Animal Testing: Pros and Cons
Animal testing is a very controversial topic around the world, especially between scientists and researches and animal rights advocates. Although the arguments presented about the wrongness or rightness of such practice vary, the choice on which to believe depends on people themselves. The practice of animal testing entails pros and cons that both sides must take into consideration.
With the advances in science, many discoveries were made. Scientists and researches have been able to find cure for diseases, to create pesticides, cosmetics, and food additives (“Animal Testing,” The Humane Society of the United States). Additionally, other products such as chemical, household products, medical devices, and personal products were created (“Animal Testing,” American Anti-Vivisection Society). However, these products could be potentially hazardous for humans or for the environment. Thus, regulations and laws were enacted to establish control over the marketing of the products. These regulations and laws require that there should be laboratory testing. Laboratory tests would provide government regulators with information that will help them determine the safety of the products (“Animal Testing,” The Humane Society of the United States).
The American government generated statistics which showed that 10 percent of animal use accounted for product testing. This means that millions of animals were used every year around the world for scientific purposes (“Animal Testing,” The Humane Society of the United States). This was the same thing that the University of Georgia reported, saying that animal experiments are funded by the federal and private institutions. Among these animals, 90% are mice and rats, while the remaining accounts for dogs, guinea pigs, cats, monkeys, rabbits, and other farm animals (“Animals Used in Experiments”). Some animals are deliberately poisoned or harmed. People who support animal rights question whether animal testing is an ethical and humane act. They argue that a number of animals are either harmed or killed “for the sake of marketing a new brand of mascara or moisturizer” (“Animal Testing,” The Humane Society of the United States).
However, regulations on animal testing differ in every country. While the United States, Europe and India have political and religious issues that prevent the establishment or expand of animal-testing laboratories, other countries such as China are more lenient. This is because the Chinese government has control over animal rights activists. In addition, the country is home to scientists that are “cheap and plentiful.” Added to this is the large number of animals primarily used in animal testing, such as dogs and monkeys. In fact, China is considered to be the major supplier of lab animals. Certain drug companies took advantage of these opportunities. Pfizer and Novartis, among others, planned to establish research and development (R&D) centers in China (Pocha 1).
History of Animal Testing
Animal testing, sometimes referred to as animal research, is the use of animals for scientific experiments. It has been in existence for many years now. It started during the scientific revolution from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These were the periods characterized by the acceptance of the scientific point of view and the explosion of technology from it. Consequently, scientists resorted to animals to provide answers to the questions that have been perplexing them for years. Two centuries later, animal experimentation was at full swing, especially among scientists. However, no one though of it as immoral, except for a few persons. One of them was Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher. He stated that the matter does not involve the question whether animals can reason or talk. The real question is, Can they suffer? (Hayhurst 14).
Years later, Charles Darwin presented The Origin of Species, which indicates his theory of evolution. According to Darwin, there is a “distinct relationship between humans and animals,” only that humans were more privileged. In addition, the naturalist stated that observation of animals can lead to things that can explain human behavior. Debates ensued between scientists and animal rights activists whether Darwin was for or against animal testing. However, he had little effect on the attitudes of scientists or the public with regards to testing. In fact, researchers continued using animals in experimentations, and their researches led to astounding discoveries and advances in the fields of biology and medicine (Hayburst 15).
Seventeen years after Darwin presented his observations, the British Cruelty to Animals Act was enacted to set regulations for animal testing and research in Britain. It was not the case in the United States because the Congress rejected the enactment of similar laws. Thus, the twentieth century witnessed the proliferation of animal testing as an important part of scientific and medical researches (Hayburst 15).
Perhaps the primary advantage of animal testing is that it helps researchers and scientists in discovering treatments and drugs to be able to improve health and medicine. In fact, animal testing is accountable for medical treatments that include HIV drugs, insulin, vaccines, cancer treatments, antibiotics and many more. This is the main reason why, despite the number of animals that have to be sacrificed, the scientific community and a portion of the public support animal testing. An interesting finding is that there are people who are against the use of animals for cosmetics but they support animal testing and research for more important uses such as medicine and development of new drugs (“Using Animals for Testing: Pro’s Versus Con’s”).
Another important advantage of animal testing is that it guarantees the safety of drugs and other substances that humans regularly use. This is because there are drugs that bear significant dangers in their usage. However, through animal testing, researchers and scientists can weigh the safety of drugs before conducting trials on humans. This indicates that the potential danger to humans from using or from being exposed to drugs is reduced. Additionally, human lives are protected as a result of using drugs that can save lives and improve human life (“Using Animals for Testing: Pro’s Versus Con’s”).
Additionally, animal testing is relatively cheaper as there is a large supply of animals. In relation to this, they can be easily bred, and can be maintained in safe and controlled laboratories. It would cost too much if experiments are done directly on humans. Although testing on animals would, at certain time and situation, be cruel, it would be crueler if humans are used for testing new drugs. To resolve the problem of cruelty, countries have passed legislations which set standards for animal testing and experimentation. Furthermore, laboratories have guidelines to follow to prevent any cruel acts against animals (“Advantages of Animal Testing in Medical Research”).
Furthermore, the benefits of animal testing include the availability of animal models in estimating the effectiveness and safety of drugs and treatments such as vaccines. Animal models serve as tools in studying the aspects of infectious diseases. Also, animal models “provide all the factors involved in the complex host-pathogen interactions.” Scientists and researchers can learn from the interaction through the host immune response and the infective agent’s influence on the host (Schmidt and Weber 59).
The importance of using animal models can be seen through studies involving a large group of animals, which facilitate statistical analysis. Furthermore, studies on them can be reproduced while at the same time scientists have more leeway to examine animals’ individual effects through variation in the parameters. On the other hand, the use of animal models has its own limitations, and researchers and scientists must recognize this (Schmidt and Weber 60).
In addition, researchers can take advantage of the fact that small mammals possess accelerated life cycles. It can save the scientists time and cost in compiling experiments. This is because the pathophysiology of infectious processes among animals resembles the pathphysiology of human disease. Furthermore, these infectious processes are related to morbidity and mortality in animals. Thus it would be unacceptable to carry out testing and experiments on humans (Schmidt and Weber 60).
The major reason why animal rights advocates strongly oppose animal testing is based on ethical considerations and scientific grounds. They believe that harming one species for the benefit of another is morally wrong (“Animals Used in Experiments”). In addition, animal rights advocates argued that animal testing is “cruel and inadequate,” aside from being a waste of time and resources which could have been spent on other more important endeavors such as the relieving of human pain (“Why Scientists Defend Animal Research”).
In relation to the ethical grounds, animal advocates have different opinions with regards to the rights that must be accorded to animals. For instance, some advocates believe that animals have the right to be respected and have the right of individual freedom and dignity, all of which are human rights. Also, others argue that animals belong to the community along with humans. These perspectives indicate that expediency, and not just morality, has a great impact on what humans do with animals (United States. Congress. Officw of Technology Assessment 71).
Those who oppose animal testing also argue that information gathered from animal testing does not apply to humans (“Advantages of Animal Testing in Medical Research”). In support of this argument, the American Anti-Vivisection Society claimed that animals respond to treatments differently from humans. Accordingly, “animal-based testing methods” fail to meet the human needs (“Animal Testing,” American Anti-Vivisection Society). In addition, certain animal experiments have led to scientific dead ends. Despite this, funds kept on coming for experiments. The sad thing is that animal medication does not guarantee the safety and effectiveness of drugs and medications for humans. In fact, the drugs that have been recalled from the market proved to cause illness or, in worst cases, death, among human patients. Interestingly, these drugs were tested on animals prior to distribution (“Animals Used in Experiments”).
Related to the abovementioned argument, a study was conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) which involved 12 anti-cancer drugs tested on mice. These drugs were successfully used in humans. The mice grew 48 different kinds of human cancers; the NCI used the 12 drugs to treat them. The most interesting finding was that the drugs were ineffective to mice 30/48 times. The study concluded that “63 percent of the time, the mouse models with human tumors inaccurately predicted human response” (“Medical Research”).
Another study, which involved six drugs that have known side effects among humans, generated a similar result. It showed that although the animals showed 22 side effects, 48 side effects were not correctly identified, most of which did not occur among humans. The study also showed that 20 side effects that occurred on humans were missing. It is an indication that 76 percent of the time, the animal models were not correct (“Medical Research”).
All of these studies showed that using animals to model human diseases does not guarantee accurate results.
Furthermore, animal testing is cruelty to animals. The reality of the experiments in most of animal labs is not unknown to the public. For the past years, news and videos showed the real situation in some laboratories, where animals are mercilessly experimented on and killed afterwards. In particular is the case in the Beijing facility of the Bridge Pharmaceuticals Inc, which was among drug companies to set up centers in China. The beagles in the lab’s cages are experimented and operated on, including being injected with infectious diseases. In addition, beagles are given substances which could severely affect their bodily functions. After which researchers and scientists remove their organs to be examined (Pocha 1).
However, these companies were not the only ones thrown into spotlight for their use of animals. For many years, the U.S. Department of Defense has been under criticism for its practice of using animals during training and military experiments. For instance, there was a trauma training course wherein pigs were anesthetized and were used in place of trauma victims. One of the medics during the training related the cruelty against pigs, saying that the animals were repeatedly wounded and the trainees must keep them alive. The medic’s pig was shot in the face ten times using a pistol, a shotgun, and an automatic rifle, after which the pig was set on fire (McPherson).
Additionally, evidence to the cruelty against animals in animal testing could be seen through testimony of Peter Henriksen, a veterinarian, who conducted experiments on a dog named Rodney. The dog was flea-infested, and did not have an owner. During Henriksen’s third year in college, Rodney was provided to him and his other colleagues by the local pound. They would conduct surgery techniques on the dog as part of their surgery training. At one time, they neutered him. The procedure took longer than usual, necessitating Rodney to be out for more than a day. The next experiment involved abdominal exploratory. Due to lack of supervision, they were unable to close Rodney’s abdomen properly. The next morning, Rodney’s wound opened up, and the students hastily sewed him up (Henriksen).
The last experiment was breaking the dog’s leg and mending it with a steel pin. Something must have gone wrong with how they mended the dog, because Rodney was always in pain. He was unable to walk and he could no longer wag his tail. As a result, Rodney did not recover completely, with his leg still swollen. Without much choice, the students put the dog to sleep. The only consolation to this is that Henriksen’s attitudes and views about animal testing changed as he recognized that moral and ethical issues far outweigh the benefits from experiments (Henrikson).
In addition to the cruelty, advocates believe that animals have the capacity to experience fear and pain. Researches have been done on the mechanism of pain. Results from these can aid scientists in minimizing pain in experiments. Researches included the detection of pain and distress, which could help researchers to detect these “with greater sensitivity.” Added to these were the developments in analgesic and anesthetics, providing more comfort for animals. In 1984, for instance, the Humane Information Services provided a grant amounting to $184,000 to help agricultural research projects which would ease animal sufferings. Studies included the behavioral effects that types of housing have on pigs and chickens. There were also studies aimed at electronic immobilization and stress reduction. Furthermore, it was reported that information obtained from experiments could be maximized while the suffering of animals are minimized (United States. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment 270).
The sad thing about the arguments between the advantages and disadvantages of animal testing is that there is no substitute to live animal testing. If companies stop using animals, there would be no greater chances to develop new drugs for diseases. And if companies continue to conduct animal testing, there would be more protests on the kind of experiments done on animals. Those who are against animal testing and those who advocate it need to consider the reasons for their arguments regarding the practice. The scientific and medical community must take into account the ethical and scientific grounds that animal rights advocates hold on to when animal experiments are needed. Advocates, on the other hand, must also recognize the greatest benefit that animal testing can bring to humans, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of discoveries and developments from such practice.
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