All the gains of science and technology that we are all enjoying today would not have been possible without the use of animals for testing in laboratories worldwide. Millions of animals undergo different kinds of testing on an annual basis.
From medicines to cosmetics to lotions, animals are involved. The concept of animal testing by scientists is a contentious issue that has sparked controversies on both sides. The reality is that there are merits and demerits to the practice, and they will be examined in this article.
Advantages of Animal Testing in Laboratories for Experiments
Benefit for Greater Good
Proponents of animal testing have consistently argued that all the advances in science due to animal testing have been tremendously beneficial to animals and human beings. They insist that the quality of life has been improved. Because of animal testing, we now have life-saving vaccines, efficient surgical procedures, cancer treatments and other noble discoveries.
The argument here is that the benefit for all humans is more than the pain that a rabbit or guinea pig will feel from a few jabs. According to the California Biomedical Research Association, practically all the advances in medicine in the past century were made possible because of the lab testing using animals.
Treatment of conditions like tuberculosis, breast cancer, leukemia, brain trauma, cystic fibrosis, and even the design of heart valves and pacemakers would have been impossible without testing them on animals and seeing the outcomes first.
Safety of Vaccines
The sudden onslaught on the global population by the coronavirus pandemic showed the importance of an effective vaccine. But vaccines cannot be deemed safe and effective if they have not been tested on animals like genetically-modified rats.
This testing is necessary to confirm that the vaccine itself will not trigger the virus in the wrong direction. Scientists agree that a vaccine cannot be used on humans without prior testing extensively on animals.
Scientists say animal testing in the labs makes sense because animals share a lot with humans in genetic composition. For example, chimpanzees share as much as 99% of their genetic composition with human beings and as for mice, they clock in at an impressive 98%.
They argue that it only makes scientific sense to do animal testing since we all came from the same evolutionary ancestor. That way, more human lives are saved.
Proponents of animal testing say that only animals can be used when ethical considerations or even legislations make it impossible to do testing on human beings. A good illustration is when doing testing for the possible toxicity of a drug.
It is considered unethical to do the initial testing on humans without examining the toxicity level in animals first. The same thing goes for procedures involving genetic manipulation and controversial techniques like euthanasia.
Many countries explicitly ban using human beings during testing for such sessions and the scientists are left with no other option but make use of animals in the laboratories.
Animals Also Benefit
Researchers say that vaccines that have been developed from animal testing have also been extensively beneficial to the animals in their millions. Animals are given vaccines for diseases like infectious hepatitis virus, rabies, canine parvovirus, anthrax, tetanus, and many others.
Extra Research on Animals
Scientists also believe that animal testing in laboratories also offers a great opportunity to study other things about animals. The systems and even reproductive cycles of animals can be studied. Things beyond the scope of the initial testing itself can be discovered and used to benefit humanity.
Disadvantages of Animal Testing in Laboratories for Experiments
One of the most remarkable points used in the argument against the practice is that it causes unnecessary harm, pain, and cruelty to the animals. Advocates of animal rights like PETA have argued intensely that using animals for lab testing is a form of discrimination.
They vociferously rail that it is just making the animals suffer without basis and that animals deserve dignity and respect too. Some others say that it is morally wrong and that using animals for testing is the same as depriving them of their desires and freedom to life.
Advocates like the Humane Society International state that animals are made to undergo incredible torture in the name of testing. The organization argues that animals routinely being made to undergo water/food deprivation, force-feeding, burns, injuries (when testing healing substances) is condemnable.
They also point to the direct application of pain when researching pain relief drugs. It lists decapitation, breaking of necks, and killing using gases as some of the torture-inducing methods utilized in lab testing.
Advocates of animal rights insist that using animals to carry out drug testing does not guarantee the medications’ safety. They cite an example using thalidomide, which was used in the 1950s by pregnant women. The drug led to severe deformities in thousands of babies. This was even though it was tested on animals before it was released commercially for the public. The lab tests on animals like pregnant rats and hamsters could not indicate the possibility of congenital disabilities in humans. Using an example like this, animal rights activists insist that scientists are just punishing the animals for nothing.
Waste of Resources
Animal welfare activists point out that animal testing does not come cheap. Taking care of animals in the laboratory or even having to get them from the wild in the first place and all the logistics involved can be costly.
Opponents of animal testing have denounced the practice as a needless waste of funds. They argue that the money used in practice can be diverted to other beneficial uses.
Lack of Applicability
Opponents of the practice insist that a vast majority of animal testing results in the laboratories are practically useless as they cannot be applied to human beings. They point to studies from researchers and denounce the entire process as a massive waste of intellectual energy.