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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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Is Animal Testing Necessary?

Are you aware that millions of animals are poisoned, blinded, and killed each year in cruel experiments for companies to test their products? Animals like frogs, rats, mice, monkeys, and rabbits, suffer for the testing of cosmetics, shampoos, cleaners, and other household items. Animals used in experiments are frequently forced into feeding, deprivation from food and water, put into physical restraints, burned, and sometimes even decapitated (About Animal Testing). The ethics of the testing on animals has always been a debated discussion on whether it should be deemed necessary or not. A surgeon at the University of Padua, Matteo Realdo Colombo, born circa 1515, was also an Italian professor of anatomy. He was once considered one of the greatest anatomists during the 16th century and was known to perform live lectures on pregnant dogs where he would take the young fetuses from the mother and harm them in front of her. The mother would respond by barking repeatedly at the harm of her puppies rather than paying attention to the harm being done to her. While animals cannot speak and some don’t view them on the same level as humans, in no way shape or form do they deserve the harm done to them for the testing of cosmetics. Although animal testing brings additional medical improvement and less human-based experiments, it is an expensive practice and a rehearsal of animal cruelty (PETA). Animal testing should be completely outlawed or modified to where animals are incapable of suffering, and it does not consist of enough beneficial results to deem it necessary.

Contrary to this belief, some say animal testing has contributed to many life-saving cures and treatments like the discovery of insulin, which saves the lives of diabetics, for example. The California Biomedical Research Association states that “nearly every medical breakthrough in the last 100 years has depended largely on research with animals” (Institute for Biomedical Research). While animal testing has helped find cures and treatments, it should still be viewed as cruel and inhumane, because pain is inflicted upon animals to study the effects and remedies of the injuries. Animals that are used in research are generally frogs, rats, mice, rabbits, cats, dogs, fish, birds, cows, and primates. These animals are tested on due to the characteristics they may share with humans, like similar skin and organ systems. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also known as PETA, more than one hundred million animals are subjected to these cruel experiments. For example, John Draize, a scientist working for the United States Food and Drug Administration, created the Draize eye irritancy test which is done for eye irritancy and the effects or damage that chemicals will cause in the eyes. During the test, a substance will be placed in the eyes of a rabbit, which are held open by clips for multiple days, and will be observed in intervals. There have been cases where the rabbit will suffer from bleeding, ulcers, and even blindness for up to three weeks. The rabbits are then killed after the experiment is over (PETA).  Another test done on animals is called the “LD50 test”. This test involves finding out which dose of a chemical will kill more than half of the animals uses in the experiment. In 2010, the US Department of Agriculture reported that “97,123 animals suffered pain during experiments while receiving no anesthesia for relief” (Animal Testing). It breaks one’s heart to know that animals can be treated this cruelly and must suffer for something they do not deserve and it is apparent that every test done has effected the animal negatively.

While the tests create multiple negative effects, there are claims that animals are appropriate to use for testing because of their similarities to human beings. For example, Chimpanzees share 96% of their DNA with humans (National Geographic), while 75% of mice genes are genetically equivalent to humans. According to a worker from one of the largest research laboratories, Huntingdon Life Sciences, only five to twenty-five percent of the tests performed agree with humans and are successful. The differences in genetics can lead to a whole set of problems in the results. Although there is a high percentage of DNA similarities, the small percentage that isn’t shared can create a whole new outcome and make results completely unreliable. The Draize eye irritancy test as mentioned prior, is claimed to be unreliable due to the different structured cornea a rabbit has compared to humans (PETA).  Rabbits produce less tears which allows the chemicals to sit longer and cause more irritation. Whereas skin tests have been criticized because animal skins differ anatomically and have different absorption rates. In result of this, drugs that pass animal tests are not necessarily safe for human consumption. Thalidomide, a sleeping pill from the 1950s, caused close to ten thousand babies to be born with severe malformations. The sleeping pill was tested on animals prior to its release and no birth defects were apparent on the animals unless extremely high doses were overseen. Vioxx, a drug for arthritis, showed that it created a shielding effect on the hearts of mice, yet was the cause for more than 27,000 heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths before being pulled from the market. According to neurologist, Aysha Akhtar, over 100 stroke drugs that were effective have failed in humans (Animal Testing). The differences in genetics of humans and animals can create an extremity of complications and can result in a complete opposite result than intended. One can find that animals are not suitable nor deserve to be put through this pain for substances to become ineffective or produce the exact opposite outcome, proving that animal testing does not always provide safe outcomes.

Not only is animal testing expensive and still debated on whether it is ethical, there are other alternatives to animal testing. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, IOVS, came up with an alternative for retinal detachments. Vitreous substitutes are needed after this process and IOVS found that hydrophilic biopolymers like cross-linked hyluronate are substances that can be the answer to overcome any drawbacks (IOVS). Data showed that hyluronate hydrogel met two important requirements for the replacements of vitreous substitutes (IOVS). This can result in a reduction of the number of animal experiments that are used today. The Biologically Inspired Engineering, Wyss Institute at Harvard University, has created “organs-on-chips” which enclose human cells to mimic the structure and function of human organs and organ systems (PETA). Rather than using animals in research for diseases, these “organs-on-chips” can be used and result in more accurate results than an animal ever could.

The practice of animal testing results in numerous ethical concerns since animals are forced into the sensation of pain and suffering. With the technological advancements being made, one can feel that animal testing should be completely outlawed and deemed unnecessary for use. Animal testing brings nothing but a risk due to the differences in genetics and has caused thousands to die or result in deformities.

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