Who doesn’t want to live a long and healthy life? We all have science to thank for the increased longevity of the human lifespan in comparison to the years gone by. Medical science is growing in leaps and bounds by the day to conquer the one thing humans fear above all: death. In its ongoing attempt, there have been many discoveries, may it be in the form of medicinal treatment or surgery. But would you be able to accept these medicines and treatments with a clean conscience if it were to come at the cost of somebody’s life? Well, this is where the human moral compass seems to be a little skewed, because at the mention of “somebody”, one only thinks of humans. One would think “we aren’t taking anybody’s life for our own”, but what we don’t realize is that yes, we do. The somebody here is animals. Aren’t they living beings too, sharing the same planet alongside us? Helpless and hapless, these creatures are either bought from pounds or are bred in labs for the sole purpose of being experimented on, and a clear majority of them are later euthanized.
An argument used as early as the 17th century to justify this cruelty (besides no other available technique for medicinal testing) was that animals felt no pain or suffering. In today’s modern age, with all the information available via books and online libraries, falling for this archaic and misleading statement would be an insult to the human intelligence. Twenty-six million; that’s the estimated number of animals in the US alone that are slaughtered for “progress of science and medicine”. Although this number is nowhere close to reality as most of the animals used are rats, mice and birds which aren’t covered by the “minimal protections” of the “Animal Welfare Act”, they go uncounted. Three hundred and twelve million, that’s the estimated “human” population of the US. If the animals were humans, that number would approximately be 10 percent of the populace. How would that make one feel, that a healthy 10 percent of the populace are slaughtered inhumanly for the sake of the rest? Just because they are animals, people don’t flinch at the thought because our kind reaps the benefit. Just because they have no human cognition, don’t they have any rights?
While in the past this condition could be justified due to the lack of alternatives, in today’s modern age where science is getting closer to successful cloning of human body parts, this can certainly be changed if there is a will to do so. To make it plain and simple, let’s lay down some pros and cons to get more perspective. Pros of animal testing are: it has contributed to life saving cures and treatments, one of the greatest examples being that of Polio. From 1988 to 2012, the number of cases has gone down from three hundred and fifty thousand to a paltry two hundred and thirty-three. In more modern times, chimpanzees have been man’s best hope for finding cures to cancer, cystic fibrosis, malaria and many more. Animals make better research subjects as compared to humans due to their shorter life cycle. Hence, the entire effect of the treatment can be observed over an entire lifespan, especially if it involves genetic manipulation. Animals are genetically very like us. The human DNA is 99 percent like that of a chimpanzee and 98 percent like that of a rat.
Cons of animal testing are: animal testing is cruel and inhumane, period. Animals used for experimentation are subject to force feeding, forced inhalation, forced restraints being used, deprivation for prolonged periods from food and water, infliction of injuries and burns, and the list goes on. The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) reported in 2010 that approximately one hundred thousand animals suffered pain during experiments due to not being given anesthesia. Animal tests do not necessitate that the medicine may be equally good for humans. 94 percent of the drugs that clear animal tests fail human trials. A study published by the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America” (PNAS) found that nearly one hundred and fifty human trials of treatments to reduce swellings in patients who were critically ill failed despite all being successful in clearing animal tests. While the DNA shared by humans and animals may be highly similar, it doesn’t change the fact that differences such as metabolic and cellular functions exist. The human body is too complex for an animal’s body to be able to match it. Alternatives exist such as “Microdosing” which involves administering a small dose of a test compound to a volunteer to observe the effects it has. There are computer software and other techniques available too, such as “Positron Emission Tomography” (PET) which allows scanning the human brain of a living person. At the end, it all depends on the choice one wants to make. Invest more resources on devising techniques to perform tests without having any collateral by using softwares or doping techniques, or to let the status quo remain as we continue to redden our earth with the blood of the innocent.