No animal understands what experimentation is. Therefore, how does one decide whether it is ethical to conduct experiments on them, experiments that involve blatant cruelty and assault?
It must be remembered that those people who voice their objections to using animals in experimentation fall under two broad categories: animal welfare activists, and animal rights activists. While those who belong to animal welfare groups do agree that animal experimentation must carry on, but that they must be minimized, so that the pain and suffering of the poor creatures is also minimized, those that belong to the animal rights group are more radical with their opinions. These people have often stated that animals too have their rights, in much the same way as human beings do, and that animals must therefore never be used for the purposes of experimentation, as this is extremely cruel, unkind, brutal and unethical. (Bridgstock, 69)
Going back in time, it is true that animals have been used for experiments since time immemorial, although it was comparatively rare before the nineteenth century. One of the earliest records of animals used for experiments was found to be from ancient Rome, when the renowned court physician, 129 to 210 CE Erasistratus supposedly used a pig to show the severance of the different nerves to his audience by cutting them on the hapless pig. In the late middle ages, anatomy was being interestingly investigated, with the help of animals, who were dissected to find out the working of the body. Some of the famous physicians of the time were William Harvey and Andreas Vesalius, who used various kinds of animals in their experiments on anatomy. Harvey was also known to have used deer in his experiments to find out about blood circulation, while Rene Descartes is known to have stated that animals are much like machines, because they do not experience pain at all! Amazingly, this was the view that persisted until the twentieth century: that an animal do not experience pain. It was Francois Magendie and Claude Bernard who made the foundation, during the nineteenth century, for the modern day animal experimentation. (Kuhse; Singer, 399)
However, these two scientists conducted their experiments on fully conscious animals which had been restrained, and they were condemned later for their cruelty and unethical treatment of animals. These protests culminated in the passage of the British Cruelty to Animals Act in 1876, which would impose some sort of restrictions on using animals for experiments. Today too, animal experimentation is being continued, and increasingly, animals are being used to test disease producing viruses and bacteria that would affect human beings. (Kuhse; Singer, 399) it must be noted too, that opposition to cruel and unethical treatment of animals has also existed through the ages, and as experimentation increased, so did the resistance to them. Even so, it has been an often quoted fact that researchers remained convinced that the costs in terms of the pain of their animals were outweighed by the benefits of the experimentation on them. (Monamy, 15)
To conclude, it must be stated that when this is taken in the light of the fact that almost all human beings tend to avoid pain in any form, and go into a lot of trouble to ensure that one need not suffer needless pain, it seems extremely cruel that animals can be exposed to pain in the name of science and experimentation, especially when they cannot stand up and fight for their own rights. Therefore, it must be said that the use of animals for experimentation can be termed as extreme cruelty and brutality to animals and is unethical, and that it must be stopped at the earliest. Animals have feelings too, they feel pain too, and a human being with his formidable thinking prowess must realize this important fact before he stops and condemns a hapless animal to an existence filled with pain and cruelty.
Bridgstock, Martin. Science, technology and society.