Animal Experimentation: Is it Ethical?

November 5, 2011

Political Theory


John Stuart Mill held the utilitarian belief in justifying actions.  In other words, the consequences of an act are what determine it to be good or evil.  A major topic of discussion for a while now has been the debate of animal experimentation.  There are many pros and cons to both sides of the argument, some of which you can find at this site.  In short, animals are often harmed for the betterment of mankind.  It’s a tough situation that can be even tougher to justify.  If you are to look at the situation simply from a human perspective, it seems like a great idea.  Once you consider the effects though that testing has on many animals every year, you might think again.

There are of course some regulations on what scientists can do, but there are still research studies conducted that cause animals pain and suffering.  A common test used for cosmetic testing is the Draize Test in which a substance is placed on the eye or skin of an animal (usually a rabbit) and left there until the effects are recorded.  Many people argue that these tests are cruel and untrustworthy because of the difference in human and rabbit eyes.  According to PETA, over one million animals are killed every year due to testing.  This figure does not include mice and rats, which amounts to about 100 million each year.  Here you can find a video produced by the Humane Society that  explains the cosmetic industry of the Untied States and gives examples of products that are tested on animals.  Also covered in the video are solutions to eliminate these methods of testing.  One solution that is already in use is the use of reconstructed human tissue to test the products, which is even more accurate than tests done on animals.

We as humans are receiving the benefits at the expense of other beings.  It’s hard to say if the benefits for us outweigh the consequences that affect animals.  Both sides must be evaluated to take a side.  We can develop many vaccines such as those for rabies and polio through tests.  In addition, organ transplant surgeries have been very helpful and antibiotics have been developed.

I think testing that does not inflict any pain or do any harm to animals is justifiable.  However, I would like to hear your opinions on this topic.  Is harmful animal testing justifiable?   How do you personally feel about this topic and what do you think Mill’s response might be?

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6 Comments on “Animal Experimentation: Is it Ethical?”

  1. Kunal Saxena Says:

    I feel that Animal testing has it’s pros and cons. I feel that yes, it is unethical to test on animals and unjust. However, if you look at the other side, testing on animals has potentially saved many human lives. I feel that this context can be refereed to Machiavelli in terms of the means and cause. The means is through testing make-up, drugs etc, however the cause of this is to save human lives. If assessed, the cause is for the greater good of mankind and henceforth justifiable.

  2. zschmitt17 Says:

    I have no problem with animal experimentation. It is not any different than killing animals for food. Do you think that the animals want to be killed just to end up on our dinner tables? No, they would like to live. Same goes for the testing. If it was up to the animals they would not be stuck in a lab somewhere, going through these tests, but would be free in the wild or a pet at home. However, it is not up to the animals, humans get to decided. If these tests can in any way help humans or have the potential to then sacrificing animals does not make me blink an eyelash. I will relate it to the state of nature, argueably even when under a government state of nature is still present. There is still that need to survive, so it is justifiable to kill animals (either through testing or for food) in order to prolong the species. If a bear were to kill a man for walking into his cave, would that need to be justified? No it is expected of the bear, it has no care about whether we survive it just wants to survive itself.

  3. maxmoray Says:

    The question behind whether or not animal testing should be allowed, is an idea that is highly debated by many. In my eyes, testing experiments on animals should be allowed. One reason I think it is justified, is because of the many human lives that it can save. By testing on animals rather then humans, it is obvious a lesser threat will be attended at human life. Likewise, humans are clearly unique amongst animals in our abilities and intellect. In comes as no surprise, animals do not experience pain and emotion in the same way that we do because they lack language and the power of abstract thought. For me, someone who has never really been attached to an animal before, I feel as though if the animal isn’t harmed, then there is no reason that they shouldn’t be test on in substitute for a human. It has been discovered through experiments that animals are the best way to test vaccines, because it would be unethical to give a human a vaccine, and then to try to give them HIV to see if it works. In addition, differences between animal and human biology are generally known, and can be factored in to experiments. This means scientist know exactly what they are working with and are not affected at all that their subject might be a different species.

  4. lbaek Says:

    It’s simple. In my opinion, animal testing is bad. Animal testers want us to think that if they gave up their ways, than disease and accident victims will die. But, this isn’t the case. Obviously, many people believe that there are many advantageous aspects to conduct tests on animals. However, this is false. First, some people may argue that major medical advances have been from testing on the furry little creatures. However, there is no concrete evidence of this claim. Most animal experiments are not relevant to human health and do not provide meaningful data to medical explorations and many are undertaken simply out of curiosity. Many people attribute this misconception that animal experiments help humans because of mass media, experimenters and other groups that exaggerate the potential of animal experiments to lead to new discoveries, such as curse, and the role they have played in past medical research. Another argument is that if experimenters didn’t use animals, they would have no other choice to test new drugs on people. Really? No. Researchers already conduct new drug tests on people. Because animal tests are so unreliable, they test on humans, which can often result in ineffectiveness or being too dangerous. Is it morally correct to take a healthy being from a completely different species from humans and artificially inducing a condition that he or she would never normally contract? Not only that, but to keep him or her in an unnatural and distressful environment, and trying to apply the results to naturally occurring disease in human beings is just cruel. Reactions to drugs differ enormously from animal to animal and the he data gathered form this type of study has a potential of jeopardizing the validity of outcome. Thus, we would be killing innocent animals for no purpose. Furthermore, is it really true when people say that they have no other options but to use animals, even if they don’t want to? I’m not sure, but I’m sure researchers and experimenters can find an alternative method that doesn’t include the killing of innocent animals. Lastly, an individual may mention that animals are here for humans to use, so, in hopes of benefiting one child, it is definitely worth it. Uhh…no. If experiment on one handicapped person could benefit gagillion children, would we do it? I don’t think so. Ethics dictate that the value of each life in and of itself cannot be superseded by its potential value to anyone else. This raises another question, is it ethical to have students dissect animals? I’m pretty sure you guys already know where I stand on this, but what about everyone else?

  5. benhenri Says:

    Unlike zschmitt17 and maxmoray, I strongly disapprove of animal experimentation. Obviously, I am very biased when it comes to this topic. My father is a veterinarian. And, in my lifetime, I’ve had exactly 8 pets. I have had so many relationships with animals, I believe they have feelings and rights, just like humans and, so, I choose to treat them with kindness and respect, like I treat humans. So if the use of reconstructed human tissue to test the products is both safe on animals and effective, like the person who posted this said, why can’t we simply use this method? That’s my personal opinion. Honestly, though, I believe that Mill would not agree with me. Mill believes that any act is justifiable so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. It would then seem that animal experimentation is not justifiable in Mill’s views because about 100 million animals, including mice and rats, are murdered each year due to this experimentation. However, I think that Mill’s view of justifiability only refers to human beings and not animals. Therefore, because this experimentation only kills animals and does not hurt any humans, Mill would find animal experimentation perfectly acceptable. He would not, on the other hand, find human experimentation acceptable or justifiable at all.

  6. ldahbour Says:

    Interesting question. The IRB and several other research ethics organizations have been successfully put in place to monitor and regulate any wrong doings in animal and clinical research. The implementation of these institutions do create a sense of accountability in the research realm which induces an ordered method of data collection. The interjection of Mill could be applicable in the case of clinical research, where patients are the subjects, but I don’t really see its relevance in animal testing. In the case of clinical research, it is required that all principal investigators seek consent from all subjects and provide them any information they may need to make further inquiry on the study they are participating in. As long as there is consent, then there should be no problem in Mill’s view of clinical research. As far as animal testing, as long as the testing of these animals does not violate any regulation by research ethics institutions (if a regulation were to be disregarded it would violate social contracts) then the testing upon animals should not be of great concern.

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