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  • Writer's pictureKaaya Sharma

Animal experimentation: unethical or necessary?

Animal experimentation is highly prevalent in contemporary society. It is commonly used for behavioral experiments, to study anatomy, and to test the safety of vaccines, antibiotics, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, and other medical and commercial uses. Generally, anything potentially dangerous to humans is often tested on animal subjects first to dismiss those risks.


Proponents believe that animal experimentation is extremely valuable and essential to the overall safety and health of both humans and animals, that there is no other way to research and advance as a society, and that there are strict laws and regulations already in place to prevent laboratory animals from being mistreated. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the way the scientists conduct these experiments is unethical, inhumane, and torturous for the animals involved, that researchers can use alternative methods to conduct their experiments, and that these experiments usually offer no benefit since animals are so different from humans. Let's explore both sides of this highly contested issue and decide for ourselves.

Understanding the 3R's

Animal experimentation has been a practice performed for a long time. However, as this type of research has become more and more popular, so have criticism's about it due to ethical and safety concerns. The 3R’s principle was first introduced in 1959 by two English biologists, Russel and Burch, in their book “The Principle of Humane Experimental Technique''. It is crucial to have a good understanding of the 3R's before formulating a concrete opinion on animal experimentation. This is because the 3R’s are now the underlying ethical guiding principles considered before using any animals for laboratory experimentation. At its most basic, the 3R's stand for replacement, reduction, and refinement.


Replacement: This principle urges scientists to avoid or replace the use of animals by using alternative methods to get similar results. This norm in the scientific community pushes scientists to continue seeking and developing experimentation techniques that are safer and more ethical.


Reduction: In case animal experimentation is deemed absolutely necessary, this principle encourages scientists to use the absolute minimum number of animals required to conduct the research. This precept prevents a large number of animals from undergoing the stress and discomfort of a laboratory environment when it is simply not required.


Refinement: This principle strives to continue changing the way scientists conduct experiments as more and more concerns about the ethics of animal experimentation develop. The goal is to create the most ethical environment for animals, where they are as comfortable as possible and undergo the least amount of distress, pain, or suffering.


Arguments For Animal Experimentation

The biggest argument for animal experimentation is that the research benefits outweigh any harm experienced by the animals being tested. Animal experimentation has played a crucial role in allowing scientists to make life-changing discoveries that have saved numerous lives. For example, animals used in research commonly play a big role in discovering the causes, effects, and treatments for various diseases or viruses. Similarly, animal experimentation creates safe vaccines, antibiotics, and drugs used to treat life-threatening pathogens and medical concerns. According to the National Research Council, more than 20 million animals are used annually in the United States to advance biomedical research and testing.


In addition, many argue that there are not many other alternatives as effective and precise as the use of animals in medical experiments. Generally, animals used in experiments are anatomically and genetically similar to humans. For example, we share approximately 99% of our genes with rats and mice. This increases the reliability of animal testing significantly, especially for testing the safety and effectiveness of various products and treatments.


Arguments Against Animal Experimentation

Animal experimentation faces much criticism as well. Many advocates against animal experimentation argue that the conditions in which scientists test these animals are unethical and inhumane. Experimentation often includes poking animals with sharp instruments, storing them in small, unsanitary cages, exposing them to toxic chemicals, diseases, and viruses, and feeding them low-quality nutritious meals. Animals are subjected to grave loneliness, pain, and fear. They often lose their limbs, eyesight, and hearing or are either purposefully or accidentally killed in the process.


In addition, many argue that animal experimentation is very wasteful, inefficient, and not worth the amount of animal lives being taken. According to Humane Society International, almost 115 million animals are used for experimentation and testing every year worldwide. At the same time, it is estimated that 95 out of 100 drugs that perform successfully in animals actually fail to work in humans. With these kinds of statistics, many wonder if it's really worth sentencing millions of animals for experimentation when the majority of the time, no useful research or treatment is actually found.


What do you think?

Are the 3R's principles enough to hold scientists accountable when performing animal experiments? Would it be a better use of time, money, and effort to fund other research methods and initiatives? Are animal experiments necessary to get good quality products and treatments? These are the questions we must answer for ourselves before coming up with any solutions. Animal testing is extremely valuable and saves countless lives, but it is at the cost of innocent animals who can neither give consent nor voice their opinions. In the end, both sides seem to have valid and compelling arguments, but the ultimate decision lies within ourselves and the values we uphold. What do you think?

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