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Should Animals Be Used Research Health And Social Care Essay

History tells us that animals have long been the subjects of medical experimentation. In the third and fourth centuries B.C., Greek philosophers and physicians such as Aristotle and Erasistratus performed dissections of animals to examine how they differ from each other. In second century Rome, the physician Galen dissected goats and pigs in order to compare them to what he knew about the human body. This practice came to be known as vivisection, which flourished and became more accepted during the 18th and 19th century (History of Nonhuman Animal Research).

Since then, the use of animals has become an integral part of research, and the term vivisection has come to define any form of research that involves nonhuman animals. Rollin has identified the six basic categories of research activities animals are used for: (1) basic biological research; (2) applied basic biomedic research; (3) the development of drugs and therapeutic chemicals and biologicals; (4) the testing of various consumer goods for safety, toxicity, irritation, and degree of toxicity; (5) the use of animals in educational institutions and elsewhere for demonstration, dissection, surgery practice, induction of disease for demonstrative purposes, high school science projects, etc. and (6) The use of animals for the extraction of products (136-137).

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Carbone further explains the importance of the concept of animals as models in order to understand the use of animals in research (25). He cites the suitability of certain animals to certain fields of study, as when songbirds display brain growth when learning new songs and how it can help explain the regeneration of the nervous system after incurring injury or that pigs and dogs are suitably sized for developing new cardiac surgery techniques. Their uses vary widely - some animals undergo humane euthanasia for organ and cell collection while others go through complicated surgeries to test and develop organ transplant techniques. Others may also be infected with cancers and other diseases to test the applicability and effect of vaccines or have an organ removed to examine the effects of their absence.

But the practice has invited serious questions about its treatment of animals. The animal rights movement, born from the writings of philosophers and activists in the late twentieth century, protested the treatment of animals by the medical community and other interests. They claimed that experimenting with animals goes against their right to life and self-determination and causes pain, suffering and even death. Various organizations expressed calls for its outright banning while more moderate voices called for stronger government laws and regulation. (Guither 2).

Statistics: Animals in Research

In 1992 it is estimated that there are 200 to 225 million animals used in laboratory experiments annually. The United States accounted for 100 million of them, mostly mice and rats, but also includes a significant number of cats and dogs (Rollin 135). A decade later, in 2002, the United States Department of Agriculture published the Animal Care Report which pegged the number of laboratory animals in the country at just over a million. The animals cited in the report include dogs, cats, primates, rabbits, hamsters and 'other animals.'

Pros and Cons of Using Animals in Research

Trull (45), the president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), contends that the use of animals for research purposes has delivered significant advancements in medicine for humans and animals alike. He also argues that animal research provides incomparable access to insightful discoveries on human systems due to highly similar genetic and physiological makeup among humans and common laboratory animals.

In particular, he cited the development of 'rodent models' that are bred in laboratories and possess unique traits that proved highly integral in the understanding of cancer, heart disease and other serious human ailments. Animals have also benefited as vaccines for rabies, distempo, feline leukemia and infectious hepatitis have since been discovered and put to good use in helping improve the health of animals. He also cites the importance of researching for new reproductive techniques that can help preserve endangered species (45).

Meanwhile, AIDS organizations have also expressed support for animal research. The National Association of People with AIDS wrote a letter of support in June 1996 explaining their position, stating that while they believe in the compassionate treatment of animals, animal research and testing are necessary to complement human clinical studies, which may lead to stronger drugs and treatments to combat AIDS and HIV (Guither 78).

Guither also notes that 54 out of 76 Nobel Prizes awarded for medicine and physiology in the twentieth century involved animal research, including the discovery of insulin, treatment of diabetes and techniques for successful organ transplants (76).

Meanwhile, some activists also believe that animal research is an archaic and outdated methodology, one that chooses its subjects based on non-scientific reasons such as convenience, laboratory tradition and cost. They cite government studies that indicate animal testing to be unreliable and inefficient in proving the safety of various drugs for use of humans (Shiner and Erbe 10). The most famous of these activists is the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, commonly referred to by its acronym PETA. The group is known for its high-profile and provocative advertising campaigns and public demonstrations that use humor, sex and celebrity affiliations to further its pro-animal rights agenda (Larson 6). Other anti-animal research organizations are the International Primate Protection League, National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Animal Rights Coalition.

Guidelines for Animal Research

Trull (45) and Guither (81) both report on the principle of the three R's of animal research: (1) Reduction - pertains to the practice of reducing the number of animals used for research to its minimum required amount; (2) Replacement - as technology advances, certain experiments and studies may be performed with non-animal techniques, such as cellular cultures instead of mice for testing of yellow fever vaccine; (3) Refinement - modifying techniques to reduce the stress experienced by laboratory animals, such as by avoiding the restraining of animals. These three concepts serve as self-regulating guidelines for the scientific community as they conduct animal research.

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Another form of regulation is the establishment of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs). An IACUC should include a veterinarian, someone who does not conduct research on animals, and someone who does not work for the institution being reviewed. Their main duties are to review proposals to use animals for research and to ensure that these proposals adhere to government rules and regulations. Both the Public Health Services (PHS), which monitors federal-funded organizations, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is responsible for interstate commerce of animals, require an IACUC for research facilities (Bekoff and Meaney 204-205).

Leslie and Sustein (117) see these guidelines as having four different uses. First, they are helpful self-assessment tools, which can guide institutions on their compliance with 'certain baseline moral requirements.' Also, guidelines can be used to monitor the compliance of all the other stakeholders in the organization - from the academe, to corporations to government in charge of monitoring them. They also are effective public relations tools that serve to enhance the public image of the organization. Finally, these guidelines may also serve as basis for further certification.

The basis for most of these regulations is the Animal Welfare Act, which regulates both academic and commercial research institutions. The law applies to organizations that test animals such as rabbits, dogs, cats, guinea pigs and non-human primates. A striking feature of the law, however, is the exclusion of mice and rats which actually comprise up to 90 percent of laboratory animals. This effectively exempts many testing centers and most educational institutions from the law's requirements (Orlans 25).

The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, for its part recognizes the necessity of animal testing in ensuring the safety of drugs for human use. As such, the agency has regulations in place to ensure good laboratory practices are complied with by pharmaceutical companies and research firms (Thompson 15).

Introducing Alternatives to Using Animals

As animal rights rose to the forefront of the public consciousness, the clamor for viable alternatives to using animals for research has also grown. In 1981, the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health was established from an initial $1 million funding from the cosmetics industry (Bekoff and Meaney 212).

Some alternatives to animal research include testing on humans, in vitro tests and the use of computer models to simulate the effects of certain experiments (Yarri 76). However, many animal research proponents note the implausibility of the full implementation of these alternatives. Trull points out that testing drugs on humans first will contravene the Geneva Convention and Helsinki Treaty (45), while Yarri concedes that both in vitro tests and computer models cannot compensate for a living breathing system (76).

Most proponents of animal research believe that phasing out the use of animals at this point is not yet feasible. At best, these non-animal techniques are useful as adjuncts to animal research, rather than alternatives. Animal rights proponents, meanwhile, hopes that these alternatives are adopted via a step-by-step process in which the number of animals used is reduced until such time as they can be eliminated (Guither 81).


The use of animals for research purposes carries with it many important ethical considerations. It is inarguable that animals deserve to be accorded with rights, treated humanely and allowed to self-determine, but the extent, scope and ways by which these rights should be accorded with respect to their use for research remains a point of confusion, argument and heavy propaganda.

The strength of arguments of those for and against the practice of vivisection, in vivo and other forms animal testing seem to depend largely on how well they can bend facts, studies and rhetoric to suit their purpose. It is true that a significant number of scientific breakthroughs that have helped improve medicine's ability to address and treat various illnesses involved animal research. It is also true that animals often have to be subjected to stressful situations and even death for these experiments, and that there are documented cases of abuse towards laboratory animals. These facts justify one case and undermine the other, but animal research and testing is not an issue that can simply be categorized in an either/or situation. Too much is at stake.

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For as long as no viable alternatives exist to fully replace animal research, compromises have to be made. Prudence, accountability and the highest standards of medical ethics need to be practiced and demonstrated. Regulations, safeguards and protocols, whether self-imposed or mandated by governments, need to be followed. Respecting lives, animal and human, should be paramount.


Fig. 1 Image of Lab Rat

Fig. 2 Cat Testing

Fig. 3 Mouse Animal Testing Ear

Fig. 4 Animal Testing Image

Fig. 5 Animal Dissection Image

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