Every week thousands of animals are slaughtered for medical research. However, many thousands of people are also saved every week as a result of the research. Animal testing is carried out on amphibians, cats, dogs, domestic birds, farm animals, fish, fur animals, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, marine mammals, mice, miniature swine, non-human primates, rabbits, rats and reptiles.
In the year two thousand alone, an estimated one million nine hundred and fifty-four thousand and fifty-nine animals were used for animal testing. As a result of the research carried out on animals over the past century, insulin, a treatment for whooping cough, a prevention of polio and many other cures, drugs and preventions were discovered.In December of the year two thousand and three the government gave Cambridge University permission to build a monkey laboratory where scientists will study brain disorders such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease. The animal rights movement vowed to fight the project every step of the way. They believed that it was a waste of animals’ lives, and for what? There is no proof that scientists will find out any more about brain disorders. However, it is certain that animals will be tested on and possibly die if the plans go ahead.
Scientists and patient groups, however, argue that the decision to build the laboratory will save many lives. They believe that there is a strong possibility that the result of the research could save thousands and improve the lives of many, who, at the moment, cannot do any of the things that you and I take for granted.Many people also say that the number of animals used in medical research is far too high, as over a million animals are being used world wide for animal testing each year. The reason there are so many animals being used is because every country is working on advancing their medicine and often many countries are doing the same experiment. It is widely believed that the number of animals used could be cut dramatically if only countries worked together on their research.
This would prevent countries from doing the same experiments and may also be better medically because as the saying goes: ‘two brains are better than one’. If countries worked together then scientists from all over the world could bring all their research together and it is possible that many advances would be made as a result of this.However, scientists disagree. They believe that if countries came together to work on advancing medical knowledge, progress would actually decrease.
They believe this because if many countries work independently and are doing the same experiment then it is possible that something that one project does not show may be found out by another country. Many people also say that we cannot rely on other countries to carry out an experiment; each country wants to be finding out a way to cure a disease that may be killing many of its people.Scientists also say that the number of animals used in medical research is dropping. This is because researchers are able to rely on computer models and other methods rather than animal testing. Some estimates show a reduction in animal use as high as fifty percent.Consequently, it is often asked why computer models and other options are not always used instead of wasting many animals’ lives.
There are many alternatives to animal testing: in-vitro tests, computer software and databases of tests already done and even human clinical trial tests. Eytex is an example of an in-vitro test, which measures eye irritancy. This is an alternative to an otherwise very cruel eye irratancy test.
That involves an animal having products rubbed into its eyes to see if it will irritate them. Epi-pack is a human clone tissue test for harmful substances. Although these tests are becoming more common practice, there are often many times when animals are used even though another alternative would work just as well.However, it is also argued that although computer models are good for preliminary tests or in conjunction with animal testing, they are not reliable enough. Computers simply cannot mimic the complexities of an entire biological system. They also cannot reliably predict the effect of a chemical on the combined organ system. Animal testing is the only way of being able to collect any reliable information.Animal rights groups also argue that if using animals for testing cosmetics has been banned, then surely this means that the government has recognised the cruelty that testing inflicts on animals and has acted accordingly.
Many people think that it is all right to test on rats, for example, because they are pests and many people shun and dislike them. However, imagine if you were a rat that was used for testing; kept in small cage all your life, tortured and with the only hope of escape from this pitiful life, a painful death. Therefore, it is often asked: why, if testing on animals for cosmetic purposes has been banned, is medical research still allowed?This is because, researchers say, we would not want a dangerous vaccine that had not been tested, to be given out to everyone, but we would also not want to get the disease that the vaccine could prevent. So, in this case, testing is believed to be the option that most people would want.
There are also many uses of animal testing that most of us do not realise. For example, more than one million phone calls are received by poison centres every year and if testing had not been carried out on consumer goods, such as household cleaners, these centres would not know the antidote for that poison.Overall, the reason that most people object to animal testing is the cruelty and pain that the animal has to suffer. Many animals are kept in small cages all their lives. Would you like to be kept in a cage only to be taken out to have poisons and irritants rubbed in your eyes and pushed down your throat? Why, if a person can be sent to prison for extreme cases of animal cruelty, is the cruelty carried out by medical researchers still legal?Scientists disagree with this; they say that animals are not treated badly. They say that this would never happen because laws such as the animal welfare law prevent such cruelty.
In addition, a well treated animal, one without disease or pain, will provide more reliable scientific results, the goal of all researchers.In conclusion, although I believe that animal welfare should always be considered, in the end, it comes down to the question: if your mother or father was lying in a hospital bed, dying, who would you rather save – an animal or a human?