The Controversial Issue of Animal Ethics
The struggle against sickness and disease is not over, yet medical progress is being
threatened by activists who would end the use of laboratory animals in the search for treatment
and cures. Their well financed anti-research disinformation campaign is not the only weapon
used by animal rights activists.
The more extreme animal rights activists have used tactics of intimidation and terrorism,
April 26,1997, activists were arrested when they tried to force their way into Yerkes
Regional Primate center during a protest.
July 21,1997, The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) set fire to Cavel West, a horse rendering
July 5,1998, The ALF broke into a laboratory at Cornell University and released dozens of
woodchucks into the wild. (Americans for Medical Progress 2)
These are only a few examples of intimidation and terrorism that activists use to get their point
across. The animals used in those labs were all for ideal laboratory animal research. They were
not being used for cosmetic studies. They were strictly being used for medical purposes. Some
things that they were in research for were to study liver cancer, hepatitis, and to get tissues to
treat skull born birth defects in children.
In order to decide whether these actions taken by activists are right or appropriate we
need to answer this question: Are the benefits of animal experimentation worth the pain that the
laboratory animal experiences? Once this question is answered, the question of whether animal
experimentation is ethical or not will also be answered.
The use of animals in the life sciences goes back to ancient Greece and the earliest
medical experiments. To learn about swallowing, ancient physicians cut open the throat of a
living pig. To study the heart they cut into its chest. For centuries, physicians and researchers
used animals to enhance their knowledge about how the various organs and systems of the body
functioned, as well as to improve their surgical skills. As this knowledge grew, new scientific
disciplines were born. First physiology, and pharmacology, and much later bacteriology, and
immunology evolved as animal experimentation became more widespread. Table 2 depicts the
great leaps animal experimentation has provided to the human race. This timeline is proof of
great advances gained from animal testing for human benefit. Without testing or experimentation
of animals none of this would have evolved. Human beings are not the only species who benefit
from animal testing. Table 1 depicts the advances in biomedical research for animals. Without
animal research humans and animals would still be dying or totally wiped out from these
Advances for Animals
Canine Parvo Virus
Feline Respiratory disease
Heart disease in cats was eliminated supplementing diets with Taurine.
This also prevented Feline Urologic Syndrome (FUS)
A rapid and accurate test now facilitates diagnosis of this insect-transmitted
disease. Heartworm medication, also discovered through animal experimentation
is one of the most important advances in the history
Spread by ticks, this disease causes arthritis as well as heart and Kidney problems
in dogs. Animal research led to a vaccine to prevent infection, as well as more
accurate diagnostic techniques.
Many endangered species have a chance of surviving thanks to biomedical
research on in vitro fertilization and embryo transplant techniques.
Source: Partners in Research. “Animals Benefit From Biomedical Research.” http://www.pirweb.org/animals_do_benefit.htm (15, Feb. 2000).
Table 1 Advances in Medicine Through Animal Research
Treatment for Smallpox: Treatment for Whooping Cough:
One of the worlds most dreaded A highly communicable respiratory disease
plagues, estimated to have caused characterized by short, dry coughs. Species
two million deaths. Species studied: cows studies: guinea pigs and rabbits
Treatment for Anthrax: 1950’s
Disease marked by rise in body temperature, Prevention of Polio:
followed by depression, spasms respiratory or A disease marked by symptoms ranging from mild
cardiac distress, convulsions, and death. infection to extensive paralysis. Today the disease has
Species studied: sheep been eradicated in the western hemisphere. Species
1900’s studied: rabbits, monkeys, and rodents
Cardiac Catheterization Techniques: Discovery of DNA
A procedure which allows doctors to Determines individual hereditary characteristics.
insert a flexible tube into an artery or vein Species studied: rats and mice
to the heart, used for injecting drugs directly Development of Open Heart Surgery and
into the heart to measure blood flow and Cardiac Pacemaker:
pressure, diagnose and treat congenital Revolutionized treatment for people suffering from
heart disease and narrowed passages. sever heart disease. Species studies: dogs
Species studied: dogs, rabbits Development of Cancer Chemotherapy:
1920’s Can bring about remission of certain cancers, either
Discovery of Insulin: short-term or permanently. Species studied: monkeys
To control diabetes, a chronic disease of the rabbits, and rodents
pancreas marked by the inability to utilize 1960’s
carbohydrates, excess sugar in the blood and Prevention of Rubella:
urine, excessive thirst, hunger and urination, An epidemic viral disease marked by low fever, rash,
weakness and emaciation. Species studies: dogs enlarged lymph glands; can cause fetal defects in
1940’s pregnant women. Species studied: monkeys
Prevention of Diphtheria: 1970’s
An acute contagious disease marked by Prevention of Measles:
formation of membranes in the throat and An acute contagious viral disease, once common in
other air passages. childhood, marked by fever and skin eruptions. Can
Species studied: horses cause death. Species studied: monkeys
Development of penicillin and other antibiotics Breast cancer links:
revolutionized the treatment of bacterial infection Scientists are closing in on the genetic and
in humans and other animal. Species studies: environmental factors of breast cancer, which is the
many including rats, mice and rabbits leading cause of death of American women ages
35-54. Species studied: fruitflies, mice, and rats
Source: Americans for Medical Progress Educational Foundation. “Advances in Medicine Through Animal Research.”
http://www.ampet.org/history.htm (7, Feb. 2000).
There are many great advantages of animal experimentation. But over the years animals
have been tortured. In order to prevent animal cruelty many laws and regulations have been
passed. Some of the main ones are that unnecessary duplication of research. Replication of
experiments may be reasonable, but the investigator must provide sufficient information to
justify why an experiment needs to be repeated. The number of animals should be the minimum
necessary to produce valid results and the investigator must clearly present the method where the
number of requested animals was calculated. Lastly when its appropriate a non-animal substitute
should be used, or a species of lower order.
Animal experimentation has taken place since before the 1900’s. As proven in the two
previous tables there have been many advances in medicine due to animal research. Although
along the way there have been draw backs. Misleading results derived from animal experiments
have delayed important medical advances. A study was done to find compounds that would
reduce damage from ischemic stroke. There were 25 compounds that were proven to work on
laboratory animals, yet none proved efficacious on human trials (Animal Research is Wastefull
and Misleading 2). Scientists believe that this is because the stroke was suddenly given to the
animals. So they did not undergo the slowly progressive arterial damage that usually plays a role
in human strokes.
The fight against poliomyelits (polio) was delayed due to misconceptions in studies done
on monkeys. The experiments done on the monkeys indicated that the virus mainly infects the
nervous system. When trials were done on humans they found that the gastrointestinal system
was the primary route of infection. The reason the primary route was different was because the
viral strains they had administered through the nose had artificially developed an affinity for
brain tissue. This resulted in misguided preventive measures and it delayed the development of a
In addition medical research is used in laboratories to test the safety of drugs and other
chemicals. The US Food and Drug Administration approved many substances that appeared to
be safe in animal studies. When later used on humans they were found to be dangerous to the
health of humans. A few examples of these drugs are milrinone, which increases cardiac output.
While this drug raised the survival of rats with heart failure, humans on this drug had a 30%
increase in mortality. The antiviral drug fialuridine was safe in animal trials, yet it caused liver
failure in humans. The antidepressent nomifensine had minimal toxicity in lab animals, but
caused liver toxicity and anemia in humans.
Although there have been some set backs, there have also been many great advancements
in medicine which relied heavily on animal experimentation. A prime example of this is the
polio vaccine. Albert Sabin studied this virus and introduced his oral vaccine to the US in 1961.
Polio was a very deadly disease. This epidemic condemned millions of children and young
adults. In 1952, 58,000 children were struck down alone (Sabin 1). Without animal research
Sabin would not have had enough knowledge to invent this vaccine, and without this vaccine
polio would still be claiming thousands of lives each year.
The antibiotic penicillin is another example of an advancement that came due to animal
experimentation. In the 1940’s Howard W. Florey and Ernst B. Chain showed penicillin to be
dramatically effective as an antibiotic by the mouse protection test. Without this test the this
important antibiotic may never have been passed for human use.
Another huge drug that is used in the everyday lives of many hunams is insulin. Before
insulin was introduced to humans, people with diabetes typically died. Once the lifesaving drug
was tested on rabbits and mice, humans were able to use it and live with the disease.
The number of animals used in the US per year is outrageous (see table 3). Although the
overall numbers have reduced in the in the past 22 years. This could be due to the new laws and
regulations that are constantly being passed, or to the onset of alternatives.
Source: Scientific American. The Numbers of Research
Animals. http.//www.sciam.com/0297issue/0297trendsbox.html (16, Feb. 2000).
As stated many times, animal experimentation has led to great advances in medicine, but
there are other ways to make great leaps in medicine then testing these chemicals on thousands
of animals. The most known alternatives are known as the three R’s. They are refinement,
reduction, and replacement. These three alternatives provide a way to minimize animal use and
suffering. Yet doing this without compromising the quality of the scientific work being done.
While having the ultimate goal always being to totally replace animal models.
Refinement is one of the stepping stones that will help reach the ultimate goal. This is the
modification of any procedures that operate from the time a animal is born until its death. This is
to minimize the pain and distress experienced by the animal, and also to improve its well-being.
The experience of pain and other stress is likely to result in changes in the animal which has
potential to raise the variability of experimental results. With that in mind it is in the best interest
of scientists to ensure that the conditions in the animal house are the best possible. Minimizing
the pain and distress the animal goes through, yields better results. When the experiment is over,
the most humane method of euthanasia should be chosen also.
The next stepping stone is reduction. This is any strategy that will result in a decreased
amount of animals being used to obtain the same amount of data. Making the appropriate design
and analysis of the experiment can increase the percision of the data and also enable fewer
animals to be used. Doing a small pilot study could also indicate whether or not it is appropriate
to go into a major study. This would eliminate huge studies that yield bad or useless results.
The last stepping stone of the three R’s is replacement. A replacement is considered a
experiment that does not entail the use of a whole, living animal. Replacement methods can be
used to totally eliminate animals in a study, or they will complement animal experiments. Which
would reduce the overall number of animals in the project. Common replacements are computer
based systems, lower organisms, and cell culture systems.
The three R’s are great stepping stones to totally eradicate animals in experimentation’s.
Although chimpanzee’s DNA is that best match to human DNA. So it could be wise to study and
experiment on these primates. Our closest evolutionary cousins are chimpanzees. Humans and
chimps share 98% of our DNA (Cramer 1). The difference between the DNA of a human and the
DNA of a chimp can fluctuate from 99.6% to 98%. Another interesting fact about the similarities
in man and chimp is the difference between human and chimp is only 160 enzymes (Cramer 1).
With this closeness in DNA we are able to see what will potentially happen to humans when put
on a drug or whatever the intervention happens to be. The results may not be 100% accurate due
to the 0.4% to 2% difference in DNA, but there is not a whole lot of room for error in this
department. So experimenting on Chimps lets scientists predict whether or not a drug will be
safe or effective on human beings, and that can potentially save lives.
Through the information provided in this paper one can come to their own conclusion on
whether or not animal experimentation is ethical. Through my long hard hours put into
researching this topic I have been able to come to my own conclusion. I feel that the benefits of
animal experimentation outway the draw backs of the disadvantages. Seen as how animals are
also receiving cures for diseases that are spread throughout their species, along with humans.
That in my eyes is a much greater factor then the minimal pain the animal is put through. Its not
like there are no laws or regulations put on company and scientists doing these kinds of
experiments. So I say that animal experimentation is ethical.
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