Should Animals Be Used in Scientific Testing for Medical Research or Commercial Products?
The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. – Genesis 9:2 (c. 1450 BCE)
Studies published in prestigious medical journals have shown time and again that animal experimentation wastes lives—both animal and human—and precious resources by trying to infect animals with diseases that they would never normally contract. -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (2019)
As the epigraphs above clearly show that humankind’s views about using animals for their own purposes have changed significantly over the past several millennia, but despite increasing condemnation by animal rights advocates, animal testing for medical research or commercial products continues around the world today. Proponents on both sides of the arguments for and against animal testing have some valid points, however, that make this debate especially complex. On the one hand, most people would likely agree that sacrificing a few lab rats is worth the modest cost if human lives can be saved in the process. On the other hand, though, there is a growing body of evidence that confirms that using animals for medical research or commercial products is ineffective and causes enormous undue suffering on the part of the animals that are involved. The purpose of this paper is to provide a systematic and balanced review of the relevant literature concerning the arguments in support and against using animals for testing for medical research or commercial products to explain why this practice is ineffective and inhumane and why it should be banned by the international community altogether. A summary of the research and important findings concerning the foregoing issues are presented in the paper’s conclusion.
Arguments in support of using animals for scientific testing for medical and commercial product research
Throughout history, a variety of animals have been used for medical research purposes. Indeed, as early as the 4th century BCE, Greek scientists including Erasistratus and Aristotle experimented with live animals (Hajar, 2011). Further, Galen (c. 2nd century CE), widely regarded as the father of Western medicine, used animals to gain a better understanding of physiology, pathology, anatomy and pharmacology (Hajar, 2011). Likewise, an Arab physician Ibn Zuhr (c. 13th century CE) innovated experimental methods for animal testing for surgical procedures prior to used them on human patients (Hajar, 2011).
Supporters of animal testing maintain that these types of experiments are essential to develop improved medical and biological knowledge that can benefit humans. For instance, Claude Bernard, a French physiologist in the early 20th century who was widely referred to as “the father of physiology” claimed at the time that, “Experiments on animals are entirely conclusive for the toxicology and hygiene of man. The effects of these substances are the same on man as on animals, save for differences in degree” (as cited in Hajar, 2011, p. 2). Moreover, Bernard went on to even include animal experimentation as an fundamental element of the modern scientific method (Hajar, 2011).
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Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that many scientists continue to support the use of animals for scientific testing and experimentation. This support, however, exists along a continuum from wholesale approval of using animals for virtually any purpose that might benefit humankind, including ensuring the safety of commercial products for use by humans (Bishop & Manupello, 2012). For instance, Galanes (2010) reports that, “Commercial products are tested on animals to ensure product safety for consumers. [R]egulations and laws were created to allow for the testing of animals in laboratories in order to determine whether the benefits of a particular substance outweigh its potential harms” (p. 13). Within the United States, manufacturers of commercial products are responsible for ensuring product safety for consumers which may necessitate the use of animals for…
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…testing (Bedard, 2015).
Given the fact that proponents of animal testing cite a growing body of evidence that confirms the efficacy of the practice in contributing to advances in medical science while critics of animal testing counter that there are no such studies, average people may have problems formulating an informed opinion concerning animal testing. As noted above, most people would likely approve of some limited applications of animal testing that sacrificed a few lab rats to develop miraculous cures of humans, but the harsh reality of animal testing is that is also includes other types of animals, including primates. For instance, the Humane Society International reports that, “Many different species are used around the world, but the most common include mice, fish, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, farm animals, birds, cats, dogs, mini-pigs, and non-human primates (monkeys, and in some countries, chimpanzees)” (About animal testing, 2019, para. 2).
Clearly, the recent trends towards outlawing animal testing for commercial products is a step in the right direction, but far more needs to be done besides the aforementioned 3Rs initiative in identifying viable alternatives to using live animals for medical research as well. There have been periods in human history when the ends were believed to justify the means, including the use of actual live humans for grisly medical research, but humankind is increasingly recognizing the inhumanity of this practice even when applied to animals.
The research showed that the use of animals for medical science research dates to antiquity but the controversy concerning the practice only dates back a couple of centuries or so. The debate over using animal testing for medical research was shown largely exist along a continuum ranging from an across-the-board ban to a willingness to accept limited use of animals in certain specialized circumstances. By contrast, the arguments against using animals for commercial product research were primarily of a like mind that emphasizes the cruelty and suffering the practice causes just to help companies….....
About animal testing. (2019), Humane Society International. Retrieved from https://www. hsi.org/news-media/about/.
Bedard, P. (2015, June 5). Dole, Kerrey join Humane Society\'s animal welfare push. Examiner, 3.
Berggren, B. & Amcoff, P. (2015, December). Chemical safety assessment using read-across: Assessing the use of novel testing methods to strengthen the evidence base for decision making. Environmental Health Perspectives, 123(12), 1232-1241.
Bishop, P. L. & Manuppello, J. R. (2012, December). Animal use and lessons learned in the U.S. high production volume chemicals challenge program. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(12), 1631-1637.
Countries around the world work to ban cosmetics testing on animals. (2019). People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Retrieved from https://www.peta.org/blog/countries-around-the-world-work-to-ban-cosmetics-testing-on-animals/.
Galanes, K. C. (2010). Detailed discussion of animal testing in commercial products. Animal Legal & Historical Center. Retrieved from https://www.animallaw.info/article/detailed-discussion-animal-testing-commercial-products.
Goldsmith, R. E. & Clark, R. A. (2006, September10). Intention to oppose animal research: The role of individual differences in nonconformity. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 34(8), 955-963.
Hajar, R. (2011, January-March). Animal testing and medicine. Heart Views, 12(1), 42.
Your verdict on last month’s argument: Is animal testing necessary to advance medical research? New Internationalist, 445, 37.