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 pharmacological, bio-medical and biological research that needs an alternative to the human body.
Since one does not know the toxic effects and tolerable doses of new drugs, animal experimentation 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, the moon, etc., to see if human life could 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 cruel 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 AWA in 1966, which regulates laboratory animals’ safety and welfare.
One has to take ethical permission to perform animal experiments.
It is also mandatory to follow strict regulations of temperature, humidity, and cleanliness in the animal house.
Special animal care concerning food and water and diseases is important.
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 affect body physiology, it is first evaluated on animals.
The characteristics like safety, maximum dose tolerance, the time span of effect, etc., are noted by giving to a suitable animal.
If this is done directly on humans without testing on animals, it could be disastrous.
2. Minimize the cost:
Animal research decreases the cost of drug development significantly. Testing on humans is expensive.
Human subjects are procured to make the final test during clinical trials before releasing the drug into the market.
These human subjects have to be paid more than animal studies.
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 over big animals to minimize waste due to dead animals.
But on the other hand, a human subject must be paid in thousand to millions of dollars as compensation.
So this shows animal study is cheaper than using direct human subjects.
Also, the food, drug and other requirements are low for animals than an average human.
3. Extensive research
Animal study provides for extensive research.
After testing the drug for its effects on 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 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, it is still 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, animals’ usage is essential to know how the drug affects the milk, eggs, and other animal products that humans will use.
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.
Cons of Animal Testing
Pain & Suffering
Animals have to undergo severe suffering during testing. Unlike testing in humans, animal research is so thorough and harsh.
Repeated trials are taken and also subjected to high doses to see the lethal effect. So the chances of the animal suffering are high and also 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 experimentation is not easy, especially with rodents, as they may bite the handler.
Also, there are chances of severe deformities and death of animals in a group when experiments are run for a long time.
4. Animal tests cannot be reliable to the fullest
Though animal physiology is similar to humans, not all studies can be extrapolated. For example, animals cannot think, and 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 to 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 directly correlate with activity in humans who are free to live as they wish.
6. Chances of extinction
Not all animals are bred in the lab for use. Some of them cannot be grown in labs and have to be obtained purely from nature.
Ex: Frogs and toads, which have interesting hibernation behavior, make them difficult to be grown in labs.
When large-scale use of frogs and toads is done, it leads to the possible extinction of these animals.
They do not have a 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 animal experimentation, he has to check for other alternative methods.
Though there are many allegations against animals’ use, still their use is inevitable in research and learning.
Besides, this animal experimentation is also done on a commercial scale in the pharmaceutical and food industries. So, their regulation is important.