Animal testing is a term used to describe the various procedures performed on living animals for research and study purposes into basic biology and diseases. It also assesses the effectiveness of new medicinal products and tests the environmental or human health safety of various consumer goods such as food, cosmetics, cleaners, agricultural chemicals, and more.
All kinds of animal testing have the potential to cause the animal significant psychological and physical pain and distress. Almost all the test animals die at the end of experiments. Approximately 100 million animals are put into experiments every year in the United States. Only 3 percent of animals survive these experiments.
Animal testing is very helpful for advancement in medical science as few animals share several genetic and physiological similarities with humans. Even though it is tremendously helpful, there is a debate about the ethics of animal testing or ethical animal testing. Some argue that animal testing should end as it is wrong to treat animals like they’re some kind of tool to further knowledge. According to this argument, animals are equal to humans and have a right to live a life free from pain, suffering, and exploitation.
Others argue that animal testing must continue due to scientific resources that animal models provide. According to this point of view, the living conditions of laboratory animals can still be improved. This argument supports the efforts to improve animals’ conditions, acquire trained personnel to handle animals, and use anesthesia appropriately.
Overall, there is a wide range of positions on the debate over the ethics of animal experimentation or testing. The two arguments mentioned above are the two common viewpoints at the opposing ends of the spectrum. There is a middle view also. Other people support an argument closer to the middle of the spectrum. This middle view supports testing only on some but not on all animals and tries to prevent unnecessary use of animals in scientific research by exploring alternatives to animal testing.
This article will focus on all three points of view on animal testing and will discuss the ethics of animal testing or ethical animal testing.
Pros of Animal Testing
Contribution to cures, medicines, and treatments: According to the California Biomedical Research Association, almost all medical breakthroughs in the last 100 years have resulted from animal research.
Testing vaccines: When vaccines are produced, they need to test them on animals to make sure that the vaccine doesn’t harm humans or make the virus worse.
No other alternatives: Living beings like animals and humans are complex. Without animals, no other alternatives can provide the opportunity to study interrelated processes in the central nervous system, immune system, and endocrine system.
Animals are similar to human beings: Humans share around 99 percent of their DNA with chimpanzees, and mice’s genes are 99 percent similar to humans.
Animals also benefit from testing: Vaccines tested on laboratory animals have helped save the lives of millions of animals that would have died of rabies, anthrax, etc.
Products need to be tested to ensure their safety: Product safety is of great importance, considering the amount of products an average human uses daily.
Researchers treat animals humanely to ensure that the test has reliable results: Laboratory animals are cared for to ensure more accurate findings.
It is inhumane and wrong: Laboratory animals are subjected to force-feeding, water and food deprivation, and infliction of wounds and burns to study its healing process, effects, and remedies.
Scientists can test vaccines on humans: Human volunteers can give their consent to be used in testing, unlike animals.
Alternative testing methods can replace animal testing: Alternative methods like vitro testing offer several opportunities to replace and reduce animal testing.
Animals are different from humans: The metabolic, cellular, and anatomic differences between humans and animals make animals poor models for humans.
Not all medicines that pass animal tests are safe: For example, a sleeping pill called thalidomide, produced in the 1950s, resulted in 10,000 newborns with severe deformities. It was tested on animals before it was released.
Researchers might ignore potential treatments and cures due to animal testing: Some drugs and chemicals that are not effective on animals might prove effective when used by humans.
Just 5 percent of animals in experiments are protected by US law: The Animals Welfare Act does not apply to mice, fish, rats, and birds. These animals account for nearly 95 percent of the animals in experiments.
The Middle Point of View
As mentioned before, there exists a middle point of view for people who feel uncomfortable with animal testing but also believe that the findings and results arising from tests outweigh the harm done to animals. The middle argument has a few principles of its own that must be used in tests and research.
One of the principles advocated by this point of view is using less complex organisms in research whenever possible. For example, the use of plants, bacteria, fruit flies, etc over mammals. This viewpoint suggests that much more complex organisms have richer lives and that the richness of life correlates with moral worth.
Another principle is to decrease the use of animals in any kind of experiment. For instance, research of literature can ensure testing is not unnecessarily repeated. Ensuring that tests and research is conducted according to the highest standards can help reduce it.
Another principle is to ensure the treatment of animals in the best way possible- reducing animals’ pain and stress, using anesthesia, etc. People handling the animals should have proper training. Animal testing must reduce whenever possible in favor of other methods.
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