Animal Testing for Medical Purposes

Animal testing, also known as animal research is the use of living animals for experimentation. Despite the central role that animals has played in the past in the medical field, it time that such experimentation and test be halted and researcher look for alternatives. This is because the practice is inhumane, inconclusive, it has been overtaken by new technology and in most cases it results in failure especially during human trials.

Animal testing dates back to early civilization in Greek. Scientist such as Aristotle and Galen used live animals experiments, although these experiments were done to gain more understanding about the animals that were being used. (Arondsen) Mid 1800’s marked the begging of modern era in animal research as scientists began making medical tests on animals. The functioning of the nervous system and the cardiovascular system were some of the first discoveries to be made through these initial experiments.

Today, over 70 million animals, which includes mice, chimpanzees, rhesus macaques, zebra fish and baboon are used each year for experimentation purposes worldwide (Stein). In the medical fields, experiments on animals are used for diagnosis and treatment of cancer and testing new surgical techniques. New vaccines and medicines are first tested on animals before they are used by humans. Most antibodies used in diagnosis of human diseases are produced in animals.

Animal can never be equated to human being. This is because; there are chemicals which are toxic to human but not to animals and vice versa. As such; test on animals may never give correct results of how human being will react to exposure to certain chemicals. According to Charles Magel, “animal experimentation results on logical contradiction because the animal are not like use” (Cass R. Sunstein) This makes animal test to be always inconclusive, compared to those medical test that are done on human subjects over a long period of time. A pointing case is the 2004 Vioxx drug Scandal.

The drug, an arthritis treatment, had to be pulled from the market after it was found to have led to an estimated 150,000 heart attacks and strokes including over 60,000 deaths in United States. (Pippin) This is despite the fact that at least eight successive studies had been done in six different animal species before the introduction of the drug to the market. These initial tests had shown that Vioxx was safe and beneficial, for protection from blood Vessel and heart diseases.

In yet another medical research in 2005, Italian scientist used 1, 800 rats to test the effects of aspartame, a chemical used as sweetener in soft drinks and food products. They found that the chemical causes leukemia in rats. These results triggered a major consternation on the safety of aspartame to human which led to the intervention of scientist from National Cancer Institute to conduct a study on over 600,000 people across the world. The study found that Aspartame does not cause leukemia in human. The fact is human beings don’t function like animals and medical test on animals will most likely be unsuccessful during human trials (Pippin)

Out of the 70 million animals used in experimentation annually, at least 10 percent are subjected to painful experiments without receiving painkillers. (Stein)It is not morally permissible to cause pain to another living creature, as pain is an intrinsic evil. According to Jeremy Bentham, 19th century animal welfare activist, the “Morally relevant question about animal is not whether they can talk and reason, but can they suffer?” (Velasquez) During these tests and experimentation, animals feel pain and suffer at the hands of researchers because they have a nervous system just like humans. In essence, pain, whether experienced by an adult, a child or an animal, is an inherent evil. It is wrong to inflict pain on animals in the name of medical test.

The lives of all creatures have value in many different ways and as such are worthy of respect. According to Sri Aurobindo, “life is life, whether in a cat, a dog or man. There is no difference between a cat and man” (Cass R. Sunstein) The right to be treated with dignity and respect doesn’t depend on the creature’s ability to reason. Despite the fact that an insane person may not be able to act in rationale manner, he/she has a right to be treated with dignity and respect. In the same manner, respect can never be restricted to certain species, as doing so lead to injustice. Being a subject of life, animals have their own experiences, interest and preference, just like human beings. As such, justice demands that their interest be respected in every possible way. (Velasquez)

Those who support medical tests and experimentation on animals claim that halting such test will put an end to the much needed scientific progress. But it is important to note at this early stage that 90 percent of medical test performed on animal usually fails during human trials. These disappointing results on human are never reported to the general public. As such, the public is left with false impression that all animal tests produce positive benefits to human. Other tests are performed out of curiosity as scientist look for results that might be of benefit to human. (Pippin)

Every year, billions of dollars are used on animal testing despite the availability of modern testing methods that produces more benefits than animal research. According to Cardiologist, John Pippin, “An enormous cost in dollars and in lives has come from the reliance on animals test in cancer research” Alternative research method such as the use of cell cultures is known to be more accurate and effective especially in vaccines production.

Studies have shown that Vaccines and hormones manufactured through cell culturing are more pure than those made in animals. The net effect is that, animals are not needed to test for safety check of such vaccines. Netherlands has successfully used cell culture technique to produce vaccines and no longer rely on use of monkey in production of polio vaccine. With more funding in the field of cell culture, knowledge about the human body cells will definitely increase without the use of animals. (Arondsen)

Another alternative to animal testing is the use of imaging. Imaging is the use of advanced technology like Gamma and Magnetic Resonance imaging camera combined with ultra sound and X-ray to get detailed pictures from within a body without surgery. With Imaging, the results are far much better and more reliable than animal testing. According to a Sweden professor who have been making use of the X-ray and Ultra sound “Less sophisticated imaging technology is often used giving better results than animals testing” (Arondsen)Besides, animal testing results in limited information compared to imaging which results in a greater amount of information.

The fact that many medical breakthroughs have been made possible as a result of animal testing cannot be ignored. But with the availability of new technology and more accurate alternatives, it is time that the use of animal in medical testing is banned.

The use of animals is inhumane as they undergoes through a lot of pain, this is despite the provision of many legislation aimed at preventing cruelty and unnecessary pain to animals. Most of the successive test on animals tend to fail when human are used. Technological advancement has led to more accurate alternative methods likes imaging and use of cell cultures. In countries like Netherlands where new technological alternatives have been adopted, the results have been far much better than animal testing. It is the high time that all countries and research institution halt the use of animal in medical testing and make use of the available alternatives.

Works Cited

Arondsen, Thomassen Marte and Tonje. “Animal Testing in Medical research.” Scanden Medical Journal (2007): 9-15.

Cass R. Sunstein, Martha C. Nussbaum. Animal Rights. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Pippin, John. “Artificial Sweetener Studies Underscore Risk of Relying on Animal Testing.” 2006. News and Media Center. Web.

Stein, Roxanne. “Clinical trials: animal testing, progress or pain.” 2008. Web.

Velasquez, Claire Andre and Manuel. “Of Cures and Creatures Great and Small.” Journal of Apllied Ethics (1998): 6-11.

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