Negatives of Animal Testing Outweigh Its Positives and Therefore Should Not be Allowed
Many cures and treatments have been developed in the last three hundred years due to advances in medical technology. These developments are sometimes attributed partly to the fact that scientists and researchers have been able to use animals as "guinea pigs" for testing new medications or treatment methods before passing them to human volunteers. There is strong evidence supporting this claim though technology today allows scientists to bypass animal testing in many cases. Moreover, animal testing has led to many horrible abuses and misleading results due to the fact that animals' organism does not match the complexity of human bodies. Ultimately, when the benefits and harms of using animals for testing purposes, it is evident that animals should not be used for experiments. In this paper, I will present both sides of the argument and then explain why I believe animals should not be used in research and experimental testing.
Having admitted that "I have all my life been a strong advocate for humanity to animals," Charles Darwin once stated, "I know that physiology cannot possibly progress except by means of experiments on living animal, and I feel the deepest conviction that he who retards the progress of physiology commits a crime against mankind" (qtd. In Taylor 164). This is the crux of the argument by those who justify the use of animals for testing and research experiments. They argue that they do not want animals to suffer and that they would like to eliminate animal testing if possible. But in the absence of viable alternatives and for the purpose of advancing medical science that helps scientists develop pain relievers and life-saving drugs, it is necessary to continue animal testing. They argue that stopping animal testing will make it much harder for scientists to develop effective drugs that can reduce pain, alleviate illnesses, and save lives.
Supporters of animal testing ground their justification based on the belief that "humans are sufficiently superior to animals to the extent that the death of an animal from developing a new drug is justified by the benefit to human life or well-being" (Taylor 166). Drawing from the theories and studies of cultural anthropologists and psychologists, they argue that humans are inherently superior to animals because, unlike animals, humans can love, emphasize, feel guilt or embarrassment, and understand sincerity and deception -- essential key characteristics that distinguish humans. Philosophers also argue that human ability to understand abstract ideas and concepts makes them markedly different from animals and subject to a different moral sense not applicable to animals. And from a religious perspective, humans are considered superior to animals in the Judeo-Christian belief which states that humans who were created in the image of God. The Genesis clearly emphasizes the primacy of human dominion over animals and many religious traditions outside Christianity also subscribe to this view. Based on these views, supporters argue that sacrificing the health and the lives of animals is justified when these sacrifices can promote well-being of humans (Taylor 166-167).
Supporters also argue that researchers constantly look for ways of minimizing animal suffering and use animal testing as a last resort. They try to follow the principle of "3 Rs," popularized by William Rusel and Rex Burch in 1959 with their landmark publication of The Principles of Human Experiment Technique. "3 Rs" stand for reduction, refinement, and replacement. Researchers are thus encouraged to "to reduce the number of animals used in experiments to the minimum considered necessary, refine or limit the pain and distress to which animals are exposed, and replace the use of animals with non-animal alternative when possible" (Ferdowsian and Beck 1). At present, supporters claim that eliminating animals from testing and experimentation is not an option. "I'd love to hear a proposal for methods to realistically replace these animal models that 'eliminate the risk of species differences,' but currently none exist, and developing their methods is still well within the realm of science fiction," one supporter states, "One can claim that medical discoveries can be made using exclusively non-animal methods, but unless one can suggest realistic replacements, these claims are hollow" (Pyschroft and Marston 35). Researchers therefore also try to minimize testing on animals that have characteristics closest to humans. Non-human primates, for instance, that share with humans the superior cognitive functions have almost been eliminated from testing in recent years. In the year 2000 in Britain, only 0.13% of testing was conducted on non-human primates, 0.3% on dogs, 1.5% on rabbits, 9% on fish, 20% on rats, and 59% on mice (Taylor 167).
Supporters of animal testing insist that avoiding animal testing will put humans at greater risk because using animals in the process of developing a drug is at the moment a required procedure. Animals, besides, humans have a capacity to feel pain and express it through behavior and likewise they have a capacity to predict analgesic efficacy in humans, making the use of animals necessary in pain research models (Mogil, Davis, and Derbishyre). The standard procedure usually starts with mathematical and computer modeling based on existing data and research. Sometimes, this is followed by a procedure on tissue cultures (for example, using "wastage" from liver transplants). Then the testing is conducted on animals to be followed by human volunteers. The two main purposes of animal testing are to ensure that relevant information is "as complete as possible" and that "the medicine under investigation can safely be tested on humans" (Taylor 169). Without this standard procedure that involves using animals for testing and research experimentation, supporters of animal testing claim, scientists would have either failed to advance or place humans at greater risk in the process of developing drugs for such illnesses as leukemia, blindness, malaria, Alzheimer's disease, heart failure, infertility, and many others.
It must be acknowledged that many of the claims made by supporters of animal testing are on strong scientific, and to some extent ethical, ground. But the problem arises when the positives of animal testing are stacked against its negatives. The scientific justification for the use of animals in laboratory testing might have been strong until recently, but the latest advances in testing models render many of the claims made by supporters invalid. Laboratory experimentation with animals may also be misleading and block some of the potential advances in medical technology. But the major problem with animal testing is ethical. Despite the lofty pronouncements of the supporters that scientists try to minimize the suffering of animals, evidence shows that laboratory testing often leads to horrific forms of animal cruelty. But the major point from the opponents' view is directed against the claim that human interests have a priority against animal interests. Opponents reject the belief suggesting that animals' lives and well-being can be sacrificed for advancing the well-being of humans.
There is a case to be made against animal testing from a scientific perspective because animal testing may be misleading. It is precisely because of the fact that human living systems are extremely complex that using animal testing as a model may lead to unintended consequences. According to the U.S. Federal Drug Administration, nine out of ten drugs successfully tested on animals fail on human testing. In some cases, reliance on animal testing lead to disasters. For example, the thalidomide produced in late 1970s, intended to combat excessive vomiting in pregnant women, was largely successful on animals but led to tens of thousands of children being "born with severe deformities not predicted in animal tests" (Pycroft and Marston 35). Drawing from a systematic study of recent animal research scientific papers, some clinicians question the entire premise that animal research can be helpful for developing drugs suitable to humans (Roberts et al.). In an article published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Ken Garber argues that research on cancer with the use of rodents is not really advancing scientific knowledge on preventing and treating cancer.
In addition to being ineffective in many cases, animal testing inevitably leads to abuse. There are too many cases to list here. To give an example, a documentary titled It's a Dog's Life, aired on British Channel 4 on 26 March 1997, demonstrated how dogs had been abused in British laboratories. An author who generally supports animal testing nevertheless admitted: "The TV programme undoubtedly recorded examples of several malpractice in the treatment of dogs used in testing procedures, which might not have come to light otherwise. The programme showed members of staff violently shaking a dog and also punching a dog, while exercising little apparent care and indulging in horseplay" (Taylor 170). And given the attention brought to the scientific medical community by Russell and Burth about the importance of "3 Rs," one would assume that researchers have decreased drug experimentation on animals. That has not been the case, however, as recent estimates put the number of animals being used for testing around the world at a shocking 100,000,000. Moreover, this number…