Animal Experimentation Essay, Research Paper
Imagine being dragged from your bed, strapped into a chair, eyes and mouth forced open, chemicals injected into your body, irritating solutions flushed into your eyes and corrosive substances applied to your skin (Product 1). It almost sounds like something straight from a horror film, but even more terrifying is discovering that this excessive torture does indeed exist. Every year, 25-50 million animals are killed through experimentation, and this is in the United States alone (What is Vivisection, 1). As the
years go on, these numbers grow and the killing of animals through experimentation becomes more of a common practice throughout the world. In Australia, over half of the country s population uses prescription drugs which have all been tested on animals (Vivisection, 1). Experimentation on animals, though claimed to be useful, is both cruel and inhumane.
The term vivisection means the cutting of or operation on a living organism usually for physiological or pathological investigation, commonly causing distress to the subject.
For years now, animals have been used in trying to find new cures for human diseases as well as for the testing of new products. This may seem like a good cause on the outside, provided you don t hear about what really goes on behind the scenes. There have been cases where electrodes have been painfully placed inside the brains of chimpanzees for study purposes (Baird and Rosenbaum, 78). Other ordinary practices include rabbits having chemicals washed into their eyes simply to test out a new hair product (Product 2). Knowing this, one must weigh the pro s and con s of animal experimentation and decide whether what we gain from it, if anything, outweighs the suffering these innocent animals are put through.
One commonly asked question when debating the topic of vivisection is whether or not animals can feel pain. For some reason this seems to be such a controversial topic surrounded by many scientific tests. These tests have concluded that certain animals can feel pain (Bateson 1). For example, it has been very hard to prove or disprove whether or not insects can feel pain since they don t have a central nervous system, but this seems insignificant in the big picture since most scientific experimentation does not take place on insects. This goes for most invertebrates (that is animals without a backbone, eg. fish). On the flip side, it has been shown that vertebrae animals can indeed feel pain, and some more than others (Bateson 3). Even without all of the highly complicated tests, one can clearly observe that a dog will yelp if it s tail is grabbed or ear is pulled. With all this, how can one justify the torture of animals.
Those who oppose animal rights claim that animals simply are too different from humans, and unlike humans animals don t live by moral views and therefore, are not part of the human moral community (Baird and Rosenbaum, 27). This is true, animals are by no means considered humans. They coexist with us, live in our homes and surround us everywhere we turn, but they are not humans by any stretch of the imagination. Another argument used to justify vivisection is that it provides extremely useful data to be applied to humans in the field of medicine. Advances in the medical field are a great accomplishment and are urged on by many, but when it comes at the expense of life, even of an animal, support for such research begins to dwindle. More critics argue that if animals are to be given rights, does it apply to all species? Must we treat dragonflies the same as dolphins? (Baird and Rosenbaum 29). This is a good point. Granted, protection of every single living organism would be difficult and most likely unnecessary. A line must be drawn somewhere.
First and foremost, it has been established that animal can indeed feel pain. With that in mind, one must ask themselves what right do we as humans have to inflict pain on anyone or anything? We haven t any, especially to something that poses no threat to us. Of course, there are exceptions. Let s say you re attacked by a tiger while on safari in Africa or something along those lines. In a situation like that, it is justifiable to harm an animal in self defense, but surely an innocent rabbit strapped down to a lab table poses no threat to anyone or anything, therefore the painful experimentation on these animals is unjustifiable.
Many people who support animal experimentation do so because they believe that testing on animals has brought and has the potential to bring about extensive advances in the field of medicine. This is somewhat fuzzy area, but it is a proven fact that there is not one animal species the biological reactions of which are identical to humans (Fano, 50-51). Chimpanzees are very similar to humans, made up of nearly 99% of the same genetic material (Central 3). However, just because a certain species has a genetic makeup similar to that of humans does not necessarily mean that their immune systems function the same as ours. For example, chimps as mentioned above, are very close to humans genetically, but are not susceptible to many of the diseases that afflict humans (including AIDS), nor do they have the same reaction to drugs and procedures as we do (Central 3). With this in mind, it makes it even harder to justify the experimentation on animals if the results of these tests cannot be applied to humans, leading to the next topic of extrapolation.
Extrapolation as used in animal experimentation means the use of data taken from tests on animals and assuming the data applies to humans. For example, a experimental vaccine for cancer is tested on a chimp. In this hypothetical experiment, the vaccine works. Then, it is assumed that because chimps are very similar to humans, the vaccine will not only work for humans, but will be safe for humans to use as well. This is the process of extrapolation. However, as previously mentioned, assuming that something that works on an animal will work on humans is too risky and costs the lives of the animals. There have been cases where drugs which were tested safely on animals, when tested on humans caused major side effects, including death in some instances (Central 3). These brings about another issue, validation of animal tests.
Validation programs must prove that such a test method provides data that are reproducible, reliable, and relevant to humans (Fano, 69). Over the years, many experiments have been done on animals and applied to humans later, however, it has never been scientifically proven that animal tests could be used to establish qualitative or quantitative carcinogenic risk for humans (Fano, 69). Because of this, the National Cancer Institution abandoned their animal-based drug screening program and replaced it with non-animal alternatives because the animal methods had been such a failure (Central 3).
Even if experimentation on animals could be proven to lead to dramatic advances in the medical field, the testing of products on animals should not be tolerated. For example, rabbits aren t able to produce tears like humans are, making them a prime target to test chemicals and other products on them since their eyes can t wash them out. Cosmetic companies force open the eyes of these rabbits and rinse irritating chemicals of potential products in them (Product 2). Other typical procedures involving product testing include the application of highly concentrated products to the bare skin of shaved rodents as well as force-feeding animals until death (Product 2).
In two experiments with trichloroethylene (TCE) a chemical once used as a flavor enhancer in foods, an extraction agent in decaffeinating coffee, and as a dry-cleaning and degreasing agent rats were given the human equivalent of 5 x 107 (or 50,000,000) cups of coffee a day. The doses used exceeded those consumed by humans by a factor of over one million (Fano, 75).
What makes these procedures even worse is that if results show that a product is potentially dangerous to humans, the product is not kept off the market, a warning label is simply slapped on the side of the container.
Supporters of animal experimentation claim that animals should be used for testing because they lack moral, intelligence and the ability to reason. This position allows for many exceptions. By this belief, children and the mentally retarded would be eligible for the testing of products and chemicals, but that s unheard of (Central 2). What about convicts? One could argue they lack morals but even they aren t used as guinea pigs, so to speak. By these examples it can clearly be seen that a lack of morals and or intelligence does not qualify one to be experimented upon. Then what does? The answer to that is nothing. Absolutely nothing qualifies anyone or anything to be tested on except that person s own will. Obviously, animals cannot communicate with humans so we just assume we are the superior species and that they haven t any rights. This too is argued to be wrong. Any living thing has at least one right, that is the right to continue living.
In place of animal experimentation and vivisection, there are many alternatives. One main alternative is concentrating on the prevention of diseases which animals are tested for and not so much on the cure. In fact, improvements in sanitation and nutrition have contributed largely to the prevention of illnesses and even death in recent years (Frequently, 2). Other alternatives include experimenting with extracted human tissues, chromatography (the seperation of drugs at their smallest, molecular level), as well as experimentation on discarded human placentas (Vivisection, 3). All of these are safe, practical ways of testing new medicines without causing harm to anyone, including animals.
In conclusion, the use of animals for experimentation, though claimed useful, is both cruel and inhumane. Animals can feel pain and should not be subjected to tortuous experimentation for little or no result. Since animals and humans are far from identical in many ways, data taken from these tests is often unreliable and very difficult to apply to humans. Extrapolation across species deaths not only in the animals who were sacrificed for this medical data, but in some cases the lives of the humans who took the tested drugs. Furthermore, the practices of these tests are excessively inhumane and inflict a lot more pain than is necessary to gather data. The question is not can they reason? nor can they talk? but can they suffer? (Jeremy Bentham qtd. in Central, 2).