Animals in Research: Ethical Issues Essay
Scientific quest for knowledge and animal experimentation has been inexorably tied to each other both in popular imagination and human history (Bishop & Nolen, 2001). The use of animals in scientific research has resulted to spectacular innovations in the field of medicine and understanding of animal, including human, physiology. Many medicinal technologies were developed that are now used to treat illnesses that were once causing heavy death toll. However, different individuals and communities had different responses to the use of animals in research.
This led to debates and protests of individuals and organizations with concerns on ethics and animal rights. Is the use of animals as research subjects ethical? Scientific Perspective To answer our question, let us first look into the scientific perspective of the issue. According to Bishop and Nolen (2001), there are approximately 35 million animals used in scientific research worldwide in an annual basis. Approximately 10 to 17 million animals are killed in American laboratories alone (Walshaw, “Ethical Issues in Animal Research”).
The animals used in laboratory researches include mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, pigs, dogs, sheep, primates, and cats. In the United States, rats, mice, and birds comprise about 90-95% of the total animals killed during biomedical researches (“Animals in Scientific Procedures: Regulation in the USA”). Why are animals needed in research? There are four reasons why scientists use animals in research (“Why Are Animals Need in Research? ”). The first reason is that humans and some animals are similar in physiology and anatomy.
Scientists prefer to use animals as tests subjects rather than humans in their preliminary research. The second reason, certain strands of animals are infected with the same illnesses or conditions as humans. These animals are referred to as “Animal Models” and are studied to understand the nature of the disease and hopefully provide appropriate treatment. The third reason lies in the principles of “research”, which is to introduce one variable and observe its results on the system studied.
It is easier to control the environment (i. e. emperature, humidity) of animals in the laboratory and prevent any intrusions of disease-causing bacteria and viruses that will cause diseases not related to research, which in common sense, controlling their health. Humans have different life styles that affect their health thus making it difficult to use them as test subjects. The fourth reason pertains to the test for validity of the results obtained from the research. This means test for statistics, i. e. testing a number of animals before coming up with the outright conclusion.
In humans, this test is difficult to perform since they have different cases. As a result, data obtained from one case is no longer a research and the results may not apply to the whole population. Now that we have identified the four reasons why animals are needed in research, let us now identify the different issues related to animal rights and ethical issues in research with animals. Regulations and Animal Safety Standards The Public Health Service Guide for Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and the Animal Welfare Act are the two US regulations that monitor and control biomedical researches.
The Public Health Service Guidelines is administered by the Office of for Laboratory Animal Welfare of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The PHS guidelines were designed for any animal research that is funded by the federal government, i. e. researches done by federal agencies. Under the PHS guidelines is an oversight system, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs). The system evaluates research procedures, reviews research animal care protocols, including waste disposal, and inspect facilities of the research laboratory as well as educate and facilitate the laboratory personnel.
It also functions to investigate reports of animal misuse and mistreatment, particularly during the research process. The Animal Welfare Act controls research of animals that are not mentioned in the PHS guidelines. Under this act, only the animal species specifically mentioned are allowed to be studied. The animals included under the Public Law 89-544 are the following: non-human primates, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, cats and dogs. However, the 1970 amendment gave authorization to the USDA Secretary to include other warm-blooded animals and also gave the legislation its current name.
Further amendments to the AWA require the registration of some pain-relieving drugs under the Improved Standards for Laboratory Animals Act (ISLA) of 1985. One problem with these laws is that some animal researches conducted by pharmaceutical companies or genetic engineering firms no longer coincide with these federal regulations. The use of rats, mice and birds are not included in the AWA which means that federal standards, including animal care programs, do not apply to the researches. At present, the USDA is drafting regulations to include these animals to the act.
Issues on Ethics and Animal Rights There are four issues that pertain to animal rights (Walshaw & Burton, 1999). The first issue deals with the “use of animals for human purposes”. The adherents of the use of animals in biomedical research argue that animals do not have “moral standing” in the sense that they do not have: self-consciousness, freedom to act and engage in purposive behavior, reasons for actions and ability to appreciate reasons for actions, capacity to communicate with humans using a language, capacity to make moral judgments and rationality.
On the other hand, some people argue that the question on animal use is not, “can they reason or talk? ”, but rather, “can they suffer? ” Animals have feelings like that of humans. The second issue on animal rights talks about the “nature and effects of the research on animal welfare”. In this issue, adherents defend their position by pointing out the “3 R’s”. These are reduce, refine, and replace. They argue that modern techniques on animal research include the use of modern anesthetics and also advances in the computer technology which reduce the “pain” those animals feel during the process.
Also, advances in computer technology aid biomedical scientists in getting data with lesser need of animals. The third issue deals with appearances, “can the experiment be perceived as being unpleasant or have unaesthetic appearances? ” In this issue, some people argue that animal research that involves killing, cutting and slicing of animal parts is unpleasant. In most cases, the adherents of this idea are those involved in some religious beliefs or philosophies.
Hindu religion, for example, houses animals (i. . rodents, primates) in temples believing that those were reincarnates of their ancestors. They treat these animals with high respect. The fourth issue is about the “purposes or benefits of the procedures”. This pertains to the different cases in which humans benefited from animal research. Under this issue, the adherents of the use of animals in research defend their position by citing the different purposes, and benefits, that humans will get from the research of animals.
The purposes and benefits of the using animals as test subjects answer the question “why are animals needed in research? ”. The four reasons why animals are preferred in biomedical research are identified above. Is the use of animals in research ethical? I believe, yes. I adhere to the ideologies of the biomedical scientists. The aforementioned information will support my opinion. It is beneficial to use animals in science. After all, scientists were able to find ways to save and prolong the lives of people who are infected with deadly diseases.
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