I would like to echo The Humane Society and its Director of Program Management for Animal Research Issues Kathleen Conlee's call to end all testing on animals in Bowdoin classes. But unlike Conlee, I am asking Bowdoin to justify its actions by meeting the challenge I pose here.

My challenge is an appeal to ethical consistency that cannot be ignored by a college that professes to champion the Common Good. Before an institution like Bowdoin can make such a claim, it must somehow justify excluding some creatures from the Common Good.

I think that moral status—the determinant of what we owe a being—is a function of psychological capacity, rather than species membership. Bowdoin, I assume, would not perform the same experiments that it performs on animals on humans whose psychological capacities irremediably equal those of the tested animals.

If my assumption is correct, then Bowdoin is being inconsistent by applying different standards to animals than to humans whose moral statuses are equal or lower. In order to show this, I must answer the objection that there is something special about being human outside of mental capacity.

When stating why being human is so special, we normally make reference to our "superior" human capacities that allow us to form close friendships, fall in love, discover mathematical truths, write poetry, make beautiful paintings, and more. Most animals cannot do these things, and so we attribute a lower moral status to these animals in comparison to us humans.

But many humans—such as those who suffer from mental illness, for instance—lack the ability to do these things that we think make us more special. If certain humans lack the qualities that make the rest of us more special, then shouldn't that mean these humans are not as special as the rest of us? I think it does.

People who object to this proposal would say there is something above superior mental capacities that makes humans—all of us—more special. Those who make this objection, however, generally fail to propose an adequate candidate for what this thing might be. These individuals generally assert that simply being human is the morally relevant difference between humankind and the rest of the animal kingdom.

There is, they say, something intrinsically sacred about being human. But if their only defense of this claim is sheer assertion, then I should be able to defend my conclusion equally well by simply asserting it. I challenge readers to supply an argument for the claim that there is something special about being human regardless of psychological capacity. This claim is in no way obvious despite its being taken for granted by many people.

I fail to see how biological membership within the human species is any more relevant than biological membership within a particular sex. And if all one has to do is point to a difference to justify different treatment, then all sexists need to do is point to different genitalia to justify unequal treatment of the opposite sex. But this is absurd.

We must be able to do more than just point to a difference; we must be able to show that this difference is relevant to the proposed treatment. The burden of proof, I think, now falls upon those who wish to say that there is something inherently special about all humans, beyond their mental capacities.

I would like to clarify some things about my argument, and myself. My argument does not imply that humans and animals are equal, and I do not believe that they are. I am perfectly fine with saying that most humans matter more than animals. However, I do not believe that it is the bare fact of being human that makes us matter more.

I do believe that if a human has mental capacities equal to that of a rat, then the two are morally equal. But this does not mean that I think we should be allowed to treat such humans in the way that we now treat rats. Rather, I think we should not treat rats in ways that we would not treat such humans.

Consistency demands that Bowdoin cease to use animals in harmful experiments unless it explicitly expresses a willingness to perform these same experiments on humans whose mental capacities roughly compare to those of the animals tested.

Anthony Colabella is a member of the Class of 2011.