Animal rights are held entirely too high in regard. Many activist do not realize the benefits of testing on animals. They claim that it is “unethical” or “cruel” to perform experiments on such creatures. The truth is, the world as a whole has advanced tremendously in the past century due to animal experimentation. We are affected every day by at least one thing that has been influenced by animal testing. Many of the things we take for granted would not exist if it were not for experimenting with animals. The medicine that we need, the education that we receive, and the products that we use are just a few of the benefits that these animals bring to us. We should look at animals, not as poor defenseless creatures that are subject to cruel experiments, but as heroes that have improved almost every aspect of our life in todays society.
In contrast, opponents to animal testing believe that animals have a right to live as a human being. The rights of animals are even claimed in the “Universal Declaration of the Rights of Animals” proposed by the International League of the Rights of Animals. There are also opposers who believe that it is wrong to hurt any living creature. People such as Michael Fox, a professor at Queen’s University of Kingston Ontario, has based his theory of the unjustification of animal experimentation on “the principle of maleficence.” This principle states that it is simply wrong to harm creatures that do not want to hurt you. The problem with this statement is that we value the life of an animal lower than a human life. Some experiments can only be done on animals. For example, we could not subject a human to a potential toxin or other harmful chemicals. Some other experiments measure life expectancy and would be impossible to perform with humans. Still, other tests require numerous samples, equal in various physical conditions such as weight or genetic make-up. The findings of such experiments could be very important towards the benefit of human beings. It has been recorded that “É 54 of 76 Nobel prizes awarded in physiology or medicine since 1901 have been for discoveries and advances made through the use of experimental animals ” (American Medical Association 77). Consequently, it is evident just how important animal testing really is.
Other opponents have suggested that technology can substitute for the real thing. They suggest that computer programs or models of animals be used to perform experiments. Again there is a problem in that these methods are not yet as sophisticated as they need to be. We simply do not have enough advances in computer technology to create an ideal model of an animal. We can not recreate life, only observe the real thing.
Some animal rights activists also believe that cruel things are being done to the animals used for testing. The truth is, there are organizations that restrict and create lab procedures and conditions in which to work with animals. These groups include the United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, and the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory animal Care. These associations, along with others around the world, provide the most humane methods of animal testing. Scientists are not vindictive; they recognize the right of life of an animal and treat animals with the utmost respect
The medical field has been greatly impacted by the use of animals. Experimentation with the use of animals has been dubbed as vivisections. One such famous vivisection was conducted by F. G. Banting and J.J R. Macleod. The two Canadian physiologists took diabetic dogs and removed their pancreases. Then they discovered a cure for diabetes through the use of insulin. This experiment won them a Nobel prize in 1923. This also led to further experiments of the same type. Scientists would purposely produce diabetes in rabbits so as to create laser treatments for certain retinal disease that diabetes induce.
Animal testing has brought an innumerable number of advances to medicine. Several anesthetic products and advances in neurophysiology have come from vivisections. The treatment of rabies and anthrax can be traced back to animals. Other medical advancements include the treatment of arthritis, whooping cough, leprosy, diphtheria, rubella, and measles (Harnac 75).
Medication for the control of heart disease has been a collaboration of several animal tests. It began with the findings of blood circulation by William Harvey of England in 1628 with the use of dogs. Next, blood pressure was discovered by Stephen Hales in 1733 using hares. Measuring blood pressure with a mercury manometer came a century later. A French physiologist by the name of Jean Poiseuille again used dogs to accomplish this feat. Without these experiments, future scientists would never have been able to come up with a cure for heart disease. Many other animals have been used in the study of coronary artery disease. Rodents, cats, primates, and especially dogs have been used to practice heart surgery, study atherosclerosis (the cause of heart diseases) and strokes, and to create drugs for hypertension, heart failure, heart pain and arrhythmias, irregular heart beats. Even though the lives of the animals that undergo heart transplants are at risk, it is done for the benefit of humans to save life.
One of the greatest achievements obtained through the use of animal experimentation was the polio vaccine. Polio afflicted many people during the early 1900s world wide. The United States, however, was hit the hardest. Polio affects the central nervous system and usually paralyzes its victims from the waist down or otherwise it could be fatal. Children were its primary targets and it soon became known as “infantile paralysis.” Due to the lack of modern sewage systems in the 1900s, viruses could easily get around and infect people. One doctor, by the name of Jonas Salk set out to rid the world of polio and other viral diseases. Instead of working with patients, he set out to formulate a cure in the lab. At that time, vaccinations for typhoid fever had been developed. The procedure involved taking what would be a dead bacteria from the fever, and inject it into a human. Because the germ is dead, it will not reproduce and spread itself. However, the body still creates antibodies to destroy the disease. These antibodies remain in the body and protect against the threat of the disease. The problem with polio was that it was a much stronger virus and needed live bacteria to form strong enough antibodies. The question was whether or not it was safe enough to use such methods on people. Salk had to conduct experiments on live animals to find out how the antibodies would affect polio. “É it would be necessary to sacrifice thousands of monkeys. It was a painful decision to make, but there was little choice. It was the only way to study the polio virus.” (Hargrove pg.20). In all approximately 17,500 monkeys were injected with polio in order to find a cure. In the end, Jonas Salk created the vaccine and effectively cured and prevented millions of polio victims around the world. If it had not been for the monkeys that he had experimented on, millions of people would have died from the disease, and millions yet would have contract it. At the cost of thousands of animal experimentations, we have rid the world of one of the worst epidemics in the history of the world, thanks to Jonas Salk.
Polio was not the only disease wiped out due to vivisections. Flu vaccinations were created and cures for smallpox came from animal testing. Therapeutic usage of many antibiotics, including penicillin,was conducted on animals. In medicine we owe much to these creatures. In the future, animals will be needed to test newer and more advanced viruses that have the potential to cause deadly diseases.
Along with medicine, education has been greatly influenced by animals. In school almost all students are able to participate in what is called a “compulsory dissection,” of a frog usually. Many people often feel uncomfortable and decide not to partake in cutting up the specimen. They complain that their conscience is getting to them or they say it is immoral. The fact of the matter is that the dissection of an animal is a great learning tool. It “É provides concrete, hands on learning experiences with anatomy,one of the most basic of sciences” (Offner 106). It is a way to apply knowledge that is obtained in the classroom and put it to use. A sense of understanding and meaning are gained when a student is able to recognize what he has done through a hands on activity. Discovering several parts of an animal’s anatomy is also part of the learning method. Through dissection, we have discovered that pigs and sheep alike have three bronchial tubes, one to the left lung and two to the right. Also the brain of a crayfish is about the size of the head of a pin. No one would have known that if a crayfish had not been dissected. Many opponents often suggest the use of models, or diagrams, or even videos to learn about animals. The truth is, students learn facts taught to them best through the actual process of dissection. Because it is the real thing, the students learn, learn from the procedure and at test time around, they are able to apply their knowledge and put it on paper. As one professor said, “É You can have a student regurgitate on a paper-and-pencil test that a mammal’s lung feels spongy, but there is no way that student will understand what spongy means unless they see the real thing” (Offner 107).
Without the use of compulsory dissections, real medical knowledge or understanding is impossible. This process is not without guidelines, however. Animals can not be taken out of the wild and used in an experiment. It must first be verified by one of the animal control groups. It is taken seriously and should not be taken for granted. It is a definite privilege to work with an animal.
Biomedical research has also shown that animal experimentation is a necessity. Animal research has led to many advances in veterinary practice and produced vaccines for such diseases as rabies, Lyme disease, and feline leukemia. Also, reproductive research has helped certain animals from becoming extinct. In the case of primates, the closest of animals to humans, many tests have proved beneficial towards humans. It has been recorded that chimpanzees are the only known animals other than humans that can contract hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and onchocerciasis or river blindness. The chimps used in recent studies have come from Liberia where these animals would have most definitely been shot instantly by farmers. Also, the habitat in which they live is replicated in the laboratory in order to maintain the chimpanzees’ comfort. These animals had been taken out of harm’s way and are now safe from the rifles of man. Through extensive research, they have also provided vaccines for hepatitis B and as of now work is still being done to discover cures for hepatitis C and onchocerciasis. These vaccinations could only have been developed through the testing of the chimps since humans do not have the immune system to handle the viruses. In fact, if the same experiments were run on humans, they would surely die. in some case, because the chimpanzees have stronger systems, the viruses did not even develop into diseases in them.
The study of psychology is yet another part of education that has been directly affected by vivisections. Opponents of the use of animals in psychological experiments envision animals undergoing electrolysis, or shock therapy, and convulsing as each shock surges through their body. In contrast, if electrolysis is used, it is mostly low level shocks, much like the static shock of a computer monitor. Also, researchers must answer to the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees for any experiment which uses animals and electrolysis. They must show that they cannot conduct their tests in any other way. Finally, inspectors check for the use of a mild shock. When a stronger shock is used, it is only in the case of studying epilepsy, a convulsive disorder, and the drugs that help to control it. Therefore, animals are protected from scientific abuse.
Many advances have been brought on by behavioral and psychological research. Those suffering from stroke, head injury, or spinal cord injury have benefited from animal research. Also treatments for alcoholism, obesity, substance abuse, hypertension, chronic migraine headaches, lower back pain, and insomnia have come from these experiments. Because of the complexity of the human body, living organisms are needed. Multiple variables interact with one another which would make a model inadequate. Computers could be used, but the U.S. Congress’s Office of Technology Assessment claims that “research with animals will still be needed to provide basic data for writing computer software, as well as to prove the validity and reliability of computer alternatives” ( Animal Experimentation 880). Experimentation with animals has helped in other psychological areas including Alzheimer’s disease, communication with the mentally retarded, early detections of eye impairments in children , and control of chronic anxiety. Because primates exhibit complex behaviors,in many areas, scientists have been able to study social organization, aggression, learning, memory, communication, growth and development.
In today’s world, where would we be without products like penicillin and other antibiotics? Banting and Macleod, two Canadian physiologists found a cure for diabetes by discovering insulin while experimenting with dogs. Testing on animals has led to numerous products such as vaccines, toxoids and antitoxins. New products continue to be tested on animals to determine whether they are safe for public use. At the expense of losing a couple of animals, scientists are saving millions of people that use the products. For instance, the development of the pump-oxygenator in the 1950s which continued the circulation of blood when the heart is stopped for a transplant, could never have been built if it were not for animals. Even the organ transplants could never have happened without animal testing. The first kidney transplant occurred through dogs. Also the lives of “blue babies” were saved due to the experimentation of dogs with structural defects of the heart. The artificial heart took several years to test and make. Calves were used because the size of their hearts correspond to the human heart.
A very important product that came from animal experimentation was thyroxine. The thyroid gland located between the larynx and trachea of the neck produces the hormone thyroxine. When the gland is deprived of thyroxine or is not producing as much that is needed, hypothyroidism, or myxedema, sets in. Victims of this disease suffer from dry skin, sleepiness, fatigue, and become more susceptible to colds. After the experimentation of animals in the 1920s, the discovery of thyroxine was made and hypothyroidism was no longer a problem.
The most important product discovered with the use of animals in experimentation was penicillin. This antibiotic was discovered in 1928 by a Scottish biologist named Alexander Fleming. It is used to combat many diseases that can infect humans without toxic effects. Examples of diseases include syphilis, pneumonia, gonorrhea, and meningitis. It is the least toxic antibiotic ever made, and from it several other penicillin type antibiotics were made.
Many other vaccines have been made from animal testing. Jonas Salk and his polio vaccine saved millions of lives at the expense of the lives of thousands of monkeys. A vaccine for pertussis which, in most cases, causes brain damage could only be developed with animals. Vaccines for many other diseases, such as small pox and measles, have been made possible by animal testing. The way these vaccines are made often kills the animals because the actual virus is introduced into the blood stream. However, in the end the death of the animal is justified by the lives of the humans it saves. There is always a price to pay for the benefit for mankind.
We should care for all animals living on this planet. However, the sacrifice of animals for the benefit of mankind surpasses all doubt whether or not animal experimentation is ethical. They have helped us more than we can ever imagine. Thanks to animals, we have advanced in all areas of living. Our medical standards are higher and our education is better. Animal testing has made available more products and improved technology. Although from the animals’ perspective it might seem harsh and inhumane, from the scientist’s point of view, one can clearly see that these animals are heroes that have helped the human race survive and advance in our world today.
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