Imagine the world still battling tuberculosis and anthrax and approximately 422 million diabetics without insulin. These diseases cost many lives in the 19th and 20th centuries worldwide. Polio, another perilous virus, can now be contained to avoid polio paralysis. The discovery of insulin, polio vaccine, and many antibiotics could not be possible without using animals. But for moral and ethical reasons, scientific experimentation involving animals has to face many hurdles. In the scientific world, it is very critical to make a balance between the risk and benefit of a certain procedure or protocol. But the issue is that how to consider this rule for those animals who suffer for humans?
In scientific and medical research, different animals are manipulated for their physiological and genetic similarities with humans. To achieve dynamic results and advance insights, animals have to suffer in different ways. The first argument in using animals is to define the moral status of animals. Where do they stand on moral grounds in relation to humans? Do they have any rights or none at all? Or to what extent they could be ill-treated? The animal rights activists strongly believe that animals have the same moral status as humans. So they should be treated equally in terms of their health and the right of living. They also argue that it is very rude of humans to consider animals morally less significant. In scientific experimentation, animals have to go through very painful procedures or even killings. The tragic conditions of animals during experimentation are distressing to watch. But all these oppositions cannot outweigh the potential interest and welfare of humans.
The first reason not to give animals equal moral status is their non-autonomy and lack of cognitive abilities as in humans. They do not have specific life goals and individualistic personalities. Although they have feelings and reactions toward specific conditions, this is not enough to give them space in a moral community. Like human communities, animals do not have responsibilities toward each other. These things make humans more important than animals. So when it is obvious that animals are not on equal moral ground, they could be used for scientific researches.
All the chemicals and devices intended to use to cure diseases cannot be tested directly on humans. They can be potentially harmful to the test subjects. The scientific research involves a multistage trial procedure that uses different species of animals at each stage. At the initial stages, rats and mice are selected as test subjects because of their more genetic similarity with humans. If we get significant results from it, we proceed to a further stage involving monkeys. For testing medical devices dogs, pigs or sheep are selected. After successful results, humans are subjected to trials. All this laborious effort is just to save the precious lives of humans. And in addition, there is no other way except testing it on an animal.
As stated earlier, the research experiments involving animals, have given us the cure or prevention from many deadly diseases. Poliovirus was the major concern in the 1940s which crippled and killed many people in the United States. The polio vaccine was produced in cell cultures of the rhesus monkey kidney in the 1950s. Within five years, it reduced the polio incidence in America by 15 folds. And today only 16 countries are reported to have polio cases, which were once a threat to the world. Dogs were used to study the causes of diabetes and so insulin was discovered. And we know that how important insulin is today for people suffering from diabetes. The animals also have an important role in studying the reasons and treatments for strokes and heart attacks. Untreatable diseases like AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, and genetic orders still require more insightful research and animals can play a critical role in this.
Additionally, the lethal problem of organ failure due to many diseases prevails over the world. But again thanks to animals, we can take their organs and transplant them into humans. The transplantation of organs from animals to humans is called Xenotransplantation. Researchers are interested in using pigs for this purpose because of their genetic and physiological similarities to humans. Recently surgeons succeeded in keeping a pig’s heart alive in the baboon’s stomach to evaluate the immune response of the baboon against the foreign organs. Baboons are very near to humans on an evolutionary basis so it is a huge step toward successful xenotransplantation. Just imagine when we would be able to replace our damaged organ. This would end the era of life-threatening incidences and diseases.
In neurological sciences, it is impossible to study the restoration of brain function using tissue culture due to strokes, tumors, and other diseases. Laboratory tissue cultures are absolutely useless in understanding complex brain functioning and its disorders. Epilepsy, Parkinson’s, disease, neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, and all other mental illnesses need true brain tissues to be understood and cured. If we do not use the brain tissue of animals, it will create a huge gap in neurosciences. It is very crucial to understand the brain structures and functions and monkeys are the best suitable for this. The brain of monkeys is as complex and similar in functions as the human brain. The success stories include the invention of “the brain pacemaker” to treat Parkinson’s disease and Schizophrenia, identification of different types of Alzheimer’s disease.
There is also a misconception about the risk and benefit ratio in scientific research, especially in medical sciences. It is stated that the benefits should always outweigh the risks. The animal rights activists misunderstand this and try to use it against experiments involving animals. The word “risk” stated above is not for animals, but it is only for humans. It means that the animal involved in experimentation may or may not get harmed, but it should do more benefit for humans than risk. If we do not use the animals for testing, then what about the potential risk on humans by not doing that experiment? We would not be able to know the benefit if it is succeeded.
Finally, the research on animals has been proven beneficial not only for humans but for animals too. They have better healthcare and a longer lifespan than their ancestors. Wild animal species, pets, farm animals, and even endangered species have benefited from it. The cats are being treated for leukemia. The vaccines for cats, dogs, and other domesticated animals are available in the market all because of experimentation on animals.
In conclusion, it is not the use of animals in scientific experimentation but is the extent of animal involvement. It is really necessary to limit their usage. For this, all the scientific communities should avoid the unnecessary replications of the experiments involving animals and know that where they can adopt alternative methods for research. They should also ensure that their experiment is not the repetition of the already existing data in the scientific literature. It should also be kept in vision that the experiments they are going to conduct, meet the highest standards, and all the collectibles would be used. The Animal’s environment should be disease-free in order to ensure the involvement of every animal in the experiment. Also, the well-designed studies and selection of appropriate statistical analysis can minimize the number of animals. The animals can be treated with effective medicine to avoid pain. Albert Sabin, the creator of the oral polio vaccine, had written, “Without the use of animals and human beings, it would have been impossible to acquire the important knowledge needed to prevent much suffering and premature death not only among humans but animals also. All the resources of nature are for the benefit of humans. And we humans are the keepers of these resources.
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