Is animal testing ethical?
- Some of the earliest known animal experiments date back to ancient Greece, where it was considered taboo to dissect humans. Instead, for purposes of anatomical research, physicians like Aristotle and Erasistratus performed vivisections--or 'the exploratory surgery of live animals.'
- The theological notion of Scala Naturae, or 'ladder of life,' was popular among naturalists until the mid 19th century and related that 'all living beings can be viewed as representing various degrees of 'perfection,' with humans at the very top of this biological hierarchy.' This naturally led to the popular perspective of 'human dominion over all nature.'
- According to Stanford Medicine, 95% of the animals used for 'medical and scientific inquiry' in the US are rodents.
- Pew Research Center revealed that nearly as many American adults support (47%) using animals in scientific research as oppose it (52%).
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the only federal law regulating animal treatment, doesn't protect over 85% of animals used in testing--resulting in over 100 million animals being tested and killed annually in the US alone, and that figure is only estimated. Because the animals aren't protected, and testing labs aren't transparent, the practices are often secretive. However, we know animals are subjected to genetic modification, forced injection, and forced inhalation of substances, among other horrors.
Animals that survive continue suffering until death; there is no relief for them. It's unethical to see animals as statistics for predicting profits and profitability for the products tested, including cleaning supplies, household items, and hygienic products. As for medical research, over 90% of drugs tested on animals are deemed unsafe. The majority of these animals' lives are taken in vain. And even the animals treated well in testing environments still must experience daily fear.
Humans respect the needs of pets and livestock by giving them what they require to be fulfilled beings--anything less is often considered abusive. Animal testing certainly isn't a natural interspecies interaction, and if the roles were reversed, our species would be terrified and angry.
There's also no reason for animal testing to continue when there are already alternatives discovered, and they're more accurate and cost-effective, too. However, the high-profit companies that have animals bred, caged, and tested aren't paying the astronomically high costs to do so. That would be us, the taxpayers.
Ethical animal rights have a long way to go, and research testing is among the most horrific things animals face. Using living beings for such purposes should be condemned by all societies and governments.
It can't be denied that there are moral quandaries involved with the use of animals in medical testing--as the animals' welfare should absolutely be weighed against the benefits of the research. However, the biomedical community itself has wrestled with this, and in the end, the benefits still outweigh the drawbacks.
Ethical researchers apply the principles of the Three Rs (Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement) whenever possible, while standard-bearing organizations like the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International use the same guidelines in their regulatory assessments.
When animal testing is determined to be the best course of action, labs must still ensure the animals are cared for properly to produce viable results. This is especially important for any lab using PHS funding, which can be removed if federal standards for animal care aren't met.
There are also specific medical treatments that would be considered immoral if they weren't tested on animals. In 2020, the AP had to debunk rumors that mRNA COVID treatments had skipped animal trials and moved right into testing an unproven vaccine on human beings. Not only did this end up fueling anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, but it brought both Pfizer and Moderna unfairly under attack for unethical practices.
Finally, setting aside the benefits to people, animals themselves have also gained from prior testing. According to the National Academy of Sciences, many of the same vaccines, surgical procedures, and other breakthroughs developed through animal research are now regularly used in veterinary medicine as well, effectively illustrating that the ethics of testing should not just take human outcomes into account.