Testing on animals is a common routine many companies use to test new products for safety for the consumer. However, animal testing is a bad idea. The disadvantages of animal testing outweigh the advantages. There are several reasons that animal testing is now obsolete and should be done away with.
The advantages to animal testing are worthy of mention. Certain types of insulin, vaccines, antibiotics and HIV drugs could not have been made possible with animal testing. Animal testing also helps guarantee the safety of substances that humans use and are exposed to regularly (Bekoff 16). If an animal is harmed or killed during an experiment for a new substance, then that product will not be approved for human use. Consequently, human lives are saved. However, these advantages are questionable. A few humans who oppose animal testing take the holistic approach to healing and are opposed to artificial substances like insulin and vaccines.
First, animals and humans have different DNA and do not react to products the same way. Also, the stress animals endure in research labs could mean they would possibly react to a product different than they would in their natural environment. Animal rights author Charles R. Magel once said “Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is ‘Because the animals are like us.’ Ask the experimenters why it is morally O.K. to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘Because the animals are not like us.’ Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction” (Magel 112). Magel is right. Setting the moral issue aside, animals would not react to drugs the same way humans would, and therefore, it can never be fully accurate.
Animal testing also costs tax payers an enormous amount of money. Tax payers pay a resilient $12 billion a year on animal testing. Animals must be fed, housed, and treated with drugs or a similar experimental substance. The controlled environment the animals live in also comes at a high cost. There is also the chance that animal testing can occur more than once on one animal, sometimes over the course of months, which means additional costs are incurred. Then, factor in the price of the animals themselves. Some companies have their own breeding facilities where animals are bred for the sole purpose of testing (Burtt 26). Animal testing is an extremely costly operation considering the results can never be 100 percent accurate.
Another crucial drawback is that most animals received tests for substances and products that will never actually hit the market. Basically, animals are literally being used as experiments within experiments. Scientists and lab technicians will try out different products on several animals before finding a product that will seek approval for human consumption and use (Bekoff 134). Therefore, one could figure that most animals undergoing testing die in vain because no direct benefit to humans occurred from their specific testing.
More, animal testing for certain products is not necessary for human safety. Animal testing is primarily used for two reasons, to test medicines and cosmetics. While a supporter of animal testing could argue that it is necessary to test on animals for test the safety of a medicinal drug, it is certainly not necessary to test for cosmetics. It is already known that lipstick, makeup, and toiletries can (and are) made without animal testing. Therefore, since it is not necessary for human safety, there is no legitimate reason to do for cosmetic reasons. How much better can shampoo actually get?
Arguably the most important issue that conflicts with animal testing is that of morality. The issue of morality, in a sense, makes all of the other cons irrelevant. If all animals, including humans, are in fact equal, then none of the other aforementioned cons should matter. Philosopher Peter Singer introduced the concept of speciesism. Like racism, where one race believes they are superior to another race, speciests believe they are the superior species (Mappes 432). Singer points out that since animals are sentient beings, which are beings with central nervous systems, who are capable of feeling pain, that they exist for their own reasons. Singer claims that all members of the animal kingdom are sentient beings and all sentient beings have inherent value (433). Many hold a moral obligation to protect all sentient beings from suffering.
Carl Cohen, Professor of Philosophy at the Residential College of the University of Michigan, disagrees with Singer’s view. Very similar to the Aristotelian view, Cohen refutes Singer’s claims by stating that morality is only applied to humans because humans are rational and have a capacity to understand the rules that govern a community. However, Cohen’s views are illogical because some humans do not have the capacity to understand laws and are not rational, such as the mentally disabled. Under Cohen’s view, should research facilities test on the disabled? Then there are humans in permanent comatose states who not have physical capacity let alone mental capacity. With Cohen’s perspective in mind, the comatose have no more importance than dirt.
The Animal Liberation Front (Alf) is an underground group of activists who break into research labs, rescue captive animals, and free them. They fight for the freedom of animals at the risk of losing their own. One Alf member puts it “we wish we didn’t have to break into the labs. But something has to be done to save the animals from the pain. There are no laws protecting animals in laboratories. We’re not just going to sit by while we know animals are being cut up and torn apart by people who just don’t care.”
Many opponents of Alf consider them terrorists. Alf was considered a threat by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2005 (Rood 126). In Alf’s defense, one has to be considered a terrorist if they actually terrorize someone. Alf has harmed no one, in fact, they do the opposite. They save lives. Their crimes are victimless.
On ALF’s website, they list a detailed list of how to break into an animal testing facility. First, headgear must be worn to hide the ALF member’s face. ALF recommends that tools used for breaking and entering and destroying the laboratories, such as crowbars, pliers, and cutting tools should be purchased in advance from the actual intrusion and a good distance away from the research facilities. All utilities should be paid for in cash to eliminate any evidence of purchases. Socks must be worn over the shoes to eliminate footprints, and finally, two sets of latex gloves should be worn.
Alf is breaking the law by entering private property and breaking into buildings. If any were caught, and many were, they would spend years behind bars. In an article in the newspaper On Wings¸ written by an anonymous author, states how Alf is a domestic terrorist group who does nothing but break the law to serve their own narrow political agenda.
The author tries to criticize Alf by stating “Alf’s victims are numerous and include not only the fur industry, but butcher shops, factory farms, slaughterhouses, fast food restaurants and valuable research laboratories, to name just a few,” as if these targeted these things are a bad thing. He also states “[Alf] are like rebellious teenagers that don’t have a clue about what life and reality are all about, they assume a superior attitude towards everyone who doesn’t support their narrow views.” What narrow views? That all living breathing beings capable of feeling pain shouldn’t be intentionally put in a position where they can feel pain by cruel experimenters? Those views aren’t narrow; they are quite the opposite.
The biggest problem I have with the author’s article is that he reduces Alf’s acts to a “political agenda.” He states “few animal rights groups would go to these drastic measures to impose their political agenda upon others. However, though many vegan groups do not participate in terrorism themselves, they still may support, and even admire, the Alf underground way of doing things.” First, the act of valuing the life of a living breathing animal cannot be defined as a mere “agenda” any more than valuing the life of living breathing human can. There is no scientific evidence which legitimately proves that humans are a superior species to other animals. The reason the majority of humans believe they are the superior species is solely based on their own values and religious beliefs. Therefore, since Alf believes all animals are equal, this belief should be accepted as the default and respected more than the alternative.
Deducing the belief that animals have a right to not be tested on as a political agenda is ridiculous. One could call any subject matter a political agenda. Calling it a political agenda implies that any values humans hold relating to the well-being of another human being is also just an agenda. For example, if one felt murdering people was wrong, isn’t that just their own agenda? People would understand Alf’s views with this simple analogy. Whatever a human feels about the life of an innocent baby, extend that belief over to animals. That is how most people opposed to animal testing feel.
It is true that ALF breaks the law. But what the author does not understand is that Alf believes that protecting the lives of innocent beings is exceedingly more important than any man made law. If a man made law conflicted with protecting a living being, then the law must be broken. If a cat is being tortured, and in order to save it, one must cross a “No Trespassing” sign to obtain him, what’s more important here? Breaking the law to rescue the tortured cat or not breaking the law and allowing the cat to be tortured? The choice is obvious. Animal rights certainly outweigh private property rights. If it was a human baby being tortured, the average citizen wouldn’t think twice about breaking into private property to save it. But most of us fail to realize that all living breathing beings feel the same pain and emotional distress.
One of the most popular victories by Alf was the rescue of Britches, the macaque (a type of monkey), in 1985. When Alf found five-week-old Britches, his eyelids were sewn shut and his head was completely bandaged all around as part of a sensory-deprivation study. Unable to see or hear, Britches was trembling when an Alf member picked him up. They rescued Britches along with 1,115 other animals.
According to Dr. Bettina Flavioli, the veterinarian who cared for Britches after his rescue, said “Beneath the bandages are two cotton pads, one for each eye … Both pads are filthy and soaked with moisture. Bilaterally upper eyelids are sutured to lower eyelids. The sutures are grossly oversized for the purpose intended.” In addition to physical injuries, Britches demonstrated major emotional trauma. “Infant demonstrates photophobia. Penis of infant is edematous and inflamed. Generalized muscle development poor. Skin dry. Body odor foul,” Flavioli continued.
Britches was placed in a primate sanctuary where an elderly female primate nurtured him as if he was her own offspring. It took him several months to fully recover from emotional and physical trauma, but now he as fully recovered and currently lives a happy life.
The story of Britches is considered a monument victory in ALF’s history. Sadly, there are thousands of primates currently undergoing grueling testing who are not as fortunate as Britches. The outdated Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only federal law to require basic standards of care for laboratory animals. However, this is hard to enforce, since law enforcement are not allowed in research facilities while experiments are in progress. Also, the AWA excludes birds, rats, mice, and guinea pigs from its welfare laws, and these animals are used most during experiments.
In conclusion, the majority of people live in a world where tradition, culture, and religious values tell them that it’s perfectly normal to use animals as commodities. Some people live this way for years, until their death, without ever wanting to learn more about the issue or confronting it. Very few, taught by ancestral tradition, ever step outside the box and ask themselves, “is this normal? Should I stop causing pain to other living beings?”
Also, people tend to hypocritically live in by an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude; some people generally dislike the idea of animal testing, yet they refuse to live by it because it is simply too inconvenient for them. For example, most people are squeamish at pictures or videos of graphic animal testing. No normal citizen wants to look at images of animal suffering. Yet, at the same time, these same people fail to realize that the toothpaste, shampoo, or body wash they buy involved the suffering of animal. One cannot just pretend animal testing does not exist by never facing the issue.
There is one major feat that the average citizen can do to help with little to no effort. When one is shopping for products, they can simply look for products labeled “cruelty-free.” One does not have to go to health food stores to get cruelty-free products; maybe it was like that decades ago, but certainly not anymore. Most major stores, including Wal-mart, Target, and the local drug store, carry cruelty-free products. Some stores even have a whole section in the aisle dedicated solely to cruelty-free products. A product labeled cruelty-free simply means it was not testing on animals and it contains no animal products. Some cruelty-free products will not specifically say those words, but they will say something similar “100% vegan ingredients. No animal byproducts or testing.” Other products will elaborate further by noting “we believe in consciousness in cosmetics. No animals were harmed in the making of this product.”
Bekoff, Mark. Animals Matter. Boston. MA: Shambhala, 2007. Print.
Burtt, E.A. The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha. New York. Penguin Books Ltd, 1982. Print.
Magel, Charles. A Bibliography on Animal Rights and Related Matters. Washington: University Press of America, Inc, 1981. Print.
Mappes, Thomas and Jane Zembaty. Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy. 5th ed. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc, 1997. Print.
Rood, Justin. “Animal Rights Groups and Ecology Militants Make DHS Terrorist List, Right-Wing Vigilantes Omitted”, Congressional Quarterly, March 25, 2005.
Carl Cohen. Professor of Philosophy at the Residential College of the University of Michigan. E-mail interview. 4 May 2011.
“Animal Liberation Front Blazenly Disregards Private Property Rights.” On Wings. New York. June 1998, late edition. 3.