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.
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?