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Animal Testing: Why It Is Still Being Used Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 21st, 2019

Introduction

People start using animals for various purposes in prehistoric times. The development of humanity gradually led to more sophisticated forms of such use.

Eventually animals are used to test numerous substances which are developed for human use. However, the twentieth century was the epoch of rising activism which also touched the sphere of animal testing. To date, there are numerous ongoing debates on issues concerning animal testing.

Many people argue that it is inhumane to make animals suffer even if it can lead to breakthrough in medicine or technology. Scientists have developed some alternative ways of testing. Many countries enact various laws to restrict the use of animals in chemical industry and medicine.

Nevertheless, animal testing is still widespread. The major reason for such “devotion” to animal testing can be explained by the fact that alternative sources of testing are insufficient and too inaccurate to replace conventional way of testing.

Debates on animal testing and public opinion

Admittedly, animal testing is one of the most controversial topics which involve a lot of ethical issues. For instance, it is estimated that in Britain about three million animals “from fruit flies to mice to non-human primates” are used in testing annually, “and may either be killed or subsequently euthanized” (Swami et al, 2008, p. 269).

Such statistics makes the most extreme animal rights activists claim that even “if animal research produced a cure for AIDS” it is not the sufficient excuse to torture animals (Yount, 2008, p. 47). It goes without saying that not all think in the following way. Many people agree that animal testing can be used in science but should be banned in cosmetics.

Interestingly, Swami et al. (2008) found that attitudes towards animal testing differ depending on gender, age, nationality and education. Thus, female oppose this kind of testing to greater extent than males do.

The researchers point out that “this difference in attitudes may be associated with women being more “tender-minded” than men” (Swami et al., 2008, p. 274). Apart from this Swami et al. (2008) report that junior students tend to be more negative about animal testing than undergraduates.

This can be explained by the fact that undergraduates see that animal testing brings certain results which are often helpful for the development of medicine. Therefore, they may accept that animals are sacrificed for the sake of development. Admittedly, many start thinking that making test is essential but it is better to use animals rather than people.

Animal testing opponents also claim that there are other ways of testing. For instance, in vitro testing, which involves the use of cell cultures, is believed to become a good alternative to in vivo, i.e. animal testing. Of course, many people argue that there is no need in testing compounds if they contain some dangerous components. Abbott (2005) points out that there are certain regulations which restrict animal testing in many cases.

At this point it is important to note that the majority of animal experiments supporters claim that animal testing is feasible when it deals with science. As far as cosmetics industry is concerned people tend to be less positive about animal testing.

For instance, not long ago the change to European Union’s Cosmetics Directive was enacted which “phases out over ten years the use of animals in cosmetics testing” (Abbott, 2005, p. 144).

It is possible to state that public opinion about animal testing in cosmetics industry coincides with the attitudes of officials and scientists. Nonetheless, animal testing is still widespread. It goes without saying that animal testing supporters have many arguments for using animals in testing.

Arguments of animal testing supporters

For instance, scientists supporting animal testing claim that “two-thirds of the Nobel Prize” in physiology or medicine were awarded for discoveries that grew at least partly of experiments on animals” (Yount, 2008, p. 48). More so, Yount (2008) reports that scientists point out that numerous preventive methods have been developed with the help of animal testing.

One of the most burning issues to be solved in medicine is developing vaccine to cure AIDS. Chimpanzees are “the only nonhuman animals that HIV… will infect” (Yount, 2008, p. 49). It is but natural that scientists try to use these mammals to find the cure.

Notably, though researchers admit that animals cannot be regarded as a perfect match for testing products developed for humans, animal research is still informative. Admittedly, scientists can understand whether they are working in the right direction relying on the results of animal experiments.

Animal testing is not that feasible

However, it is important to note that animal testing is often insufficient to make definite conclusion about this or that substance. Additional test on humans are made or substance is not used at all. Therefore, it is possible to claim that many animals die or suffer in vain. Moreover, some tests can provide equivocal results. It goes without saying that this can be extremely dangerous for humans.

For instance, in embryotoxicity tests, which presuppose that pregnant animals are given chemicals, do not give sufficient certainty that the same results can be obtained in human. Interestingly, Horst Spielmann, toxicologist, speaking about cortisone which is used in medicine and is really helpful in many cases notes:

Animal embryotoxicity tests are not reliably predictive for humans… When we find that cortisone is embryotoxic in all species tested except human, what are we supposed to make of them? (qtd. in Abbott, 2005, p. 145)

As far as such serious disease as cancer is concerned the same can be said. Thus, Abbott (2005) provides an example that for testing some chemical (whether it causes cancer) many animals are used and more than fifty per cent of the results obtained are positive, but out of these positive results ninety per cent are false positive. Such results cannot be regarded as sufficiently predictive.

It is necessary to point out that life expectancy in humans is much higher than that of animals. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to obtain results which will help predict long-term effects of chemicals. In the majority of cases long-term effects are of great importance, especially in medicine. Nevertheless, scientists still use animal tests to predict such long-term effects, though they admit that the results of their research cannot be regarded as feasible.

Baldrick (2010) also points out that the use of juvenile animals is not useful. It is suggested that there is no certainty that juveniles of some mammals respond to some chemicals in the same way as children will do. The researcher states that the benefits of the use of juvenile animals for experiments are doubtful in terms of pediatric development. Therefore, it is necessary to rethink animal testing in this field.

The major reason why animal testing is still used

It goes without saying that such data call for changes. Presumably, scientist should have stopped relying on animal test if they are so ineffective. However, researchers do not turn to alternative methods of testing that easily.

Notably, introduction of the alternative testing methods and restricting programs led to reduction of the number of animals used for testing, but the number is still significant: three million animals are used for testing each year (Abbott, 2005, p. 144). The reason why animal testing is still one of the major methods of testing can be explained by the fact that there is still no more (or at least equally) effective alternative method.

For instance, it has been much said about the use of cell cultures during the experiments. Speit (2009) suggests that existing genotoxicity tests should be improved since it is still unclear whether chemicals would affect in the same way in humans.

Admittedly, using cell cultures during experiments can provide helpful data, but the results obtained are still insufficient to draw certain conclusions about this or that chemical. These experiments are implemented in artificial environments and the results in real life environment can be absolutely different. Basically, this is the major limitation of the use of in vitro tests.

It is important to note that many researchers try to work out feasible in vitro tests. Officials try to work out effective laws and programs restricting the use of animals in testing. For instance, Creton et al. (2010) report that in vitro test can be successful in dermal toxicity tests, skin irritation tests, skin sensitization tests, eye irritation tests. The researchers also claim that further development of alternative testing methods is needed.

Thus, researchers now resort to in vivo and in vitro tests and this approach provides more feasible results than each method separately. Researchers try to be absolutely sure in their tests results. Admittedly, if they rely only on in vitro tests they take risks, and that is unacceptable in medicine and science. Therefore, the use of animals for testing is inevitable, at least in nearest future.

Conclusion

On balance, it is possible to note that the issues concerning animal testing are still topical. In the majority of cases people agree that animal testing in cosmetics industry should be restricted or even banned. However, when it deals with science and medicine, there are two opinions.

Animal testing opponents claim that no scientific or medical breakthrough can justify cruelty over animals, i.e. animal testing. Those who support the use of animals for testing claim that this is the only method available for researchers.

Even though several alternative methods of testing (in vitro testing) exist, animal testing is still the major method used in science and medicine. This can be explained by the fact that alternative testing methods do not provide researchers with feasible results.

All testing methods are considered to be insufficient. It is possible to state that animal testing, though being not perfect as well, is regarded as more reliable than other methods. Therefore, in vitro and in vivo tests are used. Notable, many researchers try to develop new alternative methods and improve existing. Admittedly, this will enable researchers to abandon animal testing but at the same time obtain feasible data.

Reference List

Abbott, A. (2005). More Than a Cosmetic Change. NATURE, 438, 144-146.

Baldrick, P. (2010). Juvenile Animal Testing in Drug Development – Is It Useful? Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 57, 291-299.

Creton, S., Dewhurst, I. C., Earl, L. K., Gehen, S. C., Guest, R. L., Hotchkiss, J. A., Indans, I., Woolhiser, M.R., Billington, R. (2010). Acute Toxicity Testing of Chemicals -Opportunities to Avoid Redundant Testing and Use Alternative Approaches. Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 40 (1), 50-83.

Speit, G. (2009). How to Assess the Mutagenic Potential of Cosmetic Products Without Animal Tests? Mutation Research, 678, 108-112.

Swami, V., Furnham, A., & Christopher, A. N. (2008). Free the Animals? Investigating Attitudes Toward Animal Testing in Britain and the United States. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 49, 269-276.

Yount, L. (2008). Animal rights. New York: Infobase Publishing.

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