List of Pros and Cons of Animal Research
Using animals for research has been a controversy for years. Although animal activists primarily are concerned with the good and welfare of animals, advocates in favor of the research prioritize human lives and advancement in health. Arguments on each side certainly have their compelling strengths.
Pros of Animal Research
To begin, research using animals may lead to new medications being discovered. Examples of medications that have been the result of animal testing are Penicillin, several asthma treatments, cancer and HIV drugs, vaccines, antibiotics, and insulin. There are a good number of animal research opponents who are primarily against animals used in cosmetics testing, but not against using animals for testing with human health benefits.
The most significant research today using animals pertains to diabetes and cancer using primarily mice. Secondarily, rats, pigs, and sheep are used. Birds and fish are used less frequently. The animal which shares the most similar patterns for diabetes is a cat; cats who become overweight do indeed become predisposed to the same kind of diabetes that humans do in the same situation.
In addition, animals have similar enough bodily constitutions to make the comparisons relevant and effective. If an animal is chosen for a particular line of research, its DNA structure has been determined to be similar to humans. In this way, humans may be prevented from the harms that are caused to the animals during the testing. The animal tests serve as a precursor to the commencing trial tests done on humans.
Also, if the research conducted is beneficial to humans, it may well be beneficial to animals. If a cure for a condition is discovered, the animal reaps the benefits of the cure as well. Through animal testing, drugs have been developed to treat human and veterinary ailments.
Cons of Animal Research
Using animals in research is a costly methodology. Often it is not even possible without the companies or organizations asking for outside funding from third parties. The costs of feeding, housing, caring for, and treating the animals must be considered, as well as the price of the animals in the first place. Certain companies breed animals solely for this purpose.
Additionally, the animals used in the experiments are in captivity, and may be harmed or killed. The substance being tested may well prove to be lethal for the animals, or the conditions during their captivity may lead to their deaths. In 1966, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) passed to protect certain animals from cruelty. However, now any animal used in research would NOT be a species which is protected under the AWA.
On top of that, some of the tests may never render any useful information at all, and therefore animal lives are sacrificed in vain, and no human benefit was derived. Before the passage of the AWA, the only laws constraining animal use in society forbade the purposeless, deviant, or even sadistic infliction of pain or suffering onto animals.
One argument that is considered seriously is that animals cannot provide consent to the testing to which they are being subjected. Above all, though, is that the testing certainly can and often does involve the pain and suffering of the animals. When possible, researchers claim to take measures to prevent or minimize suffering, but there are times when providing, say, an anesthetic will change the interaction of the drug being tested.
Organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have placed the opposition to animal research more clearly before the eyes of the public. In order to do so, they have publicized a number of animal tests that were urgently distasteful to the public, even if they were not examples of the norm in research:
In the late 1990s in England at Huntingdon Life Sciences facility, employees were recorded hitting and screaming at dogs, as well as doing sexually repulsive things during the taking of blood samples. All of the accused and recorded staff involved were fired and prosecuted.
In California, a monkey bred at the University of California, Riverside, had the lids of his eyes sewn shut and a heavy device was lodged onto his head. The conditions were created as part of a sight-deprivation experiment.
In Covance, Germany in 2004, monkeys were kept isolated with minimal to no lighting for extended periods of time without being warranted by the testing purposes or protocol.
Moreover, animal systems may not be similar enough to the human systems for the results to match. The product may harm or benefit the animal, but not a human. Plus, even different species of animals may not have the same reactions. A mouse may react positively to a drug, while a bird may not. Another diversion from accurate test results is that since the animals are in an unnatural environment, their bodies will be under stress and may not react to the test drugs in the same way they would in a natural environment.
It is important to ask why we are ethically entitled to value human lives above animal lives. If the human benefit seems to outweigh the costs of the animal lives, then the only allowable animal experiments must provide the greatest of human benefit. This is, however, not always the case, and a certain number of these experiments are about trivial concerns, such as cosmetics tests. The future of animal research will depend upon the cost-benefit analysis and also, the possible creation of non-animal alternatives.