Is animal testing an issue of necessity or ethics?

Animal testing is unethical
Animal testing is necessary
April 28, 2021
Oluwatobi Olaniran

Company tests brain chips using animals

Elon Musk’s Neuralink company works on chips that are meant to stimulate and record brain activity in humans. The revolutionary chip technology is poised to be a gamechanger for paraplegics and the disabled. 

Two animal test specimens including a pig and a monkey have been used in its live demo sessions. The implants were placed in both animals’ brains via a surgical procedure which is subjectively an invasive method. However, the number of earlier animal tests and the impact of the chip on their brains is unclear due to the top-level secrecy which Neuralink and other medical research companies uphold.

This is not new…

Animal testing has been used in medical research for several decades and is credited to have produced large strides in medical research during the past breakouts of infectious diseases such as smallpox, Polio, and Ebola. More recently, the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines was also associated with multiple animal tests.

What’s the impact of animal testing?

Animal testing is a preliminary testing phase that our most basic items such as shampoos, cosmetics, and drugs have all been subjected to during production, which makes up for the high number of animals used for research. Let’s put things into perspective, a study estimates that 192.1 million vertebrate animals were used in animal testing globally in 2015 with several claims that the animals were not properly treated during research.

The debate

Activist groups are canvassing for the humane treatment of test animals with the view of abolishing it completely. Counteractively, scientists in various industries claim that the decision to abolish animal testing will impede progress in medical research and may impact damning consequences on the human race.

1. Animals serve as a preliminary means of testing

Animals serve as a means of obtaining direct biological evidence for medical research and testing due to their high biological similarity with humans. According to Stanford University, animals share up to 98% DNA with humans; their shorter lifespans allow them to be studied throughout their lifetime.

This implies that...

By reason, animals do not substitute human testing; instead, they are only a prerequisite to it. US Federal Laws require non-human animal research to be carried out before any human research is conducted. Therefore, prescription drugs for high cholesterol, asthma and high blood pressure have all been tested on animals during their development.

The necessity of animal testing

Without the necessary means of animal testing, it means that more than the small group of humans used for initial testing after animal research will be exposed to the potential dangers of drugs. Hence, animal research is helpful in understanding new drugs and how animal bodies interact with newly developed drugs before risky experiments are carried out on humans.

2. Animal research contributes to animal health

Animal research is an interphase between biological research and human testing but it also benefits the animals. 

Scientists are known to carry out a process of ethical self-examination, which according to John P. Gluck involves a careful analysis of one’s own personal and scientific motives. By doing this, scientists place themselves under a responsibility to treat animals humanely as is practically possible. This process positions animals to live beyond research periods based on the positive findings of scientists.

The benefits for animals

Given that animals are very similar to humans and are affected by many of the conditions that affect humans such as cancer, liver damage, and heart disease. Hence, drugs such as Ketoconazole and Mitotane that have successfully scaled both the animal and human research are used in controlled doses for veterinary medicine. 

According to Stanford University, successful animal testing procedures enable animals to live longer and healthier lives. This means even though a few purpose-bred animals may inevitably be sacrificed during research, it is for the greater good of animals. 

1. Animals suffer cruelty through the testing process

Animals experience inhumane treatments during and after animal testing procedures including poor welfare conditions, physical injuries, infectious diseases, psychological distress, and possibly death.

This is not the case with humans…

Humans are as necessary for biological research as animals but strict laws are governing the use of humans during research, including mandatory animal testing before clinical trials, information on potential side effects is given to volunteers, and their clear consent to partake in human tests is obtained. This limits the uninhibited use of humans for early-stage research for fear of contravening federal laws ultimately prolonging the research process.

A call for the implementation of laws protecting animals

There are big talks about scientists carrying out individual ethical self-examinations before engaging in animal research. However, laws guiding animal research such as the UK’s Animal Procedures Act (1986) are poorly implemented with some scientists seeking to speed up their research process and experimenting with animals for the thrill. Such is the example of a medical team growing an ear at the back of a mouse. If these animals are seen as a pawn in the game of these researchers, then it is only right that the researchers are kept in check with better implementation of animal protection laws with steps taken towards the eventual phase-out of animal research.

2. Testing alternatives can become as effective as animals

The moral justification scientists claim for animal research is that it provides such benefits for humanity that the sacrifice of just a handful of purpose-bred animals is acceptable. 

The stance of the scientific community doesn’t add up

The scientific community seeking to preserve such a primitive method of testing like animal testing is positioning itself against its established identity as an innovative and thought-leading field. It is therefore impeding progress to get rid of animal research with its stance.

Yet, technology and medicine continue to intersect…

There have been groundbreaking discoveries such as organs on a chip, 3D cell cultures amongst others. Yet, scientists claim these options don’t quite measure up to the effectiveness of using complete animal specimens.The scientific community has surmounted seemingly impossible medical challenges in the past. Intuitively, one is poised to believe that it is the lacklustre attitude of scientists towards replacing their favoured animal specimens that have made advancement in research alternatives slow. 

If their stance to continue animal testing changes and sufficient funds are provided for finding alternatives, then much progress can be made.

Debates on animal testing continue to heighten as human society groups continue to grow in number. However, scientists plan to adopt better means of treating animal specimens in line with the latest information on laboratory animal care and husbandry but see no end to animal testing soon.

Having read through this article… Do you think animal testing is necessary to enhance the human race or it is ethically wrong?

Disclaimer: We are by no means supporting one side of the argument over the other. We collate different views and expand on them to give you a better understanding of the motivation behind these views.
Photo credit: Rachel Claire (Pexels)
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