Regulatory agencies across the globe make it mandatory for companies to get their 'products' tested for toxicity before making them available in the market. These 'products', which range from prescription drugs to cosmetics, are tested on animals to check for the degree of skin irritation, skin penetration, eye irritation, carcinogenicity, etc. On the basis of these tests, it is determined whether the said product is fit for human use or not.
Even though it is not mandatory to get premarket approval for all the products, the manufacturer is expected to place a warming note on the product if it has not been tested. Doing so can have negative implications on the brand, and therefore the companies prefer to go with animal testing. Sometimes the animals are specifically purpose bred for lab experiments, and sometimes they are captured in the wild. Innumerable educational institutes, medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, and several other scientific institutes use animal experimentation for research purpose.
What's Wrong With Animal Testing?
Animal testing is not just restricted to product testing, but goes well beyond that. It is widely used for the development of medical procedures and to gain scientific knowledge. Other than mice, rats, rabbits, and guinea pigs, the lengthy list of animals used in research labs also includes fruit flies, frogs, cats, dogs, pigs and non-human primates. It is estimated that more than 100 million animals fall prey to animal testing every year.
Several animal rights organizations, including the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), have questioned the legitimacy of this practice wherein animals are subjected to torture in the name of 'scientific research'. Animal rights activists, along with animal lovers from across the world, are trying their best to get this inhumane practice outlawed. These people stress on the fact that there is no dearth of arguments against the practice - both on ethical and scientific grounds.
The Unethical Part
The foremost argument against animal testing questions the ethics of this practice in which millions of animals are harmed, if not killed, in the name of research. Those against the practice argue that animals, pretty much like us humans, have the right to live, and we need to accept that instead of killing them with the intention of improving our quality of life. Yet another reason to consider animal testing unethical is the fact that these animals cannot give their consent, but instead of acknowledging that, we go to the extent of exploiting them for our own selfish gains.
Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that 92 percent of the drugs which are cleared after being successfully tested on animals fail when they are subjected to human trials. But obviously, the lives of those animals which are killed in course of testing these products go in vain. While regulatory agencies, like the FDA, do not require animal testing of cosmetics, cosmetic companies seem to prefer this method as it provides them a way out in case of lawsuit.
The Scientific Part
The practice of harming or killing animals for testing products is not just unethical, but is equally a threat for us. There is no guarantee that a particular product will not harm us just because it didn't harm the particular species on which it was tested. The proponents of animal testing argue that animals are biologically similar to humans, and testing the products/procedures on them can help us reduce human casualties. What they don't tell, is the fact that the use of animals in research has its own share of negative implications as well.
It might come as a surprise, but animal experimentation has delayed several life-saving drugs and medical procedures. One of the best examples is that of polio vaccine, which was delayed by several years only because research revealed that monkeys contracted polio nasally - and not orally as in case of humans. The amount of stress that these animals are subjected to when they are kept in isolation also questions the credibility of the end results which are bound to be influenced by their stress levels. At the same time, the practice is very expensive, and the chances of success are very low.
Loss of (Animal) Life
Loss of animal life doesn't just occur when the experiments fail, but also occurs otherwise as most of these animals are euthanized after the purpose is served. Those few which survive the harsh procedures spend the rest of their lives in captivity. That the researchers take efforts to minimize the suffering of these animals doesn't really sound convincing, as they are kept in isolated cages, infected with various diseases, and tortured with various chemicals - all in the name of research. Several animals die due to human errors occurring either in the concentration of the drug or the amount. What is even more horrifying, is the fact that in some cases the animals are subjected to various tests without anesthesia.
The Animal Welfare Act of 1966, the federal law which regulates the treatment of animals for the purpose of research and exhibition, has been heavily criticized as it offers no protection to mice, rats, birds, frogs, etc. Incidentally, these animals comprise 90 percent of the animals used in research.
While those in favor of animal testing and those opposing it are at loggerheads, there exists another group of individuals who believe that the practice is not entirely dispensable and we need to draw a line somewhere. We have come a long way in the field of medical science, and it won't be possible to maintain the rate of advancement if we choose to do away with animal testing entirely and rely only on available alternatives. But then, we can easily do away with the use of animals for cosmetic testing or other similar procedures - which definitely amount to inhumane behavior on our part.