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Studies reveal that medical research organizations use more than 100 million non-human animals as test subjects each year worldwide (Ferdowsian and Beck 1). Animals may be subject to research or altered into conditions valuable for gaining knowledge concerning human disease or testing probable treatments. However, there is an ongoing deliberation about the morality of animal experimentation (Cheluvappa et al. 1). A section of the world’s population asserts that animal testing should not be practiced since it is unethical to regard animals merely as tools for advancing knowledge. Based on this viewpoint, animals should be accorded rights just as it is afforded to humans, that is, to live a full life free of any pain. However, others contend that as much as it might seem wrong to use animals needlessly in medical experiments, using animals as test subjects must continue given the substantial scientific resource that animal mock-ups provide. This paper will deliberate on the question as to whether testing on animals for medical purpose is ethical.
Arguments That Testing On Animals for Medical Purposes Is Ethical
Medical scientists are under a specific duty to carry out tests on animals hitherto given that it is the alternate for unsystematic and perhaps unsafe research on humans (Nurunnabi et al. 12). Additionally, it could be argued that provided experimentation is conducted to save human life or to enhance human efficiency, there is a moral good in it (Nobis 307). Therefore, in a case where scientists have committed themselves to improving the health status of the population, they are obligated, to source for every means that would ensure efficient fulfilment of their high office, which is but the sheer reducing of suffering tolerated by humans when sick (Nobis 306). However, according to biomedical researchers, laboratory animals are useful means of ensuring that they perform their duties adequately because many animal reactions and metabolic paths are reproducible in humans (Folescu et al. 268). Additionally, meeting medical obligations necessitates the use of living organisms given that such experiments are essential in the fundamental studies that reinforce the entire extensive medical data. For example, cats, mice, primates or dogs represent a feasible substitute which medical scientist can use when natural cycle is required (Folescu et al. 268). At the same time, the similarity of some animal species, such as primates and mice to human DNA is also a strong argument of the necessity of animal experimentation in performing the duties of medical researchers and doctors, which is no less binding or ethical.
Additionally, there have been arguments that the use of animals as test subjects is merely the transfer of human beings’ pain to animals (Nurunnabi et al. 13). However, this is not the case because a person who is suffering from a condition not only endures physical pain but is also rendered incapable of meeting his or her everyday social responsibilities. An individual who is unwell is debilitated for service to those about him or her, some of whom might directly depend on him or her. Besides, his or her absence from the circle of social relationships due to illness does not only affect him or her, but also others. Therefore, the moral suffering caused, in this case, is something that cannot be compared to the life of animals, whose pleasures and pains remain on a physical plane (Franco 258). Thus, to cure disease and prevent needless deaths by exploring animals during their whole life because they have a shorter lifespan than humans is an entirely different issue, conquering a considerably complex plane, from the sheer lessening of physical agony (Cheluvappa et al. 3). In other words, one could argue that to use animals in finding the cure for a disease and preventing death is to promote the essential conditions of social welfare and ensure an environment needed for the adequate performance of all societal activities. Accordingly, it is ethically permissible for scientists to use laboratory animals as an instrument for promoting social well-being (Nobis 306). This view is consistent with the utilitarian point of view that determines the morality of an action by taking into account the interest of others and an outcome that provides the greatest good for most people (Franco 260).
The argument that tests on animals for medical purposes is ethical could also be based on the notion that animals cannot be considered equal to human beings morally (Franco 258). This claim can be used as the basis of the view that the animal experimentation benefits to humans overshadow or make up for the damage done to animals. However, to make this argument successfully, one has to demonstrate that human beings are more important than animals. For instance, proponents of animal experimentation advocate the idea of moral community which, in this case, could be a group of people who share specific characteristics in common (Liou). The mere fact that they share certain common traits makes them belong to a given moral community, and hence they can take on particular responsibilities towards one another and take on specific privileges. For instance, in most human moral societies, all persons have the right to live autonomous lives by making independent decisions and a duty to respect others’ objectivity (Liou).
Even though a moral community may well include animals theoretically, in most cases, it does not (Franco 261). For example, the human moral society is primarily characterized by the ability to manipulate non-concrete ideas and by individual autonomy (Franco 261). However, given that most animals do not have the mental competences of human beings and the full autonomy, such as pursuing specific life purposes, they are not contained within the ethical community. Therefore, given that animals are not included in the moral society, human beings have only a limited duty towards them (Franco 261). Based on this argument, the society does not have to grant animals all standard human privileges. Thus, if animals do not have the same rights as humans, then one could argue that it is ethical to use dogs, mice, or even primates for medical research purposes. Based on this viewpoint, the manner in which testing might harm an animal is less morally significant than the probable benefits to human beings.
It is also important to look at some of the most fundamental explanations as to why it is morally wrong to conduct medical research using animals as test subjects. For instance, one could contend that animals are not effective predictors of human diseases (Ringach 307). This view counters the argument that laboratory animals are viable substitutes that can be used to save human lives and increase efficiency by claiming that the success rate of such initiatives is too low for it to bring the greatest good for most people. The argument here is not that animal experimentation has never yielded any positive gain. However, those opposed to the use of laboratory animals claim that the success rate is quite low, which in the mind of challengers is enough to consider the work unproductive and unacceptable morally (Ringach 305). Additionally, there is an assertion that it is difficult to model human illnesses in animals since any form of treatment has developed in primates, dogs, cats, or even mice would not be suitable for humans (Ringach 307). Though medical scientists might contend this view, it effectively challenges the beneficial argument that using animals as test subjects produces the greatest good for most people.
There is also an assertion that alternative methods for testing medical interventions currently exist and could be used to replace the need for animals (Folescu et al. 268). This contention mainly challenges the claim that animals such as primates and mice are a feasible substitute for human beings and that they provide the necessary conditions for meeting medical research obligations. Some of the alternative methods that have been widely mentioned include non-invasive imaging methods, computer replicas and imitations, cell-tissue cultures, and statistical sculpting large (Folescu et al. 268). Other techniques include large scale epidemiology and use of human volunteers. Literature reveals that the methods are diversified and complex but there is much evidence supporting their effectiveness (Folescu et al. 268). With the availability of alternatives, it would be improper to argue that animals are a feasible substitute for human beings.
Finally, the argument that animals cannot be considered morally equal to human beings has been challenged by the fact that many humans do not meet the conditions for fitting in the human moral community (Liou). For instance, it could argue that infants and mentally challenge individuals usually lack complex mental capabilities, full autonomy, or even both of the characteristics. The most obvious question that one could, therefore, is whether infants and mentally incapacitated people belong to the human moral community or not. It could be argued that they lack essential human rights. In other words, some humans have exact traits as non-human animals, that is, they lack rights. In actual sense, all these individuals can be included in the human moral community by carefully noting how they meet the criteria (Liou). With that in mind, it could be argued that all humans should be treated as part of the moral community. In that case, using animals for medical research should be considered unethical (Liou).
In conclusion, the ongoing controversy regarding the use of non-human animals as test subjects is far from being settled. The ethics of using animals in the laboratories for medical research can be viewed from various perspectives. However, based on the above discussion this paper concludes that testing on animals for medical purposes is ethical because it provides the greatest good for most people. Though some people might be uncomfortable with animal testing, it is evident that the good arising out of it outweigh harm to the animal. There is no doubt that animal experiments have played a crucial role in the biomedical advancement and is likely to continue to do so in the predictable future. Nonetheless, it would be imprudent to completely disregard some of the arguments opposing the use of non-human animals as test subjects.
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