This essay has a total of 2243 words and 11 pages.
28 February 2000
Animal Research and Testing, Is it Ethical?
“ It is a simple fact that many, if not most, of today’s modern medical miracles would not exist if experimental animals had not been available to medical scientists. It is equally a fact that, should we as a society decide the use of animal subjects is ethically unacceptable and therefore must be stopped, medical progress will slow to a snail’s pace. Such retardation will in itself have a huge ethical ‘price tag’ in terms of continued human and animal suffering from problems such as diabetes, cancer, degenerative cardiovascular diseases, and so forth.”
-Dr. Richard Simmonds
Dr. Simmonds, a veterinarian who specializes in the care of laboratory animals, is one of many who believe that animal testing is an ethical practice. He and many others see the testing as inevitable and say it must continue to help humans survive. “The elimination of horrible disease, the increase of longevity, the avoidance of great pain, the saving of lives, and the improvement of the quality of lives achieved through research using animals is so incalculably great…”(Cohen 27-28).
As in any debate though there is always an opposing side, which seems to toss out their opinions and facts as frequently as the rest. So many in today’s world view animal research as morally wrong and believe animals do have rights. Peter Singer, an author and philosophy professor, “argues that because animals have nervous systems and can suffer just as much as humans can, it is wrong for humans to use animals for research, food, or clothing” (Singer 17). Do animals have any rights? Is animal experimentation ethical? These are questions many struggle with day in and day out in the ongoing battle surrounding the controversial topic of animal research and testing, known as vivisection.
Throughout centuries medical research has been conducted on animals. “Animals were used in early studies to discover how blood circulates through the body, the effect of anesthesia, and the relationship between bacteria and disease” (AMA 59). Experiments such as these seem to be outdated and actually are by today’s means, scientists now study commonly for three general purposes: (1) biomedical and behavioral research, (2) education, (3) drug and product testing (AMA 60). These three types of experiments allow scientists to gain vast amounts of knowledge about human beings. Biomedical and behavioral experiments are directed at determining how behavior is affected by certain factors used on the animals. Educational experiments help train students in school. Majors like medicine, physiology, and general science all use dead animals in experiments. Drug and product testing use animals to determine the safety of new drugs and how toxic they really are. Without the presence of animals in research, what else would scientists use, a human being?
“Animals are important in research precisely because they have complex body systems that react and interact with stimuli much as humans do” (AMA 61). This quote directly correlates with some of the common household pets, which are considered important resources for biomedical and behavioral research. One clear example of an invaluable household pet used in biomedical research are dogs. Dogs are used for many types of research mainly because they have the same relative size of organs when compared to humans. “The first successful kidney transplant was performed in a dog and techniques used to save the lives of ‘blue babies,’ and babies with structural defects in their hearts, were developed with dogs. Open heart surgical techniques, coronary bypass surgery and heart transplantation were all developed using dogs” (AMA 61).
Other animals that are typically used in experiments are rats and mice. Doctors find these species very accommodating when they study different genetic experiments. The mice reproduce very quickly; thus the doctors can view the experiment of genes over several generations of that distinct family.
“Experiments on cats have enhanced the understanding of the corpus callosum, a band of fibers that connects the left and right sides of the brain needed for transfer of information from one side to another...led directly to the development of new treatments for patients with strokes, language disorders, brain damage, intractable epilepsy, and other neurologic conditions” (AMA 63).
Biomedical and behavioral research have clearly expanded horizons and greatly benefited humans due to the use of these animals.
Animal experimentation also plays a critical role in dealing with educational factors. Experiments have been very helpful to many students trying to learn different techniques or types of surgeries. Veterinarians have to test and research on animals, otherwise would never know what to do in different situations. Medical schools, colleges, and physiology departments all use animal research, but in different numbers. “Fewer animals are used for education than for any other purpose...Educators generally agree, however, that students are better trained and patients better served when the students are given ‘hands-on’ experience with living tissue, especially for training in surgery” (AMA 64). Animals are essential in educational uses and experiments.
One last role animal experimentation helps is in testing for toxicity and chemicals in household items and drugs. Many activists hope that computer simulations can end this type of testing, however there is not much known about the biological systems of animals thus the validity of the tests would be questioned. Until more is found out about the biological systems, no model can be used to give accurate representation. Tests that spray chemicals into animals’ eyes often determine toxic effects of that item. It may sound harsh, but is necessary to protect citizens that purchase these items. The test must be conducted because there are no quality replacements that would give the desired results to protect people from toxic drugs and chemicals that are in household items.
“Biomedical research using animals is essential to continued progress in clinical medicine. Animal research holds the key for solution to AIDS, cancer, heart disease, aging and congenital defects” (AMA 67). Research and testing on animals is definitely a questionable practice, but with all the helpful vaccines and test results it has produced how can anyone argue it? Easily!
“They’re expensive, time consuming and often have dubious applicability to humans. There are so many species to test on, and so many doses that can be administered, that scientists can theoretically come up with whatever results they’re looking for,” says Dr. Martin Stephens of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). “Many alternatives are often quicker, cheaper and more accurate” (Pardue 14-15
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