Essay About Using Animals for Medical Research

This is a short essay about using animals for medical research. It is deliberately written in a straightforward, simplified style and is for students. Visitors are free to use it as they wish under a creative commons license.

Animal testing is controversial. It divides the opinions of people. In North America about 60% of people are for it while in the United Kingdom about 40% believe it is acceptable.

Essay on animal testing
Essay on animal testing
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment written by visitors. It is a way visitors can contribute to animal welfare without much effort and no financial cost. Please comment. It helps this website too which at heart is about cat welfare.

Using animals for medical research is widespread. There are an estimated 100 million experiments worldwide annually. In the UK, nearly all experiments are done on mice, rats, fish and birds. However, cats, dogs and rabbits are often used. Some people trade in unwanted pets for use at laboratories.

The reason for animal testing is dubious but the fact that animal testing happens a lot tells us that it is generally accepted by people despite opposition by a large minority.

The reason why it is accepted is because people believe they are superior to animals and therefore animals should serve people. The animal cannot claim or demand rights. It is in the power of people to grant rights to animals and at present, in the interests of human health, people desire to limit the rights of animals. Obviously animals do not consent to being used for medical research.

Using animals for medical research has resulted in many advances in human medicine and treatments because animal anatomy is very similar to ours. Although recently it was found that research using mice may be unreliable.

Testing on animals has given people longer lives and helped in creating treatments for asthma (inhalers) and diabetes. These are just two examples of many.

However, asthma inhalers treat the symptoms of the illness while a greater focus should be on the underlying causes of asthma. Diabetes is on the increase. Perhaps the focus should be on changing human lifestyles to reduce diabetes rather than treating it which may encourage unhealthy lifestyles.

Medical advances are not automatically good for us because they can divert us from focusing on how to make the planet more healthy and to live more healthily. If there was a complete cure for lung cancer do you think people would stop smoking?

Also, are we living too long? Hospitals are full of very old, sick people who are kept alive through medicines and treatments created from animal testing. For example, research on mice has improved cancer survival rates.

However, are we able to afford to keep people alive longer and what about the quality of life? It is strange that people kept alive beyond a natural death are then often, quietly put to death by an overdose of morphine given by a nurse who knows exactly how much morphine is needed to kill a patient. This is accepted by everyone. We keep people alive and then kill them. What are we doing?

But let’s remind ourselves that medical research is a business. The driving force of animal testing laboratories is financial profit.  Is this a good reason for using animals in medical research? Medical research is not automatically a good thing. It needs to be used carefully. Also we are told that a lot of animal research could be done just as well without animals and that sometimes animal reactions to new treatments does not reflect how a human would react.

However, in favour of animal testing is the fact that, for example, hip replacement techniques have been improved using animal research. Animal testing does improve the lives of people.

People who are for using animals in medical research say that the benefits to people are so great it doesn’t make sense to stop it. There are numerous examples of the benefits to humankind. It is better than an animal suffers in testing than us through illness. Also, many veterinary medical advances are based on animal testing. They also say that it is carefully regulated and suffering is kept to an absolute minimum. People against it say that isn’t enough and from time to time whistleblowers reveal unethical behavior at animal testing laboratories. Scientists are not automatically ethical people.

People who are against it also say we have no right to use and abuse animals for our benefit because we are not superior to animals and in any case we are human-animals.

As stated this is a divisive and controversial subject. At present more people accept animal testing than reject it which is why it exists but is this state of affairs another example of human self-interest exploiting the planet for short term gain?

24 thoughts on “Essay About Using Animals for Medical Research”

  1. Hi Dee — I’m sure what you say is true: that she was a one-of-a-kind, inspirational teacher to many in your challenging – and harrowing – profession.

    As to your comment, Dr. Nuland also writes that the hope for a ‘good and peaceful death’ is usually a delusion. That dying, more often than not, is as bad as it gets.

    But then he goes and contradicts himself.

    In one of his chapters, he describes what violent death may be like. He writes about a little girl who was stabbed to death. Strangely, her expression as she bled to death was (to quote him) one of ‘surprise,’ not of ‘agony.’ Her heart kept beating throughout the attack, during which she was stabbed repeatedly. But even her mother who saw the event, instead of collapsing with heart failure fell into a momentary trance, as she described it afterwards – a quietude like the peace in the heart of a hurricane.

    The nature writer Loren Eiseley observed the same phenomenon in animals being torn to bits. I also saw a photo once in the Nat’l Geographic of a wildebeest calf gazing off into the distance and standing peacefully still as lions clung to its back, sinking in their claws and fangs. The calf, read the caption, was out of it, ‘benumbed by shock.’ Have also read stories of soldiers who in the heat of combat feel no pain when they’re blown apart.


    You would know about this (though it’s all a Rosetta Stone to me): Dr. Nuland wrote that endorphins are a natural morphine released into the bloodstream when the wounds or illness are mortal – or nearly mortal, as in the case of shock. A small mercy, if it’s true. But I’m not convinced.

    As his life neared its end, I saw my father struggling to breathe, and ran into the corridor, yelling for a nurse. A few seconds later, my brain slid into a twilight-haze, a near-painless detachment as he lay drowning. So maybe this hormone lessens suffering? Don’t know that it did a thing for him, but what was left of my mind was deadened by ‘Nature’s Novocain’ – whatever it was. Which wore off the moment he died.

  2. Michael: You missed my satire. I deliberately said ‘what are they GOOD for’ to go after Dee who dismissed birds as being ‘omly USEFUL’ for killing off bugs and weeds. I deplore the use of animals.
    Dee – I suspected you were telling off someone – that you, too, for all your love for cats (which I share) have a hard time to see them kill their prey.

    As for EKR: I was interested in your quotation and your comments re how much you enjoyed her lecture years ago. Unfortunately, I’m unable to add much to this. I read only one of her books ‘way back when,’ and she came across as a brilliant thanatologist – likely the foremost in her field. Can only, therefore, tell you what little else I know or have read about her, which is next to nothing.

    In the latter years of her career, her colleagues said she became fascinated with what they dismissed as ‘paranormal phenomena.’ I.e., she claimed to be ‘in touch’ with her patients who had died. Who knows? — maybe she was. But it caused a loss of confidence in her credibility as a scientist.

    I also read that she became extremely irritable and unhappy in her old age. For which who could blame her?

    Final comment: I would strongly disrecommend her work as advisable reading for anyone losing a family member. When my father was dying, I checked out two of her books from the library: photo-essays, b & w close-ups of her patients, all of whom looked gruesome in their suffering. Gruesome, that is, to a layperson, though the sight might not have bothered a health care professional. Whether or not, I was sickened by the photos. In my opinion, anyone already grieving over the suffering and impending death of a family member should give EKR a wide berth. Even her one book I read was ghastly: I still remember a passage describing the ’emesis’ oozing from the mouth of a corpse. And, again, the photos – given my state of mind when I saw them – were as bad or worse than photos of Hitler’s camps.

    I’m only, however, describing my own reaction to her books, which isn’t meant to demean her lifetime of caring and kindness in working with the dying.

    c fou

    fect), and glad to hear your heart isn’t stone.
    Re Eliz. Kubler Ross: I was interested in your coment

    • Thanks, Sylvia.
      No harm intended.

      We can just agree to differ in our opinions of EKR.

      I saw her from the healthcare prospective and learned a lot from her about helping dying patients make a peaceful transition.
      She never discarded the grief that family members were experiencing, but her focus was on the patient themselves. They were the ones that were dying.

      To you and, I’m sure many others, some pictures would be gruesome.
      All I can really say is that I’ve seen a lot of death, and it’s not good most of the time.
      Cancer patients, in particular, waste away and suffer so.

  3. Dr. Ross, who didn’t adjust to old age very well, had often written that cancer was nature’s way of flushing out the old to make room for the new. In his book How We Die, Dr. Sherwin Nuland, a scholar who could write, said the same: we see death as an ‘aberration’ to be overcome.

    His description of metastasis is stark. It’s tragic when cancer carries off children and other victims still relatively young. But barring the imperatives of agonizing love and agonizing fear, what is the point of trying to slow its progress when an aged body’s defenses are depleted? In our prime of life, millions of white blood cells eject a splinter from our finger. With age, they die off.

    Will cancer be conquered? Though not even their space suits and helmets protect aid workers from dying of ebola, scientists claim to be tailoring viruses that zoom in on and explode different types of cancer cells. Affordable? For maybe two percent of the population.

    Does cancer research resemble the slow death cats inflict on birds? Probably. But who among us with brisk moral values wouldn’t ‘support the predation’ of certain animals? After all, other than dying, what are they good for, that disagreeable welter of lab rats, guinea pigs, rabbits and – while we’re at it – why not broaden the definition to include birds – ‘especially birds’ – and an ever-widening array of animals nearly as ‘useless’ to the earth as we ourselves are, though lagging far behind us in our genius for destruction?


    Mourning the broken balance, the hapless prostration of the earth
    Under man’s hand and their minds,
    The beautiful places killed like rabbits to make a city,
    The spreading fingers, the slime-threads
    And spores: my own coast’s obscene future: I remember the
    Future, and the last man dying
    Without succession under the confident eyes of the stars.
    It was a moment’s accident,
    The race that plagued us; the world resumes its old lonely immortal
    Splendor . . . . .

    [Robinson Jeffers]

    (I’m being mean to you Dee, and wrongly so, I certainly hope, as I would expect you’re unusually kind and pained by the suffering of all animals. If I do you an injustice, perhaps you’ll forgive me. It’s just that I cried to read your remark in the USFWS post.)

    • Does cancer research resemble the slow death cats inflict on birds?

      Not sure you are correct here Sylvia Ann. Cats kill birds with a bite to the neck which kills them quickly. Domestic cats sometimes “play” with prey, usually mice, because they are unsure and don’t want to be bitten so they play safe and bat the mice around rather than kill with the nape bite. This looks like playing with prey but I don’t believe it is.

      I don’t think we will ever cure cancer because it is trying to cure death. But the cancer research business is too valuable to stop. It is a beautiful money maker.

    • Sylvia, not sure what upset you but am very sorry.
      Went back to read and suspect that is the remark I made about birds.
      If so, just know that remark was just my way of sticking it to Woody.
      Not what I truly feel.

    • After all, other than dying, what are they good for, that disagreeable welter of lab rats, guinea pigs, rabbits

      Not sure what you are trying to say but it is not wise to ask if animals are good for anything. That isn’t the point. We all exist and all of us had no choice if we existed or not. There is no purpose to life other than surviving. All animals including human animals should have certain rights and as far as I am concerned they should all be equal rights.


Leave a Comment

follow it link and logo