Animal testing is a phrase that most people have heard but are perhaps still unsure of exactly what is involved. Whether it is referred to as animal testing, animal experimentation or animal research, it means the experimentation carried out on animals. Experimental animal testing has been one of the highest debated issues for many years. Animal testing is used for numerous products and applications. Everything from toiletries to medications has likely been tested on animals at some point prior to their distribution (Murnaghan).
Animal testing can be conducted anywhere from a university to a military defense establishment, wherever there is a need for testing a product. Products to be tested will range from cosmetics to pesticides and anything in-between. Animal testing has been around for over 500 years, since the early 17th century, though testing for cosmetic purposes did not start until the 1930s. Animal testing has been highly debated for many years for whether it is moral, ethical, humane, right, wrong, just, fair, etcetera.
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Many people stand against animal testing because they feel that it is unfair treatment to animals since animals do not have a say in the matter. On the other side of the argument, people fight for animal testing because it allows for prescription drugs and medicines to be tested. Both sides have their valid points, animal testing can be seen as cruel, especially when there are alternatives that can be used, but also, even with alternatives, testing on animals is still sometimes necessary in order to get the needed results.
In a debate between Laurie Pycroft, one of the founders of Pro-Test, and Helen Marston, head of Humane Research Australia, the two go back and forth about animal testing and its potential alternatives. Pycroft starts out the debate by explaining the complexity of the human body and how no investigative tool can “fully replicate the intricacy of a living organism” (Pycroft). Marston returns fire by talking about why animals are not good models for human medicine. She makes the point that animals are “anatomically, genetically, and metabolically” different from humans (Pycroft).
Pycroft continues to bring up different examples of how using animals for research has helped make medical advances for humans, while Marston seems to continue to revolve around the same idea of there being alternatives, but she does not really expand on any one topic, just that there are alternatives. Thomas Hartung talks about the alternatives to animal testing. One of the things Hartung mentions is an experiment done in 2006, “when the TeGenero anti-CD28 antibody, after testing safe at 500-times higher concentrations in monkeys, [it still] led to multiple organ failure within hours in six human volunteers” (Hartung).
Thus, providing an argument against animal testing because sometimes, even when animal testing provides positive results, it does not mean that the same result will be present when human trials are done. Many people believe that animal testing is only about testing cosmetics or new drug therapies, however, there are many different uses for animal testing, and Timothy Musch et al discuss some of those uses. “Animal studies play a part in the initial development of candidate drugs, and the development and testing of medical devices and surgical procedures.
Even more crucial, animal research informs clinical research by building the foundation of biological knowledge” (Musch et al). There are so many things that the testing of animals can help to improve. Some things, such as the development of insulin, antibiotics, vaccines, and drugs with high mortality rates, are all because of high contribution from animal testing (Murnaghan). On the flip side though, Alison Abbott points out, “Every time you reach for an eye drop or reapply a lip salve, you do so confident that the chemicals they contain are safe to use.
But the toxicology test on which regulators rely to gather this information are stuck in a time warp, and are largely based on wasteful and often poorly predictive animal experiments” (Abbott). Abbott talks about a legislation called REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals) and how it planned to “make registration mandatory for both future and existing chemicals – even those that have been on the market for decades” (Abbott). As a result of reach, it was expected that millions more animals would be used in order to meet the necessary requirements. 5,000 animals – that is up to how many test subjects could be used for each chemical; if it is a pesticide that number jumps to 12,000. The estimated cost of running these tests on the unregistered (approximately 30,000) chemicals is between €5 billion (US$6 billion) and €10 billion (US$13 billion) (Abbott). In order to test one single chemical for cancer causing potential, it takes five years, involves 400 rats (each of which is treated with the maximum tolerated dose), and more than 50% of the results are positive, even worse, of that 50%, 90% are false positives (Abbott).
In looking more at the argumentative side, there are two general views: in favor of animal testing or against animal testing. Many people lean towards being against animal testing because they feel it is cruel, inhumane, and unfair to the animals. Now on the other hand, a lot of people are in favor of animal testing because it helps to test medicines, medical procedures and other necessities. Animals do not have a voice of their own; they need people to speak for them, to fight for them, and to protect them.
Many companies, while attempting to verify their products are safe for humans, will perform various tests on animals. Animals are used for testing a wide variety of chemicals and products such as drugs, vaccines, cosmetics, household cleaners, and pesticides. As written by Delmas Luedke, “Animals are exposed to too much suffering; especially when there are many alternatives to testing on animals” (Animals and Research). If there are alternatives for research, why test on animals? There are new alternatives being created, such as realistic software models. The first realistic software models of human and animal organs are starting to emerge – potentially replacing some of the 50 to 100 million animals used each year for scientific research” (Biever). With different types of software emerging, it is very possible for other software to be produced in future years and animal tests could be completely replaced. When doing medical, cosmetic, or any other type of research, animals should not be used or abused because it is cruel and harmful to the animals being used for testing.
On the opposing side, some people believe that it is okay to harm animals in order to discover cures and generate medicines, although animal testing can lead to antibiotics, vaccines, and other treatments being produced, there are other ways that those same products could be produced – without harming animals. According to Cynthia Pekow, “Although polls say that most Americans accept that research animals are needed to advance medical science, many people feel squeamish thinking about animals used in experimentation”(“Animals in Research”).
People do not feel squeamish because their medicines are being tested on animals; they are squeamish because animals are being harmed in the process. While good things have come from testing on animals, it is just not worth the pain and torture that they are put through. One reason why testing on animals should be illegal is because it is a cruel and inhumane way to do research, and it is unfair because animals have no voice of their own. Jackie Powder states that, “It was a furor over the alleged mistreatment of rabbits by a cosmetics giant that set the stage for the creation of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing” (Powder).
CAAT works with scientists, government regulators, and other advocates to identify alternatives to the use of animals in testing thousands of chemicals. Humans are capable of giving their consent in order to be tested on, while animals are not. Animals have no voice of their own to speak with. They cannot tell anyone when something hurts; they cannot tell anyone when something does not feel right; they cannot tell anyone if they do not want to participate in the testing anymore. A second reason for not testing on animals is because there is no moral reason to test on animals when the results may not even be accurate.
There have also been many alternatives that have proven to be more accurate than using animals. “Using animals is unreliable and inaccurate because of great differences between animals and humans. Non-animal tests take less time to complete, cost only a fraction of what the animal experiments the non-animal tests replace costs, and are not overwhelmed with species diversity that make inferring results difficult or impossible” (Stop the use, ). Virtual models, such as the ones at Insilicomed in Lo Jolla, California, are being created. At Insilicomed they are using a virtual heart to simulate the interaction between the organ and a pacemaker, on behalf of a manufacturer. The device is initially tested in both animals and software to ensure that the models accurately replicating what happens in real life, but subsequent test to refine the properties the pacemaker’s leads are done in software alone” (Biever). With these models being produced, fewer animals will be used in experiments. Whenever there is a chance to replace animal tests, those chances should be pursued so that fewer animals will be used.
On the alternative side of the argument, there are multiple reasons why animal testing is a good thing. For starters, animal testing has helped to create many of the medicines in our world. The kinds of benefits from animal research that researchers have made in understanding and treating diseases would not have been possible without animal research. Many people argue about how it is cruel and inhumane to animals; well would they rather it was humans being tested? Maybe they would like to send their brother or sister in for experimental testing? While animal testing may seem cruel, the hypothetical alternative is even worse.
Scientists are attempting to develop worthy alternatives to testing on animals, but some things are not quite as easy to come up with an alternative. Both sides of the argument have very good points, however, despite the fact that it can be seen as cruel and inhumane to the animals (from a person’s perspective), animal testing is, at this point in time, a necessity. There are many drugs and medical procedures that may not be here today if it were not for animal testing. Testing on animals may be inhumane to them, but it is better to be inhumane to an animal than to a human.