Ethics Alert: Is it Right to Use Animals for Research?

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The entire debate surrounding the practice of using animals for scientific research can be traced back to the 4th century BC. While the arguments have changed over the course of time, the 'core question' still remains the same: is this practice justified?

Back in the 4th century BC, it was Aristotle who put forth the idea of using animals for the purpose of scientific research. In fact, the results of all the experiments that Aristotle performed on live animals were documented by him in the form literary works titled ‘Generation of Animals’ and ‘Parts of Animals’. Other noted researchers who resorted to animal testing in course of time included Erasistratus, Galen, Ibn Zuhr, etc. The debate was triggered when the practice met with stiff opposition from animal rights groups.

The Practice of Using Animals for Scientific Research

Animal testing debate had two groups at loggerheads; one of which was in favor of this practice and other against it. While the debate continues, the arguments that each of these groups resorted to, have changed considerably. Given below are the pros and cons, which have to be taken into consideration if you intend to take a stand on this issue.

Against this Practice

Those against the practice of using animals for the purpose of scientific research argue that it is inhumane to use animals for our selfish interests. According to them, if human rights are so important, so are animal rights. Millions of animals, right from small species like rats and mice, to large species like dogs and non-human primates are sacrificed in the name of research all over the world every single year. While a significant number of animals die in course of research, others are left partially or seriously injured. A study by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) revealed that thousands of animals used in research laboratories are not even administered anesthesia when experiments are performed on them.

Those against the practice also question the credibility of these studies. They argue that millions of animals are killed unnecessarily when more than 90 per cent of the experiments yield no results. More importantly, there is no guarantee that the drugs which are tested successfully on animals will yield positive results when used on humans. On the contrary, there have been instances wherein drugs that were successfully tested on animals resulted in adverse effects on humans. They also argue that this practice was justified in the past when alternatives to animal research were not available. Today, however, alternatives exist in plenty and hence, it’s high time we move on from this cruel practice and start giving animals the respect they deserve.

There also exist some people who oppose animal testing, not because they have any sympathy for animals, but because they feel that millions of dollars are unnecessarily spent on such research when the chances of positive results are quite dull. A harsh argument for sure, but there’s no harm in accepting it if it saves some animals. Yet another group which opposes animal experimentation on moral ground comprises those individuals who argue that destroying the creation of almighty for our selfish interest is a sin which cannot be forgiven.

In Support of this Practice

In stark contrast to arguments against this practice, are the arguments in its favor―all of which hint at the fact that we can’t afford to do without it. The proponents of animal research argue that the practice has formed the basis for the treatment of numerous diseases which were initially considered life-threatening. If we have a cure for ailments like malaria and measles today, we owe it to this very practice. In short, it was animal testing that helped us develop a range of life-saving drugs and surgical procedures. Proponents also argue that it’s not just humans who benefit from such research. The range of vaccines and drugs used on pet animals today are also the products of similar research.

The supporters of animal research also state that people oppose this practice only because they are unaware of basic facts about it. For instance, not many people are aware of the fact that the drugs which are tested on animals are first tested on cells, and only when they pass the cell test, are they used on animals. They also argue that the research is carried out by experts of the field, who make sure that the chances of causing harm to animals are minimized. Scientists in favor of animal research are of the opinion that the use of animals in testing is an utmost necessity, as using these products directly on humans can have some serious implications on human health. No human would volunteer for such cause. If we don’t use animals, we will have to test these drugs directly on patients which may cause their health to deteriorate even further.

Amidst all this chaos, a third group has raised its head. It comprises those individuals who are of the opinion that the use of animals for medical research is justified, but the same for testing cosmetics and other such products is not. Now that’s one argument which takes into consideration the concerns of either of the two groups which are at loggerheads in this raging debate.

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