Many people today, including scientists and doctors, are questioning the
suffering and killing of animals for the sake of human beings. Is it morally
correct to dissect a frog or a worm for the purpose of educating a high school
student? On the other hand, must "We study life to protect life" (1:131) The
issue of killing animals for the use of biomedical research, education, and
cosmetics can be referred as "vivisection". Twenty-five to thirty-five million
animals are spared in the U.S.A. each year for the purpose of research, testing,
and education. Although vivisection serves as an important tool for scientists
and doctors to work in research and may benefit humans, the harms indeed
outweigh the benefits.
Animal experimentation was not common until the early nineteenth century
and emerged as an important method of science. The first recorded action of
vivisection was the study of body humors by Erasistratus in Alexandria during
the third century (1:3). Later, in A.D. 129-200, the physician, Galen, used five
pigs to investigate the effects of several nerves (1:4). He is considered to be
the founder of experimental physiology. During the Renaissance Era, Andreas
Vesalius conducted experiments on monkeys, swine, and goats (1:3). By the late
eighteenth century, the methods of scientific discovery were changer to
experimentation of live animals by two French physiologists, Claude Bernard and
Francious Magnedie. They revolutionized methods of scientific discovery by
establishing live animal as common practice (1:4). Claude Bernard believed that
in order for medicine to progress, there must be experimental research, and
affirmed that "vivisection is indispensable for physical research". This is when
the anti-vivisection movement was established ("vivisection").
There are different views as to why or why not there should be animal
experimentation. For example, Descartes believed that animals are incapable of
feeling pain. He said "The greatest of all the prejudices we have retained from
our infancy is that of believing that beasts think" (1:4). In other words,
Descartes believes that animals have no sensations. Singer argues and thinks
that animals have feelings, desires, and preferences. He observed that stimuli
that cause pain to humans, such as hitting and burning, cause pain to animals
(1:25). Singer ?s position is that equal harms should be counted equally and
not downgraded for animals. However, he does not say that humans and animals
have an equal moral status, for he believes that "humans are superior to their
fellow animals by virtue of God-given soul" (12:37). Regan, another opposer to
Descarte's view, feels that animals do feel pain and have desires as well. He
believes that animals are "Subjects of a life just as human beings are and a
subject of a life have inherent values" (1:26). He also feels that animals
should not be tested for toxic substances, instead one should use cell tissue
cultures (5:26).
The people who favor animal experimentation feel that research is for
the purpose of humans. Research is a cultural value to acquire knowledge for
knowledge's sake. In other words, the means justifies the end if the end
benefits society. (4:62). They also believe that humans are superior to all
other creatures (1:28). Research is for biomedical purposes; 1) to add
scientific understanding of basic biological behavior, functions, and processes
2) to improve human or animal health by studying the natural history of the
disease (1:22). Henry Foster, the founder of Charles River Breeding Laborator,
said that "the use of animals in experiments is all for the benefit of mankind.
If you don't use animals you don't do research!" (2:45).
Most of the times by doing research one performs tests on animals. For
example, rabbits are locked in a chamber and forced to inhale grass, sprays, and
vapors. In dermal toxicity studies, rabbits have their fur removed to have
substances placed on their skin. In this case they are restrained so they don't
scratch (2:55). Testing is conducted to assess the potency, effectiveness, or
toxicity of substances that have established or potential usefulness for medical,
scientific, or commercial purposes (1:39). For instance, new drugs are tested
for efficiency and safety before clinical trials are conducted on humans. Tests
on animals are done to establish safety levels for humans of known toxic
substances (1:40).
Although testing might seem like the most efficient way to gain
knowledge in these areas, alternatives exist. The use of slides, films, computer
programs, and models can fulfill the same job without any harm. For example, in
vet schools the symptoms of strychnine poisoning were demonstrated by poisoning
dogs and then put on a video tape. On the video the students can go over steps
repeatedly and see what is taking place more clearly than in a lecture hall
(9:234). In medical schools procedures are easier to follow by camera. Students
can watch surgery performed by the top practitioner