Using animals as living subjects to conduct scientific and commercial testing has been a controversial topic for centuries. Accounts of testing on animals have dated all the way back to the late 500 BC. In the ancient Roman period, vivisection, a practice traditionally reserved experimenting with live animals, was originally carried out on criminals as well. (History of Animal Testing). However, many people found this unsettling and a prohibition arose which led to the reliance on animal subjects only. Even after switching to relying primarily on animal subjects the controversy of performing experiments on animals remained.
Aristotle believed that animals lacked intelligence, and so the notions of justice and injustice did not apply to them. Theophrastus, a successor to Aristotle, disagreed, objecting to the vivisection of animals on the grounds that, like humans, they can feel pain, and causing pain to animals was an affront to the gods (History of Animal Testing).
In today’s society, the debate surrounding this controversy continues. Animal testing is now regulated by the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which was passed in 1966 and amended in 1970. The Animal Welfare Act regulates which animals’ scientist are allowed to use for experimentation.
The AWA defines “animal” as “any live or dead dog, cat, monkey (nonhuman primate mammal), guinea pig, hamster, rabbit, or such other warm-blooded animal.” The AWA excludes birds, rats and mice bred for research, cold-blooded animals, and farm animals used for food and other purposes (The History of Animal Testing).
Today, it is estimated that over 26 million animals are used for scientific and commercial testing yearly (History of Animal Testing). Although conducting experiments on animals can be of some benefit to scientist in medicine and other commercial ways, using animal subjects to conduct testing should be discontinued because it is inhumane, a waste of money, and not always accurate because of the biological differences between animals and humans. Alternative methods are available and should be explored.
Animal testing is inhumane, “U.S. law allows animals to be burned, shocked, poisoned, isolated, starved, drowned, addicted to drugs, and brain-damaged. No experiment, no matter how painful or trivial, is prohibited – and pain-killers are not required” (Cruelty to Animals in Laboratories). This means being locked in a tight spaced cage with no light, food, or water for extensive periods of time; it also means being chained or tied for hours and only being let out to be poked, probed, and abused– scenarios that are unimaginable, and not allowed with humans.
Millions of different types of animals experience this abuse yearly. Daily, scientists use animals to experiment with medical drugs, cosmetic products such as makeup and shampoos, and chemicals such as household cleaning substances (Cruelty to Animals in Laboratories). Animal subjects are kept locked in cages for the majority of the day, only being released for the purpose of testing and experimentation. Animals involved in these experiments go prolonged periods of time without food, water, and physical movement. Animal subjects undergo intense and traumatic procedures while being deprived of the essentials necessary to survive.
Animals are injected with diseases that they normally would not contract or have exposure to, causing them to endure pain and suffer simply for the purpose of conducting research. Scientists inject tumors and sexually transmitted diseases into animal subjects in order to test different types of medicines. Cosmetic scientist use animal subjects to test new and upcoming makeup and other products (Cruelty to Animals in Laboratories). Part of the harmful nature of animal testing is that these products aren’t just being tested for effectiveness, but the product themselves may be unsafe and harmful to the animals—even in situations where they are given a disease to test a cure.
The cure itself may present more risk than benefits. “The Draize eye test, used by cosmetics companies to evaluate irritation caused by shampoos and other products, involves rabbits being incapacitated in stocks with their eyelids held open by clips, sometimes for multiple days, so they cannot blink away the products being tested” (History of Animal Testing).
Many animal subjects are euthanized after scientists are finished using them for their experiments. Animals are euthanized differently depending on the species of animal. Some are put in a chamber that is filled with carbon monoxide, causing the animal to suffocate and die from carbon monoxide inhalation. Anesthetics and sedatives are another method used to terminate animals after testing. More harsh methods are also used to euthanize animals such as decapitation, breaking of the spine, and even gunshot (Cruelty to Animals in Laboratories). Animal subjects are tortured and then brutally killed after once the experiments are complete, and this is one reason why animal testing should be prohibited.
Animal testing is also controversial because not all animals and humans share all the same biological components. Medicines that may work in certain animals do not always have the same effect on humans. This also applies with cosmetic products; animals might not have a reaction to a product, but humans may. Akhtar uses an analogy to better explain the difference of these biological components, “As pianos have the same keys, humans and other animals share (largely) the same genes. Where we mostly differ is in the way the genes or keys are expressed. For example, if we play the keys in a certain order, we hear Chopin; in a different order, we hear Ray Charles; and in yet a different order, it’s Jerry Lee Lewis. In other words, the same keys or genes are expressed, but their different orders result in markedly different outcomes” (Akhtar 412).
Since we are not biologically the same as the animal subjects they test these products on, it is hard for scientists to be able to determine conclusively if it will be helpful or harmful to human subjects. Some medicines that were tested and worked in animals caused serious and sometimes fatal issues in humans. Thalidomide was a drug manufactured and prescribed to pregnant women to treat morning sickness. This drug was tested in animals and passed by the FDA as a safe and effective drug. Unfortunately, many women gave birth to babies with serious birth defects including phocomelia, which is limb development failure, and even death.
As medical research has explored the complexities and subtle nuances of biological systems, problems have arisen because the differences among species along these subtler biological dimensions far outweigh the similarities, as a growing body of evidence attests. These profoundly important—and often undetected—differences are likely one of the main reasons human clinical trials fail (Akhtar 413). The biological differences that humans and animals share make it unreasonable to use animal subjects to determine human response, another reason animal testing should be prohibited.
Alternative methods to animal testing are available and should be explored. Thanks to innovation and the advancement in technology, today’s scientist is able to conduct in depth simulation and testing using existing data, extrapolation and computer modeling. There are different programs and systems scientists can evaluate on computers in order to help with medical research. Some alternatives include silico models,
In silico techniques include computer models that work out whether a chemical is likely to be toxic based on whether it has a similar structure to another more understood chemical. Computers can also be used to build up pictures of entire systems such as the human heart and predict what effect a drug might have on the circulation (Taylor 178). Other alternatives to animal testing include conducting experiments on human subjects.
If a scientist is trying to manufacture a drug that would benefit humans, it would be smartest to test it on a human. Individuals should be able to volunteer to include in medical and cosmetic product testing. In order to protect companies and organizations from liability and litigation, waivers should be distributed to each volunteer to sign, saying that they willingly volunteered for this experiment and are responsible for any side effects or damage that could potentially affect them. Another alternative method includes in vitro techniques, which uses bacteria, fresh human or animal cells, or permanent cells lines to do experiments. These cells are put into glass tubes or glass trays in order to conduct test outside of the human body without doing harm to the human body (Taylor 178).
As innovation continues to produce new and improved methods to conduct research, the need for animal testing will continue to diminish making prohibition inevitable.
Finally, animal testing should be prohibited because of the amount of money necessary to conduct these procedures on animal subjects. The USA spends roughly-around 16 billion dollars annually to fund animal testing. Taxpayers are getting their hard-earned money taken away to fund a cruel and inhumane system. That money could be spent in so many other ways and used for many different things. The money the US spends funding animal testing could instead be used to help find other alternative methods. Using human volunteers could not only help save innocent animals, but also help save a lot of money.
“It is generally accepted that alternative methods not only spare animals from suffering in laboratories but also save the company time and money and importantly produce more reliable and accurate results” (Taylor 179). The government spends a significant amount of money on animal testing when there is a chance that the drug or cosmetic product will not work or harm human beings. “Many alternative methods are vastly cheaper than the animal test they replace—a good example is the in vitro cell transformation assays that cost twenty thousand euros and take three weeks to complete, compared to the rat cancer bioassay that costs one million euros and takes two years” (Taylor 179).
The outrageous amount of money we spend annually on animal testing is the final point against animal testing.
Animals are living organisms that have emotions and live lifes of their own. Even though animals are not as advanced as humans, this gives us no right to treat them so cruelly. Animals are also able to feel, comprehend, and understand pain. Accounts have been recorded of animals crying or making unpleasant faces while being tested on in the laboratories. Although some scientific advancements have occurred thanks to animal testing, it should be prohibited because it is inhumane, a waste of money, other alternative methods are available, and not always accurate because of the biological differences between animals and humans.
- Animal research and its benefits: ethics, regulation and communication
- Facts about animal research – Speaking of Research
- The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments | Britannica Advocacy for Animals
- Human Clinical Trials Raise Hopes, Questioning Importance of Animal Testing | VOA News
- Ethical considerations in human experimentation | NCBI