Animal Testing: How And Where Do We Draw The Line?

Posted on May 10, 2012 in Society

By Nakul Arora:

At times, I sit back and wonder if this earth or universe was designed exclusively for us humans to live (and potentially ruin), the answer that I get is what most of you would get too. No, we humans are just a small part of the whole, a sub-set of the super-set. However, our actions speak a total different story, for we behave as owners of the planet and believe ourselves to be part of a race which is created to rule over the others. One such example of our folly is seen in the use of animals for testing products which may or may not be used by humans in the future. On my part, I would try to be as non-biased as possible and would equally present both the sides. Animal testing is not a new phenomenon; it is something that is as ancient as the Greek civilization itself. Aristotle is said to have first used up animals for experimentation. The practice of vivisection, surgery on living organism for experimental purpose, was first done by Galen, a Roman physician in 2nd Century.

The experiments on animals increased exponentially with time, they were used for reasons varying from testing of medical products to being sent out in space. The testing gained real momentum after the 1930’s when the US government imposed a ban on sale of any prior non-tested products on animals in the market. This decision was influenced by the deaths of more than 100 users by the side-effect of the use of sulfinalimide drug. Another disaster caused by the use of Thalidomide drug, which adversely affected pregnant women and resulted in babies born with grotesque defects which were mostly fatal, further made rules more stringent for testing of medical products prior on animals and human subjects before being released into the market.

These two disasters makes one realize the importance of prior testing of medicines before being released. The big question then is: Is animal testing the only way out?

The reasoning that the people who are in favour of it give is that for a product to be tested, you need conditions which have metabolic and genetic similarities to humans and its further stated that even the best of computers can’t simulate anything near to a living being metabolism. The main purpose of the drug testers is to see the way the drug will react when introduced into the system and the way the body would respond, this would mean how it gets absorbed into the body and it’s further breakdown, the impact on the toxic levels of the body and also, how quickly does it get eliminated out of the body. Also, many famous scientists have stated that no major discovery in the medicinal sector would have been possible without animal testing. Another argument that is generally used in favour of this is that the impact of the benefits of the eventual drug on the human race justifies the use of animals in tests.

However, the mere quantity of animals used for testing would pose a question to this claim: According to PETA’s website, around 100 million animals every year are subjected to different form of experiments ranging from medical-driven to chemical tests to food and cosmetic tests to biology experiments. Also, the very basic notion that tests on animals are in no way an ultimate proof of similar results in humans makes one question the whole purpose of it at all. What would shock you more is to learn that most animal tests are performed to just determine if the drug is safe enough in toxic levels, so as to be tested on human subjects. Also, the level of suffering involved and the high quantity of animals being subjected to it makes one question the morality of it. Where do we draw the line and how and who gets to decide what is the level up to which it’s moral to sacrifice a few animal lives for the greater cause of humanity. From where do we humans get the basic right to subject other animals, over which we have no inherent right, to experimentation for our better tomorrow? Also, allowing millions of animals to die for the purpose of us developing a better understanding of their systems by dissection in biology is a shame. Have we ever seen a live human person been dissected and sacrificed just for the purpose of observation? Vivisection is said to be the worst form of torture that can be inflicted on any living thing.

Also, imagine the plight of the animals that are being sacrificed by the cosmetics industry for the purpose of developing products which can be used to enhance a human’s looks, here even the moral argument of a greater good can’t be used. For the few of you, who consider themselves to be pure vegans, there is a shock in store: A simple search on the internet would reveal to you the high amount of usage of animal products in simple medicinal tests. Even a simple blood test uses heparin, made from pig’s intestines, to prevent clotting in blood until analysis time.

However, the situation is definitely improving steadily. Stricter regulations have been set up by the FDA and other leading agencies, this has led to better living conditions for lab animals and also use of the minimum painful method for testing. In case of vivisection, there are now laws which allow it to only happen under anaesthesia. The scientists’ community has been advised to follow the three R’s: Reduction, Refinement and Replacement. This include lesser use of animals and better sharing of research, refinement of methods employed for testing so as to make it as less painful as possible and finally to search for better alternates which can act as possible replacements for animals in such tests. The current models that are being experimented with include human subjects, computer models and small cell culture instead of whole animals. The future looks good and it definitely shows us a ray of hope for a better and more-harmonised life with the nature. Until then, I would leave you to ponder upon with the question: Is it moral to sacrifice the lives of other living beings for the betterment of ourselves, who are themselves nothing but a part of the whole?

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