Name: Ng Tsz Ying, Kelly
Student ID: 14061605D
Topic: Should animal testing for medical purposes be allowed to continue?
Animal Testing is the research or experiment mainly conducted for education, commercial, scientific and medical purposes. It is commonly used in the medical field for developing new drugs and toxicology tests. Animal testing for medical uses helps to deal with different diseases and cancers. However, due to the protection of animal rights and ethical reasons, the question that whether animal testing should be banned is being discussed. Doke and Dhawale (2013) question whether it is necessary to continue with animal testing when there are better alternatives. Ferdowsian and Beck (2012) also state that the way of putting animals to experiments and tests for new drugs is unethical and affects the ecosystem. On the other hand, both Hajar (2011) and Matthews (2008) argue that the animal testing is regulated nowadays and the banning of animal tests may set back the medical development globally. Animal testing is significantly important to the future development and therefore animal testing should be allowed to continue. In this essay, different concerns and the alternatives of the animal testing for medical purpose will be examined. Despite the alternatives, animal testing is needed for medical purposes.
A recent article by Doke and Dhawale (2013) suggests that animal testing requires skillful manpower and certain tools while the alternatives are more cost effective. For example, the use of computer models can help to investigate and make a new drug with a lower cost. The cells and tissue culture can be used to test the safety and efficacy of a new drug. This alternative can be used to replace the Draize test that is cruel to animals (Xu, Li & Yu, 2000). Therefore, Doke and Dhawale (2013) argue that better alternatives should be used to replace animal testing. This argument may be limited as it fails to take medical effectiveness of animal testing into account. It may focus too heavily on the other less important aspects like the amount of manpower and time needed for the tests. No matter how much costs or time is expensed, the medical methods should be effective and reliable enough to test the development of new drugs. Unlike Doke and Dhawale (2013), Matthews (2008) holds the view that advanced medical development mainly relies on animal testing. Matthews (2008) also proves the statement that ‘every medical achievement of the last century has depended directly or indirectly on research with animals.’ This provides a strong evidence to suggest that animal testing is essential to the medical science while other alternatives are still not able to replace it entirely.
Despite advanced medical achievements that animal testing can bring, the use of animal testing is still controversial due to ethical and psychological concerns. Therefore, the ‘3 Rs’ principles for animal testing are introduced and are being encouraged in recent years. The ‘3 Rs’ principles are to replace, reduce and refine the animal testing. Isbrucker et al. (2010) emphasizes that there is need for the international cooperation to apply and promote the 3Rs principles so as to give a more humane way of animal testing and to alleviate the stress or pain that animals received. An international workshop is held by NICEATM and ICCVAM to try to work out the way to replace animals for vaccine safety testing (Isbrucker et al., 2010). However, there may be a possible criticism about the refinement suggested in the 3Rs principles. Cuthill (2007) argues that better refinements in animal testing may indirectly encourage more uses of animal testing as animals suffer less pain or stress during the tests. The refinements result in more acceptable and humane animal tests may decline the awareness of reducing animal testing. This view is supported by Ferdowsian and Beck (2012), who claim that the number of animals used for tests has kept increasing even though the ‘3 Rs’ principles are implemented. These show that the ‘3 Rs’ principles are having a lot of limitations. Scientists are still working to improve the principle and thus animal testing is necessary to be allowed until the principle is effective enough to solve the related problems. A study of Cuthill (2007) has analyzed the psychological costs of animal testing that the scientists who conduct the animal testing experiment may feel guilty after seeing the animals suffered from pain during the experiment, and the scientists may even suffer from mental stress. Cuthill (2007) also discloses the social cost that the animal testing has been a controversial issue, causing many conflicts between different stakeholders. Sometimes, the procedures of animal testing are released in the social media, leading to arguments in the society. Other than the psychological and social costs, Ferdowsian and Beck (2012) suggest the most important concern of animal testing, which is the ethical and moral problem. They claim that animals experience pain and distress very easily. Even gentle handling may show significant changes in physiological stress on them. The fact that animals behave and feel very similarly to human makes animal testing more unethical.
However, Hajar (2011) argues the use of animals for developing new drug became more important in the twentieth century and banning of animal testing may set back the medical development. In order to ensure the new drug is safe, animal testing is necessary; otherwise, new drug cannot be marketed. In the last century, animal testing helped to treat with many diseases. In addition, related regulations are implemented on the animal testing so as to alleviate the pain or stress that the animals may suffer. For example, the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees were set up to regulate the research related to animal and to protect the animal right (Fitzpatrick, 2003). These regulations make animal testing more acceptable than before. On the other hand, there are still people in the societies that concern the moral values of animals. Therefore, Hajar (2011) suggests that people should strike a balance between the benefit to human and the harm to animals. In the same vein, Fitzpatrick (2013) maintains that this is the responsibility of everyone to balance the need of animal science and the importance of animal welfare.
The arguments above lead to a conclusion that animal testing is needed to continue to be allowed for the future medical development. Although there are many opposing views towards the animal testing due to the ethical reasons, it is the fact that banning the animal testing may lead to adverse effects on the medical science and development of new drugs in the future. In addition, many new alternatives are developed to replace animal testing if possible. However, there are still many limitations to the new alternatives and thus animal testing still cannot be entirely replaced. Banning the animal test is not the way to solve the problem for current situation. Instead, people should try to strike a balance in between until effective alternatives exist.
Cuthill, I. C. (2007). Ethical regulation and animal science: why animal behaviour is not so special. Animal Behaviour, 74(1), 15-22.
Doke, S. K., & Dhawale, S. C. (2013). Alternatives to animal testing: A review Alternatives to animal testing. Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal. Ferdowsian, H. R., & Beck, N. (2011). Ethical and scientific considerations regarding animal testing and research. PloS one, 6(9), e24059. Fitzpatrick, A. (2003). Ethics and animal research. Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine, 141(2), 89-90. Hajar, R. (2011). Animal testing and medicine. Heart views: the official journal of the Gulf Heart Association, 12(1), 42. Xu, K., Li, X., & Yu, F. X. (2000). Corneal organ culture model for assessing epithelial responses to surfactants. Toxicological Sciences, 58(2), 306-314. Isbrucker, R., Levis, R., Casey, W., McFarland, R., Schmitt, M., Arciniega, J., ... & Allen, D. (2011). Alternative methods and strategies to reduce, refine, and replace animal use for human vaccine post-licensing safety testing: state of the science and future directions. Procedia in Vaccinology, 5, 47-59.
Matthews, R. A. (2008). Medical progress depends on animal models-doesn't it?. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 101(2), 95-98.