Should we be able to do anything we want to animals? In my opinion, the answer is an obvious no. As humans, most of us consider ourselves the most superior species on Earth. We may be superior in some ways, but not in every way. Furthermore, if we truly are the most evolved species, shouldn’t we have the intelligence to know that we should treat other living things the way we would want to be treated? Shouldn’t vile things such as burning a pig alive or strapping a dog to a table and ripping his chest open be beneath us? We are the superior race when it comes to cruelty and destruction, but not much else.
Vivisection means to cut up alive and is used interchangeably with animal experimentation. In today’s world, animal experimentation is mostly useless and impractical except for in very rare circumstances. Millions of animals are used to test products like deodorants, soaps, shampoo and makeup (Bekoff 128). Are these tests really necessary? And, as Bekoff states, “are there no alternatives?” (Bekoff 128). The answer is simple; these experiments are not necessary and yes there are alternatives, some of which are even more effective than testing on living beings. We do not need tests for superficial things like cosmetics, especially when it causes suffering to innocent creatures and usually death at the end of the study (Bekoff 128). Additionally, we have too many of these products in the marketplace as it is.
Every hour of every day in the United States alone, about three to six thousand non-human animals are killed for animal experimentation and various related activities (Nobis 49). Animals endure drowning, suffocating, starving, burning, blinding, destruction of hearing, damage to their brains, severing of their limbs, crushing of their organs; inducing heart attacks, ulcers, paralysis, seizures; forced smoke inhalation, forced alcohol consumption, forced ingestion of various chemicals, poisons and drugs (Nobis 50). However, mere words can never fully describe the terror they must live through and die slowly from. Hold your hand to a flame for as long as you can stand, then imagine never being able to take your hand away. Or, try cutting yourself with a knife before having to stop due to the pain, and then imagine what it would be like to have that knife inserted into your chest and your ribs being torn out without any sedative or anesthetic to dull the pain. There is no way our minds can fully grasp the actions that mere words are attempting to describe without strong use of our unfiltered imagination. Just think, at this very moment, as you are reading these words, there is an animal trying to get away, confused, struggling, in pain, holding on to its life and just wanting it to stop. The suffering and agony is infinite. It just never stops.
Of course, there are exceptions in which animal experimentation would be justified. But these exceptions are almost entirely hypothetical situations that have never happened and most likely never will happen. Peter Singer says it perfectly; “If it were possible to save several lives by an experiment that would take just one life, and there were no other way those lives could be saved, it would be right to do the experiment.” (Singer 85). Certainly, no experiment in the history of human kind has even come close to meeting these criteria. However, if a scenario like the one Singer mentions did come to fruition someday; he would agree that experimenting on a human being would also be justified. Especially a human that has lower capacities than that of a normal human being or a non-human animal . Anything less would be deemed speciesist by Singer (Singer 21).
One common test administered on non-human animals is the lethal-dose test. The purpose of this test is to measure the toxicity of products such as cosmetics or drugs and determine what the safe or unsafe amount would be for humans (Bekoff 129). To achieve these results, live animals are forced to ingest the substance that is to be tested either by mouth, by a stomach tube, by inhaling a vapor or powder, by application to the skin, or by having it directly injected into their veins (Bekoff 129). The lethal-dose 50(LD50) is the dose at which 50 percent of the animals die, the lethal dose 100(LD100) is the dose at which 100 percent of the animals die. According to Bekoff, if less than 50 percent of the animals die, then the test has to be repeated with a different amount of the substance until 50 percent of the animals are killed to yield the LD50 (Bekoff 129). As one would imagine, the animals suffer greatly during these experiments. Furthermore, even though the LD50 is used to estimate the safe dose for humans, according to Bekoff; “more than 100,000 people a year die from side effects of animal-tested drugs - yet drugs and chemicals are still approved as “safe” based on animal testing.” (Bekoff 130).
Another popular test is called the Draize test. This test is used to test eye irritation and the most common test subjects are rabbits. The test substance is administered either in liquid or solid form directly into a rabbit’s eye and they are checked at 24, 48 and 72 hours after the substance has been injected (Bekoff 130). Are these tests really necessary? Are the products for which the tests are done indispensible?
In 1882, a known surgeon by the name of Lawson Tait contended that animal experimentation should be terminated, “so the energy and skill of scientific investigators should be directed into better and safer channels.” (Sharpe 88). According to Sharpe, Tait “stated without hesitation that he had been led astray again and again by the published results of experiments on animals, so that eventually he had to discard them entirely.” (Sharpe 88). Not only does animal experimentation produce unreliable and dangerous results, but there’s a possibility that attention and resources are being diverted away from methods that could lead to significant breakthroughs (Sharpe 88). And it’s not just Tait that has been led astray by the false science of animal experimentation. For example, tests on animals are constantly being done to find cures for certain forms of cancer, yet we are still losing the war on cancer and attention is being diverted from other, potentially more productive areas of science such as epidemiology (Sharpe 109). Non-human animals are simply nothing like us when it comes to carcinogenesis (Sharpe 105). Instead of focusing on torturing non-human animals and trying to find a cure for cancer, we could be focusing on simple preventive measures. Smoking and lung cancer were not linked as a result of the countless animals being forced to inhale smoke, it was first linked through epidemiology, which is the branch of science that focuses on the transmission and control of disease (Sharpe 109).
Most supporters of animal experimentation like to pose the argument that saving human lives is worth the testing on animals. But as Robert Sharpe puts it, “the real choice is not between animals and people; rather it is between good science and bad science.” (Sharpe 111). Animal experimentation can’t solve our major health problems and is more than likely hindering other potentially more effective scientific methods (Sharpe 111).
There is a long list of drugs that have had unexpected and sometimes fatal side-effects in people but were thought to be safe and effective after being tested on animals. Just a few such drugs are eraldin, opren, chloramphenicol, clioguinol, flosint, ibufenac and zelmid (Sharpe 95). The drug eraldin, which was a heart drug, caused serious eye problems; sometimes blindness and 23 deaths (Sharpe 95). In the 1960’s, 3500 young asthmatics died in Britain from using isoprenaline asthma inhalers. This drug was known to increase the heart rate but not enough to kill the animals that it was tested on. Cats were able to tolerate 175 times the dose that was lethal to humans (Sharpe 96). The physiology of every person is significantly different from a human-to-human basis let alone from a human to a non-human animal of a completely different species.
Another good example of why experiments on animals don’t transfer over to the human species is the experimentation done for the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) virus, or should I say, the failed experimentation. Most animals don’t even develop or hold the virus in their bodies. In addition, even the closest species to us; primates, which do maintain the virus in their bodies, don’t develop the disease and haven’t been known to die from it (Sharpe 92).
Animals are also used in areas that have very little to do with medical research, such as weapons testing. In the United States, non-human animals have been made to suffer being shot, gassed, irradiated, stabbed, blown up and pretty much all the horrors of modern warfare (Sharpe 133). Why? So we can make ourselves better at killing other humans.
Many experiments touted as being important are just a waste of time and taxpayer money. According to Ingrid Newkirk, President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), “At Georgia State University, researchers spent a great deal of taxpayer’s money to see if chimpanzees value items more if they own them,” adding, “obviously the chimpanzees did and you would too.” (Newkirk 205). Another experiment in the frivolous category; rats being killed by being force fed large amounts of Louisiana hot sauce (Newkirk 205). Oh and let’s not forget the monkeys that were caged without food or water so that researchers could see if they would pay with food to look at female monkeys and other high ranking monkeys (Newkirk 205).
Maybe absurd and horrid torture like this is why it is so hard to get into a laboratory without either an invitation or a search warrant. When animal rights activists do manage to get into laboratories, they usually witness things that have nothing to do with the work that the experimenters are supposed to be doing. Experimentation not only opens the door for cruel and unnecessary experiments; it also opens the door for mentally unbalanced people to take their work too far. By disrespecting and humiliating the animals, being excessively aggressive with them and abusing them. You see, even in the business of torture there are usually policies and protocol that are in place; as absurd as it is. These policies are in place so that the animals at least get their basic needs fulfilled, such as enough room in their cages, food to eat and water to drink, and freedom from excessive abusive while they are not being mutilated. I think it’s fair to say that many animal experimenters are sadistic. At the headquarters of Huntingdon Life Sciences in Britain, workers have been videotaped punching dogs in the face and screaming at the animals (Newkirk 208). In addition, workers have been witnessed slamming helpless monkeys into their cages and sticking bottles of lotion in their mouths while joking around and listening to loud music (Newkirk 208).
In other lab tests, monkeys have had their skin and testicles squeezed with surgical pliers, burned with cigarette lighters and electrocuted. Newkirk further states that one monkey named Billy in the Institute for Behavioral Research laboratory lost the use of both of his arms and both of his arms were also broken. He had to push himself across the cage wires to eat his food using only his mouth (Newkirk 203). In another laboratory by the name of Covance, researchers are shown once again slamming monkeys against cage walls, shoving them into Plexiglas tubes and screaming at them (Newkirk 209). By the way, Huntingdon Life Sciences and Covance are still in business. And, the list of what Robert Sharpe would call “frivolous and dispensable” research goes on and on (Sharpe 134).
Now on to what Robert Sharpe would call “the department of the obvious” (Sharpe 124). In this department, huge breakthroughs are discovered that will benefit humanity greatly, such as the discovery that milk secretion drops dramatically in lactating goats when they are starved (Sharpe 125). I would never have seen that one coming. Oh and did you know that if you drink a pint of drain cleaner your internal organs would probably be eaten away and you may go into convulsions and die? Well, thanks to the monkey that had it forced down his throat, we do now (Newkirk 207). Good thing too, because I was planning on having a nice tall glass of the stuff before I read this book. How about the surprising and completely unexpected discovery (after decades of experiments mind you), that hemorrhage induced shock in dogs is not the same as shock in humans (Singer 66). In 1969, a genius by the name of S. Michaelson, who was a veterinarian at the University of Rochester, concluded that an increase in heat from microwaves produced damage that was “indistinguishable from fever in general.”; after heating dogs and rabbits with microwaves to 107 degrees Fahrenheit or more (Singer 62).
Non-human animals don’t just have to endure physical torture, but mental and emotional as well. Scientists have reared female monkeys in isolation to induce psychopathology. Then, they would impregnate them and observe the results. Some of the mothers simply ignored their babies. But, some of the mothers would crush the infant’s skull with their teeth and other’s would smash the infant’s head into the ground and rub it back and forth (Singer 34). Experiments were also conducted to induce depression and were categorized as deprivation experiments or learned helplessness (Singer 45).
Many common psychological experiments include electric shocks. These are done usually to find out how animals react to punishment or condition them to perform certain tasks. Moreover, shock was also used to bring on a state of hopelessness; as Singer points out, “This study showed that it was possible to induce a state of hopelessness and despair by repeated administration of severe inescapable shock.” (Singer 45). Psychological experiments, especially ones that observe emotional states such as depression and aggressiveness bring about a couple interesting dilemmas. Either animals are too much like us, in which case we should not experiment on them since it would be morally reprehensible to experiment on one of us. Or, they are not like us, in which case testing on them is pointless (Singer 52). Another good point Singer makes is that since the experimenters will not emphasize the suffering they inflict unless it’s necessary, most suffering goes unreported (Singer 41). For example, researchers may not report when electric shock devices are accidentally left on, or when animals start to wake up during an operation, or when they get ill and die over the weekend (Singer 41). Singer adds, “A British government committee found that only about one quarter of experiments on animals ever found their way into print.” (Singer 41). Furthermore, since the sources that these experiments are taken from are favorable to the experimenters, they only publish what they consider to be relevant to publish. Therefore only a small fraction of the actual suffering and torment that goes on is known about (Singer 41).
Besides the fact that cruelty and torture are in and of themselves wrong, especially when done largely for pointless and inessential reasons; pretty much every justification researchers give in support of experimentation is invalidated by the very same logic used for that justification. One common argument is that we can do want we want to animals because we (humans) are more intelligent. Well, if intelligence is the criteria used for determining if a non-human animal is inferior then what about all the humans that are not more intelligent than non-human animals such as infants and the mentally challenged (Nobis 510). Another common justification is that animals don’t know the difference between right and wrong so they shouldn’t be given equal consideration. True, some humans do know the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong, but not all humans (Nobis 57). One the most disturbing justifications used is the claim that we cannot be sure that animals feel pain in the same way that we feel pain or whether they even feel pain at all. This particular claim doesn’t even deserve a response because it is ludicrous. The same thing can be said from a human-to-human point of view. There is no way for me to know for sure that the person next to me feels the same thing or even anything at all when injured in the same way. Even though they may be able to explain the sensation, there is just no way to know. How do I know that the green you see is the same as the green that I see? Furthermore, the evidence for pain and suffering in non-human animals is abundant. The physical reactions of animals as well as their biological make up shows clearly that they do in fact feel pain and suffer. They have nervous systems similar ours and since some animals depend on the most acute sensations to survive, some may feel even more pain than we could ever imagine (Singer 9-17).
A being that’s responsive to sense impressions is said to sentient (Bekoff 62). It is now common knowledge that non-human animals feel pain and suffer. This reason alone should be enough for us to at least consider whether something is important enough to be tested on an animal. In considering whether something is important enough to be tested on animals we should also consider the alternatives to experimenting on living creatures. There are many alternatives, some of which have been proven more effective and efficient than animal experimentation (Newkirk 222). There are in vitro methods in which testing can be done on actual human cells outside of the body (Stephens 145). Other effective options are virtual organs, whole human DNA, computer assaying, mathematical models, liquid chromatography, spectrometry and microscopy, computer aided drug design and various other computer programs that are constantly being developed (Newkirk 222)(Stephens 145-155). Let us not forget the testing that can be done on actual human beings. There are many terminally ill people in the world that would be more than willing to test out that new cancer drug or an antidote for HIV. There are also port-mortem studies that can be done as well as follow up experiments of prior research (Stephens 155). It is indeed fair to say that animal experimentation is “frivolous and dispensable” and steps should be taken to leave it behind.
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