“Each year, more than 100 million animals—including mice, rats, frogs, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, monkeys, fish, and birds—are killed in U. S. laboratories for biology lessons, medical training, curiosity-driven experimentation, and chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics testing” (PETA. org). Animal testing has been used since as early as Aristotle’s time. Many well-known philosophers back then used animals to experiment on in order to better understand anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology. Animal testing has been a highly debated controversial topic since the 17th century.
Those who are advocates for animal testing, argue that the initial testing on animals will ensure the safety of human consumers, once the tested product is on the market. On the other hand, those who are opposed to animal testing, are more concerned with the ethics of the process and that the animals are not being tested humanely. Scientists believe that with the total elimination of animal testing, there would be no further advancement in biomedical research, but that does not mean this issue can be solved in the future.
It is time for scientists to consider whether animal testing within biomedical research is really worth it or not as well as address the different alternatives and methods that experimenters can adopt. Although a majority of scientists feel that animals are the most adequate representatives of human physiology, they do not advocate animal cruelty. Animals have been used in research since as early as Aristotle’s time.
Since a majority of information on toxicology is based on animal testing, it is difficult for scientists to find complete replacements that can adequately represent the human body and ensure the safety of those who use the products being tested. Those in favor of animal testing, argue that experiments on animals are necessary to advance medical and biological knowledge. Geoff Watts, a freelance science and medical writer and broadcaster, states, “Most non-animal methods have been developed within the scientific community and for scientific reasons, he adds.
Many are complementary to existing animal tests rather than direct replacements. They may reduce rather than eliminate the need for animal procedures” (Watts 2). Watts, along with many other scientists conclude that although animal testing has yet to be eliminated, it can most definitely be reduced. As for the argument for those who oppose animal testing, they feel that animal testing is unethical and that animals should be treated equally. It has been a widely known principle that all living things should be treated equally.
Since animal testing involves inflicting pain on another living thing, there is no justification to harming animals based on an ethical standpoint. Peter Singer, a Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and a Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne, explains, “If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration.
No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering – in so far as rough comparisons can be made – of any other being. If a being is not capable of suffering, or of experiencing enjoyment or happiness, there is nothing to be taken into account” (Singer 4). Singer helps explain that there is no justification to inflicting harm on a being. On top of there being no justification for harming animals, unlike humans, animals are also unaware of the situation which makes it unfair to forcefully test on them.
Singer also points out that, like racists discriminate against other racists, “specieists” discriminate against other species. “Racists violate the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of their own race, when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. Similarly, speciesists allow the interests of their own species to override the greater interests of members of other species” (Singer 4).
Singer draws a parallel between racists and those who are for the mistreatment of animals. Although highly controversial, it is still a point to consider. Despite the fact that animals have been used in research for centuries, there are now set principles that scientists are following in order to replace, reduce, and refine the means for toxicological studies (also known as “The three Rs”). As for the first R, “replace”, is the idea of replacing animals using different techniques- ultimately avoiding the usage of animals altogether.
William Stokes, an affiliate with the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) assures, “The replacement of animal models for toxicological testing will ultimately provide the greatest impact on animal welfare by completely avoiding the need to use animals. For example, full replacement now appears to be feasible for estimating local toxicities” (Stokes 1301). Despite the fact that non-animal tests are more ethical, they are also more affordable and practical.
As for the second R, “reduce”, the goal is to reduce the number of animals used to a minimum, avoiding as much inhumane treatment as possible for the animals. “While many regulatory tests still require the use of large numbers of animals, the number of animals used for each study could potentially be reduced while still allowing attainment of the testing objective. Sequential testing and integrated testing and decision strategies (ITDS)1,3 are two approaches that can potentially reduce the number of animals in a study” (Stokes 1300). Sequential testing uses about 20% of the animals that would be used in a traditional test.
ITDS are also in-line with the welfare of animals because it considers using multiple sources of information and data before using the animals. As for the third R, “refine”, the goal is to refine the way experiments are carried out, to make sure animals suffer as little as possible. This includes better housing and improvements to procedures which minimize pain and suffering and/or improve animal welfare. “With large numbers of animals experiencing unrelieved pain and distress in testing, there is an urgent need to address and eliminate the sources of pain and distress.
Numerous opportunities and approaches are available that could contribute to eliminating the current suffering experienced by animals in testing” (Stokes 1299). Such refinements not only could provide for improved animal welfare but could also enhance the quality of experiments by reducing or eliminating pain and distress as an experimental variable. Scientists can refine the way they experiment on animals by using more humane practices, administering pain relieving medications, as well as providing veterinary care. The expenses and time that it takes to experiment on animals has actually been known to hinder scientific research.
Gregory Mone, a Harvard Graduate and Boston, MA-based scientific writer explains, “Reliance on animal testing, according to several experts, has actually hindered the evaluation of many chemicals and ingredients inside and outside the cosmetics industry. Animal-based tests take too long and are too expensive, they say, often requiring several years and millions of dollars or more to carry out” (Mone 1). Besides the moral problem, animal testing can actually hinder scientists’ research due to expensive procedures and drawn-out testing periods. Animal welfare is widely used to refer to an animal’s quality of life.
It encompasses the following: animals should be healthy, well fed, and housed in an environment that they might themselves choose; animals should be relatively free from negative states, such as pain, fear and distress, and capable of enjoying life; and animals should be able to carry out behaviors and activities that they are strongly motivated to do. With the initiative of The three Rs, scientists can ensure the welfare of animals within their practices. Despite the fact that in-vivo testing has been used for centuries, animals in labs still continue to live stressful, monotonous, and unnatural lives of daily confinement and deprivation.
The only changes in their lives may come from being called into a research which may include an invasive experiment, or a procedure resulting in death. This sort of treatment goes against all types of moral principles. Our current treatment towards animals as a society is unjust and therefore needs to undergo significant change. Although scientists have spent many decades of studying conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, stroke and AIDS in animals, we still do not have reliable and fully effective cures.
Because of the differences between humans and other animals, results from animal tests cannot have the same effect on humans, leaving vulnerabilities that can cause serious side effects. With the initiative of the European Union and the adoption of the Three R’s in various other countries, not only can scientists change the way they treat animals in laboratories, but they can also work to find more adequate and reliable representatives of the human body.