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Animal Experimentation Essay Examples



Animal experimentation has been a part of biomedical and behavioral research for
several millennia; experiments with animals were conducted in Greece over 2,000
years ago. Many advances in medicine and in the understanding of how organisms
function have been the direct result of animal experimentation.

Concern over the welfare of laboratory animals is also not new, as reflected in
the activities of various animal welfare and antivivisectionist groups dating
back to the nineteenth century. This concern has led to laws and regulations
governing the use of animals in research and to various guides and statements of
principle designed to ensure humane treatment and use of laboratory animals.


Use of Animals in Research

Some of the earliest recorded studies involving animals were performed by
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), who revealed anatomical differences among animals by
dissecting them (Rowan, 1984). The Greek physician Galen (A.D. 129-199)
maintained that experimentation led to scientific progress and is said to have
been the first to conduct demonstrations with live animals–specifically pigs-a
practice later extended to other species and termed “vivisection” (Loew, 1982).
However, it was not until the sixteenth century that many experiments on animals
began to be recorded. In 1628, William Harvey published his work on the heart
and the movement of blood in animals (French, 1975). In the 18OOs, when France
became one of the leading centers of experimental biology and medicine-marked by
the work of such scientists as Francis Magendie in experimental physiology,
Claude Bernard in experimental medicine, and Louis Pasteur in microbiology and
immunology-investigators regularly used animals in biomedical research (McGrew,

Research in biology progressed at an increasing pace starting around 1850, with
many of the advances resulting from experiments involving animals. Helmholtz
studied the physical and chemical activities associated with the nerve impulse;
Virchow developed the science of cellular pathology, which led the way to a more
rational understanding of disease processes; Pasteur began the studies that led
to immunization for anthrax and inoculation for rabies; and Koch started a long
series of studies that would firmly establish the germ theory of disease. Lister
performed the first antiseptic surgery in 1878, and Metchnikoff discovered the
antibacterial activities of white blood cells in 1884. The first hormone was
extracted in 1902. Ehrlich developed a chemical treatment for syphilis in 1909,
and laboratory tissue culture began in 1910. By 1912, nutritional deficiencies
were sufficiently well understood to allow scientists to coin the word
“vitamin.” In 1920, Banting and Best isolated insulin, which led to therapy for
diabetes mellitus. Mter 1920, the results of science-based biological research
and their medical applications followed so rapidly and in such numbers that they
cannot be catalogued here.

Concerns over Animal Use

The first widespread opposition to the use of animals in research was expressed
in the nineteenth century. Even before this, however, concern had arisen about
the treatment of farm animals. The first piece of legislation to forbid cruelty
to animals was adopted by the General Court of Massachusetts in 1641 and stated
that “No man shall exercise any tyranny or cruelty towards any brute creatures
which are usually kept for man’s use” (Stone, 1977). In England, Martin’s Act
was enacted in 1822 to provide protection for farm animals. In 1824, the Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was founded to ensure that this
act was observed. In 1865, Henry Bergh brought the SPCA idea to America (Thrner,

He was motivated not by the use of animals in research but by the ill-treatment
of horses that he observed in czarist Russia.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, concerns for the welfare of farm
animals expanded to include animals used in scientific research. The
antivivisectionist movement in England, which sought to abolish the use of
animals in research, became engaged in large-scale public agitation in 1870,
coincident with the development of experimental physiology and the rapid growth
of biomedical research. In 1876, a royal commission appointed to investigate
vivisection issued a report that led to enactment of the Cruelty to Animals Act.
The act did not abolish all animal experimentation, as desired by the
antivivisection movement. Rather, it required experimenters to be licensed by
the government for experiments that were expected to cause pain in vertebrates.

As animal experimentation increased in the United States in the second half of
the nineteenth century, animal sympathizers in this country also became alarmed.
The first American antivivisectionist society was founded in Philadelphia in
1883, followed by the formation of similar societies in New York in 1892 and
Boston in 1895. Like their predecessors in England, these groups sought to
abolish the use of animals in biomedical research, but they were far less
prominent or influential than the major animal-protection societies, such as the
American SPCA, the Massachusetts SPCA, and the American Humane Association
(Turner, 1980).

Unsuccessful in its efforts toward the end of the nineteenth century to abolish
the use of laboratory animals (Cohen and Loew, 1984), the antivivisectionist
movement declined in the early twentieth century. However, the animal welfare
movement remained active, and in the 195Os and 1960s its increasing strength led
to federal regulation of animal experimentation. The Animal Welfare Act was
passed in 1966 and amended in 1970, 1976, and 1985. Similar laws have been
enacted in other countries to regulate the treatment of laboratory animals
(Hampson, 1985).

Concern over the welfare of animals used in research has made itself felt in
other ways. In 1963, the Animal Care Panel drafted a document that is now known
as the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (National Research
Council, 1985a). As discussed in Chapter 5, the Guide is meant to assist
institutions in caring for and using laboratory animals in ways judged to be
professionally and humanely appropriate. Many professional societies and public
and private research institutions have also issued guidelines and statements on
the humane use of animals; for example, the American Physiological Society, the
Society for Neuroscience, and the American Psychological Association.


Despite the long history of concern with animal welfare, the treatment and use
of experimental animals remain controversial. In recent years a great expansion
of biomedical and behavioral research has occurred. Simultaneously, there has
been increased expression of concern over the use of animals in research. Wide
publicity of several cases involving the neglect and misuse of experimental
animals has sensitized people to the treatment of laboratory animals. Societal
attitudes have also changed, as a spirit of general social concern and a strong
belief that humans have sometimes been insensitive to the protection of the
environment have contributed to an outlook in which the use of animals is a
subject of concern.

Of course, any indifference to the suffering of animals properly gives rise to
legitimate objections. From time to time some few members of the scientific
community have been found to mistreat or inadequately care for research animals.
Such actions are not acceptable. Maltreatment and improper care of animals used
in research cannot be tolerated by the scientific establishment. Individuals
responsible for such behavior must be subject to censure by their peers. Out of
this concern that abuse be prevented, organizations have emerged to monitor how
laboratory animals are being treated, and government agencies and private
organizations have adopted regulations governing animal care and use.

Discussions about laboratory animal use have also been influenced in recent
years by the emergence of groups committed to a concept termed “animal rights.”
Some of these groups oppose all use of animals for human benefit and any
experimentation that is not intended primarily for the benefit of the individual
animals involved. Their view recognizes more than the traditional interdependent
connections between humans and animals: It reflects a belief that animals, like
humans, have inherent rights” (Regan, 1983; Singer, 1975).

Their use of the term “rights” in connection with animals departs from its
customary usage or common meaning. In Western history and culture, “rights”
refers to legal and moral relationships among the members of a community of
humans; it has not been applied to other entities (Cohen, 1986). Our society
does, however, acknowledge that living things have inherent value. In practice,
that value imposes an ethical obligation on scientists to minimize pain and
distress in laboratory animals.

Our society is influenced by two major strands of thought: the Judeo-Christian
heritage and the humanistic tradition rooted in Greek philosophy. The dominance
of humans is accepted in both traditions. The Judeo-Christian notion of
dominance is reflected in the passage in the Bible that states (Genesis 1:26):

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and

let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air,
and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that
creepeth upon the earth.

However, the Judeo-Christian heritage also insists that dominance be attended by
responsibility. Power used appropriately must be used with the morality of
caring. The uniqueness of humans, most philosophers agree, lies in our ability
to make moral choices. We have the option to decide to dominate animals, but we
also have a mandate to make choices responsibly to comply with the obligations
of stewardship.

From tradition and practice it is clear that society accepts the idea of a
hierarchy of species in its attitudes toward and its regulation of the
relationships between humans and the other animal species. For example, animals
as different as nonhuman primates, dogs, and cats are given special
consideration as being “closer” to humans and are treated differently from
rodents, reptiles, and rabbits.

Most individuals would agree that not all species of animals are equal and would
reject the contention of animal rights advocates who argue that it is
“speciesism” to convey special status to humans. Clearly, humans are different,
in that humans are the only species able to make moral judgments, engage in
reflective thought, and communicate these thoughts. Because of this special
status, humans have felt justified to use animals for food and fiber, for
personal use, and in experimentation. As indicated earlier, however, these uses
of animals by humans carry with them the responsibility for stewardship of the

Several recent surveys have examined public opinion about the use of laboratory
animals in scientific experimentation (Doyle Dane Bernbach, 1983; Media General,
1985; Research Strategies Corp., 1985). Most of the people interviewed want to
see medical research continued, even at the expense of animals’ lives. Beyond
that, people’s thoughts about animal use depend on the particular species used
and/or on the research problem being addressed. Almost all people support the
experimental use of rodents. Support for the use of dogs, cats, and monkeys is
less, and people clearly would prefer that rodents be used instead. Most people
polled believe that animals used in research are treated humanely.

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