“Medical Testing on Animals”

For the past twenty years, there has been a heated ongoing debate on whether animals should be used in scientific and medical research. Vivisection is the medical term for the practice of experimenting on animals. Every year in the United States an estimated twenty to seventy million animals die in the name of research. Before they die they are usually burned, poisoned, exposed to radioactive elements such as uranium and plutonium, or inflicted with fatal and often deadly diseases such as cancer and AIDS. Most of the animals used for research are rodents such as rats, mice, and hamsters. But dogs, cats, pigs, rabbits, sheep, and monkeys are also used. Although scientists have depended on animal test data to achieve medical advances, I believe experimentation on sentient animals for the benefit of medical and scientific research, however, is not ethical. There should be other methods of research, because testing on animals is cruel and inhumane as well as often unnecessary.

First of all, I have to agree with anti-vivisectionists that experimenting on animals is very cruel, because they are sentient creatures just like us. Animals are sentient creatures because the word sentience is defined as the ability to experience suffering, enjoyment, or happiness. Scientists have determined through tests that animals are capable of feeling pain, for it is not a mere reaction of the nerve system. For example, animals show characteristics of sentience such as high-pitched vocalizations, fear responses, nursing of injuries, and learned avoidance after being inflicted with pain. Most animals after being captured from the wild are forced to live in tiny metal cages in which they can barely move. The metal cages are about fifteen inches wide and twelve inches tall (the size of a small refrigerator). After being locked up for long periods of time in the puny cages animals may become insane, physically crippled, or even die. Animal rights activists have gathered plenty of information that has shut down laboratories that have violated the anti-cruelty statutes. This includes a 1984 videotape that was stolen from the University of Pennsylvania Head Injury Clinic. The research was afterwards suspended due to animal cruelty, because it was said to be involved in striking baboons over the head in order to break their necks and cause brain damage for the use of research. Alex Pacheo gives a first-person account of the conditions he witnessed in a primate laboratory.

“On May 11, 1981 I began work at the Institute for Behavioral Research and was given a tour… I saw filth caked on the wires of the cages, feces piled in the bottom of the cages, urine, and rust encrusting every surface. A monkey was placed in a chamber, and electrodes attached to his body. The monkey would be forced to try to squeeze a bottle of fluid with his surgically crippled arm in order to stop the painful electric shock that coursed through his body. The ceiling and walls of the chamber were covered with blood.” This quote given by Alex Pacheo provides a detailed description of the horrifying and disgusting conditions animals must endure during medical experiments. From the confinement and isolation in cages, to the gruesome experiments – I think that using animals for medical and scientific research is very cruel and inhumane.

Animal research is often unnecessary, for many important medical advances have been made by clinical research and close observation of human patients, not animals. Although some people claim using animals is necessary to train veterinarians, there are countries that do not use healthy animals to teach veterinarians or other surgical techniques. For instance, in England they use only sick or injured animals in scientific research. Other alternatives are using computer programs, utilizing cell and tissue “in vitro,” using microorganisms or other organisms that cannot experience pain or suffering, limiting the amount of animals used in each research, and employing chemical methods to analyze untested substances. For example, nowadays, super computers can easily create models of animals based on their DNA and other information for the use of research. Or the “in vitro” method can be used; it is based on the idea that what happens in the body’s individual cells reflect what happens in organs such as the heart. In contrast