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Using animals for testing, research, and developing new products has brought about tremendous scientific and medical advancements. Animal research continues to help man in his understanding of the nature of diseases thereby aiding in the developing of new vaccines and cures.
People living in the world today enjoy better quality life thanks to the medical breakthroughs facilitated by animal research. Using animals in research and development of products has however, generated heated debate. Those who oppose the use of animals in research are many; they include groups of animal rights activists and anti-vivisectionists. These groups strongly believe that using animals to carry out experiments is not necessary at all; it is simply subjecting animals to cruelty. They therefore call for the abolition of such practices.
However, if such a move succeeds, then it will be a big blow to scientific researches. Scientists, on the other hand, agree that animals should not be subjected to unnecessary harm, but say that it is usually unavoidable. They therefore are of the opinion that animal research should only be used with strict ethical principles. That is why; in this paper we will explore the ethical dilemmas that businesses that use animals in testing, research and development of products encounter.
Animal testing is a practice that has generated debate with some people supporting it and others opposing it. It is usually complex and time consuming to develop medical products. There are some diseases whose drugs involve difficulty researches to get such as in the case of HIV/AIDS.
Ideal, when carrying out these tests, scientists are supposed to test many compounds on humans to ascertain if the compounds can cure treat or vaccinate. But, practically, this will need a lot of time, and it is also very dangerous because it involves too much guess work and therefore can cause harmful side effects or even death. This is why many researchers opt to use animals in place of humans when carrying out these tests. The drugs can then only be used on humans once they are proved to be safe (Animal, 2011).
This does not mean that animal testing has no difficulties. There are many difficulties that come in form of ethical consequences when animals are used to carry out product testing. This has seen many people rise up in opposition of any experiment carried out on animals that has the potential of causing them harm.
This posses the question, is it obligatory to use animals in the development of medical products? As already hinted, animals tests are used to ascertain that drugs and other medical products are safe. Tests on animals are also used to establish the effectiveness of pharmaceutical products in humans. Animal testing is also done to understand the general biological functioning of the animal used in response to the drug or disease in question (Animal, 2011).
It is a requirement in many countries that all drugs and vaccines be tested for safety using animals before they are released for use by man. For instance:
The 1968 Medicines Act of UK provides that all new pharmaceutical products must be tested on at least two different species of live mammal, one of which must be a large non-rodent. This legislation was introduced shortly after the discovery that the drug (Animal Testing, 2011).
This was prompted by the implications that a certain drug had severe effects on babies of mothers who took it while pregnant. The drug, Thalidomide, had not been thoroughly tested on animals. It is believed that this was the genesis of the many laws that require products to be used by humans to be tested first. Opponents of the use of animals in testing argue that this goes against the rights of animal (Animal, 2011).
Many countries are also concerned about the rights of animals and have therefore come up with legislations that aim at protecting animals. For instance, the United Arab Emirates has a federal law that governs the abuse and negligence of animals.
It stipulates, among other provisions, that any form of mistreatment to animals such as through scientific experiments, is subject to punishment by the law. Under this legislation, any one found guilty of going against the rights of animals can be imprisoned for at most one year or pay a fine of 20,000 dollars. This means that both humans and animals have rights that need to be respected, and that is what brings about the many dilemmas that are experienced in this field (Animal, 2011).
Scientists and researchers are forced by circumstances to test their findings using experiments that involve living matter, either humans or animals. However, in doing this, they are confronted with ethical dilemmas.
For instance, can they undertake physiological experiments with the looming possibility of causing harm to the animals? Or should they abandon these experiments and forfeit the gains that have been achieved in the earlier experiments? In the physiological business, physiologists study life so that they can understand the processes that sustain life. Understanding these helps them in coming up with products that can prevent or cure any anomalies in the functioning of the bodies of living organism.
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All these events are studied through scientific means, which normally start with theories that lead to hypotheses, testing of the hypotheses then follows where by the results are then analyzed to ascertain their effectiveness. People then look at the theories and criticize or support them. This is a common practice in the field of scientific research. However, in the development of products such as drugs, one has to understand the life processes; this involves carrying out experimental tests on living matter (Festing & Wilkinson, 2007).
This is what brings in the question of ethics, presenting those involved with ethical dilemmas simply because before such products are used on humans, they must be tested for safety in animals as the law requires. Tests regarded as good and necessary are done within controlled procedures that disturb the normal working of the animal bodies.
But the question remains, do these people have the right to carry out these tests that in essence, disturb the life of other creatures to the extent of causing them harm and suffering? If they must carry out these tests and researches, what justifies their actions and under what conditions?
The dilemma remains, can scientist and researchers engage in animal testing and research just to fulfill their scientific interests at the expense of the lives of animals, or should they just quit these tests and experiments? These are hard questions that researchers face when developing products based on animal testing (Bolton, 2001).
Respect for Life
One of the most important issues in ethics raised by this subject is respect for life. Even all religious doctrines teach that life should be respected by all means. In this case, United Arab Emirates is a Muslim nation, and the Islamic religion strongly advocates for the respect of life of all living creatures. What needs to be understood here is that all living creatures have the will to live. Both man and animals strive to live a good life on this earth, therefore humans should respect all forms of life not just human life.
This aspect of life calls on all humans to take responsibility for the forms of life, and this includes animal life. All forms of life have dignity and therefore, no one is justified to deprive them of this privilege. The issue about respect for life was and is still, the foundation of many of the ethical movements in the world, among them the human rights movements that aim at protecting humans from harm (Ghalib, 2011).
For example, the Nuremberg Codex established in 1947 in a court ruling on the outrageous human tests carried out by the Nazi physicians, prompted the formation of the movement created to oversee the regulation of research that involved tests on humans.
This codex necessitated the formation of some very important declarations. The first one was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was formulated in 1948 that stated that “everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the security of person” (Weibel, 2002, p. 1). This was an expansion of the Nuremberg Codex.
The other important declaration that touches on this subject is that Declaration of Helsinki, which was basically an improvement of the ten theses provided under the Nuremberg Codex. In this declaration, the World Medical Association set out the rules that should guide research that involved humans. These rules are universally accepted and therefore, apply even to the people living in UAE (Weibel, 2002).
As we have seen, respect for life applies to all living beings including animals. Therefore, animals also have rights that must be protected. However, animal rights have not received much attention from the big world bodies, the UN and the world Medical Associations, as they have on human rights. Little or lack of concern from these bodies have seen the emergence of animal right activists and movement that protect the well being of animals such as the antivivisection movement.
These groups base their arguments on that fact that protecting the rights of animals does not state anywhere that, experiments or tests on animals are allowed. One such movement is the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).This is a global group that works for the protection of animal rights and their welfare. It works in collaboration with all animal organizations around the world. In recent times, it has shown interests of expanding into the United Arab Emirates.
The issue of animal right is new to many countries of the Middle East, however, Middle East citizens have shown concern about animals are treated and are more willing to join groups such as PETA. PETA members say that they will continue with their campaigns against the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and their policies that cause harm and suffering to chickens.
The group is also focused on changing conditions at the Dubai Zoo and also at the famous Sharjah market, known for trade in animals. The group acknowledges that the conditions in which animals stay are not good in many countries, but the concerns in the United Arab Emirates are more wanting (Ecorazzi, 2011).
Use of Animals by Man
Humans are known to use animals for many things in their lives. Animals are used for labor, and for their products. This is the known relationship between man and animals, however, the use of animals in research is another addition that as sparked controversy. It has changed the ideal relationship between man and animals.
Those who use animals in research argue that under certain conditions, research can be done on man, why can it not be done on animals? They however, agree that if research must be done using animals, then it should be under proper conditions that show respect for life. It should follow ethical standards as those followed in human experimentation. This therefore means that respect of life should be the guiding principle when engaging in tests and research using animals.
If this is followed, then researchers will know the limits under which they should carry out their work, it will also make them responsible for everything they do. This will instill discipline in this area and help people solve the many dilemmas that they encounter in their endeavors. The principle for respect for life is however, too general and is not easily used in many of the tests and research. This has seen many come up with their guiding principles and more often than not have violated the rights of both animals and humans.
To understand the dilemmas that people face in this field, one has to look at the required standards in dealing with research both when using man or animals. We have already seen that the standards regarding research that involves humans were set out in the Helsinki Declaration. This was specifically meant for research in biomedicine, but it covers any other research involving humans. The declaration dictates health care workers to uphold the healthiness of human beings.
They should do these in line with the scientific principles that are universally acceptable. More importantly, they must assess risks involved first, stipulating that human experiments should be avoided if possible and replaced with animal experimentation. This leaves many researchers with only one option, the use of animals. However, they are not safe in this either, because they are bound to encounter the wrath of the animal rights groups and movements (Avert, n.d).
The mostly cited reason why people feel that animal testing is not ethical is that it is hurtful. But others ask; can animals feel pain the way humans do? It is clear that animals have senses and therefore they suffer from the pain inflicted upon them. In research, anesthetics are not given to animals to reduce pain because they are said to interfere with results. Therefore, animals are forced to withstand all the pain throughout the experiments.
In some tests, animals are forced to swallow some products, for instance, in the making of household cosmetics, animals are given these cosmetics by force, and others are applied on their skins than observed to see if there is any side effect of using the products on humans. In other cases, animals are given new drugs to test their effectiveness before releasing them to the market. This is done solely to ascertain that the particular product is not harmful for consumption.
Subjecting Animals to Pain
Businesses that involve production of corrosive substances use rabbits in their tests. The backs of rabbits are shaved to remove the fur then the corrosive substances are applied on the naked skin where they are left for some time.
The chemicals used are corrosive and inflict much pain on the skins of the animals used in researches. To make it worse, the rabbits are usually killed after the tests. There is also the issue of “vivisection, which is simply the cutting of an animal while still alive” (Alqoe, 2011, p. 1). Today, it is used to refer to any experiment that causes harm to animals. These harmful tests include “incarcerations, poisoning, infection with disease, mutilation and the eventual killing” (Alqoe, 2011, p. 1).
Vivisection causes the most suffering to animals in the world today. In the United States for instance, have laws that require that pesticides should be tested on dogs before being released into the market. Dogs are usually locked in inhalation chambers, and then the poison is pumped in, one can imagine the struggle that the dogs go through s they try to escape (Alqoe, 2011).
In the production of fluoride products, the US Food and Drug Administration stipulate that companies producing these substances test them on the teeth of animals for some period of time. Statistics also show that more than fifty thousand animals succumb to death or are deliberately killed in the experiments done by Proctor and Gamble every year. Secret video footage showed monkeys brutally treated and eventually killed.
Companies that make food for pets such as IAMS usually test these foods on other animals first: “some of the test carried out by IAMS included cutting open the abdomen of female cats and injecting into their bowels, giving kidney failure to dogs by removing one and damaging the other kidney” (Alqoe, 2011, p. 1).
Of course, after the experiments, the dogs are killed. These are just some of the many brutal things that are done to animals during the tasting of products. There is no requirement that calls on the use animals for cosmetic trials.
It is therefore, clear why these companies go on subjecting animals to cruelty. Some of the reasons given are that they fear causing harm to human, and also they aim at avoiding legal suits against them. But when we revisit the principle of fear for life, these companies show clearly that they only respect the life of humans and not other living beings, which is contrary to what this principle stands for (Alqoe, 2011).
Some business such as the Kentucky Fried Chicken group, breed animals specifically for human consumption. These chickens are usually scientifically modified and cause harmful effects to humans. In Islamic countries, UAE being one of them, sheep and goats are specifically reared to be slaughtered every year during religious festivals.
This practice is usually done in public with people watching as sheep are cruelly slaughtered. To the supporters of animal rights, this practice is unethical and also violates the rights of animals. But those who advocate for the use of animals in testing and research agree that yes, animals have rights and also feel pain, but they can not think, they don’t make choices.
Feeling pain does not make man equal to animals; man can think and make rational choices. Rights only apply to those beings that can think and decide. Therefore, the only important right that these people recognize is a person’s right to his or her own life. For man to live a fulfilling life without any trouble, he must use his brain to think rationally and make rational choices. Nothing can restrict a man from thinking unless forced is used to stop him from doing what he thought (Machan, 2007).
Thinking and making choices is the not the norm in the animals’ life. Animals only survive on reflexes; they therefore can think nor differentiate from right and wrong. For instance, a leopard will not be unethical if it eats an antelope. It will not understand that it is violating human rights by attacking a person.
Animals have no power to voluntarily deal or associated with other beings, this privileges was only given to man. Because, of these, no one should be justified to say that it is unethical to use animals in testing and research. However, as much as the supporters of the use animals in testing and research may have a point, they still don’t answer the question as to whether the animal tested products are really helping man.
Take for instance genetically modified food. These include animals that are scientifically bred to meet the demands of man such as chicken, corn, pigs, and many others. Studies show that these foods, as much as they are bringing profits to businesses and alleviating poverty, they are causing far too much harm that solving the real issues (Machan, 2007).
Genetically Modified Products
Genetically modified foods have been found to cause complications such as infertility in women, they quicken the process of aging, and the cause changes in the normal functioning of the body. These kinds of food carry toxins that cause dietary problems when eaten. The KFC that have been introduced the UAE hotel industry and genetically modified chicken that grow at a faster rate. These chickens also carry toxins.
This means that may people are ingesting toxins without knowledge of the harmful effects that accompany them. This therefore goes against the very idea of protecting the fundamental right of humans, the right to life. But again, the very idea of testing products on animals before being given to humans is to protect human life. Testing on animals remains very valuable despite the criticism (Smith, 2011).
It has been argued that animal testing is only done to avoid claims due to product liability rather than ensuring that products are safe. When seen from the other side, animal testing has been an important stage in the development of many of the products that have proved more than beneficial even to those opposed to it.
Businesses face dilemmas because before their business is licensed their products have to be assessed first for risks to ensure that their users do not suffer any harm. People need to understand that research on animals alone does not provide outright safety, but animal experiments and tests done with other safety measures have proved viable. Still there are those who argue that animal test add very little to development of new alternatives.
As technological advancements continue, more demands for better alternatives are created thereby increasing those making these alternatives. However, for any business to release a product into the market, it is required by law in many countries, to first test the safety of the product. This means that businesses have to use a lot of money in research and tests before getting the license for their products.
We just saw that many countries allow animal tests to be done on products first. This means that if animal testing is removed then, business will be forced to look for other means of testing, which may prove costly. Another issue is the fact that outlawing animal testing in one country does not mean that other countries will do. This provides another huddle to international businesses that may be forced by the countries they do business in to prove that their products have been tested on animals first.
This is because every country has its safety requirement. This is why, animal testing and research may have declined, but it is still thriving in other countries such as UAE where laws are lenient on animal testing. That is why animal rights activists are planning to put up camp in UAE to push for the rights of animals. The efforts of these groups are paying of as seen from the legislations that countries are putting up.
To address the issue, researchers should look for other ways of testing that can replace the use of animals. This of course will require huge investments to be realized. Furthermore, coming up with technologies that will directly replace animals is not easy and will take years to be realized.
Also, coming up with a new testing method will incur other expenses especially those concerning validation to meet international safety requirements. Arab countries are usually very conservative, and there may take years to embrace new rules regarding the use of animals. This has already been felt with the opposition to the rights movement activities. Just recently, PETA members were threatened with arrests if they do not stop their campaigns in Dubai concerning animal welfare at the Zoo.
As efforts to find alternatives continue, it is strongly believed that good scientific practice can help to significantly reduce the number of animal tests by just using a few animals thereby reducing the number of death and suffering. However, the reduction in the number of animals used should not compromise the quality of results and therefore, the quality of products. This can bear potential effects to the health of humans.
Breeding programs have also helped a lot in providing the number of animals required in research and testing. This has reduced chances of having excess number of animals that causes unnecessary harm and suffering. It should be understood though, that animals cannot be substituted entirely in product testing and research. Therefore, those involved in research should utilize reduction and refinement in their tests.
Refinement and reduction can be achieved through improved housing and also animal husbandry. This also addresses the concerns of animal rights activists and movements because it ensures that animal needs are met, in fact, it improves the well being of animals used in testing and research. Another factor that business using animals in their activities should do is to look for way through which they can manage pain caused to animals.
For many years, UAE has been known for its finning practices, where whale fins are removed from whales to make delicacies in hotels. This involves cutting off fins from whales and then releasing them back to the water. This causes pain to the whales because they are usually left to bleed with some succumbing to the bleeding. If ways of preventing the bleeding and relieving pain are used, then hotel business do not risk losing out on customers who like this menu, if they are banned from finning.
When carrying out tests, the testing method should be assessed. This will require training of people in handling of animals during tests. Also strict laws should be set up to regulate this practice. Concealed and underground labs should be opened to scrutiny to ensure that they do not engage in unethical practices (Weibel, 2002).
We have seen that the issue of animal testing is controversial. We have seen that researchers carry out tests on animals to ensure that the products that are eventually released to the people are safe for human consumption. They justify this with the fact that animals are similar to humans therefore, more suited to show how humans can react to scientifically manufactured products.
To the supporters of this move claim that animal tests help in saving human and animal lives, but opponents feel that it is not ethical to kill animals. Arguments for and against use of animals for testing abound, and as long as human demands keep on increasing in terms of finding cures and drugs for illness and also looking for alternative means of food, animal testing will go, and opposition will increase.
This will therefore, require people to weigh between the benefits of animal testing and the issue of causing unnecessary pain to animals. For instance, it may be necessary to carry out animal testing strictly for medical purpose, but it may not be necessary to use animals in cosmetic tests. Businesses should brace themselves for more opposition until alternative means to animal testing are found.
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