This week in Say More, PS talks with Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, Founder of the nonprofit organization The Life You Can Save, and the author, most recently, of Animal Liberation Now.
Project Syndicate: Immediately after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, you considered the moral responsibility of Russians to help end the war. Since then, however, Russia has been transformed into a near-totalitarian police state, with independent media shut down and criticism of the war harshly punished. What are Russians’ ethical obligation in such circumstances? And what more should others be doing to bring about peace?
Peter Singer: If, immediately after the invasion, Russians had turned out in huge numbers to demonstrate their opposition to the war, things might be different today. But that did not happen, and the opportunity was lost. There is no obligation to take part in protests that will attract few people (because of the threat of harsh punishment), will easily be suppressed, and are extremely unlikely to have any impact on the war’s trajectory. It is now up to those outside Russia to continue to support Ukraine and restore the rule of law in international affairs. I cannot envisage a just peace that rewards Russia for its invasion of Ukraine by allowing it to retain the regions it has occupied since it launched its unjust war of aggression.
PS: Last October, you condemned the continuing acceptance of research based on the torture of nonhuman subjects. Your new book Animal Liberation Now shows that, beyond the extraordinary suffering these subjects endure, such research does not produce as many useful results as is often assumed. Why do researchers overestimate the potential of studies involving nonhuman subjects, and what alternative methods should they be considering?
PS: Research on animals has become a self-sustaining industry. Professors who have spent their careers experimenting on animals train their students to use the same methods, irrespective of the many studies showing that the results can rarely be translated into solutions for humans. These senior researchers also sit on the committees that allocate research grants, and edit the journals that publish the results. Politically, they are supported by lobbying organizations that receive funding from the for-profit corporations that supply the animals, the cages in which they are kept, and the equipment used to experiment on them.
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