Millions of animals are being used for experiments in the US each year. Those who support this legal practice say that it is for a good cause, implying that it is better to use animals than human beings for testing. But on the other side of the coin, critics are also pushing their reasons why the practice should not be continued, with animal suffering and ethical issues as their biggest concerns. After all, it cannot be denied that the conditions of these test subjects are truly monotonous, unnatural and stressful, causing them to feel uncomfortable, suffer and even die. Basically, whether this practice is good or bad really depends on who you are asking. To come up with a well-informed opinion, let us take a look at the pros and cons of animal experimentation.
List of Pros of Animal Experimentation
1. It contributes to cures and treatments that save human lives.
Proponents claim that most medical breakthroughs in the last century were direct results of animal experimentation. For example, insulin was discovered through a test where dogs had their pancreases removed. The Anderson Cancer Center also associated the hepatitis B vaccine with tests that were conducted on chimpanzees. Without these experimentations, these people say that thousands, if not millions, of hepatitis B and diabetic patients would have died each year. Moreover, the center said that chimpanzees are humanity’s only hope for finding a vaccine for hepatitis C.
2. It provides an ethical alternative solution to testing.
It is widely believed that it is unethical to use humans for invasive experiments, especially when it could result in death. Human lives should not be put at risks by letting them volunteer for testing medicines for potential toxicity or side effects, as well as for manipulating genes. To prevent unfavorable consequences, animal testing is done to precede human trials.
3. It allows researchers to study test subjects for an entire life span.
Considering that human beings can live up to 80 years or more, scientists who are conducting tests would be dead before they can gather results. On the other hand, laboratory animals, particularly rats, can only live for 2 to 3 years, which give researchers the opportunity to study the effects of treatments and genetic manipulation over an entire lifetime. In other cases, they can even continue to conduct experiments across several generations, which is why lab animals have been used for long-term research on cancer.
4. It uses animals that are identical to humans in some way.
According to scientists, chimpanzee DNA is 99% similar with humans, while it is 98% for mice in terms of genetics. As you can see, people and animals are biologically similar, having the same set of organs, central nervous system and bloodstream, which is why both are affected by virtually the same health conditions and diseases. Considering these facts, animals are being accepted as appropriate research subjects.
5. It provides benefits to the animals themselves.
If vaccines were not tested on animals, a lot of them could have died from diseases and health conditions, such as hepatitis, rabies, leukemia, anthrax, parvo, hip dysplasia, glaucoma, etc. Aside from this, animal experimentation helped keep some endangered species from becoming extinct. This is the reason of the American Veterinary Medical Association to endorse this practice.
List of Cons of Animal Experimentation
1. It uses cruel and inhumane treatment.
Generally, testing protocols are often painful to the animal test subjects, where they are deprived of food and water, force-fed, physically restrained in long periods, inflicted with pain and wounds to test for healing process effects and remedies, and even purposely killed as part of the process. For instance, to evaluate irritation caused by cosmetics, rabbit’s eyes are held open by clips for days, so they will not be able to blink while the products are being assessed. Some experiments also include the administration of lethal doses of certain chemicals to determine how much would kill animals.
2. It uses animals that make poor test subjects.
This directly contradicts what proponents believe about the closeness of animals and humans in an anatomical and biological sense, as both have many cellular, metabolic and anatomical differences. According to Thomas Hartung of the Johns Hopkins University, using rats to test for toxicity should not be accepted as reliable, as these animals are nowhere close to being 70 kilograms. This is further supported by the Archives of Toxicology study in 2013, stating that the lack of direct comparison of human data versus that of a rat puts in question the usefulness of research data.
3. It risks completing a misleading research.
Some products and medicines that have the potential to harm animals are actually useful to humans, such as the aspirin. As you can see, the drug was almost shelved because it proved dangerous for animals, which could have lead to the difficulty of lowering the risk of organ rejection during transplants.
4. It uses animals that are not protected by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
As only over 1 million animals are covered by the AWA as of 2010, around 25 million more are left unprotected from abuse and mistreatment. And because animal experimentations are being regulated by the committee that is selected by the facility itself, animal subjects are even put at a bigger risk of being treated poorly for their entire existence.
5. It is performed despite the existence of less expensive alternatives.
There are alternatives to animal experimentation that are considered viable, such cell cultures in a petri dish and in vitro testing, which can even produce more relevant results than those from vivisection. The same thing goes to using artificial human skin, where virtual reconstructions of human molecular structures are done through computer models. And for testing adverse reactions, there is also the method called microdosing, where small doses are being administered on humans themselves.
Indeed, animal experimentation offers some benefits, where medical treatments have been developed through it, but it also comes with significant problems, with those related to ethics being the biggest, which need to be carefully addressed. And with the pros and cons listed above, we can surely come up with a considerable opinion about this subject matter.