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Animal Testing: Revealing the Unsettling Facets of A Globally Longstanding Issue

In former times, welfare of animals was not a remarkable concern as it was very rarely brought up in society and we lacked necessary animal studies. However, in the process of time, we became more aware of this inhumane action, and it is now considered a highly disputed issue. As informed individuals, it is crucial for us to be conscious of its history and most importantly ethical concerns and take action to oppose this longstanding problem.

First of all, let’s look at its historical timeline. Unfortunately, animals have been subjected to medical tests since further back than one could guess. Indeed, even Greek physicians and scientists such as Aristotle and Erasistratus directly benefited from living animal bodies while conducting their research. Furthermore, in Rome, the method was used to discover anatomy with the aim of contributing to developments in the fields of medicine, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology. Moreover, scientists tested their substances on animals before serving them to humans to ensure the safety of the product. This was considered a part of scientific research for a long time as Claude Bernard, a highly renowned French scientist, stated that this method was sufficiently conclusive in the experimental process and the observed effects on animals were the same as those seen on humankind. René Descartes, one of the most renowned philosophers lived in the 17th century, claimed that animals were “lifeless” and incapable of being aware of themselves or feeling emotions. It is now well established that we have come a long way since then; however, we still have a long way to go to diminish the ethical problems caused by this method.

Only in the US, more than 110 million animals including mice, frogs, dogs, rabbits, monkeys, fish, and birds are killed during experiments in the labs. As unsettling these numbers are, the way they are treated during their lifetime is also a huge concern for all of us. They are usually forcefully immobilized by machines or even chemicals, drilled holes in their skull, socially isolated, or psychologically traumatized. Also referring to the previous statement provided by Claude Bernard, data shared by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the USA now show that over 95% of substances tested on animals fail during tests on humans. This failure was also observed in the trials of an HIV vaccine which had a 100% success rate in animals and failed with a percentage of 100% on humans. Having established that the method is unreliable, opposers to animal testing mainly argue that it is still unacceptable even if it was efficient. Moving forward in this article, we will examine why it is considered unacceptable and observe its major ethical concerns.

Animals Used in Research Facilities, provided by:

Since René Descartes, modern studies on cognitive sciences has shown that animals do feel emotions and are fully capable of suffering. This is mainly the reason why it is not considered possible to ethically justify animal testing. From a philosophical perspective, utilitarians typically argue that all suffering matters equally regardless of what species the living creature belongs to. In 1789 Jeremy Bentham stated: “[…] the question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But can they suffer?”

Deontologists, who argue that duties and rights come before benefits are also anti-animal testing, emphasize that we are not permitted to violate animals’ rights (considering that being subjected to experiments without consent is a violation of a right), focusing on only our own benefits. This is also a generalised comprehension since one of the greatest philosophers Immanuel Kant denies that animals have rights because they lack rationality. These ideas inspired many modern arguments — one of them being the fact that humans should not let animals suffer on no account — causing this issue to be still at our agenda.

To tackle this global human issue, firstly, the “Three Rs” principle was offered by two English biologists Russel and Burch. First “R” stands for the replacement alternatives to animals. The second stands for reduction alternatives, which promotes the reduction of animal use or maximizing information obtained per animal. The third is for refinement alternative modifications to experimental processes in order to reduce the pain and distress of animals. However, today, the principle is considered inefficient as it still tolerates the suffering of living animals to some extent.

Image by: RockStep Solutions

Nowadays, as the society is more informed about the topic, thanks to scientific developments, necessary education and activists have increased in number, along with the complete ban or implementation of necessary regulations by numerous states. The count of countries that have banned or enforced restrictions for this issue is currently at 42. In most of those countries, cosmetics testing is banned; however, medical research might still benefit from living animals. The first and only country to completely ban animal testing is Switzerland, which announced its new policy on 10 February 2022 after the campaign runners gathered enough population to stage a referendum, which hosts a huge pharmaceuticals sector. Also, with the help of social media, practically everyone is aware of cosmetic brands which are in favor of animal testing and those who are “vegan”, “cruelty-free,” or explicitly against animal testing.

Thanks to this awareness, we are more likely to choose brands and not contribute to animals suffering, as influencers start to give information about this aspect of many brands while reviewing the product and encouraging its consumption. It is now for the best to keep all these information in our minds, implement them into our daily routine, and educate others around us so that they can have their own stance on this matter.

Edited by: Melisa Altıntaş & Yağmur Ece Nisanoğlu

Works Cited

Physicians Committee Works to Address Animal Methods Bias in Scientific Publishing. (2022). Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Retrieved August 1, 2023

11 animal testing statistics the Will Blow Your Mind. PETA. (2023, April 25).

Revill, J. (2022, February 10). Swiss to vote on becoming first country to ban animal testing. Reuters.

11 animal testing statistics the Will Blow Your Mind. PETA. (2023, April 25).

Physicians Committee Works to Address Animal Methods Bias in Scientific Publishing. (2022). Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Retrieved August 1, 2023

11 animal testing statistics the Will Blow Your Mind. PETA. (2023, April 25).

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