life on earth depended upon a fragile balance of well being in the lives of all living things. As humanity became more civilized, technology and research have provided people with the means to artificially enhance their own chances of survival. The problem with this is that it destroyed the natural balance of life on earth. Not being as susceptible as before to illness and early death, humanity soon became so numerous that the needs of people were superimposed upon the needs of everything else. This fundamental disrespect for all non-human life is the reason for the ecological crisis we are facing today. Using animals in laboratory experiments in order to enhance the quality of human life is another manifestation of the disrespect mentioned above. I therefore believe that human beings should re-establish their connection with the natural, and that they should cultivate respect for all life in this ways. This is also the reason why animals should be given respect. To hurt, cause pain, and even kill animals during laboratory experiments is ethically wrong and should be stopped.
Laboratory animals are used in experiments for a variety of purposes. According to a Current Events special report, 20 million laboratory animals are used in medical experiments every year. These animals are used in experiments to find increasingly effective cures for minor diseases such as colds and major pandemics such as AIDS. Some are studied for the purpose of learning more about injuries and how to treat them. Some are even researched for their ability to donate tissue and vital organs to human beings. This concept is referred to as "xenotransplantation" (Mani).
According to Mani, xenotransplantation and its research is hardly a novel idea. In fact, experiments to test the medical compatibility of animals with humans have begun as early as the 17th century. Animal blood, bones and skins have been taken from a variety of animals, including cats, dogs, primates and even frogs to save and enhance human lives and abilities. The earliest recorded examples of organ transplants from animals to humans occurred during 1905, with kidneys, livers and hearts transported from animal to human.
Currently the practice is being researched for its clinical viability (Mani). The result of success would naturally be that millions of animals will be bred in order to provide for the huge demand created by the human lifestyle. This means a life of suffering for animals bred only for the purpose of alleviating human suffering. It is clear to see why this is not ethically viable.
Several arguments are generally made in favor of medical animal research. One of these is that many fatal and devastating diseases such as tuberculosis, polio, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and smallpox were brought under control by the sacrifice of animals (Current Events special report). Some scientists even claim that such research benefits animals as well. The antibiotics and surgery techniques for example developed as a result of animal research are also used in some cases of animal illness. Feline leukemia, rabies and other animal ailments have benefited from the techniques developed in this way. This is a strong claim. Yet it is hard to justify a lifetime of suffering for millions of animals to benefit the already over-populated human numbers.
The hardest to justify of laboratory experiments is those aimed at the cosmetic market. Terrible suffering is inflicted upon animals for the sake of creating no-tear shampoos, long-lasting make-up and skin products. The worst of this is the fact that often these products are tested and retested on animals, despite the fact that results have already been obtained. It is therefore little wonder than animal activists have gone as far as destroying research and damage laboratory equipment in order to free animals used in research (Current Events special report). While such attacks have been referred to as "terrorism," one can also understand the reasons for their antagonism, especially in the case of cosmetic research.
In terms of cosmetic research then, there is very little that can be said in its support. It is obvious that alternative methods have been found to test and research these products. Any good supermarket has numerous beauty alternatives available that have not been tested on animals. Indeed, there has been a marked decline in laboratory animal research as a result of alternative method development. Computer programs, mechanical models and human tissue cultures have for example taken the place of animals in such research (Current Events special report). The same is done for medical research.
Scientists do not however agree with animal rights activists on how often alternatives should be used instead of live animals for their research. It is the claim of the former that animals are often the best indicator of certain results when conducting research. Animal rights activists on the other hand see this as laxity on the part of scientists to actively attempt developing more effective alternatives for animal research. Economically, the funding for animal research could be poured into other, more productive and equally worthy areas of medical research, according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Another strong argument in favor of alternatives is the fact that live animals, no matter how genetically similar to human beings, simply do not respond the same way to drug- and other treatments as human beings would. The contention is therefore that more accurate results would be derived from simulations rather than the live animals themselves. Animal research is therefore not only unethical, it is also flawed. This is a paradigm that is increasingly accepted not only by the general population, but also by the scientific community. Because of the many inaccuracies and inconsistencies found in animal research, along with increased pressure from the community, scientists have increasingly changed their own paradigm of research to not only benefit human life, but all life.
After a devastating industrial and technological age, human beings have brought about the information age. This is a time of learning rather than building. It is as if humanity has calmed down after the wild activity of development during the last few centuries. Now steps can be taken to assess and remedy some of the damage that has been done. Society has thus become increasingly aware of atrocities within the environment and nature. The paradigm shift in society then entails the human recognition that we are part of life on earth rather than the owners of all other creatures and life. This is the reason for organizations such as PETA and Greenpeace. Our new realization of a new set of ethics extending not only to our human relationships but also to our relationship with all life on earth is manifest in elements such as animal rights.
According to the Current Events special report, the animal-rights movement in the United States began about twenty years ago. As part of this movement, about 7,000 groups operate to protect the rights and lives of animals. The combined membership of U.S. citizens to these groups come to about 10 million people. These people are in constant battle with scientists who refuse to give up their stance that there are certain research that cannot be done without the help of animals.
In addition to the recognition that human beings are part of all life rather than its owners, there is the issue of respect. The United States is the icon of the new paradigm of respect for human life. Human rights issues began almost as soon as the first colony was formed within the country's borders. The abolishment of slavery is an example of the growth of human rights and values in the United States. The same thing is now occurring with animal rights. Human beings are recognizing that all life is important. It is not only the God-given right of human beings to respect human life, but all life.
Animal research is thus unethical because of several reasons. The most important of these is the way in which research animals are treated. The only reason for their existence is the improvement of other life. While researchers claim that they are attempting to improve all life, including animal life, through this research, they are subjecting their test specimens to life-long torture for this purpose. This does not entail either respect or the improvement of life. It is the simple sacrifice of one life, of millions of lives, mainly for the benefit of humanity. The animals cannot reason or make a choice regarding their suffering. It is unfair, cruel and unnecessary. This is especially so if the above-mentioned xenotransplantation research were to result in clinical practice. The only purpose for the lives of these animals is suffering and early death.
Perhaps humanity has come far in its research on animals, finding cures for many different life-threatening diseases. I however believe that humanity has also come far enough in both knowledge and expertise to find better ways of doing research than torturing helpless animals in the name of science.