Animal Testing

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Marissa Palermo, Reporter

Animal testing has been a controversial form of experimentation in both cosmetic and medical research. It has resulted in life-saving scientific breakthroughs, along with the emergence of alternative methods and powerful questions on ethics.

Although animal testing is considered ethically wrong, there have been significant medical breakthroughs that have positively impacted human society. For example, according to Speaking of Research, when researchers infected mice with a type of bacteria and then treated them with penicillin, it was discovered that penicillin could be used to treat infections, which have since saved many human lives. According to Foundation for Biomedical Research, the vaccine for smallpox came from experimentation on cows, and the polio vaccine was made possible by the research done on monkeys and dogs. Along with these breakthroughs, treatments for tuberculosis, macular degeneration, asthma, meningitis, diabetes, and more have all resulted partially from the use of animals in research.

While there have been medical breakthroughs that involve animal testing, there are often instances of drugs or treatments working on animals, but not on humans. Due to the differences in the structure and reactions of humans and animals, the research done on animals is often unsuccessful. According to PETA, the National Institutes of Health spends more than 12 billion dollars a year on animal testing, and of the experiments done, 90% of the research does not reach human trials.

A common misconception that surrounds the topic of animal testing is that if animals are not subject to experimentation, then the alternative would be to experiment on humans.  Not only is this incorrect, but the alternative experiments can actually be considered more reliable than those done on animals. According to Cruelty Free International, The Draize test – which entails subjecting rabbits to painful skin irritants – is successful in predicting a human’s reaction to harmful substances 60% of the time, while the use of reconstructed human skin is successful 86% of the time. The Crude skin allergy test performed on guinea pigs has been successful in anticipating a human’s response 72% of the time, while alternative methods have shown to be successful 90% of the time.

One of many alternatives to animal testing includes a method called Vitro Testing. Vitro testing, created by Harvard University, is a form of experimentation that uses microchips lined with human cells to test experimental drugs. This method was specifically created to test these drugs in a humane manner. This method offers more room for advancements in medical treatments for humans. Not only does Vitro testing offer a more reliable form of experimentation, but it also offers the ability to study the effects that the environment has on human tissue. Another alternative humane method, called microdosing, allows willing human participants to volunteer to receive a small dose of an experimental drug, enough to show the effects but not enough to cause harm. This provides researchers with a more reliable form of analyzing the effects of a drug.

There are many different types of animals that are used in animal experimentation. According to Speaking of Research, among these animals, 84% are rodents, 12% are fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds, and among less than 1% are dogs and cats, all specifically bred for the research –no stray or unwanted pets are used in these experiments. Of these animals, over 100 million die each year.

The European Union, Norway, Israel, and India are the only four countries in the world that have permanently banned animal testing. In China, it is a legal requirement for cosmetic companies to have their products tested on animals before they are able to sell in the country.

Taking into account the factual information depicted above, it seems clear that the need for animal testing has become redundant. While the necessity of animal testing has been prominent in the past, the continuous advancements in technology and the current alternative forms of experimentation have therefore caused a decline in the need of animal testing to offer a more reliable and humane way to experiment.