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Animal Testing: a Long, Unpretty History Essay

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Updated: May 25th, 2021

In general, animal testing is allowed all over the world. Some countries impose certain restrictions on that matter, some – do not introduce any restrictions at all. However, even those countries that have certain laws prohibiting tests on animals do not take into account the fact that animals are living creatures and must not suffer for the sake of an experiment. Moreover, in most facilities and laboratories, animals are kept in cages, thereby having absolutely no freedom. Most of the experiments performed on animals bring them suffering, lead to disability, and even death. This inhumane treatment of animals does not justify any cause (Haugen, 2000). Thus, the main reason why these experiments must be stopped is that, according to the statistics, the majority of them are ineffective and inaccurate.

History of Animal Testing

Animal testing has a long history. Considering the fact that animals are living creatures, medical experiments on them were already conducted at least three thousand years ago. The first records mentioning the experiments on animals date back to the fourth century BCE in Ancient Greece (Murnaghan, 2017). Thus, in ancient times, it was a widely adopted practice to perform dissections of animals in order to understand how to make surgical operations on humans.

Since the 18th century, with the development of medicine, the frequency of animal testing has significantly increased. Moreover, if a couple of centuries ago, there were only single experiments that were performed by separate scientists, now, it has developed into the large industry that catches animals in the wild and uses them as guinea pigs (Scutti, 2013). Thus, although there are many innovative technologies that can serve as better alternatives to animal testing, people are still reluctant to change the current state of affairs.

Despite animal testing being rather an old practice, ethical considerations on that matter also occurred quite a long time ago (Scutti, 2013). For example, in the 17th century, a psychologist Edmund O’Meara stated that animal testing was unnecessary, as it often gave inaccurate results. In this respect, he provided an example regarding vivisection that, as he claimed, placed the body of an animal in an unnatural state, in which it endured a lot of pain that was both cruel and gave false results.

The first animal protection law was established in Great Britain in 1822. A significant milestone in the history of animal protection legislation was the introduction of the Cruelty to Animals Act in 1876 in Great Britain. This law was promoted by Charles Darwin who, despite being a biologist and a scientist, was against vivisection. In the 1860s, the movements against animal testing occurred in the USA. As a result, Henry Bergh established the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in 1866. After that, the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) was founded in 1883 (Haugen, 2000). Thus, the end of the 19th century was the time when many articles were written, and campaigns were started calling for terminating the experiments on animals.

However, at the beginning of the 20th century, the tendency of releasing laws about animal protection changed. Unfortunately, the efforts of antivivisectionists to promote their campaigns to make the US government to ban animal testing failed due to the overall support of such experiments by the public, which was assured by the organizations who performed these experiments that animals were kept in good conditions, bred well, and injected with anaesthetics in those operations that could cause them much pain. Therefore, only in the 1960s, the efforts of antivivisectionists were partially justified, with the release of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act in 1966 (Haugen, 2000). Nevertheless, that law was more focused on the welfare of animals in laboratories rather than on the prohibition of animal testing.

Nowadays, there are a great number of organizations that advocate for stopping using animals in the experiments. Although the overall effectiveness of their campaigns is quite low, they have managed to achieve some positive results concerning the problem of animal testing (Murnaghan, 2017). Additionally, considering the current tendency of the active development of various technologies that can easily substitute experiments on animals, there is hope that soon the animal testing industry will cease to exist.

Animal Testing Is Cruel

The first argument against animal testing is that it is simply cruel. People must understand that animals are the same living creature as them and can feel both psychological and physical pain in the same way as humans. Thus, in the case of experimenting on animals, the ethical and humane aspects of the issue must prevail and give people a stimulus to seek for other ways of studying diseases that can be much better.

Animal Testing and Its Types

First of all, it is necessary to describe the types of animal testing in order to understand the degree of the cruelty of these experiments. In general, animal testing is the process of experimenting on animals where they usually undergo various medical procedures which cause them suffering or even death. These experiments are usually aimed at finding a cure to some disease that humans and certain animals have in common or at exploring how a biological organism works. During the experiments, scientists usually keep animals in cages and use them in laboratories where they harm them on purpose (“What is animal testing,” 2016). Moreover, there are certain kinds of experiments that cause animals a lot of pain, and, in many of them, animals die.

The most common type of an experiment on animals is feeding them with certain substances and injecting them with experimental medications. After the procedure is completed, scientists observe the effects that these substances have caused. In fact, the result is often unpredictable, and animals can die a horrible death with much pain. Another type of experiments is exposing animals to toxic substances and radiation. These experiments are primarily aimed at discovering the effects that radiation and certain chemicals can have on a biological body. Similarly, such experiments make animals suffer (“What is animal testing,” 2016). Moreover, if animals survive after such experiments, the damage that radiation and chemicals have caused to them is often permanent, and they will live the rest of their lives suffering.

One more type of experiments on animals is dissecting animals while they are still alive. Certainly, during this operation, they are under anesthetics, but it does not justify the result that they get after the procedure is completed. The main reason for these experiments is to find out how the internal parts of the biological body work. This operation usually involves removing internal organs, pumping out blood, and excising parts of tissues, which makes animals cripples afterwards. Additionally, there is one more type of an experiment that is usually practiced in laboratories. This is a psychological experiment that involves placing animals in situations and conditions which cause them to feel fear, anxiety, or depression. Such experiments are usually aimed at identifying the principles of animals’ behavior and comparing it to that of humans (“The five worst animal experiments,” 2014). Nevertheless, after these experiments, animals usually become very aggressive and cannot normally function in their animal “society”.

Laws and Animal Testing

According to most religious laws, animal testing is forbidden, as they are defined as the same creatures as humans. Certainly, animals are not as smart as humans, and their perception of reality is different, but they have similar bodies and experience similar feelings. Therefore, before making horrible experiments on animals, humans must think what it would be like if they were experimented on (“The Muslim view on animal,” 2017). Thus, animals have the same right to live their full lives as humans.

Although human laws impose a certain restriction regarding the experiments on animals, they are not enough, as they still allow people to torture them in the experiments. According to European legislation, all vertebrate animals including reptiles, fish, birds, and mammals and only some invertebrates such as octopuses are considered “animals”, on which it is prohibited to experiment (“Treatment of animals,” 2016). In the USA, the situation is worse and such creatures as mice, amphibians, birds, fish, and rats are not defined as “animals”, and scientists can freely perform any experiments on them that they want.

The system of experimenting on animals has grown into a multi-million dollar industry that has many facilities and laboratories around the world. They also have special facilities aimed at breeding animals specifically for testing. In these facilities, animals usually live in bad conditions being imprisoned and forcibly fed. Using wild-caught animals is prohibited in Europe and in some other countries, but it is allowed in other countries of the world. It is usually forbidden to use such domestic animals as dogs and cats in experiments, but, unfortunately, not in all countries (McKay, 2016). Even monkeys that resemble humans the most are often used in experiments.

In terms of animal suffering, The EU even introduced a scale which measures the degree of suffering experienced by animals in a particular experiment. Thus, they distinguish between “minor”, “moderate”, and “severe” suffering inflicted on animals. For example, in 2012, in the UK, more than 60% of permissions were granted by the British government allowing animals to be undergone from moderate to severe suffering. Reportedly, approximately 75% of the experiments were performed without injecting the animals with anesthetics. Moreover, quite a big percentage of those experiments required animals to die (Scheler, 2017). For instance, the tests for various vaccines and chemicals resulted in the death of more than 50% of the animals involved in these experiments.

Animal Testing Is Ineffective

The second argument against animal testing is that it is often ineffective, as the results received from the experiments can be inaccurate. There are many reasons for this, but, the most important point is that in such science as medicine, the information must be reliable; otherwise, there is always a risk that a particular medicine will cause unpleasant effects in humans or even be life-threatening.

Examples of the Ineffectiveness of Animal Testing

Despite being cruel and inhumane, the experiments on animals often turn out to be ineffective. The main reason for this is that the animal organism either responds differently to many life-threatening diseases that humans suffer from or is completely immune to them. For example, animals do not suffer from most heart diseases, some types of cancer and HIV, they do not have Parkinson’s disease and the majority of psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia. However, some of these diseases can be artificially induced in them for the sake of an experiment that allegedly shows how these diseases can be cured in humans. Thus, the most important argument is that in these experiments, people usually do not take into consideration other factors that are inherent only in humans and affect the behavior of diseases (“Cruelty to animals,” 2017). These factors include socio-economic conditions, genetics, psychological issues, and personal experience.

Indeed, according to the statistics, quite a great number of experiments on animals, that were promising in terms of finding a cure to some diseases, turned out to be ineffective for humans. In this respect, the end does not justify the means, as animals suffered for nothing. As a result, animals’ lives along with the time and money were wasted, and no effective treatment was developed (“Arguments against animal,” 2016). In addition, as it can be seen, after the decades of animal testing aimed at finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and cancer, there is still no reliable cure and effective treatment for them.

Thus, according to the statistics, the majority of experiments on animals that show promising results, turn out to be ineffective when it comes to humans. Moreover, the experimenting on smaller animals such as rabbits, mice, and rats showed an even lower rate of success, primarily because their organisms differ from that of a human (Scheler, 2017). Additionally, statistics show that only 20% of experimental drugs used on animals are effective in humans. In terms of testing the safety of drugs, only 45% of experiments work for humans.

According to the overall results of the experiments on animals conducted all over the world, approximately 120 million animals are used in them, and only about 30 new medications are approved every year, which is far from being efficient. The investment of the U.S. drug industry in the experiments equals $50 billion each year, but the approval rate has not changed since the 1960s. Among those drugs that are approved, not all of them are completely effective for everyone due to different individual reactions (McKay, 2016). Overall, for the last 20 years, only five percent of experiments performed on animals resulted in a successful approval of treatments.

Sometimes, animal testing can be dangerous even for humans. A vivid example is a drug called Vioxx that was used for arthritis. After successful experiments on monkeys and on some other mammals, this drug was approved for human usage. However, Vioxx turned out to be dangerous for humans causing more than 300,000 heart attacks all over the world, almost half of which resulted in the lethal outcome. Another example is fialuridine, a Hepatitis B drug that was prohibited for having caused liver damage resulting in five deaths. However, this drug had been several times tested on animals before. One more illustrative example is a monoclonal antibody treatment (TGN1412) that was tested on human volunteers. As a result, it caused an allergic reaction, after which the volunteers were hospitalized (Haugen, 2000). However, this drug had been used on monkeys several hundred times before, and no side effects were identified.

Alternatives to Animal Testing

Banning animal testing does not necessarily mean that the development of medications that can provide treatment for incurable diseases will stop, as there are always alternatives, which can improve progress in medicine and add humaneness to the science. Thus, with technological developments in the sphere of science, the number of alternatives to animal testing is increasing. In this respect, the main problem is that most people are reluctant to use new technologies (“Animal testing 101,” 2016). Instead, they tend to stick to more conservative and traditional methods that certainly involve animal testing.

Another obstacle in the process of adoption of these new methods is bureaucracy. There are a lot of organizations and charities that advocate for the prohibition of animal testing, and they can accelerate the process of implementation of these innovations.

In terms of the alternatives, there are several of them that are very effective. The first alternative is growing cells and other organic material in laboratories. Nowadays, almost any type of a human cell can be created in a laboratory. These cells are used in the creation of special devices that are called “organs-on-chips”. These devices can be used for experiments instead of animals. There were already several successful experiments conducted on these devices that involved observing the behavior of diseases and the effects of drugs (“Alternatives to animal,” 2016). Additionally, cell cultures are now the primary focus regarding the development of treatment to such diseases as cancer, AIDS, kidney diseases, and sepsis.

Another alternative to animal testing, which is not new though, is human tissues. Human tissues that can be provided by volunteers or extracted from dead bodies can be used in some kinds of experiments. Moreover, there are many operations such as cosmetic surgery, biopsy, and transplants that can serve as a reliable source of human tissues. Using brain tissues from dead bodies has also lead to a better understanding of such diseases as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

One more alternative to animal testing, the importance of which has been increasingly growing for the past several decades, is computer models. Indeed, the most powerful contemporary computers in the world are able to simulate many processes that would occur in a human body after taking a particular experimental medication. These virtual experiments are primarily based on the already existing data about a particular disease and its behavior in the human body and on mathematical, chemical, and physical laws integrated into this program of simulation (“Alternatives to animal,” 2016). Certainly, now, computer sphere is not powerful enough for complex virtual experiments, but taking into account the rate of its growth, it will be soon.

Conclusion

Thus, as it can be seen from the statistics, animal testing is cruel and in most cases, not effective. Therefore, it must be banned, especially now, when there are many innovative technologies that can be used as alternatives. Moreover, these alternatives have already shown great promises in being much more efficient than animal testing. Fortunately, the current tendency shows that these alternatives will be adopted in the near future, thereby bringing the end to violent experiments on animals.

References

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Haugen, D. M. (2000). Animal experimentation. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.

McKay, M. (2016). Web.

Murnaghan, I. (2017). Web.

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Scheler, S. (2017). Everything you need to know about animal testing. Web.

Scutti, S. (2013). Web.

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