The use of animals to better understand human anatomy and human disease is a centuries-old practice. Animal research has provided valuable information about many physiological processes that are relevant to humans and has been fundamental in the development of many drugs, including vaccines, anaesthetics, and antibiotics. Animals and humans are similar in many ways. Animal behaviour can be as complex as human behaviour, and the cellular structures, proteins, and genes of humans and animals are so similar that the prospect of using animal tissues to replace diseased human tissues is under intense investigation for patients who would otherwise never receive a potentially life-saving transplant.
Medical and cosmetic research tested on animals are two completely different ethical areas. Cosmetic research is particularly controversial because animals may experience discomfort, suffering and ultimately die, all in the name of aesthetics and 'looking good.' Thus, it is this aspect of animal tests that draws an enormous amount of criticism, both in Australia and internationally. In fact, there are many who support animal testing for medicine simply because it involves the improvement of human health and the extension of human life. We do not, however, support animal testing for cosmetics because the cost to the animals doesn't justify the research, which is really about enhancing appearances for humans.
Animals are easily bred and maintained safely in controlled labs. Many people argue that animal testing is cruel. In some cases, this is true. However, it would be much more cruel to test new drugs on people or children, or to let people die because there was not enough information about a drug. Furthermore, legislation in most countries sets standards for animal treatment, and laboratories have guidelines to prevent cruelty. Opponents of animal research also say that in formation from animals does not apply to humans. They point to certain commercial drugs, which have been withdrawn because of side effects in humans. While it is true that animal systems differ from human systems, there are enough similarities to apply information from animals to humans. Animal rights campaigners claim that we don’t need new tests because we already have vast amounts of information. However, many new deadly infections appear every year and new treatments and drugs are needed to combat these deadly plagues. Animal testing is needed in the world we live in. Our responsibility is to manage the animals in our care and balance their suffering against the good that comes from them.
The husbandry and treatment of laboratory animals has been and continues to be a major topic of ethical debate. Concern over the care and management of animals used in scientific research was initially raised in the 19th century in Great Britain, where the Cruelty to Animals Act was adopted in 1876. A significant step forward for both supporters and opponents of animal research occurred in 1959, when British zoologist William Russell and British microbiologist Rex Burch published The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique. This work introduced the goals of replacement, reduction, and refinement: replacement of animal testing with other techniques, reduction of the number of animals tested, and refinement of animal tests to reduce suffering. These concepts became the foundation for the development of scientific alternatives to animal testing, and they continue to guide the treatment of animals in modern scientific research. This theory by William Russell and Rex Burch must be integrated in the animal research system that Australia currently maintains.