The Use of Animals in Research

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Scientists use more 23 million lab rats every year for research in the US alone (Trull and Rich 1463). Practically all medical breakthroughs of the last 100 years can be traced to animal research. Animals play a crucial role in research because they take the place of humans in the investigation of novel ways to cure, treat, manage, and avert ailments, disabilities, and so forth. Sadly, their widespread use in research also means that they are often forced to undergo painful trials; they are also forced to endure many days of loneliness, deprivation, stress, inactivity, fear, and psychological trauma inside desolate and socially secluded conditions. Thanks to scientific research on rats and other animals people have been able to learn a lot about people, animals, and the world at large. Although using animals for research is essential; it is important that researchers are always cognizant of the fact that animals suffer the same way as humans; that well-treated animals equals good science; that many people are against mistreatment of animals; that they are morally and legally expected to make sure that animals used for research are only used for useful research, treated humanely and according to federal guidelines.

There is abundant scientific proof that animals experience pain and suffering more or less the same way humans do. For that reason, Peter Singer argues that it is immoral to treat animals inhumanely. He states that animals just like human beings should be handled in a manner that does not cause them suffering, pain or distress: just like people, they have the right to be comfortable and happy. He argues that the question should not be can animals talk? nor can animals reason?. He states that the question should be can they feel pains?  He argues that there is no moral reason for considering the suffering that humans feel as more important than the pain that animals experience. He, however, concedes that there are instances when human life should take precedence over animal life. Nevertheless, Singer argues that in situations where such compelling reasons are not present, people should avoid inflicting pain on all animals that can feel it. He concludes that if it is possible to avert something unpleasant from occurring, without trading it with something of equivalent moral importance then that should take priority (Singer).

No right thinking person subjects an animal to suffering, pain, or distress that can be avoided. People who love animals the world over share this sentiment. For many research scientists, humane treatment of all animals under their care is a personal and professional obligation. Nevertheless, for many years, lab animals like mice, guinea pigs, fish, and so forth were kept in desolate cages; because, for a very long time, scientists believed that keeping lab animals in tiny cages was a way to reduce the number of variables and improve accuracy. However, emerging research indicates that inhumanely kept animals produce poor quality research outcomes, that is, happy animals equal good data. In other words, animals that are kept under stressful or painful conditions produce data that is unreliable. Conversely, animals that are treated humanely produce normal behavioral and biological reactions that scientists expect to study. In treating the lab animals humanely, scientists are also safeguarding the source of their research data. If animals are not handled humanely the data, and results from their research will be unreliable and cannot, therefore, be shared with other researchers.   

There are federal laws and guidelines in the United States that compel researchers to treat lab animals in a humane way. One such law is the Animal Welfare Act (AWA); this law guides the use and treatment of all animals used in research in the United States. These laws and guidelines, for instance, ensure that animals are not used unnecessarily or in situations where there are other methods that can take the place of animals. In addition to that, they ensure that researchers do not subject animals to preventable suffering or pain. Consequences for flouting these guidelines can be harsh. Nevertheless, a majority of people do not know of these guidelines, principles, laws, and regulations. These regulations also address among other things; housing, food, water, lighting, temperature, veterinary care, and general laboratory responsibilities (American Veterinary Medical Foundation). Researchers who fail to observe these federal laws and guidelines can be barred from working with animals. They can also be fined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Nonetheless, the harshest punishment is that researchers who treat lab animals inhumanely can be blacklisted by their peers. Inhumane treatment of animals also attracts a lot of criticism from the public.  Bad press can destroy reputations, careers, and can lead to a research institution losing staff, credibility and even funding. Consequently, many research organizations employ only scientists who are willing to treat animals humanely; those who fail to comply are often dismissed or sacked.    

The use of lab rats and other animals for research is a very emotive subject; it is a topic that generates a lot of debate. Nevertheless, many people support the use of animals for research and trials; however, they feel that they should only be used in situations where there are no alternatives. A majority of people feel that animal welfare should always take precedence over anything else; as such, they feel that more research should go into finding ways that would replace animal-based research and trials. In fact, many laws, guidelines, and regulations that protect lab animals reflect these public sentiments; consequently many of them require researchers to limit the use of animals for research. Furthermore, organizations or people who fund most research that involves the use of lab animals are increasingly demanding that researchers in organizations that they support either limit the use of animals for research or treat the animals they use humanely. Clearly, there is widespread realization that animals used for research should only be used when necessary and be treated in a way that limits their suffering, pain, or distress (Russell, Rex and Charles)

The use of animals for research and trials especially in medicine goes as far back as medicine itself. For that reason, scientists who use animals for research have a duty to protect their well-being, reduce their pain, suffering, distress, and discomfort. As such, research that involves the use of animals should only be undertaken in situations where there are no better substitutes or where the research would produce benefits that outstrip the suffering or pain inflicted on the animal being studied. Scientists or researchers are, therefore, morally and legally obligated to treat animals used for research humanely; because firstly, it is the right thing to do, and; secondly, because it is beneficial to research; well-treated animals produce better research data.

Work Cited

American Veterinary Medical Foundation. Legislation and Regulations in Laboratory Animal Welfare. 2018. 1 11 2018 .

Russell, William, Stratton, Leonard, Burch Rex and Westley, Hume Charles. The principles of humane experimental technique. (Vol. 238). London: Methuen, 1959.

Singer, Peter. Animal liberation: the definitive classic of the animal movement. New York: Harper Perennial, 2009.

Trull, Frankie, L and Barbara Rich. "More regulation of rodents." Science, (1999): 1463.

August 21, 2023




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