Animal testing is a process in which small animals like rats, mice, rabbits, pigs, dogs, etc. are used for experimentation.
This is a regular practice in drug development and other areas of scientific research.
It is widely used in areas of pharmacological, bio-medical and biological research that need an alternative to humans body.
Since one does not know the toxic effects and tolerable doses of new drugs, animal testing is done to ascertain them before use on humans.
Even animals were also used to test the potency of atomic bombs.
Further, they were also sent to space, moon, etc. to see if human life can be possible there.
Thus animals are allowed to sacrifice instead of humans.
This is done to avoid any potential harm to humans as we are considered more valuable than animals.
But animal rights & welfare activists consider this to be inhuman and cruelty to animals.
Hence governments have framed rules to prevent cruelty to animals.
The first law to be passed in the United States is the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act in 1966 which mentions about safety and welfare of animals in labs.
One has to take ethical permissions to perform experiments on them. Also, they have to follow strict conditions of temperature, humidity, cleanliness in the animal house.
Besides for scientific research, this animal use has spread to commercial research in pharmaceutical industries.
Animal Testing Pros and Cons list
Let’s see the benefits and problems of the use of animals separately.
1. Saving valuable human lives: When a new chemical or substance is found to have some effect on body physiology, it is first evaluated on animals. The characters like safety, maximum dose tolerance, the time span of effect, etc. are noted by giving to the suitable animal. If this is done directly on humans without testing on animals, it could be disastrous.
2. Minimize the cost: Animal testing decreases the cost significantly. Testing on humans is highly expensive. During clinical trials, human subjects are procured to make the final test before releasing the drug into the market. These human subjects have to be paid much time more than animals to study. Also, the treatment and maintenance of human subjects are expensive during testing. So testing on animals will be cheaper. For example, frogs are free to catch, albino rats are available for just a dollar, while a rabbit for $10. Also, small animals like rodents are preferred than big animals to minimize waste due to dead animals.
But on the other hand, a human subject must be paid thousand to millions as compensation. So this shows animal study is cheaper than using direct human subjects. Also, the food, drug and other requirements are low to animals than an average human.
3. Extensive research: Animal study provides for extensive research. After testing the drug for its effects in terms of behavior and body changes, further study is done on the tissues and specific organs. The animals are killed and the issues related to drug action are isolated and taken for molecular level study. This type of study actually gives an idea of how the drug shows its effect at molecular levels.
4. Reliable studies: Animals are similar to humans in terms of physiology and behavior to pain. So testing a drug on animals not only gives preliminary confirmation of activity but enhances the reliability. Hence those drugs which are found to be effective in humans are again tested on animals for confirmation of activity.
5. For study & research: Animals are also used for demonstrative studies to the students. Though this is being restricted in most countries, still it is inevitable. Even animal dissections and surgery can be used as practice and introduction to surgery in humans.
6. Animal medication studies: Few drugs are also developed for use extensively on pet and farm animals. In such a drug development process, the use of animals is essential as it helps to know how the drug affects the milk, eggs, and other animal products that will be used by humans.
7. Medical animals: Animals are bred and grown for the sake of research purposes. A medical animal is grown in the lab and its physiology and activity are controlled to make them less troublesome. Even there are companies involved in growing these for the sake of experiments. Besides, some animals are genetically modified to mimic any disease condition for which they are studied.
Animal Testing Cons:
1.Pain & Suffering: Animals have to undergo severe suffering during testing. Unlike testing in humans, animal testing is so thorough and harsh. Repeated trials are taken and also subjected to high doses to see the lethal effect. So the chances are the animals suffer a lot and also, in the end, most of them are killed. It seems like these animals are only grown to kill. Because in the end most of them are dead. Those who are alive are also sacrificed to avoid the unnecessary costs of feeding and maintenance.
2. Difficult maintenance: Animals cannot communicate like human subjects. So any inconvenience or pain during breeding, growth and maintenance can’t know to the caretaker. Even many animals die due to climate variation and health problems.
The animals need special protection during those times. For this, an experienced caretaker is needed. Further, their health must be monitored regularly by a veterinary doctor.
3. Difficult experimentation: Animal experiments are not so easy. Animals like rats, mice may even bite the handler. Also when experiments are run for a long time like weeks or months, animals may die in between. So the experiments can be hindered easily.
4. Animal results cannot be reliable to the fullest: Though animal physiology is similar to humans, not all the studies can be extrapolated to humans. For example, animals cannot think, show other psychological symptoms as humans.
So any testing for psychotic drugs on animals will not be sufficient to equate with human subjects. Also, animals have high metabolic activity than humans, so they can tolerate high doses but not humans.
So animal experiments can have more errors from different sources.
5. Life of animals: Animals live in their own set of environmental conditions. Like rats are active at night than in the day. They prefer to live in burrows than in open cages. They are highly active and motile physically and they may find it stressful to live in confined cages in labs without moving much. All these changes in animals’ life would also bring changes in physiology. Hence testing medications on animals may not give a direct correlation of activity in humans who are free to live as they wish.
6. Chances of extinction: Not all the animals are bred in the lab for use. Some of them cannot be grown in labs and have to obtained purely from nature. Ex: Frogs and toads which have interesting behavior of hibernation make them difficult to be grown in labs.
So when large scale use of frogs and toads is done, it leads to the possible extinction of these animals.
They do not have vertebral column also. Hence, one need not have animal ethical permissions to perform research on them. Further, their maintenance is cheaper and requires less stringent conditions. So when a researcher plans for biological experiments, he has to check for other options before directly going to use animals.
Though there are many allegations against the use of animals, still their use is inevitable in research and learning.