Animal testing, a necessary evil

This article was written as an essay in my English exam at school. We were given several source essays, and the topic and asked to argue either for or against it. This article does not represent my personal views on the topic; it simply brings to light certain arguments that have been made.

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What is animal research?

The use of animals in scientific experiments and procedures, usually leading to the development of new products (known to be used for cosmetics, painkillers, & chemical additives).

Everyone’s got problems with animal testing, but some think it’s a necessary evil.

There is no way to deny that animal research has contributed overwhelmingly to every major medical advance in the recent past. It does indeed save lives. Many of the life-saving drugs and vaccines in use today could only be developed and made widely available by using animals during  testing trials. Doctors, before prescribing medicines, or performing complex surgical procedures, need to know whether these techniques are reliable, safe, and as accurate as possible. It is by studying the reaction of certain animals to a chemical, or a change in environment that doctors are better able to diagnose human illnesses.

.Also, there seems to be a widely held assumption amongst animal-rights activists that scientists are bent on the use of animals in product testing and have no desire to seek a solution, whereas this is simply not the case. The governments of many countries around the world have regulations in place, requiring that new drugs, vaccines and surgical implants to be tested on animals first, to avoid “potential toxic reactions” [1]. These are “formal, legal requirements” [2]. Even if these restrictions are disregarded, we see that many universities and the research community as a whole are ethically committed to protecting animal welfare as much as possible.
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There’s economic and logistic advantages of a shift from animal testing as well. Companies that spend millions on animal testing facilities and required personnel would benefit greatly from advanced, and more efficient computerized testing procedures. As Dr. George Poste says in his 2006 “Poste special for the republic”, if anyone has a viable solution to animal testing, “I guarantee you’ll find a receptive audience audience in the medical research community, because it is a goal we share.” [3]

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Let’s take a look at the scientific perspective. Why is animal testing so necessary? Firstly, we see that its one of a wide range of scientific techniques used, including human trials, cell cultures, etc. We also see that it is often only used when there are no other methods that can be practically applied to produce accurate results. Keeping this in mind, understand that the human body is extremely complex and simply cannot be simulated artificially. “You cannot reproduce a beating heart in a test tube.” [4] Scientists at present are not even completely aware of all the mechanisms that enable a living human body to function. Even if scientists were to make significant breakthroughs and gain all this information, there is still yet to be invented a computer that has the power to reproduce all these complex cellular and inter-organ procedures.
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There is a growing trend in today’s society to use the media to circulate false information, leading people to believe that there are a wide range of economically and ethically viable alternatives available to animal testing. Several animal activism organizations, some of which have been formally listed as terrorist organizations in the UK and the USA, encourage violence and provoke communities to fight in the name of protecting innocent animals.These falsse claims and misinterpretation negatively represents the hardworking scientific community that works for the technological advancement of humankind.
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Those who are opposed to animal testing argue, insisting that not enough money is spent on research for an alternative, that a large number of alternatives such as cell, tissue and organ cultures are already available. They make emotional appeals, stating how animals are poisoned, inflicted with wounds, and subjected to deliberate organ failure. They quote trials where results failed to correctly predict the human outcome, and where medical progress was actually delayed because of useless animal testing.
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In response to all of this and in conclusion, one must counter that all technological progress comes at a price and that animal testing is th lesser of two evils. It is not a perfected process but it is one that we are currently reliant on. The research community is working for change but this will take time, and till then there is a necessary evil for the betterment of man.

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[1], [2], [3] – Animal testing as a necessary tool, for now. “Poste Special for the Republic” (2006) by Dr. George Poste
[4] Why is animal research necessary? (Website: Oxford University)

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