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The debate about experimentation on animals, though well documented in literature, is still endeavoring to free itself from past controversies and current challenges.
This particular debate have attracted many advocates and critics, each advancing valid reasons as to whether it is morally, scientifically and logically right to subject animals to experimentation (Horner & Minifie 304). Experimentation on animals has indeed been very beneficial in medical fields.
However, it has been observed that animals suffer a great deal in the course of these experiments. It is against this background that this essay aims to expand on the debate about experimentation on animals with an aim to come up with a well-reasoned framework that could be used to offer direction on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of these experiments in modern times.
Presenting the Case
One of the reasons used by those who advocate for the use of animals in experiments is that these experiments progress important scientific knowledge that will in the long-term benefit humans as well as animals (Horner & Minifie 316). Indeed, supporters have for a very long time recognized the intrinsic value of conducting medical research with animals, especially in finding solutions to medical conditions that continue to affect mankind.
From a moral standpoint, advocates of using animals for biomedical research suggests that it is indeed morally wrong to permit people and animals to succumb to various forms of injuries and ailments when remedies and cures can be easily discovered through animal research (ILAR 1; Horner & Minifie 317).
However, critics of experimenting with animals argue that animals are subjected to a lot of pain and suffering in the course of coming up with scientific breakthroughs which in the long run may prove futile.
In this perspective, the critics argue that it is morally and spiritually wrong to cause pain and suffering for the benefit of mankind (Festing 569). In addition, the critics argue that universally acceptable benchmarks to adequately measure and control pain while subjecting animals to scientific experiments are non-existent.
Another reason espoused by supporters of experimenting with animals is that humans are susceptible to many of the same disease-causing organisms that affect animals. Current literature indeed demonstrates that “…humans have 65 infectious diseases in common with dogs, 50 with cattle, 46 with sheep and goats, 42 with pigs, 35 with horses, and 26 with fowl” (ILAR 4).
In addition, some communicable diseases such as rabies and malaria can be transmitted between animals and humans, not mentioning that other diseases such as hemophilia, diabetes, and epilepsy are common in both humans and animals. Animals are also vulnerable to a multiplicity of the same bacterial or viral infections as humans, such as anthrax and smallpox (ILAR 6).
Indeed, current literature reveals that some of the “…medical advances that have been dependent on the use of animals in their development include safe anesthetics, blood transfusions, penicillin and other antibiotics, vaccines against polio, measles and meningitis, and drugs to treat asthma, hypertension and leukemia” (Festing 570).
As such, advocates argue that it is imperative to use animals in biomedical experiments to have a better understanding of how these diseases evolve as well as their prevention and treatment modalities.
To expand on the above point, advocates of experimenting with animals propose that an animal is selected as an ‘animal model’ for biomedical studies only if it inherently shares similar characteristics with humans that are of relevance to the study (ILAR 6).
This, according to the advocates, should remove any pragmatic or moral concerns related to subjecting animals to the experiments for futile outcomes. Louis Pasteur, for instance, made use of dogs as an animal model for the purposes of studying rabies – a disease that is common in both humans and dogs.
His scientific experiment facilitated the development of a rabies vaccine primarily because dogs and humans can both develop rabies, not mentioning the fact that the immune systems of dogs and humans display similar reactions when exposed to the rabies vaccine (ILAR 6).
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Critics, however, have argued that it serves no purpose to use animals as research subjects merely because they share the same diseases with humans (Horner & Minifie 318). On the contrary, scientists should use available knowledge on such diseases to search for treatment procedures using other non-animal or computer-generated models instead of struggling for a cure by subjecting another living creature to untold pain and suffering.
In addition, critics argue that the western, reductionist, scientific world is not necessary interested in discovering new forms of treatment through subjecting animals to biomedical research for the sake of mankind; rather, many scientists and organizations engage in animal experimentation in the pursuit of profit (Van Roten 539). This, according to the critics, is morally, legally and scientifically wrong.
The last reason advanced by proponents as to why experimentation on animals should continue is that animals pose minimal risks as compared to humans when it comes to testing the efficacy or efficiency of the scientific discoveries (Van Roten 538). This assertion goes hand in hand with the religious perspective of creation, which offers man dominion over all animal and plant species.
The argument also draws its strength from the moral paradigm that insinuates that it is not in the best interests of man to cause harm to fellow humans for the purpose of developing a treatment strategy aimed primarily at avoiding harm or destruction to penetrate through the realms of mankind.
In layman’s term, this assertion means that it serves no purpose to harm humans for the sake of coming up with a strategy aimed at preventing such harm. In consequence, animals come into the equation as the worthy alternatives not necessarily for man’s progression, but also for their own (Horner & Minifie 319). However, critics are quick to reject the notion of dominion of people over nature and animals, further stressing that animals have their own intrinsic value and rights that should be respected by all humans (Von Roten 539).
It is wrong to abandon experimenting on animals merely because critics and other animal activists argue that experimenting with animals in scientific research subjects them to a lot of pain and suffering. This is because the benefits accruing from such research not only benefit humans but also the animals that become inflicted by the same diseases that affect humans.
As much as it is known that some animals do suffer in research, the issue really should revolve around refining experimental processes aimed at curtailing animal pain and suffering through the use of proper restraint techniques, effective anesthetics, and acceptable dosing and euthanasia methodologies, among others (Horner & Minifie 319). It is important to note that animal experimentation progresses significant scientific knowledge aimed at benefiting both humans and animals.
The assertion by critics that it serves no purpose to use animals as research subjects merely because they share the same diseases with humans simply does not hold water. A world without vaccines, anesthetics and antibiotics is unimaginable, and these scientific breakthroughs came as a direct result of the interaction between scientists and animal research subjects (ILAR 6).
In addition, it should be realized that just as an individual undergo suffering when they become inflicted with diseases such as malaria or rabies, animals also do undergo a lot of suffering when they get inflicted by the same or common diseases. The best way forward, therefore, is to use the animals to come up with better treatment procedures for both animals and humans while maintaining the highest animal welfare standards to curtail suffering.
Lastly, it clearly serves no purpose for critics to equate animal rights with human rights in addition to rejecting the assertion on man’s domination over the animals (Von Roten 539). It is indeed true that animals have their own intrinsic values and rights which should of course be respected.
One of such right is that animals should not be subjected to unnecessary or avoidable pain and suffering, particularly for profit gain. But just as it is a violation of animal rights to cause pain and suffering to animals for profit gain on the part of humans, it is also morally unacceptable to let people suffer the consequences of diseases by not making use of animals in experiments aimed at developing superior treatment regimens to cure the ailments.
Claims and counterclaims have been floated in this paper in regards to the broad topic of experimentation on animals. From the discussion, it is evidently clear that the merits for undertaking animal experimentation for scientific gain, especially in-terms of developing treatments and cures for diseases that continue to affect both humans and animals, far outweighs the merits provided by critics against the practice.
The fact that animals should be treated with care, respect and dignity is unquestionable, and so is the fact that they should be used for bio-medical reasons so as to counteract the various forms of medical conditions affecting both humans and animals.
This conclusion synchronizes well with many public opinion polls that have dependably revealed that a majority of people around the world endorse the use of animals for scientific as well as medical gains (ILAR 1). However, it should be noted that such use should not cause unnecessary or avoidable pain and suffering to animals.
Festing, S. The Animal Research Debate. Political Quarterly 76.4 (2005): 568-572. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database
Horner, J., & Minifie, F.D. Research Ethics 1: Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) – Historical and Contemporary Issues Pertaining to Human and Animal Experimentation. Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research 54.1 (2011): 303-329. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database
Institute for Laboratory Animal Research. Science, Medicine, and Animals. 2004. Retrieved from <https://www.nap.edu/read/10733/chapter/2>
Von Roten, F.C. Mapping Perceptions of Animal Experimentation: Trend and Explanatory Factors. Social Science Quarterly 89.2 (2008): 537-549. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database