This is a short essay about using animals for medical research. It is deliberately written in a straightforward, simplified style and is for students. Visitors are free to use it as they wish under a creative commons license.
Animal testing is controversial. It divides the opinions of people. In North America about 60% of people are for it while in the United Kingdom about 40% believe it is acceptable.
Essay on animal testing
Using animals for medical research is widespread. There are an estimated 100 million experiments worldwide annually. In the UK, nearly all experiments are done on mice, rats, fish and birds. However, cats, dogs and rabbits are often used. Some people trade in unwanted pets for use at laboratories.
The reason for animal testing is dubious but the fact that animal testing happens a lot tells us that it is generally accepted by people despite opposition by a large minority.
The reason why it is accepted is because people believe they are superior to animals and therefore animals should serve people. The animal cannot claim or demand rights. It is in the power of people to grant rights to animals and at present, in the interests of human health, people desire to limit the rights of animals. Obviously animals do not consent to being used for medical research.
Using animals for medical research has resulted in many advances in human medicine and treatments because animal anatomy is very similar to ours. Although recently it was found that research using mice may be unreliable.
Testing on animals has given people longer lives and helped in creating treatments for asthma (inhalers) and diabetes. These are just two examples of many.
However, asthma inhalers treat the symptoms of the illness while a greater focus should be on the underlying causes of asthma. Diabetes is on the increase. Perhaps the focus should be on changing human lifestyles to reduce diabetes rather than treating it which may encourage unhealthy lifestyles.
Medical advances are not automatically good for us because they can divert us from focusing on how to make the planet more healthy and to live more healthily. If there was a complete cure for lung cancer do you think people would stop smoking?
Also, are we living too long? Hospitals are full of very old, sick people who are kept alive through medicines and treatments created from animal testing. For example, research on mice has improved cancer survival rates.
However, are we able to afford to keep people alive longer and what about the quality of life? It is strange that people kept alive beyond a natural death are then often, quietly put to death by an overdose of morphine given by a nurse who knows exactly how much morphine is needed to kill a patient. This is accepted by everyone. We keep people alive and then kill them. What are we doing?
But let’s remind ourselves that medical research is a business. The driving force of animal testing laboratories is financial profit. Is this a good reason for using animals in medical research? Medical research is not automatically a good thing. It needs to be used carefully. Also we are told that a lot of animal research could be done just as well without animals and that sometimes animal reactions to new treatments does not reflect how a human would react.
However, in favour of animal testing is the fact that, for example, hip replacement techniques have been improved using animal research. Animal testing does improve the lives of people.
People who are for using animals in medical research say that the benefits to people are so great it doesn’t make sense to stop it. There are numerous examples of the benefits to humankind. It is better than an animal suffers in testing than us through illness. Also, many veterinary medical advances are based on animal testing. They also say that it is carefully regulated and suffering is kept to an absolute minimum. People against it say that isn’t enough and from time to time whistleblowers reveal unethical behavior at animal testing laboratories. Scientists are not automatically ethical people.
People who are against it also say we have no right to use and abuse animals for our benefit because we are not superior to animals and in any case we are human-animals.
As stated this is a divisive and controversial subject. At present more people accept animal testing than reject it which is why it exists but is this state of affairs another example of human self-interest exploiting the planet for short term gain?
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Using animals in research and to test the safety of products has been a topic of heated debate for decades. According to data collected by F. Barbara Orlans for her book, In the Name of Science: Issues in Responsible Animal Experimentation, sixty percent of all animals used in testing are used in biomedical research and product-safety testing (62). People have different feelings for animals; many look upon animals as companions while others view animals as a means for advancing medical techniques or furthering experimental research. However individuals perceive animals, the fact remains that animals are being exploited by research facilities and cosmetics companies all across the country and all around the world. Although humans often benefit from successful animal research, the pain, the suffering, and the deaths of animals are not worth the possible human benefits. Therefore, animals should not be used in research or to test the safety of products.
First, animals' rights are violated when they are used in research. Tom Regan, a philosophy professor at North Carolina State University, states: "Animals have a basic moral right to respectful treatment. . . .This inherent value is not respected when animals are reduced to being mere tools in a scientific experiment" (qtd. in Orlans 26). Animals and people are alike in many ways; they both feel, think, behave, and experience pain. Thus, animals should be treated with the same respect as humans. Yet animals' rights are violated when they are used in research because they are not given a choice. Animals are subjected to tests that are often painful or cause permanent damage or death, and they are never given the option of not participating in the experiment. Regan further says, for example, that "animal [experimentation] is morally wrong no matter how much humans may benefit because the animal's basic right has been infringed. Risks are not morally transferable to those who do not choose to take them" (qtd. in Orlans 26). Animals do not willingly sacrifice themselves for the advancement of human welfare and new technology. Their decisions are made for them because they cannot vocalize their own preferences and choices. When humans decide the fate of animals in research environments, the animals' rights are taken away without any thought of their well-being or the quality of their lives. Therefore, animal experimentation should be stopped because it violates the rights of animals.
Next, the pain and suffering that experimental animals are subject to is not worth any possible benefits to humans. "The American Veterinary Medial Association defines animal pain as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience perceived as arising from a specific region of the body and associated with actual or potential tissue damage" (Orlans 129). Animals feel pain in many of the same ways that humans do; in fact, their reactions to pain are virtually identical (both humans and animals scream, for example). When animals are used for product toxicity testing or laboratory research, they are subjected to painful and frequently deadly experiments. Two of the most commonly used toxicity tests are the Draize test and the LD50 test, both ofwhich are infamous for the intense pain and suffering they inflect upon experimental animals. In the Draize test the substance or product being tested is placed in the eyes of an animal (generally a rabbit is used for this test); then the animal is monitored for damage to the cornea and other tissues in and near the eye. This test is intensely painful for the animal, and blindness, scarring, and death are generally the end results. The Draize test has been criticized for being unreliable and a needless waste of animal life. The LD50 test is used to test the dosage of a substance that is necessary to cause death in fifty percent of the animal subjects within a certain amount of time. To perform this test, the researchers hook the animals up to tubes that pump huge amounts of the test product into their stomachs until they die. This test is extremely painful to the animals because death can take days or even weeks. According to Orlans, the animals suffer from "vomiting, diarrhea, paralysis, convulsion, and internal bleeding. Since death is the required endpoint, dying animals are not put out of their misery by euthanasia" (154). In his article entitled "Time to Reform Toxic Tests," Michael Balls, a professor of medial cell biology at the University of Nottingham and chairman of the trustees of FRAME (the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments), states that the LD50 test is "scientifically unjustifiable. The precision it purports to provide is an illusion because of uncontrollable biological variables" (31). The use of the Draize test and the LD50 test to examine product toxicity has decreased over the past few years, but these tests have not been eliminated completely. Thus, because animals are subjected to agonizing pain, suffering and death when they are used in laboratory and cosmetics testing, animal research must be stopped to prevent more waste of animal life.
Finally, the testing of products on animals is completely unnecessary because viable alternatives are available. Many cosmetic companies, for example, have sought better ways to test their products without the use of animal subjects. In Against Animal Testing, a pamphlet published by The Body Shop, a well-known cosmetics and bath-product company based in London, the development of products that "use natural ingredients, like bananas and Basil nut oil, as well as others with a long history of safe human usage" is advocated instead of testing on animals (3).Furthermore, the Draize test has become practically obsolete because of the development of a synthetic cellular tissue that closely resembles human skin. Researchers can test the potential damage that a product can do to the skin by using this artificial "skin" instead of testing on animals. Another alternative to this test is a product called Eyetex. This synthetic material turns opaque when a product damages it, closely resembling the way that a real eye reacts to harmful substances. Computers have also been used to simulate and estimate the potential damage that a product or chemical can cause, and human tissues and cells have been used to examine the effects of harmful substances. In another method, in vitro testing, cellular tests are done inside a test tube. All of these tests have been proven to be useful and reliable alternatives to testing products on live animals. Therefore, because effective means of product toxicity testing are available without the use of live animal specimens, testing potentially deadly substances on animals is unnecessary.
However, many people believe that animal testing is justified because the animals are sacrificed to make products safer for human use and consumption. The problem with thisreasoning is that the animals' safety, well-being, and quality of life is generally not a consideration. Experimental animals are virtually tortured to death, and all of these tests are done in the interest of human welfare, without any thought to how the animals are treated. Others respond that animals themselves benefit from animal research. Yet in an article entitled "Is Your Experiment Really Necessary?" Sheila Silcock, a research consultant for the RSPCA, states: "Animals may themselves be the beneficiaries of animal experiments. But the value we place on the quality of their lives is determined by their perceived value to humans" (34). Making human's lives better should not be justification for torturing and exploiting animals. The value that humans place on their own lives should be extended to the lives of animals as well.
Still other people think that animal testing is acceptable because animals are lower species than humans and therefore have no rights. These individuals feel that animals have no rights because they lack the capacity to understand or to knowingly exercise these rights. However, animal experimentation in medical research and cosmetics testing cannot be justified on the basis that animals are lower on the evolutionary chart than humans since animals resemble humans in so many ways. Many animals, especially the higher mammalian species, possess internal systems and organs that are identical to the structures and functions of human internal organs. Also, animals have feelings, thoughts, goals, needs, and desires that are similar to human functions and capacities, and these similarities should be respected, not exploited, because of the selfishness of humans. Tom Regan asserts that "animals are subjects of a life just as human beings are, and a subject of a life has inherent value. They are . . . ends in themselves" (qtd. in Orlans 26). Therefore, animals' lives should be respected because they have an inherent right to be treated with dignity. The harm that is committed against animals should not be minimized because they are not considered to be "human."
In conclusion, animal testing should be eliminated because it violates animals' rights, it causes pain and suffering to the experimental animals, and other means of testing product toxicity are available. Humans cannot justify making life better for themselves by randomly torturing and executing thousands of animals per year to perform laboratory experiments or to test products. Animals should be treated with respect and dignity, and this right to decent treatment is not upheld when animals are exploited for selfish human gain. After all, humans are animals too.
Against Animal Testing. The Body Shop, 1993.
Balls, Michael. "Time to Reform Toxic Tests." New Scientist 134 (1992):31-33.
Orlans, F. Barbara. In the Name of Science: Issues in Responsible Animal Experimentation. New York: Oxford UP, 1993.
Silcock, Sheila. "Is Your Experiment Really Necessary?" New Scientist 134 (1992): 32-34.