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Animal testing or experimentation attracts controversy because animal rights advocates argue that the practice amounts to cruel acts perpetrated against animals. The U.S. alone subjects at least 100 million animals to experimentation, including monkeys, dogs, cats, mice, and rats. The vivisectors’ daily routine entails dissecting, shocking, poisoning, burning, and killing animals during physiological or pathological investigations. In addition, using animals to test for safety products, chemicals, cosmetics, and drugs is risky and may require the deliberate introduction of disease or negligence towards the animal. Outside the laboratories, such horrific treatment of animals would qualify as felonies. Furthermore, existing empirical evidence fails to justify the essence of animal testing, contesting the prospects of adverse outcomes for humans. Finally, it is advanced that animal testing is unethical because it is synonymous with violating animal rights, thus justifying advocacy for effective alternatives to reduce the suffering and potential risks to humans.
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Testing Causes Suffering of Animals
Testing animals is a deliberate process with adverse effects such as pain, fear, and loneliness. These effects result in substantial suffering as animals spend their lives confined in cages in laboratories. Humans exploit animals’ inability to give informed consent to include them in experiments. Contrastingly, pro-animal rights and ethical testing advocates argue that non-human animals have the same moral status as humans and deserve equal treatment. However, such is not often the case. Vivisectors tend to overlook the fundamental ethical principles of reduction, refinement, and replacement (3Rs) to lighten the burden of experimentation on animals. Akhtar (2015) noted that animal testing is a flawed process that neglects the value of animal rights. The practice is unnecessary despite the interspecies differences in physiology and genetics between animals and humans. The complexity of animal testing stems from the controversial failure to recognize that animals have rights. The implication is that vivisectors disregard and violate such rights by exposing their work to moral questions. Overall, the suffering and violation of rights render the practice and associated processes unethical and a source of controversy.
The Benefits to Human Beings Are Limited
The consensus among animal testing critics is that the experiments’ unreliability in different aspects undermines arguments justifying the practice. Akhtar (2015) observed that animal experimentation adversely affects humans through misleading study results, the tendency to abandon effective treatments, and the channeling of resources from more reliable and promising experiments. For instance, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – PETA (2022) cited the National Institute of Health findings show that drugs experimented on animals have a 95% failure rate in humans. The worst part is that such failure occurs during the one and a half decade it takes a novel drug to develop, usually costing approximately $2 billion. The observation highlights the wastefulness of animal testing. For decades, experiments cured mice of cancer, but scientists failed to replicate the results in humans. Considering the misleading nature and wastage of resources associated with animal testing, applying the moral frameworks reveals the practice as unethical because it is detrimental to humans yet considers animals expendable in their quests.
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Animal Testing Has Effective Alternatives
Technological advancements in medical research allow forward-thinking scientists to deploy modeling in testing potential drugs. The development calls to question the continued use of animal testing research. According to PETA (2022), animal testing diminishes the significance of modern non-animal research techniques, including computer modeling, human-patent simulators, in vitro technology, organs-on-chips, and organoids. Unlike animal tests, these techniques are faster, cheaper, and more accurate, thus contravening the logic behind the dependence on animal experimentation. Doke and Dhawale’s (2015) review of alternatives to animal testing revealed that they render the practice unnecessary. In addition, some alternatives emphasize observing the 3Rs when experimenting with animals to reduce the cruelty committed against them. For instance, cells and tissue culture as an alternative fulfills the reduction and replacement aspects by decreasing the demand for animal subjects. Using lower vertebrates and invertebrates also proves an effective alternative, specifically for drug testing. Overall, it is unethical to continue subjecting animals to suffering when there are alternatives that guarantee better results at lower costs.
The dependence on animal testing for medical research is a controversial issue, but it is unlikely to end because technological advancements have played a significant role in increasing the use of animals in experiments. Moreover, the scientific community is yet to come to terms with the fact that animal testing alternatives offer better outcomes. Therefore, patience is imperative in phasing out unethical practices using appropriate, effective, and affordable alternatives.
- Akhtar, A. (2015). The flaws and human harms of animal experimentation. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 24(4), 407-419. DOI: 10.1017/S0963180115000079
- Doke, S. K., & Dhawale, S. C. (2015). Alternatives to animal testing: A review. Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal, 23(3), 223-229. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsps.2013.11.002
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – PETA. (2022). Top five reasons to stop animal testing. https://www.peta.org/blog/top-five-reasons-stop-animal-testing/