Man has been dependent on the animals for its survival for food, companionship, and competition. Man has also used animals to gain knowledge about its surroundings. One of the earliest examples being that of physician Galen who used animals to demonstrate that blood flowed in arteries and not air. The man has come a long way from times of Galen and now, dogs, cats, monkeys, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other animals are integral to the domain of scientific research. Research involves three distinct facets: acquiring knowledge, animals use in teaching exercises, and testing on animals of compounds, devices, or chemical for effectiveness and safety.
Necessity of Animal Use in Research
It is understood that research that involves animals is aimed at contributing to the improvement of living conditions and health of humans and animals. No drug can be introduced into clinical practice without passing certain toxicological studies that are performed on beagle dogs and rodents. The underlying principle is that the human biology resembles that of many animals and thus, results obtained from experiments on animals can be applied to humans (Fisher, 2013). The use of animals is required in many areas such as biological and medical research, development of cures from new diseases, preparation of alternative natural products from medical treatment and research, testing of drugs and chemicals for safety, research on genetic disorders, development of tests for diagnosis of diseases, and for biology and medical education.
In spite of benefits of biomedical research realized by society at large, the opposition to experiments on animals for research has existed. The movement has come a long way from peaceful protests and provocative writing to violent movements in recent times. The animal rights activists tend to take extreme positions related to ethics of animal experimentations. They regard animal researchers as corrupt and cruel that are greedy for laurels against their names. However, the fundamental value of biomedical research to humans as well as animals is to relieve them of their sufferings and enhancements of conditions of living. The scientists have a job to do, and the institutions taking part in biomedical research are also maintained by public funds.
Animal research has also been found to be very effective method of inquiry and has been a key component of significant medical breakthroughs. The development of treatment of Progeria (a disease that cause premature ageing in children) could not have been possible without the genetically engineered mice (NYAS, 1988). Similarly, research on moneys has been very helpful in the quest of the medical world to find cure of inherited mitochondrial disease.
Enquiry is one of the characteristics of human life that sets us apart from other life on the planet. It is also a fundamental activity in which we are not the only stakeholders. We exist in the integration with nature, and every human step has ramifications for the entire living world. Thus, we are inherited with great responsibility to know, understand, and comprehend the nature as it exists. Given the animals’ integral role in biomedicine and ethical imperatives of research and enquiry, there appears to be a prima facie justification of animal use in scientific research that aims to provide pragmatic benefits to animal and human life.
Another underlying principle of nature states that every animal life form, which includes human life, must make use of other organic life to survive and flourish (Fisher, 2013). This interaction and assimilation of energy is the fundamental basis of the metabolic existence. Ever since the early ages, animals have been used by man to fulfil his basic necessities of food, clothing, entertainment, and work. Scientific research on animals for improving the chances of survival and quality of life fall within the same domain.
Before forming prejudices and perspectives, it must be understood that the scientific researchers are learned scholars, and not some lunatics who derive pleasure in slaughtering animals. They have compassion towards the animals and thus, perform their duties in a cautious manner so as to ensure that not even a single animal life is lost in vain. It must also be notices that larger animals like cats, dogs, and monkeys are seldom used forming only a minute fraction of total animal experiments (NYAS, 1988). However, there are certain activists that are against any medical research on animals due to the possibility of death of the animals. This perspective is absurd as it tends to stand against any kind of medical treatment in the world as there is a possibility of death during various medical treatment processes. It also must be noticed that the attempt of the animal rights activists to stop medical experiments may result in deaths of a much larger number of patients. If they think deeply enough, even they would not be agreement with such a possibility.
It must also be understood that scientists have been trying to move away from animal research by incorporating technologically advanced methods and technologies. However, animal research seems to be inevitable. The use of technology is useful, but it has not been productive enough to provide answers to all the questions. Moreover, every government has put in place a strict set of rules and guidelines to prevent any undue harm on animals. According to Fisher (2013), there is a system of passing all research proposals through ethical review to justify the need of animal experimentation and the scientist must also demonstrate how they have tried all alternative non-animal techniques before a license for animal experimentation is provided to them. These strict regulations have animal welfare at their core. Also, it must be noticed that, with the development in technology used in medical experiments and research, the animal use is bound to come down.
Many would say that the death of animals is not ethically justified, but it must also be considered that it is much better than the death of millions of people in the absence of any medical research. There are rules and regulation to prevent undue harm to the animals. Even the scientists are humane and do not take pleasure in inflicting pain on animals rather they try to minimize agony and pain to the animals. It must be understood that many of us and our children are alive because of an animal research that took place somewhere in the world else many of us suffering from polio, diphtheria, and leukemia. could not have been cured. Cure to these diseases and many more have been possible only with the help of animal experimentation. We have to be thankful to this method that has saved many lives.
New York Academy of Sciences (1988). Interdisciplinary Principles and Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Research, Testing and Education.
Fisher, P. E. (2013). Why We Should Accept Animal Testing. The Huffington Post.