Pros and Cons of Animal Testing: (Helpful or Harmful?)
Scientists around the world believe in the power of animal testing. There are laws in place for the protection of animals, explaining the guidelines to keep animal testing ethical, but there are people and companies that are refusing to test on animals and advertising that they are cruelty free. The question remains, what are the pros and cons of animal testing?
Benefits of Animal Testing
Testing on Animals Has Saved Countless Lives
Testing on animals can be attributed with almost every medical breakthrough in the last 100 years. Animal testing has been a tool in scientific discovery since 500 B.C. In recent years, animals have been used to test cosmetics, medicines, vaccines, and multiple other experiments. As an example, if dogs had not been used as test subjects in the removal of their pancreases, insulin would never have been discovered. Polio, childhood leukemia, malaria, tuberculosis, and many other discoveries would not have been made had it not been with the help of animal testing.
No Other Testing Options
It can be argued that there are other ways to test cosmetics and certain medicines, other than on animals. In petri dishes for example, but the results are not nearly the same or as reliable. Animals are as close to the human body as science can get, without using a human. Having an organism with similar whole-body systems is vital in determining if a test is successful or not. Most tests being done require an endocrine and immune system. Petri dishes are only surface tests and cannot determine if the immune system will react negatively or positively to a test. As a result, using animals as test subjects is the most reliable and cost effective means of testing.
Animals Are Similar to Humans
Even though animals walk on four legs, their DNA is very closely related to that of humans. Chimps’ DNA is a 99% match to humans and mice are a 98% match. All mammals have organs that function in essentially the same as a human because humans are also considered a mammal. With the help of a central nervous system, circulatory system, and organ function, animals are the biological match to a human. This makes them the best option for live testing. Since animals are so closely related to a human, they are susceptible to many of the same illnesses and diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. With systems that closely mimic that of a human’s, it is obvious why science prefers animals over petri dishes for testing.
Animals Benefit From Testing
Most of the tests done on animals are to benefit humans, but there are numerous occasions where the tests performed on animals were for animals. Animals have died from anthrax, rabies, distemper, feline leukemia, infectious hepatitis, and parvo. If these tests had not been done on animals, for animals, millions would have died from these diseases. Animal testing, for the betterment of animals, has helped save black-footed ferrets, koalas, and numerous other endangered animals from extinction.
There Are Regulations In Place
Laws are in place to keep animal experimentation ethical. In 1996 the Animal Welfare Act was passed to ensure that the testing is being regulated. Laws also specify how large the enclosures should be, temperature standards, and access to food and water. This act also indicates regular inspections to be done by veterinarians to ensure these regulations are being met. An Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee must approve animal research. These committees are set up to ensure that facilities are going to be testing in humane ways. With laws and regulations in place, facilities that are using animals for research must follow the rules.
Animals Are Treated With Care
Science is begging for accurate and reliable answers, so the animals that are tested on are well taken care of. There are vets and specialists on site to keep the animals healthy. If an animal is stressed or over crowded, the test results are considered to be unreliable due to the extraneous circumstances. In one facility, dogs are given exercise twice a day and have toys rotated, providing an opportunity for play.
Cons of Animal Experimentation
Animal Testing Is Inhumane
The Humane Society International has discovered that animals used in experimentation are subject to force feedings, food and water deprivation, physical restraint, and forced inhalation. Often time’s wounds or burns are inflicted on the animal to see how quickly they heal.
An example of this inhumane treatment is The Draize eye test, used by cosmetic companies to evaluate irritation from shampoos and other products. This test involves rabbits being restrained with their eyelids clipped open, sometimes for multiple days. The product is placed in their eyes and their reaction is studied. The animal is unable to run away, blink the product out, or even rub it out. Tests often include finding out what amount of product it would take to kill 50% of the animals being used. Animals suffer pain with no anesthesia for relief. In 2010 alone, 1,395 primates, 5,996 rabbits, 33,652 guinea pigs, and 48,015 hamsters were used in studies that inflicted pain upon them without the use of any pain relief.
There Are Alternatives
In vitro, or in glass, is a great way to test products and can produce a more reliable result. Human cells can be used in petri dishes to test certain products and medications. Testing on humans is also an option. The experiment would need to ensure that subjects are volunteers and nonlethal doses are used. This is called microdosing. By administering very small doses, no severe reactions will occur and the results could be examined through blood analysis. A new product, called microfluidic chips could also replace animal testing. These chips have human cells formed on their surface and recreate the functions of human organs. Since they mimic the exact reactions of the population the product is being designed for, there would be no need for animals to be tested on.
Animals Are Different From Humans
Although animals and humans share very similar DNA it is not a 100% match. Since they are different, the tests performed on them can be unreliable. There are cellular, metabolic, and anatomic differences between humans and animals. Due to these differences, it is difficult to say whether or not a test was really accurate. The differences have caused numerous medication experiments to be wrong.
For example, in the 1950’s thalidomide was released as a sleeping aid This medication was tested on animals before being released but caused 10,000 babies to be born with severe deformities. The drug was removed from the market and tested on pregnant mice, rats, guinea pigs, cats, and hamsters. The results were clear, no animals were born with defects unless administered at extremely high doses.
Vioxx is another great example of failed animal experimentation. This drug was designed to help with arthritis. The drug helped preserve the hearts of mice, but caused more than 27,000 heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths among humans before being pulled from the market. Even a 1% difference in chemical and biological makeup makes a very big difference.
Using animals as research experiments fail 94% of the time when tested on humans. The tests are not reliable. According to neurologist Aysha Akhrar, MD, MPH, over 100 drugs designed for strokes tested effective on animals and failed in humans. The same applies to 85 HIV vaccines. These vaccines failed in humans but worked well on primates. Just because something is similar, does not make it the same. Just because we are mammals and chimps are mammals, we are still completely different. So, animals testing is a waste of innocent animal lives.
95% of Animals Are Not Protected
As stated earlier, animals do have protection under the Animal Welfare Act. But, the AWA does not protect rats, mice, fish, and birds which happen to make up 95% of the population being tested on. The Animal Welfare Act covers about 1,134,693 animals used for testing in 2010, leaving about 25 million animals uncovered. These 25 million animals have no protection under the AWA and can be subject to extreme cruelty.
The Animal Welfare Act is also not successful in preventing animal abuse. In 2009, the Humane Society found 338 possible violations of the AWA in a federally funded lab in Louisiana. It was found that primates were extremely stressed and were self-mutilating, ripping wounds open in their arms and legs. There was footage of baby chimps screaming as they are forcibly removed from their mothers while other infants were awake and alert during painful experimentation. The Davis Center for Neuroscience in California was no different. Three baby mice were found sealed alive in plastic bags and left unattended on a laboratory counter. There are always loopholes in the law, and the AWA has some very large holes.
As a Result
Animal testing has been used for generations of scientists. It is believed that animals experimentation is more ethical since they are just creatures. Laws have been passed to ensure that animals are protected, but we can see that many can still be abused. Which leads to the question, is it really worth it?
For more pros and cons lists; check out our page on GMOs