Ethical Issues about the Use of Animals for Experiments
Animals have been in use for experimentation for a long time especially in the medical field where it has enabled scientists to discover and gain knowledge and understanding of the biological processes as to improvement the quality of human life. Despite the wide use of animal experimentation in scientific fields, it has become an ethical issue that has pitted the pro-experimentation and against the animal rights activists that have been strongly challenging not only the legality of the continued use of animals for experiments but also the ethics behind it. This paper presents different arguments for and against the use of animals for research purposes.
The population of animals has been dropping drastically worldwide in the recent times. A report by Jarrod in 2010 shows that the chimpanzees' population has dropped from 2 million to just about 150,000 in the recent years. The same applies to the population of rabbits that has dropped from over 3 billion to just about 1.5 million today. The use of an animal for scientific research has been cited as a major reason for the dramatic decline in these animals' population and those of other animals, such as rats, pigs, sharks, and dogs among others. In the US, animals are widely used in scientific research, especially in testing products consumed by humans, as well as the effectiveness of certain drugs.
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Animal Testing is Required by the Law
Despite the growing trend in the use of animals for scientific research, there has been a growing debate from different quarters of the American society with one side in support and the other in opposition. Supporters of the use of animals for experiments argue that the use of animals for scientific research is a good thing because it enables the scientists to discover some of the useful information about products and drugs that help in advancing the quality of life of animals and humans. Proponents of experimentation maintain that animals such as chimpanzees, mice and cows have 99.4%, 99% and 90% genes similar to those of humans respectively. As such, using these animals that have the same organs and nerve system is useful in making discoveries on things such as drugs and how effective or dangerous they can be on humans before permitting them for humans. They cite the US laws requiring that all prescription drugs be tested on animals before they can be allowed for sale in the market. This way, any danger with the prescription drug is detected in the animals and avoided for use in the humans because the life of a human is more valuable than that of an animal.
Secondly, proponents of the use of animals for experimentation argue that animals have no rights as human beings. They maintain that unlike humans that have the ability to reason, animals have no right. Therefore, animals cannot make a moral claim or defend themselves in an intelligent manner. Additionally, proponents of the use of animals for experimentation maintain that because animals do not have respect for humans' rights, there is nothing wrong with using them for experimentation purposes.
Experimentation Helps to Discover Medicines for Animals
Thirdly, those in support of the use of animals for experimentation maintain that the use of animals for experimentation has resulted in the discovery of better veterinary medicines and improved welfare of animals. They speak about the heartworm - a drug that was discovered out of research conducted on animals and has since proved useful in helping save the lives of many dogs across the globe. Besides, they cite that animal research has resulted in the better understanding of nutrition for cats and the reasons why cats live much longer than other animals and maintain good health.
Additionally, proponents of the animal research argue that man has dominion over all other creatures. As such, man has control over animals and can do research with them. They cite Genesis chapter 1:28, where after God has created everything and blessed them, God instructed man to be fruitful and multiply, as well as have dominion over all animals of land, air, and sea.
Testing Causes Animals Pain and Suffering
Despite the strong arguments in favor of animal research, animal activists have strongly opposed the continued use of animals for scientific research arguing that it causes a lot of pain and suffering to animals. As such, because the suffering caused to animals is so high, there is no justification for the benefits to humans.
Secondly, animal rights activists have strongly opposed animal experimentation arguing that there has not been any proof of the benefits to human. Jarrod 2010 research, for instance, found that the research conducted on chimpanzees in an attempt to try to discover the medication for HIV did not provide any result despite the claim that chimpanzees share about 99.4% of DNA with humans. Unlike humans, chimpanzees do not develop AIDS after getting infected with HIV. Other opponents of animal research also argue that even other animals that share similar DNA features with humans do not provide reliable test because they might not react in the same way as humans would. As such, it is wrong to continue subjecting animals to pain and suffering in the name of science.
In conclusion, animal use for research is a common practice all over the world. However, this practice is raising ethical issues that need to be addressed soberly. Experiments should not be conducted in the manner that causes a lot of harm and suffering to animals.
History of animal research
The use of animals in scientific experiments in the UK can be traced back at least as far as the 17th Century with Harvey’s experiments on numerous animal species aiming to demonstrate blood circulation. Across Europe, the use of animals in scientific research began to expand over the 19th Century, in part supported by the development of anaesthetics which had previously made animal research impossible. In 1876, parliament passed the Cruelty to Animals Act, the first legislation aimed at regulating animal experiments.
Over the late 19th and the 20th centuries, the expansion of medical science meant that the numbers of animals used in research expanded steadily, accelerated by the Medicines Act, 1968, which provided a clearer guide to the use of animals in safety testing in the wake of the Thalidomide tragedy. The number of animals used rose to over 5.5 million in 1970 after which point the numbers began to decline rapidly. This large expansion reflected a growing medical field; animals had played a part in most medical advances of the 20th century including insulin, the polio vaccine, penicillin and the elimination of smallpox. In 1986 the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act was passed, which ensured higher animal welfare standards in laboratories across the UK.
In 2010, EU Directive 2010/63 was passed. This regulation harmonises European animal laboratory standards, improving animal welfare across the EU, and is currently being transposed into the laws of the member countries. It passed into UK law on 1st January 2013.
Animal Research in Medicine: 100 Years of Politics, Protests and Progress (John Illman) provides a history of animal research legislation and the context in which they were developed.
- Illman, J., 2008. Aninmal Research in Medicine: 100 years of Politics, Protests and Progress. The Story of the Research Defence Society. London: Research Defence Society.
A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology (Jim Endersby) tells the story of modern biology through the stories of the animals and plants that made it possible.
- Endersby, J., 2007. A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology. Heinemann.
Medical Advances and Animal Research (RDS & CMP) is an excellent booklet outlining the role of animals in many of the medical developments we see around us. It provides full references to the scientific literature it mentions throughout.
- Research Defence Society & Coalition for Medical Progress, 2007. Medical Advances and Animal Research: The Contribution of Animal Science to the Medical Revolution: Some Case Histories. London: RDS. [online] Available at: http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/media-library/download/document/64/
The Animal Research Timeline (AR.info) provides an outline of many of the major medical discoveries since 1881, as well as explaining the role of animals in each of these developments.
- AnimalResearch.Info. Timeline. [online]. Available at: http://www.animalresearch.info/en/medical-advances/timeline/
Animal Research Info: Nobel Prizes (AR.info) provides a breakdown of all the Nobel Prizes in Physiology and Medicine since 1901 and includes how animals were involved in the discoveries.
- AnimalResearch.Info. Nobel Prizes. [online]. Available at: http://www.animalresearch.info/en/medical-advances/nobel-prizes/
The Animals (UAR) provides information about the number and type of animals used in medical research. Look at how the number of animals in research has risen and fallen over time in the Number of Animals section.
- Understanding Animal Research. The Animals. [online]. Available at: http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/the-animals/
Pro-Test: Tackling Animal Rights (SR) is an essay following the battle over the building of the Oxford University Biomedical Facility from 2005-2008. It covers the rise of the animal rights group SPEAK, and the student counter-movement, Pro-Test. It also covers some of the issues which helped change public opinion from 2006.
- Speaking of Research, 2008. Pro-Test Tackling Animal Rights in the UK. [online]. Available at: http://speakingofresearch.com/about/the-uk-experience/
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Last edited: 17 March 2015 14:32
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