Historically, humans have used other animal entities for testing potential foods and medicine in order to gain insight on what may be appropriate for them. The Early man tested herbs by allowing his domesticated animals to eat them to find out whether the herbs were poisonous or not.
He also allowed his domesticated animals such as dogs to drink water from streams before he drank incase the waters were contaminated or poisonous. Progress towards the modern day in vivo testing or animal testing traces its origin to this practice by the Early man. Throughout man’s existence, the path towards progress has wrought the need for testing of various elements concerned with humanity’s existence on other non-human animals, and the results subsequently used to gauge the suitability of the tested substance on humans.
Medical researches on animals, animal testing, animal experimentation or in-vivo testing involve the use of live and living animals for medical experiments whose results are used for man’s beneficial purposes.
Many pharmaceutical firms, laboratories, farms, universities, medical schools and research centers breed animals of different species within their premises for experimentation purposes. Sometimes the animals used are captured from the wild and tested in the laboratories or customized environments depending on the purpose of a given experiment.
Modern day animal testing occurs in the fields of biomedicine, psychiatry and genetics. There are scientists and organizations that are against animal testing arguing that, such tests in the medical field render progress retrogressive. Such criticism is based on the notion that most results on animals cannot be extrapolated to humans; thus, such research is not only time wasting and misleading, but also unnecessarily cruel on animals, and should be outlawed.
However, much of the bio-medical, behavioral medicine, and medical genetics breakthroughs of the past century have been achieved due to animal testing/experimentation, and as such animal experimentation in medicine is beneficial and critical for human well being and progress.
Animal experimentation and bio-medical progress
Many of vaccines for various diseases, which previously led to the deaths of a large number of people in societies, in the past, were developed after first being tried on animals to test their efficacy.
Presently, researchers all over the world are busy trying to develop vaccines for contemporary diseases such as Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as HIV/AIDs and even cancer (Levinson and Reiss 12). These vaccines and other possible cures, true to humanity’s predisposition, will first be tested on animals such as rats and guinea pigs.
Vaccines developed in the past for diseases such as small pox, tetanus, polio and other such diseases, which caused the deaths and deformation of children in the past centuries, were developed after being rigorously tested on animals. Indeed, not only are these animal testing experiments necessary, but also highly critical for the continued sustenance of the human race. Researchers cannot simply begin trials on these vaccines on humans before intensive testing on animals shows their potential benefits when extended to humans.
The vaccines are subsequently subjected to rigorous trials with a small sample human population and then depending on the results, are approved for use on the general population (Levinson and Reiss 15). Therefore, due to experimentation with animals, researchers were able to develop vaccines for disease such as small pox, polio, chicken pox and other such diseases that would otherwise lead to much human death and suffering.
The treatment of diabetes with insulin was developed through research on dogs, from which insulin was first isolated. Thus, without the benefit of testing the efficacy of the vaccines on animals to begin with, humans would continue to suffer and die, and such medical breakthroughs would be achieved after a much longer period.
Presently, researchers are hard at work trying to develop a vaccine against cancer. Many trials on laboratory animals such as rats and guinea pigs are showing positive results, and thus with continued research a vaccine for one of modern day’s most devastating diseases may be found, and humanity will have made a significant medical breakthrough partly enabled by the legality and suitability of animal experimentation.
Animal Experimentation and Progress in Behavioral medicine: Psychology and Psychiatry
In the field of behavioral medicine, experimentation with animals has enabled for significance progress in the understanding of various mental states, mental diseases and other such psychological afflictions of humans. Through animal testing, behavioral scientists have been able to understand the mental functioning of the human brain, the stress triggers, pleasure points and other such weighty pointers that when properly understood by man can make him lead a more fulfilling and stress stressful life (Cunningham 20).
Experiments with lab animals such as rats provided psychologists with insights on the importance for personal space in reducing the probability of stress in people. This given research showed that whenever rats were housed in cubes that offered little personal space for movement and general activity, their stress levels went up, and the stress levels reduced accordingly when researchers reduce the number of rats within a cube.
A similar research with monkeys showed similar trends (Cunninghum19). This research lead to reforms in various places like offices, prisons, and classes, where officials concerned strived to create more space in order to reduce levels of stress in persons, in the various contexts mentioned.
Psychologists have also used animals to study the activity of the brain trough scanning the brains of various animals. Various practiced behavioral concepts, such as reinforcement and reward for positive behavior, and punishment for negative behavior, especially as concerns raising human children, trace their origins in experimentation with animals.
The famous Russian behavioral scientists Ivan Pavlov used dogs to explain the concept of classical conditioning, a seminal concept that enabled individuals to understand and explain their own behaviors and repetitive habits. Therefore, the field of behavioral sciences has made significant steps towards understanding the behavior of man due animal experimentation.
Animal Experimentation in Medical Genetics
In order to understand the human genetic arrangement, genetic diseases and conditions, scientists and researchers use animals, specifically the rat, whose genetic composition is most similar to that of man. Scientists have thus been able to study about the dangers of inbreeding, the benefits of early genetic testing to preclude certain genetic diseases that can be passed on from parents to their children, and better understand the gene-related behaviors and actions of humans.
Human understanding of genetics through testing in animals has enabled scientists to make progress in other scientific fields. For instance, through genetic manipulation of plant and crops, scientists have been able to grow drought resistant crops that can be used to feed people living in drought prone areas where food crops do not normally survive drought. Such crops thus feed thousands of people whom in the absence of selective breeding, would have suffered starvation and death, especially in developing countries.
Genetically modified foods are also used to feed populations throughout the world, filling a gap that would have existed had humanity chosen to rely on organic foods, which are dependent on the elements of nature only. Therefore, the study of medical genetics, via experimentation with animals, has enabled humanity to use this knowledge and extend it to other fields such as crop production, and the development of medicines extracted from genetically modified plants and animals.
The Alternative View
There are scientists, animal welfare organizations and other concerned parties who are of the view that medical research on animals is unethical, cruel and unnecessary and thus should be forbidden by law. Proponents of this view have launched various campaigns to highlight the cruelty that some animal species are subjected to in the human quest for medical knowledge and advancement (Doug 252).
Furthermore, these animal welfare organizations argue that animal life has intrinsic value and should thus not be sacrificed at the expense of human life, or human progress in medicine. Additionally, proponents of the banning of medical research on animals state that, the results of medical research on animals should not be extrapolated to humans, because human beings and animals are different, and a specified set of trial results on animals does not mean that similar results will be achieved in humans.
However, as discussed in this paper, these concerns and views of the proponents of the banning of medical research on humans need not take this rather extreme view that such research should be banned altogether.
The first concern concerning cruelty inflicted on these animals can be corrected through researchers being cautioned and trained in handling the animals in as gentle and painless manner as possible (Eckholm 25). The animals involved in such research can thus be given pain alleviating medicine, and incase the experiment procedure renders the animal life unviable afterwards, are euthanized in a painless and straightforward manner.
Concerning the extrapolation of animal experiments to human, this view is hardly supported by the numerous data and research results that show that results of medical experiments on animals have historically (and even in contemporary times) been successfully replicated in humans.
Medical research on animals has wrought numerous benefits to humanity. The medical fields of biomedicine, behavioral medicine and medical genetics have all progressed and recorded significant gains due to research first conducted on animals.
As discussed in this paper, the benefits of medical research on humanity far outweigh the concerns as stated by proponents of the outlawing of animal experimentation. Vaccines and treatment regimes for various diseases that previously led to the death of humans were all discovered through research on animals.
Currently, research on animals guides the attempt to find a vaccine or cure for cancer and AIDS. In the field of behavioral medicine, psychiatric diagnoses and evaluation, and a better understanding of the psychological functioning of the human brain have also benefited from animal experiment.
Research on genetics in animals has also enabled humans to prevent certain genetic diseases from being spread to human offspring from the parents, and such research has also been extended to plants, leading to the growth of appropriate plant species for to sustain human life even in areas with harsh climates.
Therefore, medical research on animals should be encouraged, and the concerns of those holding an alternative view should be applied only to the extent that such concerns permit the unhindered continuation of such research, because as discussed in this paper such research is vital for human survival and progress.
Cunningham, Paul. “Animals in Psychology Education and Student Choice.” Society & Animals magazine, 2000: 19-21.
Doug, Brandon. “Human Rights, Animal Wrongs? Exploring Attitudes toward Animal Use and Possibilities for Change.” Society & Animals 18.3 (2010): 251-272.
Eckholm, Erik. “Special to the New York Times: Tests that spare animals reported.” New York Times 02 Feb. 1986: 25.
Levinson, Ralph, and Michael Reiss. Key Issues in Bioethics: A guide for Teachers. London: New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2003.