The practice of using animals for testing has been a controversial issue over the past thirty years. Animal testing is a morally debated practice. The question is whether animal testing is morally right or wrong. This paper will present both sides of this issue as well as my own opinion.
Approximately two to four million animals have been used in safety tests. Safety tests are conducted with a wide range of chemicals and products, including drugs, vaccines, cosmetics, household cleaners, and packing materials. This raises issues such as the ethics and humaneness of deliberately poisoning animals, thus harming them, for the sake of marketing a new cosmetic or household product.
The Humane Society of the United States promotes research methods that can potentially replace, reduce, or refine animal use so that animals experience less suffering. An opinion poll was taken by the HSUS on September 23, 2001 on pain and distress in research. The findings were that 62% of people would approve of testing if little or no pain was experienced by the animals, while 75% disapprove when severe pain is experienced.
There is a moral blind spot in the treatment of animals that enable us to justify the cruelties for the perceived benefits of humans. Animals are living things. They have lungs which breathe, hearts which beat, and blood that flows. In fact, animals sense of smell, sight, and sound is much more acute than our own. Therefore, we can assume that their sensitivity to pain is at least equal to ours. According to Hippocrates, “The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.” This can go with the Duty Theory that states that every individual gets treated the same. The intentions of animal testing is not to harm the animals, but that is exactly what it does.
In opposition of Hippocrates, others believe animals cannot be entitled to rights because they have no understanding and that testing on them is a necessity. A treatment to prevent scarring and loss of vision after glaucoma surgery will soon be tried on patients. This was made possible using rabbits. Following successful studies on mice and rats, a vaccine for malaria is now being tested on people.
There is a wealth of evidence showing that animal “models” are not accurate and cannot be relied upon for safety testing and disease research. Scientists and doctors recognize that while animals are biologically very similar to human beings, they are not identical. It is unlikely that most of the millions of lab animals that are killed yearly will have contributed to saving human life. I believe that animal testing is unethical unless it is used for good reasons, such as finding cures for diseases. For cosmetics and household products, animal testing is morally wrong.
Peter Singer stated, “to be opposed to what is going on now it is not necessary to insist that all animal experiments stop immediately. All we need to say is that experiments serving no direct and urgent purpose should stop immediately, and in the remaining fields of research, we should, whenever possible, seek to replace experiments that involve animals with alternative methods that do not.” There are now valuable nonanimal research methods available such as cell and tissue cultures and computer modeling. Animals may not have a voice, but they do feel physical and mental pain. Experiments on animals are not conducted for fun and serious efforts are being made to eliminate animal testing.
- Animal Aid: http://animalaid.org/
- Humane Society of the United States: http://www.humanesociety.org/
- Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation. Pimlico, 1995.