Is it right to kill life to study it?

Mar 20, 2005
Years ago, I saw a documentary where marine biologists killed organism after organism while trying to study sea creatures in sulfurous steam vents, deep in the Pacific ocean. It's something I think about every time I swat a fly, hammer a scorpion into the tile with my shoe, or watch Spongebob. Is it right to kill life to study it?
In a reply to a post in the macro section, Chris asked this question and I thought it might be worth to hear others opinions on that.

I sincerely hope that this thread will not degrade into something radically political or religious, although policy and religion may play a certain part in this.

O.k. this is my first input (actually what I wanted to reply to Chris's post but then decided it would not fit in the original thread):

I kill thousands of insects (mostly beetles) every year for scientific purpose. There are quite a few people who blame me for that but my response is that if you drive 100 miles on a warm and humid late afternoon in summer your car kills more insects than I can kill in a whole life (and that's only one car!). That doesn't include all the birds, hares, hedgehogs, deer, etc. that are killed by cars. All the hunters (and poachers) of Austria cannot wreak such a havoc among wildlife as the traffic does. Most people don't give any thought to this fact.
So, Chris's question might well be modified into "is it right to kill life to go from A to B?"

The same thoughts come up when large areas (even protected areas) of natural habitats are cleared for industrial plants, but when you go in there and collect a few insects you will be fined.....

I have other examples of absurd conservation law interpretations but I would like to hear your opinions first.

May 15, 2005
Ukraine, Europe
My reply/input would be short: if you already evolved high enough and feel guilty for any/every death you caused, don't kill.

I'd also add (a bit OT) I quit shooting animals in the Zoo for a few years now.... it's quite similar....
Feb 2, 2005
Real Name
Whoa! Harry! I was responding to an excellent animation of a blooming iris made by another member, and making fun of the idea that his wife would be upset that he took an iris out of her garden to make that movie. I guess that I am also struggling with my inability to remain true to all of my own personal values.

I love your pictures of earwigs, ... er, beetles, and support the science of entomology, for sure! The fact that you, Ed and others can record elements of nature that I will never be able to see is wonderful, and the reason that I am here!!
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Mar 4, 2005
Los Angeles, USA
A cockroach was on my porch today. Instead of killing it, I kicked it really hard. I haven't seen it since. Mesquitoes and flies, those are bugs worthy of death!
Dec 23, 2006
Camberley, UK
I'd also add (a bit OT) I quit shooting animals in the Zoo for a few years now....
Gosh! You're allowed to shoot animals in the zoo in your country? If you did that here, you'd be in a world of trouble! :smile:

But seriously, I value life but, for medical research purposes, if countless animals need to be sacrificed to find a cure for cancer/aids/whatever, then so be it.

However I think it's wrong to use animals to test the effects of cosmetics/cigarettes etc. Having said that, I wouldn't protest against it.

And as far as eating animals is concerned, bring it on! I love to eat many types of animal!

Feb 22, 2007
God's Creation
why not, we in the US kill babies. But then they are
usually bigger so they take up more space, don't ya know!
Jan 26, 2005
Marysville, WA
A video game came out a couple of years ago called Deer Hunter, I believe, where the Deer were the Hunters. Now THAT would be a kick, eh????? :biggrin: :biggrin:

But back to your question, philosophically/ethically/morally I see no problem at all. To me the "tricky bit" here is trusting that said research is done in a "moral and ethical" manner, and isn't THAT just rampant with subjective interpretation.

This is a really tough question, lot's of slippery slopes to slide down, and quite different answers, I think, when you go from insects, to rats, to chimps.

These questions do keep the Medical Ethicists in businees however.
Jan 24, 2006
Utica, NY, USA
Quote: Is it right to kill life to study it? Unquote.

All within reason...

Quote: "I have other examples of absurd conservation law interpretations but I would like to hear your opinions first." Unquote

No matter where you live, many laws and regulations are simply "knee-jerk reactions" to events that may have happened, but make absolutely no sense under normal circumstances. Then, some of those laws and regs are being re-interpreted to fit the extreme beliefs of activists <political & otherwise> , who want to impose those beliefs on the general population. It's the "terror of the few".
Jul 30, 2006
Southern California
I'll add another voice to the "within reason" crowd. I used to hunt, when I was younger. Yes, it was for sport... we used (ate) the animals we hunted, but we didn't need to hunt them. I don't do this anymore. The only animals I kill are pests I can't get rid of any other way... flies, etc. Shoot, I even relocate the rattlesnakes I find around to the hills, which drives my in-laws, who hate snakes, nuts! :smile: However, if using animals to fulfill an actual human need arises, I have no problem with it, as well as for scientific study.


Only a vegetarian should be able to answer "no" to this question.

I think it is a necessary thing, but I draw the line when pain and suffering of the animal is involved.
Believe it or not, but plants were alive before being eaten by the vegetarian. :rolleyes:
Apr 30, 2005

So many balb-c mice bit the dust from my hands in the 80s. And today thanks to research animals we now have a cervical carcinoma vaccine.




If god didn't want me to kill animals, why did she make them so tasty?
My favorite billboard is for a resturant called Saskatoon.

'There's room for all God's creatures...right next to the mashed potatoes'.

Something like that...
Jul 15, 2005
Beacon Falls CT (USA)
A video game came out a couple of years ago called Deer Hunter, I believe, where the Deer were the Hunters. Now THAT would be a kick, eh????? :biggrin: :biggrin:

I normally would not respond to a post like this. Even the strictest veggie eats things that are or were alive.
But I loved that game, being the deer looking over the sights at hunters going back and forth was great.
I'm the only non-hunter in my family but I must confess I love my sister in-laws venison stew and meat ball at least they eat what they shoot.
But few years ago the one I played came out a few decades ago:biggrin:
Feb 27, 2006
Tolland CT
I 'm not sure how I feel about this issue, Oh wait a minute..................

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

Now what was I saying:biggrin: - Jeff
May 18, 2005
Western Slope of Colorado
Hey Harry (and Chris) -

I just saw the top post, haven't read the responses, and share Harry's hope that this will not degenerate into a political or religious discussion, but I suspect that ultimately it must . . . unless one can separate those areas from science or philosophy.

Nonetheless -

I just picked up Douglas Hofstadter's new book "I am a Strange Loop" (he is the author of "Gödel, Escher, Bach", among others) , and I'm only up to p. 23 out of 412. I can't write a review yet - LOL.

It raises exactly these types of questions, and I doubt whether it offers "answers", but a figure on p. 19 struck me as being relevant to the topic (at least that of the first post).

The figure is a wide V-shape, and concludes a paragraph entitled "Where to Draw that Fateful, Fatal Line?"

On the left, outside the "V", are three categories descending from top to bottom: "Lots of consciousness", "Less (but some) consciousness" and, approaching the bottom, "Little or no consciousness".

Inside the "V", at the widest point, and descending to the vertex, are entries such as: "normal adult humans", "mentally retarded, brain-damaged, and senile humans", "dogs", "bunnies", "chickens", "goldfish", "bees", "mosquitoes", "mites", "microbes", "viruses", "atoms".

Hofstadter stresses that this is his personal "cone", and that it is not meant to be either exact or broadly applicable to others, but it does raise a reductionist argument that seems important to me:

Where does one "draw the line"?

I think we each do this differently.

Of course, I'm now all the way up to p. 23 (!), so I'm looking forward to getting to the rest of his book.

I certainly don't fault you Harry, and I certainly appreciate both your photos and your subjects . . .


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