Animal Testing

ISSUE: For the most part, we would not be able to live very comfortably without them. The question of what is considered proper treatment of animals has been highly debated by groups looking at both the moral and ethical issues of the situation. What exactly is our proper role with regard to non-human creatures? Do they have any rights, or may we do as we please with them? These are questions that politicians all over the world have been arguing about for many years, and still is as controversial as ever!

PROBLEM: How can animal testing benefit both animals and humans without harming the animals?

BACKGROUND: For thousands of years, humans have used animals for a variety of purposes including food, clothing, labor, means of transportation, hunting, medicine, and companionship. However, many personal beauty products, such as lipstick, face cream, anti-perspirant, and laundry detergent all have one major characteristic in common: the suffering and death of millions of animals (Dickinson 13). Canada has no legislation to protect laboratory animals from any form of mistreatment, abuse, or neglect. Great Britain has nothing in the way of constitutional ethical treatment of laboratory animals. In the United States, the U.S. Welfare Animal Act (passed in 1966 and later amended in 1970 and 1976) charges the U.S. Department of Agriculture with overseeing the humane handling and housing of animals in laboratories, pet dealerships, and exhibitions.

While the law covers lab animals (such as rabbits, mice, dogs, and monkeys) it does not state that the animals are to be cared for or to be treated for injuries received from experiments, nor does it state that animals in laboratories can be used for only a limited number of experiments with the least possible suffering and distress (Dickinson 15). In effect then, there is no protection given to lab animals. On average, 25 million animals die every year in North America for the testing of everything from new cosmetics to new methods of warfare. Five hundred thousand to one million of these animals are sacrificed each year to test new cosmetics alone (Dickinson 13).

There are many kinds of tests performed on animals. One kind is the Acute Toxicity Test, which requires between 60 and 100 animals to determine what constitutes a lethal dose of a particular substance. The test spans a time period from two weeks to seven years, depending on the amount of toxic chemicals in the product being tested. The animals are observed daily. Since chemicals are bitter-tasting and have an unpleasant smell, animals refuse to swallow them. The animals are then forced to swallow the substances in the form of capsules or pellets. They are also force-fed liquid chemicals by stomach tube, or through a hole cut in the animals throat (Dickinson 23).

Animal-rights groups maintain that the tests are neither necessary nor particularly valid. And they loudly demand that the cosmetics industry find more humane ways to determine the safety of the product. While animal-rights activists ask if long eyelashes and red lips are worth an animals life, the cosmetics industry and FDA insist they are diligently searching for alternatives (Snead).

According to the Michigan Society for Medical Research, a non-profit organization formed to educate the public about animal research, pound animals play a vital role in studying heart and kidney disease, brain injury and educating physicians (Roelofs).

One temporary approach to help reduce the number of animals used in testing, supported by many humane societies, is a nationwide program of birth control, easily accomplished by spaying and neutering. A fixed pet is no longer a potential breeder of surplus animals. He has less inclination to wander away from home. He tends to be less aggressive, more gentle, even-tempered and affectionate. Spayed bitches and cats no longer go into periods of heat (estrus) that require them to be confined two or more times a year to avoid pregnancy. The bitchs owner is also spared visits by packs of excited males, fighting among themselves. Neutered male cats no longer emit a musky tomcat odor (Wylie).

Why, then, isnt neutering more widely practiced? The blame must be shared by pet owners, veterinarian organizations, pet shops and others who profit from the care and sale of cats and dogs. Many owners simply wont bother; others balk at the veterinarian fees, which range from $15 to $50 (Wylie).

The idea that animals, by right, should be free from molestation by humans gained a measure of acceptance only after the publication of Animal Liberation in 1975. Since that time, the membership of groups dedicated to achieving recognition of these rights has grown to such a degree that people with a vested interest in the use of animals- including medical researchers, farmers, hunters, and trappers- now perceive this movement as a real threat (Williams 9).

ANALYSIS: Animal testing can benefit both animals and humans without harming the animals by using information found in past experiments and requiring scientists to find a more humane way to determine the safety of certain products.

OPTION A: Using information found in past experiments to help determine the safety of certain products.

ADVANTAGES: One main advantage in doing this is that there wont be anymore animals used in certain tests. This is a simple, yet effective way to determine what drugs, or cosmetics, have been successful in the past and which ones still need improvement. Scientists will also save time and money. Doing these tests can be very expensive and may take weeks or months to complete. Using information found in the past will not only make the animals happier, but it should make animal rights activists happier as well.

DISADVANTAGES: Drugs that have been improved will not have a chance to be re-tested. When a new or improved drug is on the verge of discovery, scientists will have to find another way to test it. Not being able to use animals will really limit their options. They have used animals for so long, their tests will most likely have to be changed. Changing the procedures of these tests could be extremely costly and time consuming.

OPTION B: Requiring pet owners to spay or neuter their pets.

ADVANTAGES: This is a very effective way to limit the number of animals used in testing. Many of these animals tested are often strays and have had no owner. If pet owners were required to fix their pets, it would really help in controlling the nation-wide pet population. There would be fewer unwanted animals roaming the streets in search for a mate; resulting in fewer unwanted pregnancies. Consequently, scientists would have a limited number of animals to work with.

DISADVANTAGES: Breeders and pet-store owners would be in a bad position. This would mean that they would either have to go through tedious amounts of paper work in order to own animals that could still reproduce, or they would have to find a new career! For many people, taking care of animals has been a very big part of their life. Some have come to see it as more of a hobby than a job. For others, it may be the only thing that still brings joy into their lives!