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The Ethics of Research Involving Animals

By spikes607 Nov 04, 2013 2031 Words
Man’s Best Test Subject

“All living beings have an inherent value and that to use any animals for experimentation is evil” (Mur 8). This statement made by Tom Regan in Animal Experimentation takes a strong stand on the controversial topic of animal testing, but this assertion is justified through various examples and research. He also states how humans, or moral agents, are able to apply moral principles in decision making. Because of this ability, humans have a duty to uphold that morality on other humans as well as those with an inherent value, such as animals. Animal activists strongly support this idea, yet researchers use animals to implement experiments that they claim to be morally justified and beneficial to humanity. However, research on this issue has provided evidence that proves these claims to be false. Animal experimentation is unnecessary, cruel, and, in some cases, harmful to humans. Experimentation on animals is a controversial topic and a popular argument against this practice is whether or not animals have rights. This issue is discussed in further depth in the introduction to the book, Do Animals Have Rights? Pro-experimentation thinkers believe that animals do not have rights and conclude that it is acceptable to follow through with animal testing. They follow the ideas of people such as philosopher René Descartes who believed “that no animals have rights because they do not use language, and because, he asserted, they are not conscious” (Carroll 4). Although it is true that most animals cannot communicate the way humans can, followers of this idea are misled, for consciousness can be defined as a state of awareness and can be categorized by thought and emotion. According to animal rights lawyer, Steven M. Wise, “entitlement to legal rights rests upon the existence of conscious states” (Carroll 5). Wise follows this declaration by stating how animals, such as great apes, behave in ways similar to the mental processes demonstrated by humans. They deceive and empathize with others, comprehend the idea of cause and effect, and can even recognize themselves in mirrors. For example, an ape can notice and will react to a splash of dye on their face when observing their reflection in a mirror. This characteristic in animals supports the idea of a conscious state, therefore animals are entitled to rights. Furthermore, Descartes concludes that because of an animal’s lack of consciousness it is “aware of neither pleasure nor pain. Therefore…animals are mere automatons or moving machines” (Carroll 5). He even goes as far as to conduct experiments where he would burn animals alive to prove their whines sound like that “of a machine that was malfunctioning or a gear that needed oil” (Carroll 5). Because of this evidence, Descartes reasoned animals need not be protected by rights. Along with civil rights attorney William Kunstler, many would disagree with this deduction. Kunstler argues that pain belongs to everyone no matter what race, sex, or species. He notes how animals are even used in research for pain and pain-relieving drugs, and states a specific example where a bird reacts quickly by jumping when its feet touch a hot-plate (Carroll 6). Philosopher Jeremy Bentham also agreed to the idea of animals having rights and says that pain “is the only factor that should be considered in weighing whether animals matter morally” (Carroll 5). Because animals do feel pain it allows them the right to the protection they are denied.

Animal experimentation is not only unnecessary but it is misleading as well. The research done by C. Ray Greek and Jean Swingle Greek provide strong evidence to support this idea. They state, “Modern medical advances such as antibiotics and vaccines are not the result of animal experimentation” (Greek 25). They continue to share their findings by stating how “epidemiological studies, not animal experiments, found links between heart disease and cholesterol…medications released between 1976 and 1985 were taken off the market because dangerous side effects were discovered that had not been found in animal experiments” (25). One can see from the evidence that not only was testing unnecessary in the case of discovering information on heart disease and cholesterol, but it was misleading in that drugs successful in animal testing failed on the humans who used them. “The Medications used to treat heart disease and high blood pressure were developed despite misleading results of animal experiments” (Greek 26). In this case experimentation was both unnecessary and misleading. Not only did the experiments present false information, but the needed medications were created without the use of animal experiments at all. The Greeks continue their argument by satisfying the question, what other methods of research can be used? Instead of animal experiments, “scientists should use other, more dependable, techniques such as in vitro testing, modeling studies, and clinical research” (Greek 25). Several alternative research methods are listed and they can accomplish more than what animal testing can. Animal Aid, an animal rights group founded in 1977 list several specific examples where test results from experimentation on animals provided incorrect drug information. Drugs such as isoprenaline, carbenoxalone, flosint, amrinone, opren and even aspirin where tested on animals and each one provided information on the drug that was false. For example, when isoprenaline was tested in monkeys it worked well against asthma, however thousands of people died when administered this drug (“Nonhuman Primates” 56). The well-known medication, aspirin, was also used in tests. It caused birth defects in monkeys, however this is not seen when used in humans (“Nonhuman Primates” 56). The information discovered by the Animal Aid group proves that testing done on animals is misleading and the results can be detrimental to human life.

Xenotransplantation, the donation of cells, tissues, and organs between species is a form of animal experimentation that harms humans rather that aiding them. Some try and argue this practice is beneficial to humans, but the evidence Stephanie Brown presents is hard to refute. She strongly suggests that xenotransplantation should be banned because “to date, every human receiving an animal organ has died, with the longest surviving only a few months” (49). To say that not a single human being has survived more than a few months from xenotransplantation is powerful evidence in that animal testing is harmful. Even scientists who participate in animal testing understand the effects of this practice, however “animal organ suppliers and immunosuppression drug providers see the profit potential for its commercial introduction” (Brown 48). Those seeking to make a profit continue to push organ transplantations and simply ignore the truth.

Several more examples of harm done to humans because of animal experimentation are listed in an article written by Animal Aid. For example, a hormone replacement therapy was successfully tested in monkeys. Because of the results, millions of women received the therapy, but this treatment was unfortunately “found to increase their risk of heart disease, stroke and breast cancer” (“Nonhuman Primates” 56). Also Opren, a drug used to treat arthritis, was tested in monkeys without problems and was then released to the human populace. The drug was “known to have killed 61 people. Over 3,500 cases of severe reactions have been documented” (“Nonhuman Primates” 56). These two examples represent only a couple cases of several others. Each fact provided explains how animal experimentation harms humans even to the point where millions are affected by false results.

Experiments done on animals are not just harmful to humans, but the animals as well. In fact, the experiments completed are cruel to the test subjects. This cruelty goes against humans’ moral duty as explained by Tom Regan. Animals have rights along with an inherent value and treating animals in a cruel manner is wrong. The importance of animals is discussed throughout the book, Why Animals Matter. In chapter five, Erin E. Williams and Margo DeMello, the authors of the book, discuss the animal experimentation industry and go into detail about some of the cruel experiments done on some animals. Millions of animals are experimented on every year and they range from a wide variety. Rabbits are often used in testing due to their cheap cost and the fact they are easy to handle. An experiment named the gonadotropin pregnancy test originated the term “rabbit test”; this is where researchers “injected female rabbits with a woman’s urine, and killed them, in order to inspect the ovaries to tell if the woman was pregnant” (Williams, DeMello 182). A pregnancy test purchased at a pharmacy could have told the woman that she was prenatal. The test done on these rabbits were unnecessary and cruel. Aside from rabbits, dogs are also used in punishing experiments. Approximate 65,000 dogs were used in 2004, and are said to be used in experiments “because they are easy to handle, one tragic drawback of being man’s best friend” (Williams, DeMello 183). One cruel example is that salespeople would use dogs “in demonstrations of medical devices and products” (Williams, DeMello 184). Evidence to further explain animal cruelty is presented in an article by Ingrid Newkirk. She illustrates various cases that she describes as “wasteful, cruel, and ridiculous” (28). These experiments are utilized on multiple animals that “are used for anything from forced aggression and induced fear experiments to tests on new football helmets and septic tank cleaner” (Newkirk 29). A few experiments are listed that illustrate ridiculous studies. For example, researchers at the University of Iowa gave daily doses of cocaine to pregnant rabbits then proceeded to shock the newborn babies in the head in order to study maternal drug abuse (Newkirk 30). Also the University of Illinois conducted an experiment to see if cows could survive off of newsprint. To do this, the researchers took bags of newspaper and inserted the bags into cows’ stomachs that were cut open (Newkirk 30). Newkirk continues to list several other unusual experiments and each one proves to be a cruel act against animals. Animal experimentation is not considered to be morally right or beneficial, in fact, this method of research proves to be completely opposite of those statements that scientists often proclaim. Testing on animals is unnecessary in that researchers are often misled from test results and needed information can be derived from methods other than animal experimentation. The use of animals for research is also far from beneficial when it has proven to harm humans. Cruelty is also another factor to consider when discussing animal experimentation. This cruelty goes against what is morally sound and contradicts the rights that animals deserve. Unfortunately, animal experimentation can turn even man’s best friend into a test subject.

Works Cited
Brown, Stephanie. “Using Animals as Organ Donors Endangers Human Lives.” Animal Experimentation. Ed. Cindy Mur. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2004. 48-51. Print. Carroll, Jamuana. “Introduction.” Do Animals Have Rights? Ed. Jamuana Carroll. Detroit, MI: Greenhaven, 2005. 4-7. Print. Greek, C. Ray. Jean Swingle Greek. “Animal Testing Is Not Essential for Medical Research.” Animal Experimentation. Ed. Cindy Mur. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2004. 25-27. Print. Mur, Cindy. “Introduction.” Animal Experimentation. Ed. Cindy Mur. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2004. 6-9. Print. Newkirk, Ingrid. “Animal Testing Is Cruel and Does Not Benefit Medical Research.” Animal Experimentation. Ed. Cindy Mur. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2004. 28-33. Print. “Nonhuman Primates Should Not Be Used in Experiments.” Animal Experimentation. Ed. Cindy Mur. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2004. 55-61. Print. Williams, Erin E., and Margo DeMello. Why animals matter: The case for animal protection. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007. Print.

Bibliography
“Ban Chimp Testing.” Scientific American. Oct. 2011: 12. Print. Carlin, David R. “Animals Are Not Entitled to Rights.” Animal Experimentation. Ed. Cindy Mur. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2004. 18-21. Print. Cohen, Philip. “Cloning Animals Is Cruel.” Do Animals Have Rights? Ed. Jamuana Carroll. Detroit, MI: Greenhaven, 2005. 52-55. Print. “Diseases of Animals.” The New Encyclopaedia Britannica: Macropaedia. 15th ed. 2010. Print. Groves, Julian McAllister. Hearts and minds: The controversy over laboratory animals. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1997. Print. Johnson, B. D. "The Sad Story of Nim." Maclean's. 9 May 2011: 62-64. Print. Newkirk, Ingrid. “Animal Testing Is Cruel and Does Not Benefit Medical Research.” Animal Experimentation. Ed. Cindy Mur. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2004. 28-33. Print. Regan, Tom. “Animals Are Entitled to Rights.” Animal Experimentation. Ed. Cindy Mur. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2004. 10-17. Print. Warrick, Joby. “Modern Slaughtering Methods Are Inhumane.” Do Animals Have Rights? Ed. Jamuana Carroll. Detroit, MI: Greenhaven, 2005. 64-70. Print. Williams, Erin E., and Margo DeMello. Why animals matter: The case for animal protection. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007. Print.

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