Ethics of Animal Research: Balancing Benefits and Harm
Within this essay, I will research the theme 'Should animals be used for research: argumentative essay' and investigate the uses of animal testing within the cosmetic industry as well as in other fields, such as testing for medical products, smoking experiments, military tests, sex experiments, and household products. I will interview a medical student and ask him questions regarding animal testing as my primary research as well as using the internet as my secondary research to back up my statements.
Animal testing is a term used to describe the procedures performed on animals to gather information for biology, testing the ingredients for new medical products, and diseases, and testing for home products such as household cleaners and cosmetics. All the procedures have the potential to cause the animal many severe implications and in some cases death. Some more common procedures are genetic manipulation; behavioral experiments designed to cause discomfort; infliction of pain to be studied and treated; prolonged periods of physical restraint as well as food and water deprivation.
A variety of animals are used for animal testing, with the most common being fish, guinea pigs, mice, rats, and rabbits. In some countries, non-human primates such as monkeys and chimpanzees will be used within the testing stage. According to worldwide data, over 115 million animals worldwide are used in laboratory experiments annually. Only a small proportion of countries collect and publish data in regard to animal testing and research, with up to 90% of animals being used in laboratories within the USA being excluded from official statistics, therefore meaning that the figures published by the US Department of Agriculture are substantially underestimating the actual figures in regard to animals being used within laboratory testing. According to hsi.org, over 12 million animals are used within the testing field in laboratories within the European Union, with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom as the top three animal-using countries. British statistics quote the usage of over 3 million animals per year, however, this number does not consider any animals being specifically bred for research purposes and killed as ‘surplus’ without being used for any specific experimental procedures. These animals still endure poor living conditions in the sterile laboratory environment, but their lives are not recorded as official statistics.
Drug and chemical safety assessments have been based upon laboratory testing of rodents, rabbits, dogs, and other animals for over a century. In addition to obvious ethical issues about testing, and the infliction of both physical and psychological pain and distress, animal tests are restricted in the number of substances that can be tested and provide very little understanding of how the chemicals behave in the body. In many cases, data and statistics gathered from animal testing cannot be correctly projected onto real-world human reactions to the same product, which has led to questioning of the relevance of research aimed at recreating human diseases in a laboratory by artificially creating symptoms of illnesses. Artificially creating symptoms in mice, dogs or monkeys has major scientific research limitations which have still yet to be overcome. For example, very often the symptoms and responses seen within the animal species are incredibly different to the reactions that human patients will have to the same product. Due to this, 90% of candidate medicines that appear safe within animal studies fail when given to humans, according to hsi.org. These failures within drug research are because of irrelevant animal models that lead to a delay in medical progress, waste of resources, and risk to the health and safety of volunteers within clinical trials. Surely this is enough of a reason in itself to stop animal testing for testing drugs?
Alternatives to animal testing have been proposed by the National Research Council in the USA, in which virtually all routine toxicity testing would be conducted on human cells. This proposed view has been backed by multiple science leaders around the world. A revolutionary change within the biology industry has been sparked by the growth of computer power and robot automation of cell-based screening systems. These methods can help uncover exactly how chemicals and drugs will disrupt normal processes within the human body with cells and molecules, after which scientists can use computer data to interpret the data and input it with human and population-level studies. These predictions will be more relevant to the real world than animal tests when referencing human health and safety.
One example of animal testing providing very little progress within the medical health industry is asthma. Over 300 million people globally suffer from asthma, yet there are only two types of treatment that have become available within the last 50 years. Over a thousand potential drugs for stroke have been tested within animals, but only one of these has proven effective when transferred to human patients, and this pattern has been identified within research to multiple other major human illnesses. Already, modern non-animal testing techniques are reducing and taking place of experiments on animals. Within the European Union, there is a “3 R’s” principle of replacement, reduction, and refinement of animal experiments as a legal requirement. Currently, there are no legal imperatives in other parts of the world, which leaves scientists free to use animals for testing even when it is appropriate and available to use alternative methods of testing that do not involve animals. Despite the growing evidence of animal testing being unreliable, the scientific community has based animal testing as a default method of testing for years, and globally there is a lack of in-depth knowledge and expertise of non-animal testing techniques. HSI is globally attempting to encourage scientists and policy-makers to transition away from animal usage within testing and aims to help connect experts within alternative methods of testing to improve the quality of research by replacing animals within a laboratory.
Some say that since we have been using animal testing for centuries and the amount of medical progress that has been made, animal testing is necessary. However, reports and studies have shown that using other forms of testing that do not include the use of animals proves to be more beneficial. Some independent scientific studies, it has shown that using animals to carry out research has shown poor correlation to human patients. Data research shows that animal studies fail to anticipate human results by 50 to 99% of cases. This happens because other species suffer the same effects as humans from the same diseases found in the human body and in other disease research, they rely heavily on animal products that have the potential to delay medical developments instead of enhancing them. For many non-animal-based alternatives such as EpiDerm, cell-based research provides more reliant results for human-compatible tests and is also faster compared to using animal-based experiments.
More examples of testing on animals are using rats and mice for sex experiments, the animals have the skin on their penises cut off and their genitalia are stimulated using an electrical pulse. After this, they are killed, and their penises are dissected and used for studies. In other tests, experimenters locked female mice into restraint devices and drilled holes into their skulls so that they could burn lesions into their brains. Following this, the females were presented with urine samples from both castrated and non-castrated male mice, and recorded the amount of time they spent sniffing each using sample was recorded. Following these tests, all mice were killed and dissected. Another animal-based test is for use of the military, the military every year shoot, stab and kill over 10,000 live animals in training exercises. Not only do animals have these tests carried out on them, but they also have smoking experiments carried out on them by tobacco companies like R.J Reynolds. Monkeys and dogs have smoke pumped through their noses for hours throughout the day, this causes their skin to flake and peel and their eyes become sore and ooze.
Rabbits are one of the most frequent animals to be tested on due to them being easy to handle and their laid-back temperament and are reported that more than 160,000 rabbits are used in laboratories across the USA each year. These tests consist of having cosmetics and household cleaners such as drain cleaners and washing up liquid poured onto their skin which causes swelling; redness; discharge and in some cases hemorrhaging. Rabbits are also still used for the Draize eye irritancy test which can leave the rabbits blind. However, in the European Union, India and Israel have banned any product/s that have been tested on animals for sale to the public. Furthermore, there has been no ban on cosmetics or household products that have been tested on animals for sale to consumers in the USA.
To gather more information and research on my topic as well as another opinion, I contacted a medical student, James Beattie from Imperial College London studying life science, and asked him some questions on animal testing and his opinion on the matter.
Q: What are your thoughts on animal testing and do you think it is necessary?
A: “I Believe animal testing is to some extent cruel, due to animals living a sole existence in a laboratory. I do however think animal testing is necessary until an alternative is found. Large amounts of animals die during testing for instance during the testing of Bordetella pertussis vaccines for residual pertussis toxin ≈47700 mice were used. I do believe the methods employed in the UK are satisfactory in terms of being painless. N2 asphyxiation is the optimum method due to it does not cause stress due to it is impossible to detect as there is no biological response to high levels of N2 as the atmosphere is 70% N2. Co2 methods do cause reactions from living organisms due to it being a waste product of normal respiratory function, typically panicked reactions occur due to the build-up of carboxylic acid (caused by Co2 and water mixing) causing a burning sensation in the organism.”
Based upon my findings from my primary research interview with James, I understand that animal testing has discovered lifesaving medication within the field, however, I disagree with his point about it being necessary to use animals to test on. There has been proven research and benefits in using alternative methods to test for medicine in replace of using animals. For example, irritation and skin corrosivity can efficiently be tested and measured using EpiDerm. EpiDerm is a copy of human skin epithelium. It is also “a variety of sophisticated, computer-based Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship (QSAR) models that predict skin corrosivity and irritation by means of correlating a new drug or chemical with its likely activity, properties, and effects with classification accuracy between 90 and 95 percent.”
Not only is there proven research in using alternative methods in place of animals but there are multiple benefits of using non-animal-based testing. A few benefits are scientific tests using alternative methods which have shown to be more reliable compared to using animals. “For example, experiments on rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, monkeys, and baboons revealed no link between glass fibers and cancer. Only after human studies related the two did the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) label these fibers as carcinogenic. EpiDerm, an in vitro test derived from cultured human skin cells, was found to be more accurate in identifying chemical skin irritants than traditional animal tests. In comparison studies, EpiDerm correctly detected all the test chemicals that irritate human skin, while tests on rabbits misclassified 10 out of 25 test chemicals—a full 40% error rate.”
Not only is using non-animal methods for testing more ethical, but it is also more cost-effective as well as more practical. Synthetic skin can administer the results to the chemical corrosivity test in under 3 minutes, up to four hours less compared to using animal-based methods with can take between two to four weeks. DakDak is an alternative test used to assess the effectiveness of sun creams. This method takes only days to complete whereas, it would take the animal-based study months to complete and it is estimated that this method can test five to six products/ingredients for less it would cost to test a single product using an animal-based method. Using an animal-based test can take up to five years for one product and cost millions in the process whereas, using non-animal-based tests such as EpiDerm can allow the experimenters to test hundreds of products; chemicals; ingredients in the space of a week for a fraction of the price.
Q: What is the laws on animal testing and do you agree with them?
A: “Laws on animal testing vary from country to country, I think the EU has the right approach by making any research go through an ethics committee to make sure if this necessary evil must be carried out in a controlled manner.”
In response to James’s answer, I do not agree with his statement. I do not agree that using animals to carry out research on and use them for tests is ethically justifiable. How is causing unnecessary harm to innocent living beings ethically right? Research stating non-animal-based tests are more reliable to gather better human-compatible results, more cost-effective, and better for the environment. The laws in the UK state that it is legal to use animals for testing within the medical field to test for new drugs and ingredients this comes under The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act which got passed through Parliament in 1968 and is overlooked by the Home Office. In fact, Britain was the first country to legalize the law of regulating research that is performed on animals.
However, since 2013 it is against the law to sell cosmetics or any imported cosmetics that are tested on animals within the European Union. Within the Act. it states that the animals that are tested on must be treated with care and respect and that the laboratories have regular checks to make sure all the rules within the Act are being carried out fully, with an estimated 1,000 Home Office inspections being made each year. Any animal that is under serve distress which cannot be handled with medication will be killed straight away even if the tests have not been completed.
However, this is not the case. Often animals are thrown back into their cages without any medicine to help with the pain they are in due to the tests that were performed on them. Many undercover protesters impose as experimenters and report animals being dragged from their cages to have injections, blood tests, and even surgery performed on them with some dying as a result. This often happens in front of all the other animals in the room and see the animal, in some cases, dies right in front of them. I do not find this to show care or respect for the animals, as they are being used as if their only purpose is for testing.
After examining my research findings and concluding my interview with James Beattie, I have come to my own conclusion that it is not necessary to test on animals for the development of research, and the theme 'animal testing should be banned: argumentative essay' is very important for our society. There have been several case studies to prove that using non-animal methods of testing has proved more reliable compared to using animals. I believe the UK is in the right direction with the laws in place to protect animals however, I believe there is no need to use animals to test pharmaceuticals as EpiDerm has an extensive amount of research behind it stating it is more reliable than using animals to test on. I do see the point of view that for many years science has made some breakthroughs with the use of animal testing, however, within the 21st century there are more alternatives companies can use that will, in my opinion, be more ethically source-able, environmentally friendly and more humane that will not allow the animals to suffer.
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