Over the years, scientists have been able to eradicate some of the diseases that were previously responsible for the death of thousands of people. They researched on the various causes of these diseases and they sought ways of preventing and treating them. In their quest of finding different treatments, they invented many drugs, some of which were harmful to humans. This created a paradox since they ended up killing the same people they were trying to save. Since they could no longer determine the efficacy and safety of the drugs they invented on people, they decided to test the drugs on animals. After these, there was a drastic reduction in the number of deaths reported and efficiency in research improved. Currently, governments require thorough testing of drugs before they are released to the market. People have become more aware of animal rights and animal rights movements have been formed around the world. These movements have been formed with the sole purpose of fighting for the rights of animals and preventing people from using them cruelly. Despite the major strides made in the pharmaceutical and other industries due to animal tests, there are those who still oppose the use of animal tests.
Scientists use animals because their biological traits are considered similar to those of humans. Apart from the biomedical industry, animal testing is also carried out in the cosmetic industry. It is also used for educational purposes and for determining product safety (Watson, 2009). The most common used animals especially for biomedical purposes are the mice and rats. Other animals that are used include horses, apes, dogs and cats. Animal testing began with the discovery of the drug Thalidomide, which was purported to deal with morning sickness. The manufacturers of this drug had not done enough research to determine if the drug caused any side effects or it had any anomalies. Unfortunately, people realized the negative effects of this drug after babies were born with missing limbs.
Before a product is tested on animals, it undergoes in-vitro and computer models tests. This is especially the case for pharmaceutical products and if the drug fails in the two tests, it is not tested on animals. Currently, there is a heated debate involving the use of animal testing and HIV/AIDS research. While many people agree that it is important, and indeed a major breakthrough, to find a cure for HIV/AIDS, they do not realize that such research involves animal testing. These arguments are often confusing to people who would not want to support animal testing. Animal testing is used to test the safety of products. Unfortunately, this is not limited to drugs and other pharmaceutical products. Household cleaning agents, agricultural products and cosmetics are used on animals (Avert, 2011). The mice are usually tested first followed by the rats. Other species such as dogs and non-human primates are tested later (Sherry, 2009).
The Law concerning Animal Testing
The Laboratory Animal Welfare Act was established in 1966. This was after people noted that the cats and dogs, which they had kept as pets, were stolen and resold as experimental subjects. The act required dealers and research facilities, which dealt with animals to follow standards as set by the US Department for Agriculture. The act required that cats, dogs and other animals were treated humanely. Dealers who violated the set rules had their licenses suspended. They were convicted under a court of law and they could be imprisoned for not more than a year or they were forced to pay a fine. The Act was amended in 1970 and it included more animals other than cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs.
The 1970 amendment included all warm blooded animals as determined by the state, that were used for the purpose of research, testing, experimentation, exhibitions and those kept as pets. Horses not used for research, poultry and other livestock used for food or for fiber production was not included in the amendment. Animals had the right to have enough food and water. They were required to have quality accommodation, sanitation, ventilation and veterinary care. Veterinary care included the use drugs to ease pain, appropriate use of anesthetic, analgesic and tranquilizers (Office of Technology Assessment & Congress, n. d.). The Animal Welfare Act continues to be amended to ensure better treatment of animals. The FDA has made several requirements at the preclinical stage. It requires sponsors to develop a pharmacological profile of the drug, determine the acute toxicity of the drug on at least two animals and conduct a short-term toxicity study lasting up to three months (Sherry, 2009).
Arguments in favor of Animal Testing
Proponents of animal testing argue that it has saved many people’s lives. Lack of testing has in the past led to disasters because human lives have been endangered. Some of the drugs contain substances that are poisonous to humans. Testing enables the scientists to determine the right dosage. A little dose can be ineffective to humans while a high dosage can be poisonous. Animal testing has enabled advancement in research in diseases such as diabetes, cancer and HIV. Humans are not the only beneficiaries of animal testing. The animals themselves have also benefited from animal testing. Some of the methods used to treat and prevent diseases in human are also used on animals. Those who advocate for animal testing refute the idea of animal rights and their apparent equality to humans. They argue that animals cannot compare to humans since humans have more intellect and abilities. Since animals do not have the capability of having thoughts and emotions, they do not experience pain and suffering in the same capacity as humans.
Animal testing is considered better to human testing. It would be unethical and dangerous to subject humans to some experiments and some forms of treatment in the hope that it will work since it might lead to loss of lives. Modern medicine could not be the same without animal testing. It has enabled scientists to find out and advance their knowledge concerning gene structure, birth defects and carcinogens among other areas. Animal testing is also useful in surgery. Doctors get a chance to work on animals first before they can work on humans. This gives them much needed experience and reduces the chance of risk (Sherry, 2009).
Arguments Opposing Animal Testing
There are those who object to animal testing because it subjects the animals to cruelty. Animals are isolated, confined in small spaces and injured as they are experimented on. They are subjected to cruel treatment as they are exposed to dangerous chemicals such as pesticides, drugs, household products and other consumer goods, and harmful cosmetics among other harmful substances. They are mistreated because they lack the chance to exercise and feed properly once they are put in cages. Some are forced to feed on pesticides and cosmetics so that they can determine the danger of such products. This is indeed cruelty and it should be avoided at all costs.
According to the opponents of animal testing, the biological features of humans are very different from those of animals and testing does not guarantee accurate results. They argue that some of the products, which have passed product safety when they are tested on animals, still prove to be harmful on humans. Animals have a different immune system from humans and therefore some of the drugs that have seemed effective on animals might not work on humans. Animals have the capacity of experiencing pain and suffering. The animal rights movement was formed with the intention of educating people concerning the rights of animals. The animals used in experiments may be under a lot of stress and this may directly affect the results of the tests. Some oppose animal testing because it is seen as a slow process compared to other methods of testing. It is expensive and involving since it requires close monitoring of the animals (Hayhurst, 2000). While proponents of animal testing hail contributions made in the health sector because of animal testing, those who oppose it are of the opinion that advancement in medicine would have been possible without animal testing. They cite improvements in hygiene and dietary habits as some of the reason why some of the diseases were eradicated.
Solution and Alternatives
Many countries have banned animal testing in different industries. The United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Belgium have banned the use of animal testing on cosmetic products. Different companies have also been instrumental in the fight against animal testing (Willet, 2010). Because of the many objections of animal testing, scientists are trying to come up with better alternatives. These alternatives can be summarized as refinement, whereby methods which minimize pain and suffering are considered, reduction-include methods of obtaining comparable levels of information from the same number of animals and replacement-include methods which do not involve experimenting on the whole animal (Knight, 2003). Some of these alternatives include cell culture, donated eye tissue and computer modeling (Willet, 2010). Some have suggested using human volunteers during testing instead of animals. Those who support this idea seem to value animals more than they value human beings. This cannot be a feasible solution since it could take the human race back to the day when advancement in medicine ended up killing people instead of saving their lives.
It is not possible to ban the use of animal testing since scientists have not yet developed other means of ensuring the efficacy and safety of products. However, people can take the initiative of using fewer animals during testing. Governments need to establish stricter laws regarding the treatment of animals. Scientists have to realize that animals suffer and they do experience pain when they are subjected to poor treatment. They therefore have to use methods, which ensure that the animals experience less pain. Various groups can share data especially if they are dealing with the same thing. They can share existing data instead of conducting new research and using more animals for their research and testing (Office of Technology Assessment & Congress n. d.). Companies can choose to use products that have already been tested for safety.
Many animals die from road accidents, hunting and through other means. However, it would be reckless of people to ignore their plight by treating them cruelly. The animal rights movement has made some great strides in advocating for better treatment of animals. The movements have ensured that people do not just use animals for the sake of their own pleasure but they are used for scientific reasons. Much as this is commendable, those who oppose human testing have to admit that it has made major contributions on medicine. Hygiene and diet are not the only factors that contributed to eradication of diseases. Without vaccinations, some of the diseases, such as smallpox, which plagued humans, could still be a problem today. The main thing would be to treat animals in a humane way while scientists continue looking for alternative means to testing and ensuring product safety. Substituting the animals for humans is not an alternative since this would lead to more risks and more problems.
Avert. (2011). HIV drugs, vaccines and animal testing. Retrieved from http://www.avert.org/hiv-animal-testing.htm
Avert is concerned with averting HIV and AIDS. The article is concerned with issues concerning vaccines, HIV and animal testing. It gives various arguments on why people support or why they are opposed to animal testing. It also includes the views of animal testing from people who are infected with HIV. It looks at the future of animal testing and HIV. It notes that it is not possible for a person to support research on HIV yet at the same time be opposed to animal testing. This is because HIV tests and vaccines are carried out on animals, specifically the primates.
Hayhurst, C. (2000). Animal testing: The animal rights debate. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group
This book discusses various issues concerning animal testing. It examines the pros and cons of animal testing and looks at the legal and ethical issues involved in animal testing. It starts with an introduction and a brief history concerning animals’ rights and the animal rights movements. It does not fail to point out the benefits realized through animal testing while at the same time criticizing cruelty towards animals. It also examines what the law says regarding this and the subsequent amendments made.
Knight, J. D. (2003). Practical guide to chemical safety testing: Regulatory consequences – chemicals, food packaging and medical devices. United Kingdom: iSmithers Rapra Publishing
This book is not only about animal testing, but it is concerned with chemical safety and testing. It offers different alternatives to animal testing which include the “three Rs”. These are refinement, reduction and replacement. It includes details regarding validation of different methods and organizations involved in validating the alternative methods. It defines different definitions of concept used for validating and it includes aspects of human toxicity.
Office of Technology and Congress. Alternatives to animal use in research, testing, and education. Troy, MI: DIANE Publishing
The publication offers different topics concerning animal research and testing. It begins by giving a detailed account concerning patterns of animal use in research and testing and the ethical considerations involved. It examines both the religious and philosophical perspective on animal rights. it offers various alternatives to animal testing and research. It details the use of animals for educational purposes and the economic considerations. The book also includes federal and state regulation and laws concerning animal use in testing and research. It includes laws in other countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany and also includes testing guidelines and regulation of animal use within different federal departments and agencies
Sherry, J. C. (2003). Animal rights: a reference handbook. Bloomfield, CO: ABC-CLIO
Sherry talks about human rights and she starts by examining the historical and philosophical background. He notes how people use animals as companions and pets and how different animals can become pests. He takes a philosophical and legal perspective on animal rights and notes that animals experience pain and suffering. He takes a secular and religious viewpoint of animal rights. He ponders and discusses why testing is important and why it is used on animals.
Watson, S. (2009). Animal testing: Issues and ethics. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group
Watson begins by defining animal testing and explaining how animal tests are done. she examines both the arguments for and against animal testing and offers various alternatives to animal testing. It offers different statistics for instance; twenty five million animals are used in research, testing and education. It gives the three main areas of animal testing and research, which are biomedical, education and product safety.
Willet, J. (2010). The American beauty industry encyclopedia. Bloomfield, CO: ABC-CLIO
This encyclopedia includes different topics in the beauty industry. It is important in the animal testing debate since many cosmetics are tested on animals. It looks at the animal rights movement and notes the concerns raised by animal rights activists. Some of the concerns noted include testing beauty products, wearing fur and leather, use of shampoos, mascara and other beauty products that are usually tested on animals. It notes some of the side effects that are noted on animals such as itching, irritation and eye damage.