The use of animals in research and scientific experimentation (vivisection) dates back to the early years of the 19th century (Matfield 149). Vivisection is a subject of heated debates among proponents and opponents who agree on certain aspects and disagree on others. The number of animals used in research has increased over the years and has raised concerns among animal rights activists. During research, animals are killed, poisoned, shocked, restrained, and starved to achieve the desired outcomes (Haugen 34).
Proponents argue that the use of animals in research should be encouraged because it leads to breakthroughs in the medical field and helps in the improvement of human health and welfare. In addition, they argue that animal welfare laws prevent mistreatment of animals. On the other hand, opponents argue that the practice should be illegalized because it is inhuman and unethical, outdated due to the existence of alternative methods, and poorly regulated since majority of the animals used are not protected by animal welfare legislation.
Animal research dates back to the 19th century and debates regarding its ethical implications began in the year 1874 (Matfield 149). Since then, the practice has elicited heated debates in various fields. Today, more than 100 million animals undergo vivisection in science laboratories around the world (Haugen 34). This number is on the rise and varies from country to country. For instance, in the United Kingdom, 11 million animals undergo vivisection every year. Common species used include rats, rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, dogs, and fish that are obtained from breeding programs or populations of stray animals.
Animal research should be illegal because it is unethical and inhumane (Kolar 119). Animals used in experiments undergo painful experiences such as deprivation of water and food, injection with drugs and chemicals, physical restraint, death, isolation, and shock (Newton 49). These activities are immoral because animals have rights that should be respected and protected (Sunstein 390). Test animals suffer greatly because the artificial environment in laboratories is usually manipulated and does not match the conditions present in the animals’ natural habitats (Sunstein 390). Additionally, the environment does not provide the necessary conditions that animals need to function optimally.
The cages used to hold animals during breeding and testing are usually small and therefore restrict their movements. Restricted movement causes boredom that encourages aggression and antisocial behaviors. Finally, the housing structures that contain the animals are so small that overcrowding and isolation are common occurrences (Newton 50). Mistreatment of test animals is one of the strongest arguments in favor of the illegalization of animal research.
Second, cheaper and more reliable methods that can be used as alternatives to animal research exist (Matfield 150). For instance, the development of in vitro testing enables scientists to get more accurate results because human cells can be used in research. One of the major benefits of non-animal test methods is that they are cheaper, safer, more accurate and more humane than using animals. Other alternatives to animal research include advanced computer-modeling techniques, human-patient simulators and volunteer human models (Newton 52).
Findings from several research studies have shown that research involving non-animal test subject is effective, reliable, and cheap. Animals and humans are incompatible as shown from the findings of past studies that developed drugs that were unfit for humans even though they were safe for animals during research.
Third, animal research is ineffective because of the huge differences between the bodies of animals and humans (Haugen 43). Therefore, animals make poor test subjects and lead to development of ineffective drugs. The incompatibility between animals and humans is the main reason why advanced scientists have abdicated animal research in favor of alternative methods. On the other hand, the use of animals is expensive and produces misleading results in certain instances.
A major drawback of using animals is that researchers might dismiss some chemicals prematurely because they cause complications in animals and as a result assume that they are unsafe for humans (Newton 63). This makes scientists ignore potential medical breakthroughs that could have been discovered had the chemicals been used on non-animal test subjects.
Proponents of animal research argue that it has led to great medical breakthroughs, improved human health and welfare, and is ethical because the rights of animals are protected by various animal welfare laws such as the Animal Welfare Act. Research has shown that approximately 95% of animals used in experimentation are not protected by animal welfare legislation. For example, the Animal Welfare Act does not cover animals such as birds, fish, mice, and rats that are among the most commonly used in experiments (Newton 55).
As mentioned earlier, animal test subjects do not produce reliable results because animals and humans have different morphologies and physiologies. Many drugs produced during research later turn out to be unsafe for human use. Research using animals is more expensive than non-animal test methods and produces flawed results in many cases. Moreover, it is unethical because scientists work in seclusion and break animal welfare laws in order to conduct experiments in ways that produce the desired results (Kolar 120). The argument that animal research has led to great medical breakthroughs is flawed because the breakthroughs could have been achieved with non-animal test subjects. Therefore, the use of animals in unnecessary and should be illegalized.
Animal research has elicited public debates since its commencement in the early years of the 19th Century. It has attracted opposing sides because of the different arguments presented for and against it. Proponents support the practice because they are poorly informed and ignore numerous facts. Animal research should be illegal because it is unethical and inhumane, it does not include effective legislation to protect the rights of animals, alternative test methods are available, it is expensive, and results in flawed results due to the differences between human and animal bodies. Technological advancements have led to the development of non-animal test objects that are cheaper and more reliable than using animals as test subjects.
Haugen, David 2007. Animal Experimentation. New York: Greenhaven Press. Web.
Kolar, Roman. “Animal Experimentation.” Science and Engineering Ethics 12 (2006): 111-122. Print.
Matfield, Mark. “Animal Experimentation: The Continuing Debate.” Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 1 (2002): 149-152. Print.
Newton, David. The Animal Experimentation Debate: A Reference Handbook. New York: ABC-CLIO. Google Scholar. Web.
Sunstein, Cass. “The Rights of Animals.” The University of Chicago Law Review. 70.1 (2003): 387-401. ProQuest. Web.