For over 100 years, animal testing in biomedical research played an important key role in many of the medical and scientific studies. Thanks to advances in animal research, people across the globe are now in a position to access better quality life. On the other hand, animal testing for purposes of facilitating medical and scientific research has elicited heated debates among proponents and opponents.
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Those opposed to the use of animals in scientific studies (including anti-vivisectionist groups and animal-rights extremists) are convinced that animal experimentation is unnecessary and cruel, in spite of the associated benefits. We also have a neutral group to this debate and they are advocating for the total and immediate ending of all forms of animal research. In case the neutral group succeeds in its quest to have animal testing in biomedical research abolished, this may lead to severe and enormous consequences for scientific research. The research paper shall attempt to explore the reasons for and against the use of animal testing in biomedical research.
Reasons for Using Animals in Biochemical Research
Animals are biologically similar to humans and “They are susceptible to many of the same health problems, and they have short life-cycles so they can easily be studied throughout their whole life-span or across several generations”(The American Physiological Society para. 2). As such, animal testing must remain one of the best and fastest ways for research. With respect to the advantages of using animals in biochemical research, one should think of the number of human lives that these animals have helped to save. Murnagham (para. 2) opines that some diseases and health problems involve processes that can only be studied in living organisms and as SUBR has noted:
“One of the most supportive reasons for using animals in medical research is the discovery of insulin, different antibiotics and vaccines. Much research is conducted in the sphere of HIV and cancer treatment. Scientists have too much material to be tested and the prohibition of animal testing may close too many projects which may save human life in the future” (SUBR).
Until we cross the historical landmark of actually discovering better ways of testing drugs and surgical procedures, animal testing will go on. In addition, as long as lives of men are saved, animal testing shall remain ethical, even though many people are opposed to it (Andre and Velasquez para. 4).
The breakthroughs made by scientists and the knowledge gained through animal testing has surpassed anything human beings could ever hope to achieve (New Internationalist Magazine para. 3). An article appearing on Business Week has noted that “each day, dedicated scientists are using animal models to find cures for the diseases and conditions that ravage all cultures” (Business Week para. 7).
From antibiotics to blood transfusion, dialysis, organ transplantation, vaccinations, chemotherapy, bypass surgery, and joint replacement, practically all the protocols meant to prevent, treatment, cure, and control diseases, pain, and suffering is based on the knowledge attained through research with laboratory animals” (Pippin para. 4). Researchers use animals to gain knowledge on how to fight diseases. Animal rights activists claim that the above stated experiments are useless as every year the American Federal Drug Authority takes thousands of drugs off the market after they have been proven safe on animals (Pippin para. 5).
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The advantages associated with animal testing seem to be greater that the accruing disadvantages. Animal rights activists do not realize that the discomfort of a few animals has not only given a new outlook to their lives in one way or another, but they have also changed the quality of lives of their friends and families, by provision of vaccines and antibiotics (SUBR).
As Murnaghan (para 5) has noted, animal testing has resulted in medical discoveries, and this has helped to eradicate some diseases that threatened to exterminate human race from the face of the earth, controlled and prevented other diseases, and saved billions of human lives. Millions of diabetic patients around the world should be thankful to the animals on which research was performed and insulin was created, without which it would be impossible for them to live a normal life, or to live at all. In the field of surgery, almost all the modern procedures performed today are a result of experimentation on animals. Animal research has increased our understanding of fetal development and reduced the morbidity and mortality in children. Kraus and Renquist have noted that “Animals will continue to play vital role in biomedical research”(323).
Billions of precious human lives are saved each year because of animals’ bearing of discomfort for testing a new drug or surgery. What we all need to bear in mind is that instead of claiming, believing, and preaching that an animal was brutally killed or its life was wasted, it was used as a stepping stone for the betterment of human beings for hundreds years to come.
The American Physiological Society has noted that “Most people feel that it would be wrong to deliberately expose human beings to health risks in order to observe the course of a disease”(The American Physiological Society para. 5). The inability to test a newly discovered vaccine or any specific medicine on animals will lead to the increase in time spent in understanding whether research is safe for human beings. Practical animal testing is faster and much more effective in comparison with laboratory calculations, predictions, and theoretical application of some theories. Animals make good research subjects for a variety of reasons.
Reasons against Using Animals in Biomedical Research
While some factions of modern society are for the use of animals in medical research, others argue that the use of animals in medical research should be banned as it is ethically wrong. Moreover, some experts believe that there are alternative ways to animal testing which may be successfully used. Use of animals in medical research should be banned as it is “brutal, unethical, unnecessary and most importantly inhumane” (Pippin para. 5).
“The Food & Drug Administration tells us that 92% of drugs tested safe and effective in animals fail in human trials. The blockbuster arthritis drug Vioxx from Merck killed more Americans than the people who died in the Vietnam War, yet it was deemed safe in eight studies using six animal species” (Pippin para. 6). This just goes to show the level to which we subject animals to brutal and barbaric acts even though we have compelling evidence indicating that the failure rate of drug tests among animals is very high.
Besides the high failure rate of drugs tested on animals, animals feel pain during the testing which is a mental event and cannot be observed physically. Human beings feel pain and it can be observed from indications such as crying, jerking away, or screaming. Scientists who use test animals needs to know that they feel pain just like human beings do and we cannot turn blind to the pain and suffering of animals caused by the medical research. Like human beings, animals feel pain when used in these procedures as demonstrated by their yelping, running, or jerking. Thus, mockery is one of the strongest arguments for banning animal testing as it touches on ethical issues which are highly valued in modern society.
There is need to ensure that animals meant for biomedical procedures are not subjected to inhumane treatment during these procedures. An article by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) notes that “In fact, many of the most important advances in health are attributable to human studies, including the discovery of the relationships between cholesterol and heart disease and smoking and cancer, the development of X-rays, and the isolation of the AIDS virus” (PETA para. 2).
Animals should be treated the same way as human beings in case of any medical procedures. For example, when carrying out surgical procedures, they should be given anesthesia just like in humans. This way, scientists may become closer to making animal testing ethically approved. It would be unethical to put the life of an animal in danger with the intention of saving the life of another creature, however, noble such an act may be (PETA para. 7).
Experimenters claim a “right” to inflict pain on animals based on any number of arbitrary physical and cognitive characteristics, such as animals’ supposed lack of reason. But if lack of reason truly justifies animal experimentation, experimenting on human beings with “inferior” mental capabilities, such as infants and the intellectually-disabled, would also be acceptable (PETA para. 8). In today’s society, someone cannot kill a dog in the middle of a street in broad daylight and escape prosecution.
How, then, can these businesses and authorities avoid any repercussions for killing innocent animals? There are laws in place that protects animals but still no one even raises their voice when researchers slice a dog open to take tests on its liver or heart, while it is still alive and without administration of any anesthesia. The irony of this whole issue is that animals cannot raise their voices and tell researchers not to do that, only human beings can. We have to put our foot down and say that we have had enough of this cruelty.
There is one more specific argument applied by animal protectors. For example, if there had been any correlation between animal testing and human health, then we would have witnessed an eradication of almost all the diseases by now, but the truth is that the world now has new and more deadly diseases than at any other given time in History (PETA para. 5). With too many successful research results applied to animals, scientists cannot say for sure that all those results were successfully implemented while human testing.
At the same time, Biever (para. 4) argues that some scientists violate the requirements for thorough analysis of the information and theoretical calculations, appropriately thinking that animal testing may show results faster. Additionally, modern innovative technologies may become great substitutes to animal testing. Why don’t scientists apply to them instead on hurting animals? Much is said about such computer programs and many cases of scientific research continues in this sphere to make sure that the future generations are going to use computers for conducting experiments, not animals as it is done in the modern world.
It is quite sad that a number of animals go through a lot of discomfort and even death but until another way of medical research is found, experts in the area of animal testing have not yet discovered another way to get rid of the most harmful diseases which affect billions of humans and hundreds of thousands of animal species. Medical researchers do not undertake research on animals to draw conclusions out of their suffering.
They have a duty to conduct research in a manner that is “humane, appropriate, and judicious”. Scientists continue to look for ways to reduce the number of animals needed to obtain valid results, refine experimental techniques, and replace animals with other research methods whenever feasible. Even though alternatives to animal testing such as computer simulations and cell culture do exist, they are not apt enough to do research on things like kidney transplantation, diarrhea or eye allergies (Biever para. 4 ).
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Without testing medication on animals we can never be sure that it may be poisonous, cancerous, cause birth defects, or create some other complications. Animal testing has been the one of the most significant steps humans have taken to ensure survival of human life on the face of the Earth; it has helped us in finding drugs to combat various diseases, and improve surgical procedures. On the other hand, ninety two percent of drugs tested on animals have proven unsafe for humans and for this reasons, questions have emerged regarding why we have to subject these animals to cruel treatment and death.
In conclusion, I think that the tests on animals are not to kill life but to make sure that it survives. It may be cruel and painful for a number of animals but it is without any doubt the most necessary step for the survival of human life, as we know it. Every innocent animal that gave its life during research has not wasted its life; it has contributed something to the life of billions of living beings. Thus, it is important to check pros and cons of using animal testing in biomedical research before drawing conclusions either about supporting this technique or about its prohibiting. It will be a relief to many when the day comes when we no longer have to subject animals to cruel treatment in the name of animal research and no human life is lost to diseases. Meanwhile, we will still continue to rely on the techniques that have worked for us before.
American Association for Laboratory Animal Research. The Importance of Animals in Biomedical Research n. d. Web.
Andre, Claire and Velasquez, Manuel. Of Cures and Creatures Great and Small. 2010. Web.
“Animal Testing is bad science.” PETA. 2003. Web.
Biever, Celeste. “Can computer models replace animal testing? (animal experiments).” New Scientist 190. 2551 (2007). 2006. Web.
Business Week. Put Animal Testing to Sleep. 2011. Web.
“How animals end up in laboratories.” PETA. 2010. Web.
Murnaghan, Ian. Using Animals for Testing: Pros Versus Cons. 2011. Web.
New Internationalist Magazine. Is animal testing necessary to advance medical research? 2011. Web.
Pippin, John. “Put animal testing to sleep.” Bloomberg Business Week. 2011. Web.
PETA. Animal Testing Is Bad Science: Point/Counterpoint. 2011. Web.
”States United for biomedical research.” SUBR. n.d. Web.