As the winter season is bestowed upon us, the warm and sheltered clothing that have become increasingly more popular are beginning to make a comeback during this holiday season. As I pass women, and these days even men, on the street, the long fur coats that animal rights activists so strongly despise, can be seen wandering across this nation. If this were not enough to make my mind wander, and comment on this issue, I recently came back from a trip in which full access was allowed into an animal testing laboratory in the United States close to the Canadian border. I have to admit that the treatment that was observed during my trip in regards to these animals is as humane and respectful as the treatment of any loved house pet. Based on the animal rights activists’ protests, I always assumed that the animals were somehow mistreated and put through vigorous tests bordering cruelty. This however, was certainly not the case.
This is a topic that has many pros and cons, but in the end it all is based on personal ethics and many of the delicate factors that determine what we do in life. Popular definitions of animal testing all describe the use of animals in scientific experiments. The majority of such testing is done by universities, laboratories, and medical schools. There are many different areas of testing, ranging from basic behavioral research, in trying to see how the animals react to certain drugs, to genetic tests that attempt to fix medical problems at the molecular level. Many people believe that animal testing is a practice that should be abolished based solely on the fact that animals have rights, and should not be tested simply to benefit the human race. This is a two sided argument, in that testing on animals certainly does aid researchers in discovering drugs and treatments to improve health and medicine for humans. Some of the astonishing breakthroughs that are a direct result of animal testing are cancer and HIV drugs, insulin, antibiotics, and vaccines just to name a few. Vaccines for many life threatening diseases include herpes, Hepatitis B, Polio, rabies, malaria, mumps and viruses that are related to organ transplant rejection. Anesthesia, both local and general, which is used to numb the body, is available today only because it was successfully tested on animals. While the above mentioned have definitely sustained the lives of many humans, they are not the only ones that have benefited from animal testing. For the dog lovers out there, the heart worm disease is a life threatening condition that until its vaccine discovery, had taken the lives of thousands of innocent dogs; puppies as well as older dogs. Those that are fortunate enough to wake up in the morning and see the wagging tail of their “best friend,” may not have had that opportunity had it not been for animal testing. Cats too have been spared from the agony of leaving their masters long before their time was up, also because of animal testing. The better understanding of cat nutrition and their physical responses to tests is directly correlated to why cats live longer and remain healthier.
Testing on animals is the vital step that needs to be taken before human testing can begin. People that argue against animal testing always complain, but if given the chance they will never allow their own bodies to be used in the primary testing stages, because they understand the risks. But at the same time, they use the products that are the direct product of animal testing. Some people have suggested that cultivated cells be used to test these drugs. This theory can be discarded due to the basic reason that animals and not some other organism are used for testing; because they are considered to be the closest match to human beings. Furthermore, using cells for these trials would make the results irrelevant to how they would react on humans. Drugs need to be flushed through the different systems of the body such as the respiratory, circulatory, and the nervous system. Cells cannot reveal side effects that might appear in an animal such as organ failure, rashes, tumors, or cardiac arrest.
Regarding the guidelines that are set in place by laws such as the Scientific Procedures Act in the United Kingdom, and the Animal Welfare Act in the United States, experimentation on animals is heavily controlled by both federal and state laws. Therefore, when people argue that it is savage behavior to test on animals, they are not seeing the procedures that have been established to prevent pain to animals to the best of their abilities without skewing the test result. These are used to ensure that such animals receive the highest standard of care, and are subsequently treated humanely and with respect. Concerning the issue of pain management throughout these tests, the laws agree that suffering should be minimized to the extent that the pain medication is not detrimental to the sought after research goals.
While there are many that are on opposing sides when it comes to this issue, the majority of advocates for either side tend to agree to the necessary elimination of animal testing in cosmetic research as well as household products. Cosmetics are any superficial measures used to make something appear more aesthetically pleasing, or more impressive with relation to beauty. When the term is used in regards to the testing of animal, it refers mostly to make up products, but may include household supplies, and other non-essential products. It was a direct result of this nearly unanimous collaboration against cosmetic research through animals, that Britain actually banned animal testing for cosmetics. Following that decision, all of the members of the European Union have also banned animal testing for cosmetic products as of March 11, 2009 as well as making the sale of any such products illegal in those countries.
The main point remains fundamental. In order to make advances in the field of medicine, animal testing is an essential process and cannot be eradicated. Restraining or banning the testing by animal activists will not help in any way. And since animal testing will most likely continue into the future, individuals and federal laws have to continue to work to ensure that these tests are carried out in a safe, ethical manner causing as little pain and discomfort as possible to the animal.