results are reported in the book Bioethics for the People by the People (2). The questionnaires included about 150 questions in total, with 35 open-ended questions. The open questions were designed not to be leading, to look at how people make decisions - and the ideas in each comment were assigned to different categories depending on the question, and these categories were compared among all the samples. The proportion of the total comments that included animals ranged from 12-56% for nature, and from 5-28% for life. Russian respondents were the least likely to mention animals, and Australians the most likely, for both questions.

One question also asked the agreement with the statement "Q1i. Animals have rights that people should not violate". The responses are shown in Table 1. We find the highest level of agreement with this statement in Japan; and the strongest agreement in all countries was seen among the public respondents. However, in responses to other open questions about bioethics among the public we did not find Japanese respondents expressed any more concerns about animal rights than in other countries, and in many questions they were among the lowest countries. The responses may be ideal, considering that many of those who strongly agree will be eating animals.

A deeper analysis of the attitudes to animals was made by analysis of the open comments expressed in questions, "Will you please express freely, in sentences and/or pictures, the images which come to mind when you hear the word "nature", and/or any ideas you have on "nature"g; and the same wording for "life". All the comments with animals were examined, and the quantity of the comment, type of animal, and the type of relationship were examined. This question is less leading and may be a better measure of how much people think of animals. There are differences in the proportion of comments which mentioned animals (Table 2) (25). We should note that Russia and Israel and India had significantly more respondents to the survey who did not write any comment (generally 90% of respondents wrote something in response to these questions; but in those countries 75% or less wrote comments.

Among the images of nature which included animals, the most common types of relationships were: aesthetic (36%), neutralistic (27%), discussing pollution (17%), ecologistic (13%), biocentric (9%), harmony including humans (9%), humanistic (6%), utilitarian (4%), scientific (1%), with moralistic, negativistic and doministic comments less than 1%. Among the images of life which included animals, the most common types of relationships were: biocentric (32%), ecologistic (17%), aesthetic (16%), discussing pollution (11%), naturalistic (10%), humanistic (8%), harmony including humans (7%), moralistic (6%), scientific (6%), utilitarian (2%), negativistic (1%), and doministic (0.3%). There were few differences between countries, for example, there were more naturalistic comments in India, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore; more ecologistic in Australia; more biocentric comments in Australia and Japan; and more comments with the idea of harmony including humans in Thailand. Comparisons to other questions were made, and in general, respondents who mentioned animals were more supportive of the statement that ganimals have rights that humans should not violateh; and less positive and more negative in their perceptions of science; and less willing to approve of genetic engineering of a sports fish. However, there were very few differences in environmental attitudes. Rural respondents had a tendency to express more comments about animals in their image of life, and expressed the idea of harmony including humans more.

Relationships that we observe between people and animals around us depend upon the circumstances, so we should consider the situation and type of animals. The same place can be viewed in different ways by different people. For example, the public view a farm as nice place to grow animals, or as scenery, or the production of wheat or meat. A farmer sees animals as property, money, or as companion for life together in the farmland image of nature, or as production of a certain quality or quantity of steak or wool, etc. People with pets see animals as companion. Children see their first pet as a warm cuddly or new addition to the family. One child family children may see the cat as a sister or brother. As a moving and warm cuddly toy. A farmer may think of a pet dog as a pet, but the sheep dogs or working animals as workers. There may be pet chickens to lay eggs, or turkeys for celebrating visits of guests or special occasions. But a rival dog can be a threat, or noisy, or dirty, or a disease vector. Stray cats are chased away, but the house cat is loved by a warm lap. Researchers may take the same species and perform experiments. Is it more ethical to do these on stray cats or cats bred especially for research? The answer depends upon the relationships that we suppose the cats have, and the relationships that society has to the animals.

There have been several attempts to explain the types of relationships. Kellert suggested instrumental-ethical distinctions as well as empathy or love to animals. Results of a survey looking at the types of attitudes that people in Japan, Germany and the USA have towards animals suggest differences in the types of relationship (21), which was not seen in the analysis above. Hills (22) suggested there are three motivational bases for attitudes to animals, instrumentality, empathy/identification, and values and beliefs.

In a biocentric viewpoint we may see animals as fellow survivors of life, given the grace to live with us on this planet. However, how much interaction should we have with them? Should we leave them alone unless we need to farm them. We may eat meat, or kill them if we think it is better for us, only for eating. We may dislike hunting, but appreciate food killed ghumanelyh in shops. Will the views differ from those who have an anthropocentric view of life?

In sociobiology the concept of "biophilia" (23), suggests people have more specific reactions towards living organisms than inorganic ones, because it is linked to evolutionary benefits of ecosystem harmony. Whether or not we have special genetic relationships, there is a concern felt for animals and plants, beyond that felt for stones, and this is seen across the countries surveyed. Whether the quantity of animals expressed in these images is a measure of specific closeness to animals is a matter for further research.

One interesting aspect is that in images of nature (gshizenh) and life (ginochih) in Japan the public and medical students were less than half as likely to mention living things or animals as in New Zealand (Table 2). Results of a survey conducted on children 11-18 years old in New Zealand and Japan in late 1996 (23), that asked for images of gnaturalh, found that living things were mentioned by 41% of children in Japan, whereas only by 9% in New Zealand, 8% in the UK, 7% in Finland, 19% in Germany and 18% in Spain. The students were also asked in an open question, what sorts of things they were concerned about or worried about. The concerns were grouped into the following 7 broad categories: own, family, out (outside of them, including:), environment, social, animal and biotechnology. There was a major difference between NZ out (54%) and J out (18%), reflected also in social, environment, animal and biotechnology concerns. More Japan students expressed a concern about themselves, while in Europe the students expressed more concerns outside of themselves than in New Zealand. This illustrates the difficulty of interpreting surveys, and further qualitative analysis of comments and factors that influence the students is necessary.

Attitudes to, and the practice of, animal experiments were surveyed among school teachers in Australia, Japan, and New Zealand in 1993 (24). Mail response questionnaires were sent to a biology (b) and a social studies (s) teacher at randomly selected schools. The number of respondents and response rate were: NZb 206 (55%), NZs 96 (26%), Ab 251 (48%), As 114 (22%), Jb 560 (40%) and Js 383 (27%). At the beginning of the International Bioethics Education Survey questionnaire the open question, Q5. "What do you think bioethics is?" was asked (26). There were significant differences in the number of teachers who expressed concerns about animal rights or experiments: NZb 16%, NZs 10%, Ab 5%; As 2%, Jb 1% and Js 1%; and those who mentioned animals in other comments: NZb 0%, NZs 1%, Ab 0%; As 0%, Jb 1% and Js 1%. There were significant differences between countries, and these were also consistent with a general trend for New Zealand and Australian respondents to give more practical images than Japanese teachers. At the end of the questionnaire, was another open question, Q21. "Do you think that bioethics education is needed in education?". In all countries over 85% agreed. There were also significant differences in the number of teachers who responded with a comment about animal experiments, with results being: NZb 8.4%, NZs 1.1%, Ab 5.2%; As 0%, Jb 2.6% and Js 0%. The finding that Japanese teachers were less likely to express animal experiment issues, is consistent with the results of surveys among biology teachers in Japan in 1991 (27) compared to New Zealand in 1990 (28).

There were also questions on animal experiments. Among the biology teachers, 90% in New Zealand used animals in class, 71% in Australia and 69% in Japan. About two thirds of all the samples said that they had had ethical concerns about animal experiments, which were examined in responses to open questions. The concept of humane use was expressed less in Japan than Australasia. 72% of biology teachers in New Zealand, 63% in Australia and 12% in Japan said there were guidelines at their schools for using animals in class. It is a future question to see whether such images may impact the way that animals are used in teaching, but it appears that the modern animal rights movement, and the introduction of animal welfare guidelines, have had more direct impact on changing the educational use of animals than the general perceptions of animals.


In conclusion, bioethics of animal treatment does consider animal consciousness, and we can see some consideration of this issue in all cultures. The interactions between humans, animals and the environment have shaped human values and ethics, not only the genes that we are made of. The animal rights movement challenges human beings to reconsider interactions between humans and other animals, and may be connected to the environmental movement that begs us to recognize the fact that there are symbiotic relationships between humans and all other organisms.

Reflections on animal consciousness and the relationships beings have to each other, have ethical implications. Changes to prescriptive ethics over the last few decades in human treatment of animals have been expressed in guidelines and laws, especially in scientific research and teaching. Peoplefs thinking also may be changing, and methods to look at whether consciousness itself is an important or determining factor in peoplefs attitudes to animals should be made. The indications from surveys to date are that there are variations in the type of arguments used in response to survey questions in different countries, which could be linked to education and information that is available. Consciousness itself may not be a determining factor in relationships, rather the value of being alive, and avoiding inflicting pain, and empathy into another being, may play more important roles in human attitudes to animals. It is another question whether they should.


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18. Porter, D.G. 'Ethical scores for animal experiments," Nature 356 (1992), 101-2.

19. Macer, D. "Uncertainties about "painless" animals," Bioethics 3 (1989), 226-235.

20. Donnelley, S. "Speculative Philosophy, the troubled middle, and the ethics of animal experimentation," Hastings Center Report 19(Mar./Apr. 1990): 15-21.

21. Kellert, S.R. (1991) gJapanese perceptions of wildlifeh, Conservation Biology 5: 297-308; Kellert, S.R. (1993) gAttitudes, knowledge, and behavior toward wildlife among the industrial superpowers: United States, Japan, and Germanyh, J. Social Issues 49: 53-69.

22. Hills, A.M. (1993). The motivational bases of attitudes toward animals. Society and Animals 1: 111-128.

23. Wilson, W.O. (1984) Biophilia: The Human Bond with Other Species. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

24. Macer, DRJ., Obata, H., Levitt, M., Bezar, H. & Daniels, K. (1997) gBiotechnology and young citizens: Biocult in New Zealand and Japanh, EJAIB 7, 111-114.

25. Macer, D.R.J., Asada, Y., Tsuzuki, M. , Akiyama, S., & Macer, N.Y. Bioethics in High Schools in Australia, Japan and New Zealand (Eubios Ethics Institute, 1996).

26. Asada, Y., Akiyama, S., Tsuzuki, M., Macer, N.Y. & Macer, D.R.J. (1996) High school teaching of bioethics in New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. Journal of Moral Education 25, 401-20.

27. Macer, D.R.J. (1992). Attitudes to Genetic Engineering: Japanese and International Comparisons.(Eubios Ethics Institute, Christchurch, N.Z.).

28. Couchman, PK. & Fink-Jensen, K. Public Attitudes to Genetic Engineering in New Zealand, DSIR Crop Research Report No. 138. DSIR Crop Research, Private Bag, Christchurch, NZ, 1990.

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