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Is Animal Research Necessary to Save Lives? Essay

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Updated: Oct 19th, 2021


Animal Research, also known as Animal Testing or Vivisection, refers to actions involving the dissection of bodies of living animals with the aim of examining their internal organs and tissues in order to carry out scientific research in the fields of biology, physiology, pathology, bio-chemistry and bio-warfare. Governments tended to tacitly condone the practice in earlier years. But as international opposition to the practice is regularly mounting, they are coming under more and more pressure to ban animal research. Also, given the present facilities prevailing in the modern world of today, there is no need to continue animal research any more; the practice is simply not necessary any longer to save lives.

History of Animal Research

The usage of animals to serve humans was a practice that existed as early as the Greek and Roman civilizations. The Greeks contended that animals represented a lower form of life as they lacked the ability to think. Early Christians did not consider animals important because they did not possess souls. The usage of animals took on a new dimension with the onset of modern science in the 17th century. Live animals began to be dissected and their internal organs examined as a method of knowing more about the human body. Animal research began in earnest during the 19th century with cows, goats and sheep being used in large numbers in the quest to find cure for human diseases. Several prominent cures were discovered as a result. Louis Pasteur of France invented vaccines after vaccinating dozens of healthy animals (Advameg Inc.). Ivan Pavlov of Russia who discovered Respondent Conditioning, and Claude Bernard of France who discovered Homeostasis, both used a large number of dogs to conduct their experiments (Sourcewatch.org). In 1880, the discovery that endocarditis was exacerbated by a combination of damaged cardiac valves and bacteria in the blood was made after extensive experiments on animals. In 1909, Paul Ehrlich experimented on a large number of rabbits before he discovered that Salvarsan could cure syphilis (Schmidt & Weber, 1).

The practice of animal research grew rapidly after World War Two ended in 1945 as research laboratories sprang up all over the world that used animals like dogs, monkeys, cats and rats for research in creating vaccines and drugs in the fields of biology and medicine as well as to teach and train doctors (Sourcewatch.org). At present, animal research is practiced in all countries except the very tiny nations of Liechtenstein and San Marino. The U.S has the dubious distinction of being the biggest killer of animals in the name of research (Randerson).

The concept of animal research

Animals that are used for research may be inbred/out-bred, genetically influenced or immune-compromised (Schmidt et al., 2). The animals are classified into four groups. Screening models feature in the primary experiments of antibacterial activity of unique compounds . Mono/poly-parametric models are used to examine the many parameters and correlations between an effect and endpoint in infections. Ex vivo models are used because of their capacity to mimic unusual problems in human infections such as fibrin clots and subcutaneous chambers. Discriminatory models that mimic human beings very closely are used to evaluate antibacterial drugs and for learning bacterial pathogenesis (Schmidt et al., 1).

Brutal killing of animals for non-life threatening research

On the global scenario, statistics covering just 1 year reveal that a massive 115 million animals were killed for research (Randerson). Statistics compiled by the United States Department of Agriculture during the same year in the U.S reveal that 1,177,566 animals were killed for research – the figure does not include rats and mice as these 2 rodents are not covered by the U.S Animal Welfare Act (Sourcewatch.org).

Totally contrary to the slogan of prominent anti-vivisectionist organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals : “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on or use in entertainment” (Advameg Inc.), animals used for research are instead put through painful experiences before being disposed of at the end. For example, Huntingdon Life Sciences , one of the biggest research laboratories in the world based in East Millstone, N.J with two overseas facilities in the U.K to which several prestigious companies such as Merck, Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline contract test products, uses methods like massive poisoning and intense bleeding to record allergic reactions in animals (Sourcewatch.org).

Researchers from Harvard and Boston Universities have found that medical creations like drugs and vaccines were responsible for a mere 1% to 3.5% of the total reduction in the rate of mortality since 1900 (Sourcewatch.org). It is morally wrong and totally unacceptable to kill a huge number of animals to experiment on subjects that are in no way connected with saving human lives. For example, Proctor and Gamble kills over 50,000 animals during experiments involving their consumer and household products . In a second example, HLS kills 180,000 animals annually while it conducts tests for clients’ products like cosmetics, food additives and household cleaners; an exceptional project was the creation of a special sweetener for diabetics at the behest of Tate & Lyle that involved the killing of 12,800 animals before the final product emerged (Sourcewatch.org).

Mounting opposition against animal research

Charles Darwin’s ground-breaking book ‘On the Origin of Species’ during the 1800s made the world literally sit up and change its attitude about the status of humans and animals. Darwin’s theory that questioned the anthropocentric perspective of nature which assigned humans a location at the teleological middle of the Earth, made people start raising objections about the improper treatment being meted out to animals especially in research laboratories. This opposition began to expand during the 1800s, forcing countries to enact legislation to regulate animal research (The Humane Society of the United States).

The U.K government responded by passing the Cruelty to Animals Act in 1876 (Advameg Inc.). Many initial attempts to pass a similar legislation in the U.S did not get the desired response from Congress. After a brief interlude caused by the two World Wars, a new wave of opposition began in 1950 and continues to this day. Finally succumbing to the efforts of organizations such as the Animal Welfare Institute and The Humane Society of the United States amid mounting public opposition, Congress passed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act in 1966 which lays down rules governing obtaining, handling and looking after animals by dealers and research laboratories. There is a widespread perception that the Act is insufficient, due to which legislative battles continue to this day over issues such as the legally ordered release of shelter animals to research laboratories, and students’ rights about dissection and experimenting on animals (The Humane Society of the United States).

Non-animal testing alternatives

Several alternatives to animal research have emerged, partly in response to the vociferous opposition against the practice, but mainly due to the scientific fact that animal research is not conclusive and can be misleading. Animal research involves equating animals with human beings when it is obvious that there are a vast number of differences between them (Fox). Researchers from Harvard and Boston Universities who questioned a large number of doctors discovered that 88% of them thought that animal research data can be “misleading because of anatomical and physiological differences between animals and humans” (Sourcewatch.org). National Human Genome Research Institute director Dr. Francis Collins put the response of scientists in a nutshell: “We are not rats, and we are not even other primates” (Fox).

The first alternative method involves using computer technology where cells and computer generated models are used to conduct high-through tests to check if chemicals, toxins and drugs are safe to use (Fox). A second computer technology-based method , Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S army} employs the software package TOPKAT to estimate oral toxicity, skin irritation and eye inflammation. A third method involves using the Irritation Assay System in combination with an in vitro test to analyze irritancy levels of materials; it simulates the response of the cornea and human skin when exposed to alien materials, and can be utilized to find out the toxicity of nearly 5,000 substances. A fourth method, called The Integrated Molecular Assay System that predicts reaction of bacterial cells when exposed to diverse compounds, is used by toxicological test kits to test a huge number of possible toxic compounds (Downbound.com). The computer technology-based methods are not only faster than animal research but also greatly cheaper. Automated laboratories can test as many as 100,000 compounds comprising up to 15 concentrations in just 48 hours, whereas animal research methods would involve one individual working 8 hours daily for 7 days a week over a period of 6 months to do the same work (Fox). Coming to the cost factor, animal research of an individual substance for cancer may stretch between 4 and 8 years and cost around $ 400,000 while non-animal studies last a few days and cost between $ 200 and $ 4,000 (Downbound.com).

Another method that is already being used in hospitals and clinics around the world involves statisticians and epidemiologists conducting on-the-scene tests using observation and statistical analyses in clinic surveys, autopsy reports or by analyzing the reactions of human volunteers. The superiority of this method to animal research is best exemplified in the famed ‘smoking beagle’ tests. Before the tests started, statisticians and epidemiologists were sure that human skin cancer resulted from smoking cigarettes; still, the public warning about the dangers of smoking was postponed until several animal research tests were conducted which turned out to be ‘non-conclusive’ (Downbound.com).

Medical students too are deviating away from animal research and following new alternatives. Top medical schools like Stanford, Yale and Harvard have replaced animal testing laboratories with unique clinical teaching techniques such as the Cardiac Anesthesia Practicum that allows medical students to learn how heart bypass surgeries are carried out, instead of previously witness them being practiced on dogs (Downbound.com).


Governments all over the world should discourage animal testing. The U.S in particular should discourage federal agencies from funding animal research projects. At present, agencies like the National Institutes of Health , Centers for Disease Control & Prevention , Health Resources & Services Administration and Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services fund nearly 30,000 projects worth $ 12 billion annually that kills thousands of 27 different animal species (Sourcewatch.org). These funds should be diverted towards existing and new alternative non-animal research projects. Some agencies have already started moving in this direction and NHGRI have begun collaborating with the EPA to enhance already existing programs using non-animal testing methods (Fox)}. This trend should be encouraged, and if required, made legally binding.

Given the vast technological advances made by mankind today, there is every reason to be optimistic that the already existing, impressive non-animal research methods will be further enhanced and new methods will be invented to conduct faster and more effective non-animal research to save human lives. While there may have been some justification for animal research in the 1700s and 1800s, there is none now. There is no reason why the U.S or any other nation should persist in permitting animal research. The cruel practice should be quickly and summarily banned. The U.S, in its role as the world’s only superpower, should take the lead in this exercise by first setting an example by banning the practice at home, and then pressurizing other countries to follow suit by using the threat of sanctions via the U.N – the same pressure tactics that it successfully used against North Korea and is presently using to confront Iran into conforming with international norms regarding nuclear proliferation.


  1. “Alternatives: Testing Without Torture.” Downbound.com. 2008.
  2. .” Sourcewatch.org. 2008. Web.
  3. “Brief History of Lab Animal Use.” The Humane Society of the United States. 2008.
  4. Fox, Maggie. “U.S Government Labs Try Out Non-Animal Testing.” Reuters News Service. 2008.
  5. Randerson, James. “.” The Guardian. 2008. Web.
  6. Schmidt Axel & Weber Olaf. “Animal Testing in Infectiology.” USA: Karger Publishers. 2001.
  7. .” Advameg Inc. 2008.
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