Where do we draw the line between what lives and dies? Is animal testing the only successful path to clinical advancement? Let’s find out.
by Kiersten Ngeow
As I explored animal testing, these questions burned into my head, as I pondered about the significant impact animal testing continues to have on the lives of humans and animals – for better or for worse.
On one end, without animal testing, the creation of several life-saving vaccines, antibiotics, drugs, and more would cease to exist. Along with the discoveries found during the development of these products, which have benefited both animals and humans alike. But at what cost have we made these discoveries?
When companies use animal testing, it is for the purpose of determining the safety of their products. As a result, animals are subjected to harmful chemicals and substances that can be detrimental to their health. Thus, paying the price for these discoveries with their lives. But that is not all. Unfortunately, the mistreatment of animals is prevalent in animal testing. Despite this, there are alternate solutions to replace animal testing, but should we?
This is where our trilemma is presented: should we support or stop animal testing? Perhaps, there is a middle ground within these two stances.
You should support animal testing:
Choosing to support animal testing would allow for the continued development of life-saving vaccines, antibiotics, and drugs. One of the numerous examples of medical treatments created under animal testing includes the polio vaccine, which conducted studies with monkeys, dogs, and mice. Before, the polio epidemic claimed the lives of thousands in the United States alone. After the vaccine, cases for polio have been reduced by 99%. Without animal testing, the creation of the polio vaccine would cease to exist, along with numerous other life-saving medical treatments.
Additionally, animal testing benefits both animals and humans alike as, “Animals are susceptible to many of the same health problems as humans – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.” Through this, diseases prevalent to both humans and animals could be studied and prevented by animal testing. Animals also are like human beings, we share 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees, 98% with mice.
Although there being alternatives to animal testing, these methods are not the same as studying real animal models. In an article by Stanford addressing the myths and facts of
animal testing, it states, “[Alternative research methodologies] cannot, however, reproduce the interactions of an intact, whole-living biological system provided by laboratory animals, nor can they reveal potential complications from a drug designed to treat one condition on other organs and systems.” Animals are living models and can show researchers how diseases and other substances react. This is not prevalent in alternative methods to animal testing.
You should stop animal testing:
Unfortunately, when it comes to animal testing, mistreatment, torture, and pain are
prevalent in the lives of innocent animals. In the United States alone, over 300,000 animals have needlessly suffered for “animal testing”.
Furthermore, there is a difference between animals and humans, “Even if the design and conduct of an animal experiment are sound and standardized, the translation of its results to the clinic may fail because of disparities between the animal experimental model and the human condition.” As a result of these disparities, the reactions between the same diseases in animals and humans indicate that different cures are needed. Thus, animal testing is unreliable in creating treatments for diseases in humans.
However, alternative methods for animal testing currently exist, “such as in vitro models, cell cultures, computer models, and new imaging/analyzing techniques.” Additionally, the Administrator of the EPA (United States Protection Agency) has said, “We can protect human health and the environment by using cutting-edge, ethically sound science in our decision-making that efficiently and cost-effectively evaluates potential effects without animal testing.” Signifying that alternative methods for medical testing could have the potential to replace animal testing.
When all is said and done, the evidence concerning the effectiveness of animal testing for humans is deeply divided, thus making it difficult to determine the truth. As Garner, a bioethicist at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, states, “Despite strong claims about the historical benefits of animal research from the scientific community, the accuracy of animal models in predicting human responses has not been evaluated sufficiently, and the lack of certain kinds of data makes this evaluation especially challenging.” Additionally, there is no consensus concerning whether alternative methods of testing can replace animal testing, which is reflected in the differing opinions of Stanford and the EPA.
There is no denying that animal testing has brought upon important medical discoveries such as the creation of the polio vaccine. However, it is imperative to reevaluate the connection between the results of trials from animals to humans and the effectiveness of alternative testing methods.
Personally, as I researched for this article, I found it difficult to determine a stance due to the conflicting information regarding animal testing. However, the stance I am leaning towards would be to stop animal testing altogether. This is because the effectiveness of animal testing is ultimately uncertain. Therefore, it is imperative to simultaneously further medical research and also determine the effectiveness of potential alternatives regarding animal testing.
Although there are conflicting perspectives on animal testing, there is one unifying belief. No matter where the line is between what lives and dies, we should always be crystal clear regarding the line between animal abuse and animal testing.