History and Debate of Animal RightsAnimals are used for research in a variety of settings, including tests to determine the safety of drugs, cosmetics and other substances. Whether or not humans should use animals for testing purposes, however, is a controversial subject. There are both pros and cons to using animals for testing, but the scientific community, the government and society in general have yet to reach a consensus on this ethical issue.
One of the primary advantages of animal testing is that it allows researchers to develop new medications and treatments, advancing the field of medicine and enhancing the health of society. For instance, many drugs used to treat or prevent cancer, HIV, diabetes, infections and other medical maladies have resulted from tests performed on animals. Many proponents of animal testing support the practice for this reason, even if they do not support testing cosmetics or other non-essential substances on animals.
Animal testing also enables scientists and researchers to test the safety of medications and other substances with which humans have regular contact. Drugs, for instance, may pose significant risks to humans, so testing them on animals first gives researchers a chance to determine drugs' safety before human trials are performed. While scientists are cognizant of the differences between humans and animals, the similarities are considered significant enough to produce relevant, useful data that they can then apply to humans. Thus, animal testing reduces harm to humans and saves lives, not only because the exposure to risky substances is minimized, but because resulting medications and treatments have such positive impacts on the overall quality of life experienced by humans.
Critiques of Animal TestingOne of the major disadvantages to animal testing is that a significant number of animals are harmed or die as a result of experiments and testing. Unfortunately, many of the substances used on animal subjects never receive approval for human use or consumption. Those who oppose animal testing consider this a very important point, because humans receive no direct benefits as a result of the deaths of these animals. Opponents also argue that animals are dissimilar enough from humans to make the results of animal tests unreliable. A related criticism is that testing induces stress in the animals, meaning that the subjects do not react to experimental substances in the same way that they might in more natural circumstances, making the results of experiments less valid.
Using animals as research subjects is also expensive, because the animals require food, shelter, care and treatment in addition to the costs of experimental substances. Long-term or multi-phase tests can increase the costs of the practice as well. The actual price paid for the animals is also worth consideration; there are companies that breed and sell animals specifically for testing purposes.