10 Animal Testing Advantages and Disadvantages (You Need to Know)

by Becky

June 13, 2021

Animal testing is a controversial method of scientific research that we’ve debated for years. It’s got various advantages and disadvantages that need to be discussed. Although it’s still used worldwide – many individuals question whether its pros outweigh its cons.

Animal testing is the most accurate and reliable form of testing for insight into the biological functions of a whole-body system. It has allowed researchers to develop several influential medications and vaccines. However, there are far more humane alternatives available to replace these expensive and ethically questionable tests.

There are several other reasons that make this one of the most controversial research methods known to science. Read on for a more in-depth look at both sides of this argument, so you can make an informed decision about where your opinions align.

Advantages of Using Animal Testing

Animal testing is used because it has several key advantages that make it beneficial, or even necessary, for the institutions using it. Some of these advantages are for the benefit of humanity, while others are due to less altruistic motivations.

Here’s what you need to know.

Provides Invaluable Biological Insight for Whole Human Systems

Arguably the reason why animal testing is used so much is that it’s the most accurate and reliable form of testing for a human’s whole-body system.

There are alternative research options that show how a new drug or substance might affect the entire system. But they are not as conclusive or effective as animal testing.

These alternatives often conclude that the only way to really know the effects on a large scale is to test the product on an animal that has an anatomical and biological system similar to humans.

Since there is no alternative to animal testing for a functioning whole-body system – it cannot be replaced entirely.

Unfortunately, animal testing provides insights that are too beneficial for humanity and the animal kingdom to just get rid of. Especially when there is no sufficient alternative that can provide the same results.

Human cell and tissue cultures for in vivo testing are great alternatives that should provide adequate results. But there’s one key issue. Since these cultures lack any connection to a central nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system – there’s no way to know how any substance would affect a human’s whole body.

It Is More Ethical Than Human Subjects

The most significant contention against animal testing is that it is a moral and ethical dilemma. The thing is – most agree that it is far more acceptable to test on animals than humans, willing or otherwise.

For the benefit of humanity, all living creatures, and the environment, risky tests must be conducted for vital scientific insight. Suppose these experiments are necessary for essential, life-saving medications, vaccines, and other innovations. In that case, it is far more ethical to conduct them on an animal with a much shorter lifespan than humans and exists in mass quantities.

For instance, rats are one of the most used test subjects. These animals live for a maximum of two years, and there are millions of species worldwide – making the animals far from endangered or even at risk.

Not only is it more ethical to test on an animal that has a shorter lifespan than humans, but it also makes them exceptional test subjects. In addition to having a similar anatomy to humans, animal testing allows us to see how a substance affects them throughout their lives.

In the case of humans, we would have to wait 70+ years to see the lifelong results of tests versus waiting two years for a rat. This means that essential findings are obtained faster for quicker alterations and innovations.

It is also worth mentioning that, regardless of a person’s personal opinions about animal testing, the World Medical Association Declaration states by law that animal tests precede human tests.

Uses Animals with Anatomical Structure Closest to Humans

The term “animal testing” might sound broad in its scope, but in reality, the only animals used for animal testing are those most similar to humans. This renders them appropriate subjects for tests focused on human biological insight.

For the most part, the animals used for testing include:

  • Mice
  • Fish
  • Rats
  • Rabbits
  • Guinea pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Farm animals
  • Birds
  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Mini-pigs
  • Non-human primates (monkeys, and in some countries, chimpanzees)

These are all common animals that are not at-risk population-wise, and the majority of them have far shorter lifespans than humans.

In terms of our closest relatives, Chimpanzees and mice are the most comparable to humans, as far as genetic makeup and DNA are concerned. All mammals, in general, are beneficial to animal testing because they often have the same internal structures as humans.

The immense complexity of the human body means that simple petri dish testing does not supply the most accurate results. Animal testing can replicate some of these complexities because they share many of the same diseases and illnesses as humans.

In most cases, if researchers can cure an animal of a shared disease, the cure has a much higher chance of applying to humans.

Allows Researchers to Discover Medical Breakthroughs

Another significant advantage of animal testing is that it allows researchers to discover new medications, vaccines, and cures. Often far faster than if they had been limited to alternative methods.

This point can also tie in with the advantage of animal testing being more ethical than using human subjects. Without animals, there would be no real way to determine if a new vaccination or medication is effective without introducing it to an infected human.

Without a doubt – you could test the product with in vitro testing or other alternatives. But you won’t know if the results are successful without placing it within a living being’s whole-body system.

The use of animal testing has allowed researchers to make substantial improvements in the world of medicine. This includes the following areas of research:

  • Breast cancer
  • Brain injury
  • Childhood leukemia
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Hepatitis B

Animal testing has also assisted in the understanding and assisted production of insulin for diabetics, as well as the development of pacemakers, cardiac valve substitutes, and anesthetics.

There are a vast number of vaccinations that have been created with the assistance of animal testing. Scientific understanding of viruses and bacteria has increased by leaps and bounds.

When it comes to battling viruses with the ability to mutate – it’s been very beneficial in helping the prevention and cure of pandemics.

It is believed that most of the past century’s medical breakthroughs can be attributed to the utilization of animal testing. Plus, both parties share a significant number of diseases.

So discovering the cure to diseases like rabies, tuberculosis and brucellosis, Lyme disease, and others can apply to humans and animals alike.

Because of these experiments, animals no longer have to suffer from these diseases. Even a significant number of endangered or at-risk species, like the California condor and the tamarins of Brazil, have come back from the brink of extinction thanks to the results of animal testing.

Ensure Products are Safe for Human Use

A driving force behind the use of animal testing is that it helps ensure any new substance, chemical, medication, or product is safe for human use and release on a mass-market scale.

Some countries require animal testing for their products by law – take cosmetics, for example. But new vaccinations, medications, and even foods require animal testing before being released to the public.

This helps limit the risk of consumers experiencing severe or even fatal side effects from a company’s product. Not only is this important for their health, but the business’s reputation as well.

If they release a product that harmed one, if not several consumers, they could be sued for damages in quantities so significant it would bankrupt them.

Therefore, companies will test their products on animals for legal purposes to verify in court that they ensured the product was safe before it was introduced to the market.

Disadvantages of Using Animal Testing

Despite the significant number of advantages to using animal testing, there are just as many, if not more, disadvantages to this controversial method. Animal rights advocate argue that animal testing is cruel and unnecessary for the reasons mentioned here

It is Morally and Ethically Questionable

The predominant argument opposing animal testing is that it is very questionable, both from a moral and ethical perspective.

The all-encompassing, in-depth explanation for this point actually includes most of the following disagreements. Overall, the outline of the disadvantages is that animal testing is cruel and inhumane.

If a chemical, substance, product, or medication is too dangerous to be tested on a human, it shouldn’t be tested on an animal. Both humans and animals used for testing are sentient creatures. Which means that can feel pleasure and pain and can experience mental, physical, and emotional distress and trauma.

It is appalling to subject these living creatures to some horrific tests and environments created for animal testing.

There are some instances where tests are non-invasive and limited to observation. Still, the number of animals subject to severe testing where they experience irreversible trauma and death cannot outweigh the mild or non-invasive tests.

Although animals used for animal testing are provided life-sustaining care, this is often provided through force-feeding due to the amount of stress the animal is under, so they refuse to eat of their own free will.

Additionally, subjects are often subjected to:

  • Food and water deprivation
  • The infliction of burns and other wounds to study the healing process
  • The infliction of pain to study its effects and remedies
  • Death by carbon dioxide asphyxiation, neck-breaking, decapitation, or other means
  • Physical restraint for extended periods
  • Injection of chemicals to determine the lethal dosage

Out of the billions of animals used for animal testing worldwide, the majority are subjected to these horrific conditions to some degree, not to mention the stress and mental and emotional trauma their captivity, isolation, and physical afflictions cause.

These animals’ life expectancy and intelligence are irrelevant; they are living beings that deserve respect and humane treatment. They are not toys or tools to be used and tossed aside when they are no longer useful.

It’s worth your while getting as much information on animal ethics as possible before you make any un-informed purchases. Here’s the scoop: Animal Testing and Ethics – Everything You Need to Know (2021)

Regulations for the Animals’ Safety Are Not Consistent

Although we stated that an advantage of animal testing is the regulations that ensure their safety. We have to play devil’s advocate by stating not all nations have regulations. Those that do sometimes only enforce them on a local, state, or territory level, not nation-wide.

Several countries, such as Japan, China and the U.S. have poor enforcement of their regulations, resulting in cases of animal cruelty and excessive animal testing that go unchecked.

Without legal regulations, strict enforcement, and hefty repercussions regarding animal testing, it is all too easy for institutions and companies to abuse this testing method. As a result, many animals are subject to inhumane treatment that exceeds those discussed in our previous point on the questionable ethics of these tests.

One particular instance that demonstrates unnecessary and inhumane treatment of animals for testing is the use of rabbits for the Draize Test. This infamous test is conducted to determine if a particular chemical or ingredient causes eye irritation.

To perform the test, rabbits are physically restrained, and their eyes are clipped open to ensure they wouldn’t blink the substance away before researchers could determine its effects.

As the substance commonly used is some type of chemical, the rabbits experienced immense pain and discomfort in their eyes from the test, sometimes result in burning, loss of vision, and other horrifying side effects.

In addition to ruthless tests that go unchecked by the government, it’s important to note that a significant number of animals aren’t protected under their nation’s legislature on animal testing.

Commonly used animals – like rats, dogs, and rabbits – are protected under federal law. Still, these animals only make up perhaps 5% of all animals, leaving uncommon choices without legal protection.

Here’s a look at which countries still have a long way to go in the world of cruelty-free alternatives: What Countries Are Still Cruel to Animals in 2022?

It Is More Expensive Than Humane Alternatives

It might surprise you to know that animal testing is one of the most expensive testing methods for scientific purposes.

This is primarily due to the degree of care they require to stay alive throughout the testing period. In addition, animals necessary for more severe testing must have some degree of pain relief or anesthetic, which costs a significant sum, particularly when hundreds (if not thousands) of animals are involved.

Not only are there several more humane alternatives to animal testing, but they are much cheaper to use. They can often supply results equal to animal testing in an easier, more time-efficient, and requires fewer resources.

Alternatives like computer software, cell and tissue in vitro cultures, and microdosing human volunteers can cost about $10,000 less per test than those conducted on animals. Therefore, the decision to use alternatives is not only financially sound but far less of an ethical concern.

Results of Animal Testing Are Rarely Applicable to Humans

A significant criticism of animal testing is that it isn’t as applicable to humans as researchers seem to allude.

Yes, it is difficult to determine how a particular vaccine or medication would affect a whole-body system without the aid of animal testing. Still, you can’t say that the five-pound body system of a rat will react the same as a 150-pound human system.

There are some egregious instances where medications were tested on animals with no side effects but had severe repercussions for humans when offered in the dosage most appropriate to them.

One example is the testing of thalidomide on pregnant cats, guinea pigs, and mice. These subjects experience no cases of congenital disabilities, except when tested with very high doses. However, when offered to pregnant women, the drug caused severe deformities in about 10,000 babies.

Another point to make is that these animals live much shorter lives than humans. So, although you can see how the drug or substance affects them throughout their life, the time isn’t even close to the average human’s life expectancy, making it impossible to determine long-term effects without testing it on humans.

Even testing for more short-term effects, the anatomic, metabolic, and cellular differences between animals and humans are too different for scientists to come to conclusions directly applicable to humans.

Cosmetics is an area of research where animal-testing really has no place anymore too and the EU has realized this. Here’s why: Animal Testing Facts in Cosmetics You Need to Know in 2021

Significant Scientific Breakthroughs Didn’t Need Animal Testing

The ultimate goal of animal testing is to advance science and discover invaluable information to improve life as we know it.

Many individuals in the scientific community accept that despite most of the past century’s significant discoveries resulting from animal testing – humanity would have learned this information without the method at some point.

It’s true that, in most cases, this information is acquired faster by subjecting animals to harsh and often inhumane tests for a quick result. But if the time used to test on animals was repurposed to improve alternatives. We could have found a method that is just as, if not more, effective and accurate as animal testing by now.

Instead, institutions decide to stick to the crude and outdated method that ends in the waste of animal life far more than the acquisition of beneficial scientific insights. If more time was spent on utilizing and improving alternatives, we could eventually unearth this invalid information faster and in a more humane way than we ever did with animal testing.

In saying this, we do have some pretty cool up-and-coming methods of cruelty-free testing that are promising. You can get a dose of that feel-good news here: Animal Testing Alternatives (Ultimate Guide)

Final Thoughts

As a society, humanity has an increasing awareness of animal testing and flat-out disapprove of it. We can see this because many nations have amended their regulations within the last ten years to protect animals more in a more effective way. This deters testers from excessively using and abusing this method.

Although there are many scientific benefits to animal testing – most of it can be achieved in a more humane way using modern alternatives. It is agreed across the board that once we find an option that can replace animal testing for whole-body systems, it will fall out of practice fast.

For some feel-good news about the progress we’re making. Here are all the countries that have said goodbye to animal testing: Countries That Have Banned Animal Testing (2021)

9 Animal Cruelty Facts in the Uk You Need to Know (2022)
Are Medicines Tested on Animals?
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