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Animal experimentation is also referred to as vivo testing, animal testing or animal research (Friedman, 1987 pp 44). Animal experimentation involves use of animals which are non-human for research and scientific experimentation. Research shows that approximately 50 to 100 millions animals worldwide especially the vertebrates such as fish, zebra and non-human pirates are used for research annually (Friedman, 1987 pp44). It is hard to find statistics on the number of invertebrates that are used in animal research even though the number is large and unregulated. The institutions that mostly conduct animal testing and research include medical schools, universities, defense establishments, pharmaceutical companies and other commercial facilities. These institutions conduct the animal research and thereafter provide the services to the industry. The issues of animal research have been debated for a long time with most people supporting the move while others argue on the morality of humans using animals for their own resourcefulness.
Animals that are used for research and experimentation are mostly bred for laboratory research purposes. Other animals are supplied by dealers who catch them wildly or obtain them from pounds and auctions (Schmidt& Weber, 2001 pp 19) .After the laboratory animals have been used in an experiment, most of them are euthanized. Animal experiments are used in research purposes in fields such as behavioral studies, genetics, drug testing, developmental biology, biomedical research and toxicology tests such as cosmetics testing among other research procedures (Monamy, 2000 pp 11).Animal research is also used for purposes of breeding, education and defense research.
The topic of animal experiment is highly controversial especially when it comes to the moral acceptance and ethics of the practice. British Royal Society, one of supporters of the research practice argues that every 20th century medical success and achievement relied on the use of animal testing. Institute for Laboratory Animal Research of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences argue that animal research is crucial since the interactions between the cells, molecules, organisms, tissues and the environment are even hard to model with computers even if they are sophisticated(Michel, 2002).
Animal testing for scientific and medical purposes have gained support from the British and U.S governments on condition that the testing minimizes animal suffering and use. Other organizations such as British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection however disagree with the supporters arguing that animal research is not a necessity as its benefits are outweighed by the costs. They insist that although animals cannot defend themselves, they have an intrinsic right that prohibits against their use in experimentation. They also condone the practice and call it a poor scientific practice, cruel, poorly regulated. They do not believe that animal research could be relied upon in predicting the effects in humans (Bracken, 2009 pp 120).
HISTORY OF ANIMAL TESTING
Animal testing goes way back to the ancient Romans and ancient history. People like Erasistratus and Aristotle became some of the first persons use living animals for experimentation purposes (Magill, 1995 pp 863). In the second-century, Galen was regarded as the 'father of vivisection' for dissecting goats and pigs. In 1800.U.S and Great Britain started campaigning for regulations to animal testing practices. An English philosopher and a jurist, Jeremy Bentham was one of the people to publicly challenge the moral significance of animal suffering through vivisection. The 18th century had several challenging theories like 'On the Origin of Species' by Charles Darwin that challenged dominion of humans (Magill, 1995 pp 864). The late 1800 saw controlled animal research in Great Britain due to the campaign done by Society's elite on the issue of cruel animal testing.
After the end of World War I, the researchers who conducted animal testing decreased since groups started campaigning against animal testing. Although at the beginning of twentieth century there was a little resistance as animal experimentation increased, the anti-vivisection groups bonded and campaigned strongly. They used internet because it gave them an opportunity to reach as many people as possible throughout the world. PETA also referred as (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was the first anti-vivisection group that fought against human rights which later led to emergence of several other groups.
In research and development, animal testing and experimentation is crucial in medical and drug therapy. Although sophisticated computer applications and cell culture based research has been developed, some disease mechanism can only be understood better by use of animals. Animal experiments help institutions such as hospitals to develop innovative treatments that help discover or treat unmet medical needs. The main reason why research scientists and student have experimented with animals is to learn more about the animals and to test procedures and substances harmfulness. The test for harmful substances and procedures are conducted in order to determine whether they are safe for human use. The substances tested include medicine, cosmetic products and surgical techniques (Hayhurst, 2000 pp 20).
Worldwide regulatory authorities follow Helsinki's key ethical principles that declare that before new drugs could be introduced to human beings they have to be tested in animals. The knowledge that is thereof obtained through animal studies could be used by healthcare companies. The measure was meant to ensure effectiveness and safety of products used by human beings. Novartis is an organization that acknowledges that animal rights are dishonored by animal testing and therefore tries to find alternative methods to replace or refine animal experiments. Some of the alternative modern scientific methods under consideration include non-invasive analytical methods, in-vitro and modeling.
Novartis through the recently established Animal Welfare Organization is monitoring, implementing and setting global standards that govern the internal and external studies pursued by both partners. The organization allows and supports animal testing and experiments in situation whereby it is scientifically necessary for biological and medical reasons, when the alternative means may not be useful or might be inappropriate. Novartis works closely with Animal Welfare Organization in defining the principles, requirements and regulations that govern the animal experimentation globally (Gad, 2007 pp 682). However Novartis indicates that in some situations animal experimentation cannot be avoided especially in such cases where alternative methods are not appropriate. Novartis also condemns campaigns that are destructive and violent prepared by Animal rights activist in an effort to have their voices heard. Novartis advocates for productive, substantive and meaningful dialogue between animal testing researchers and animal rights activist in finding a solution to the practice.
PROS OF ANIMAL TESTING
There are several advantages to use of animals in testing whether substances are appropriate for human consumption and use. In a case by case scenario it is often questions that in the case of animal versus humans which life is more precious and worth saving. Research scientists argue that it is significant to reduce human suffering as the first priority as compared to reducing animal suffering. Animal suffering and death although important should be placed second. Most of animal experiments help discover cure for chronic and incurable disease. Therefore there is a chance that if an experiment is successful, human suffering will be reduced and a medical breakthrough discovered for generations to come. In summary when the life of a human being and that of an animal hang in a balance, human life has precedence and must be saved at all costs.
Animal testing does not always end up with animal suffering and death. It is possible that researchers can conduct animal experiments by keeping their suffering at minimum. The animal testing laboratories should have high levels of animal welfare (Day, 1994).The laboratories should be comfortable, clean and animals should be kept in healthy conditions. The experimenters should use anesthetics to reduce animal suffering and pain. Even though reducing human suffering is crucial, it is important to prevent animal suffering and conduct experiments without being cruel to them.
Research and experience has shown how animal experimentation has aided in making invaluable advances in medicine. Animal testing has discovered a cure for many diseases, tested the reliability of products and medicine. Animal testing using live animals have been discovered to produce the most reliable results. Countries such as United Kingdom and U.S recommend all their drugs to undergo animal testing before they are released to the market for human consumption and use. Therefore, complete ban on animal testing would endanger human health since it would mean that cosmetics and drugs containing insecticides and other toxins find way to the market. Animal testing practices ban would also paralyze modern medicine since no new invention in the field would be possible.
Many people doubt the effectiveness of animal testing and ask whether the chemical composition of an animal can represent a human being. Research shows that some human-like primates contain similar genetic composition as human. For example chimpanzees, monkeys and human beings share almost 99% of their genetic composition. Therefore animal testing on these animals result to similar results as humans as what would react to them would also react on humans. Some other lower animals and humans have been established to share similar basic physiology(Cohen, 1986).It would therefore be morally wrong for researchers to use human beings to test substances or procedures whereas there are animals which can be used in the procedure and give similar results.
The debate that brings out controversy is whether banning of animal testing should also consider procedures that are done to improve animal life. Veterinary medicine for instance, tests surgical procedures and medicine using animals for the ultimate goal of improving animal life. Since animal testing can be used for the benefit of both humans as well as animals the practice should not be completely banned. The department of transgenic animals and genetic engineers argue that instead of banning animal experiments completely, the experiments should be regulated and closely monitored such that there is minimal animal suffering (Baird &Rosenbaum, 1990 pp150).
CONS OF ANIMAL TESTING
Although there are many benefits to use animal testing to minimize human suffering, it is necessary to treat animal as valuable creatures and not as means of human meeting their needs. The animals that undergo vivisection, experiences cruelty, get exposed to toxic chemicals and radiations that are harmful to their health. These animals, for example, monkey get infected with deadly viruses such as AIDS which eventually lead to death. Some experimenters are known to mishandle animals during vivisection such that million of animals die annually during the procedure. Other experimenters fail to use anesthetic during the process leading to death of the animal.
The studies have shown that, only a few number of animal experimentation have achieved its purpose. Animal testing and experimentation has been curbed with failures and errors (Bracken, 2009).It had been proved that almost a half of the drugs that had gone through animal experimentation and later approved have been withdrawn from the market because they develop side effects to humans. Animal welfare activists argue that since there are alternatives to vivisections researchers should stop animal testing and use less harmful tissue or cell culture research.
A large number of animal experiments are conducted using animals such as mice and rats. These rodents do not have the same genetic composition or physiology with humans (Cothran, 2002). The essence of the experiments is therefore put in question since their reaction to the tested substance would not lead to the same human reaction. Animal genetic technology has been debated that sometimes it leads to undignified and low quality hybrid animals. The anti-vivisection supporters say that there is nothing positive that come out of animal testing especially now that other alternative methods that do not lead to death of living beings have been discovered.
The issue of animal testing and experimentation is a matter of morality. It is a controversial issue since it requires a decision to be made between two leaving creatures. It is important for the society to choose whether they would reduce human suffering or animal suffering. Animal experimentation improves the quality of life for both human and animal kingdom. Animals are used to test whether substances are harmful to both human and animal health. Veterinary medicine and genetic technology uses animal testing in coming up with better animal health and hybrid mutants. Animal welfare activists argue that human beings have the ability to give consents to be tested when a new drug or product need to be tested. This privilege is not available to animals and thus they are dominated.
Just as Novartis indicated, some situations of animal experimentation cannot be avoided especially in such cases where alternative methods are not appropriate. Animal testing should be regulated and minimized but when it comes to compromise between a human and an animal life, human life always proceeds and all possible means to minimize human suffering should be adopted.