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Ethical Dilemma: Should Animal Testing for Medical Purposes Be Allowed?

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Is it ethical to allow animals to be tested for medical purposes?

Is it ethical to allow animals to be tested for medical purposes?

The Ethics of Animal Testing

Animal testing for medical purposes is rather straightforward; in layman’s terms, it is when medicines and other treatments for humans created by scientists and doctors are tested upon common animals (some may call ‘pests’) to figure out the effects of such medicines on living creatures. Because these treatments are being made for human usage, relatively closely related animals are used; mammals such as rats or rabbits are usually the main species to be bred specifically for testing.

The various effects the treatments/medicines have on the creatures depend on the outcome of their usage. For example, scientists could realise they may have found a plant that could help cure cancer, but when they test its chemicals on a rabbit, it spontaneously dies. This would mean the plant would obviously be deemed unsafe for human usage and discarded, however sometimes, the results can have amazing effects, and many of the treatments we take for granted today are the blood, sweat and tears (literally) of animals that have been tested on for us to fully understand how that medicine would be of benefit.

But to make an educated judgement on this topic, first, you must see all the sides.

The UK has gone further than any other country to write such an ethical framework into law by implementing the Animals [Scientific Procedures] Act in 1986."

An example of biased advertising

An example of biased advertising

Animal Testing and the Media

The image above was created to tamper with our own primal instincts, making us want to rather save the child (who could easily relate to a situation regarding your own relative) instead of the 'disgusting' rat. Images like this are biased and affect the subconscious in many ways on future decisions on similar topics.

It used a clever technique, using the word 'rather' since the first three letters spell 'rat', and the last three spell 'her', which makes this image from a billboard in the USA even more effective. Remember that this image is very open to interpretation, even though it is made to make us think that animal testing should be acceptable.

Animal Testing: Potential Progress or Pure Pain?

"There are approximately 56-100 million cats and 54 million dogs in the United States. It is estimated that 2,000 cats and 3,500 dogs are born every hour. There are an estimated 15 million dogs and cats that are put to death in pounds and shelters each year. These cats and dogs are put to their death for one reason - that the pounds and shelters are overcrowded. Approximately 20 million animals are used in research laboratory's each year. That is just about 5 million more animals put to death in labs than are put to death in shelters. Maybe these animal rights activist should be protesting the pounds. Tested animals are at least being put to death for a reasonable and remotely justifiable purpose."

This purpose serves animals and humans both better than making room for
others. The replacement animals will eventually end up on the other side of the
fence anyway. It seems like an endless circle of death. Some of the lab cats
and dogs are from pounds and shelters as well, all of which raises huge questions about how reliable the information animal rights protesters use to back their actions is.

Reasons Why Animal Testing Should Take Place

  • Morally, are we not obliged to help others in need? Think of the countless deaths that could be prevented if animal testing is still allowed. It would allow us to discover marvelous new medicines and treatments to save millions of people from death.
  • There is simply nothing else to test on. If we did not test on animals, there would be a sudden halt in scientific discoveries to help cure thousands; we bread these common animals specifically so we can learn more about our world, not so we can torture them without cause. After all, it is not as if we are capturing a wild or endangered animal such as the last Bengal Tiger just to find the cure to the common cold (although similar events occur in uneducated and poor areas of China).
  • An obvious counter-argument to this would be that if we can breed animals to test on, why not breed humans to test on? The answer is obvious because the human race has evolved to be a superior species, able to adapt and use its surroundings to our advantage, which is exactly what we are doing; humans have evolved to ensure the ultimate survival of our species, not other competing species, as I said before ‘are we not obliged to help others in need? Is it not our duty to care and protect our kind?’
  • It can take place as long as the suffering of the animal is minimalized in all experiments/tests and that any benefits to human beings that animal testing does provide could not be produced in another way, therefore meaning the animal's sacrifice was not in vain.

Reasons Why Animal Testing SHOULD NOT Take Place

  • It is unacceptable because they suffer for our own needs, there will always be illness and disease, they are making an unnecessary sacrifice, being bred and forced to be tested/experimented on is not fair; they should be free.
  • Using our superior intellect to manipulate innocent creatures is an abuse of our power and it is unfair for us to control the lives of the animals.
  • The benefits to human beings are not always proven from the tests performed on animals.
  • Suffering/pain is very rarely minimal. Death of the animal is very common, whether they are bred to do that or not is out of the question, it is borderline torture.
  • A large majority of the time, the same results could be achieved without having put any animal through the process via other scientific means.

'Ethical' Animal Testing - Novartis

As anybody can see, this video was made to convince others that the company is not torturing helpless animals but conducting experiments in a relatively harmless way. Whether there is a secret regime of torture and pain behind the pretty corporate face of the company is down to personal belief.

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This image was part of a campaign launched in the USA with the same aim as the picture shown earlier, to influence people to follow their views. This image does not interfere with our instinct as much as the other picture but instead uses guilt and sorrow for the poor big-eyed 'cute' animal behind cage bars to make us re-think many of our actions. In my opinion this image is much less effective than the other one, but the choice is yours to make.


'The Greater Good' - Harm vs. Benefit

To quote the BBC;

“The case for animal experiments is that they will produce such great benefits for humanity that it is morally acceptable to harm a few animals. The equivalent case against is that the level of suffering and the number of animals involved are both so high that the benefits to humanity don't provide moral justification.”

A good way to find a ‘middle way’ to this moral dilemma is to use the 'the three R's (as mentioned in the Novartis video).

  • Reduction: Reduce the amount of animals used, experiments performed, and pain caused by improving experimental and data analysis techniques.
  • Refinement: Refining the techniques used and how the animals are cared for using better living conditions, medical care and ‘less invasive’ techniques.
  • Replacement: Replacing experiments on animals with alternative methods using cell structures instead of whole animals and human volunteers in controlled situations.

Usefulness of Animal Experimentation

Animal Experiments are only really of any good if the results proved useful to humans, and are allowed to be applied as treatments or medicines. A handful of scientists disagree with the so-called beneficial effects of animal testing. As this quote from Jane Goodall proves:

“...animals have not been as critical to the advancement of medicine as is typically claimed by proponents of animal experimentation. Moreover, a great deal of animal experimentation has been misleading and resulted in either withholding of drugs, sometimes for years, that were subsequently found to be highly beneficial to humans, or to the release and use of drugs that, though harmless to animals, have actually contributed to human suffering and death.” - Jane Goodall, Reason for Hope (1999)

What she basically means is that animal testing has actually lead to more harm than good than most scientists really care to admit and that there are nearly always alternatives to animal testing.

Just as skin colour or gender cannot morally justify discrimination against humans, certain beliefs about animals . . . cannot morally justify their exclusion."

Morality of Animal Testers

Animal Right Extremists often say that scientists/doctors that experiment on animals are so heartless or cruel that they have no morality within them. But this is often not the case, and whether they have morality or not is not the concern, for the argument raised is that “is animal testing morally correct?” What is important is the ethical approach of the experimenter.

“The lack of ethical self-examination is common and generally involves the denial or avoidance of animal suffering, resulting in the dehumanization of researchers and the ethical degradation of their research subjects.” - John P Gluck; Ethics and Behaviour, Vol.1, 1991

"… with ‘cruelty’ being the only ethical tool available, opponents of animal research labelled researchers as cruel"

"… with ‘cruelty’ being the only ethical tool available, opponents of animal research labelled researchers as cruel"

"Those in favour of animal experiments say that the good done to human beings outweighs the harm done to animals. This is a consequentialist argument, because it looks at the consequences of the actions under consideration. It can't be used to defend all forms of experimentation since there are some forms of suffering that are probably impossible to justify even if the benefits are exceptionally valuable to humanity.” – BBC

Essentially they are saying that many people for animal testing say that the benefits of testing on them are greater than the pain and suffering caused. But it is not justifiable for all experiments as they may be completely uncalled for and immoral.

More Opinions and Information Here

So is animal testing moral or immoral? Ethical or unethical? Right or wrong? As with most things, it is hard to justify sweeping generalisations. A nuanced approach to the topic, accepting that it is impractical to have a case-by-case stance, would likely involve supporting minimal levels of animal testing (using the three Rs) for medical research and opposing testing for less vital areas of work.

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