Animal Testing and Ethics – Everything You Need to Know

April

15

by Becky // in Animals, Facts

Animal testing is an unfortunate reality for product assessments. The pain and suffering animals endure comes attached to the advancements and research gained. While many scientists and researchers may make a case and say that animal testing is necessary – there’s no denying it’s immoral and overused.

Animal testing and ethics are intrinsically attached concepts. There is always unwanted pain inflicted on the animals. But questions of moral necessity and animal welfare contrast the value of using sentient beings as analogs for human experiments.

Whether it’s developing a new life-saving drug or just testing a tear-free mascara, the pain and suffering imposed on innocent animals is unquestionable.

Because of this, ethics has always been a large part of the overall conversation. Let’s explore some ethical aspects of animal testing and hopefully understand the moral implications.

Animal Testing Isn’t Always Necessary

Any animal experimentation will take a toll on the livelihood and health of a sentient being. Without conducting these tests for a greater good – it’s hard to justify such heinous actions. Often, the moral argument is based on the health and safety of human beings – and without animal testing, some argue, “safe” research can’t be done.

However, these arguments around the moral necessity of testing on animals is only remotely plausible if there are no effective alternatives. But, with technology advancing and animal rights becoming part of the larger conversation, changes are being made.

Here are some effective animal testing alternatives:

  • Cell cultures — Almost any cell type can be produced in a laboratory, negating the need for live animals.
  • Human tissue — Tissue can be donated relatively easily and relatively painlessly.
  • Computer modeling — With advancements in computation power, new modeling can be as accurate as live analogs.
  • Test replacements — Popular animal tests, like the Draize eye test, have safe and pain-free alternatives.

Why Researchers Still Use Animals for Testing

Most researchers are aware of the moral dilemma surrounding animal testing. But that doesn’t stop the testing from happening. When it comes to pharmaceuticals – often, these tests are the only safe way to study the effects of a drug or chemical before moving to human testing.

Many countries around the word and certain governmental bodies have also put laws in place to regulate animal testing. Meaning that, often, there are laws making it illegal to test on animals when an effective alternative is available.

But before assuming your country is one of the good ones with any laws in place – it’s worth doing your research. The United States has far fewer laws around animal testing than the European Union. In fact, it does the third highest amount of animal testing in the world, to date.

Let’s look at some of the main reasons that animals are still used in testing:

  • To improve our understanding of biology – Large parts of disease prevention and treatment research depend on using animals since they have a close biological resemblance to humans.
  • Models to study disease – Animals are affected by similar diseases to humans. For example, mice can get several rare forms of human cancers.
  • Testing potential treatments – Many experimental treatments work in theory, but a live subject is needed to get the full picture.
  • Safety – Before a new drug or cosmetic goes out into the world, we need to make sure it is safe to use. Sometimes, the only way to accomplish this is through animal research.

Justifications for Animal Testing

When it comes to the justifications for animal research, human health and safety are often brought up. To justify the costs, researchers look at the overwhelming good certain drugs or treatments have had. Often this good is used to outweigh the immense pain and suffering caused to animals.

However, whether these actions are justifiable is a controversial matter. The problem researchers face is meeting the growing demand for biomedical research and other product development while still heeding public opinion on animal cruelty. There is no denying the human benefits from animal testing.

Medical breakthroughs that used animal testing:

  • Insulin has saved countless lives and can trace its roots back to testing on dogs.
  • Modern anesthesia was first tested on laboratory rats.
  • Penicillin’s antibiotic efficacy was first tested on rats.
  • MRIs are now a common testing procedure, and that’s all thanks to preliminary tests with pigs.

This list is not exhaustive. There are thousands of discoveries and breakthroughs that originate with animal testing. While there is no denying the good created through these breakthroughs, the moral question of animal cruelty will always remain.

What Happens to Animals After Testing?

Most testing animals are raised to live cruel and unfulfilling lives. A rabbit, for example, may be subject to constant torture. Take cosmetics testing. To make sure a new lotion won’t cause harm when applied to the skin requires it to be tested on animal skin first.

These skin irritation tests go like this:

  • The rabbit is usually restrained, so no movement can take place.
  • A portion of the fur is cleaned and shaved.
  • The chemical or compound in question is applied to the shaved portion
  • The rabbit sits, and the results are marked down.

Often, this kind of test causes chemical burns, lesions, broken skin, and other painful consequences. This procedure is repeated over and over. After this process has ended, the animal is killed. Ending the animal’s life after the experiment has terminated is common practice in animal testing.

When it comes to cosmetics – rabbits are used a lot. We share a riveting video created by the Humane Society (International) and all the details you need to know here: 9 Animal Testing Facts About Rabbits You Never Knew

Animals Can’t Consent to Testing

When it comes to human testing, consent is always paramount. Whether it's testing a new drug or just a new type of toothpaste, volunteers are the backbone of the final stages of product research. Unlike humans, animals can’t provide the consent needed to vindicate the horrors they are exposed to.

We have reasoned that this lack of consent for human testing is morally wrong. Most people would argue the inability to consent entitles a person to greater protection, not less. So why do we not extend this to animals?

This question has become increasingly popular in the modern era. Issues like animal rights are becoming more and more dominant in political debate. Many contemporary ethicists would be hard-pressed to find a reasonable argument for the current state of animal testing.

Consequently, the burden of proof has shifted from those promoting animal rights to the researchers still clinging to animal testing.

But the bottom line is that animal testing is cruel, especially knowing it is not always necessary anymore – especially in cosmetics.

Efficacy of Animal Testing

Despite strong historical claims from the scientific community to animal testing’s accuracy, the truth may be a bit muddier.

In reality, the efficacy of testing on animals as a human analog isn’t well researched. Moreover, the lack of data makes determining this accuracy difficult.

Even with the data that we do have, we can see signs of ineffective research and experimentation. Here are some things to consider:

  • There is a high clinical failure rate for drugs produced using animal testing. This has led some researchers to question how accurate they are regarding human use.
  • In 2004 the FDA announced that 92% of all drugs that pass pre-clinical trials using animal testing fail to make it to market.
  • There have been repeated failures for animal research for major diseases like ALS, cancer, and brain injury.

While researchers draw conclusions to explain what went wrong, consideration for the efficacy of these tests is only beginning to be considered.

Investment in Animal Testing Alternatives

With the consideration for animal testing accuracy and increased public outcry, there has been a push to discover effective alternatives. While support has been growing in the scientific community, research and funding for these alternatives are certainly wanting.

Even so, there have been some fairly impressive advances on this front. One such area is using computer modeling to recreate the human body. “Organs on a chip,” as they are called, can help researchers explore the possible negative impacts of certain classes of drugs all on a computer.

When it comes to cruelty-free cosmetics – the alternatives to animal testing are safe as long as you’re using a reputable brand and product. In fact, they may even be healthier for you.

But, to truly change how we approach animal testing requires an attitude shift for the scientific community. Science has always been a discipline that resulted in stunning advancements. So, where is the push to develop better and more accurate testing models that don’t require suffering and pain?

Standard Principles for Animal Researchers

When it comes to animal testing, it may seem like there are no qualms on the scientists and researchers conducting the test. This is far from the truth. While in the past attitudes have been fairly insensitive, modern research does operate on standards.

Here are some of those standard principles for animal research:

  • Reduction – Trying to reduce the amount of animal testing as much as they can for each experiment.
  • Refinement – Changing how tests are performed not only for accuracy but also for animal welfare.
  • Replacement – When possible, replacing animal tests with harm-free alternatives.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to animal testing and ethics, there is a lot to explore. While there are some cases where animal testing is the only option often, these tests are inefficient. Moreover, the moral arguments for animal welfare are often at odds with research goals.

When it comes to cosmetics – animal testing should no longer be used at all. And although alternatives are becoming more available, we are still far away from a cruelty-free future.

The only way to move towards a more animal-friendly future is by making good decisions as consumers. Demand cruelty-free products and make a stand to avoid any brands that associate themselves with testing. The more you change your behavior the more suppliers will be forced to change their own.

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