The which aims to identify and control the variables

 

The existence of human beings has
long been rivalled by the usage of animals for food, domestic pets,
transportation, and companionship. Another non-traditional way of using animals
in the interest of benefiting humans is for the purpose of research. From this,
the term animal experimentation can be derived. It is the usage of non-human
animals in experiments which aims to identify and control the variables that
have a significant impact to the biological system and behaviour of the test
subjects.

In clinical testing laboratories,
animals are separated from their respective groups and used as tools, not
accounting for their natural instincts. For certain experimental practices, the
animal is used whole, or stripped of its organs and tissues to be used. As a
result of this, the animal needs to be euthanized by established protocols. In
many cases, the animals that survive this practice will be euthanized at the
end of the experiment to prevent pain and distress (6).  This may seem admissible, but this does not
take into account the pain and suffering endured by the animals during the
actual experiment.

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The debate about the pain, stress,
and death by animals used in scientific experiments has been ongoing for a long
time (7). This has generated public and political concerns both consisting of
people who are for or against animal experimentation. Arguments against animal
experimentation is that because animals are alive, they have the basic rights
against pain and distress, which makes their participation in experiments
unethical and this must be put to a halt (8). On the other hand, the backing
behind animal experimentation is that nearly every medical breakthrough in the
last 100 years has been accomplished through intensive research using animal
subjects (9). Experimentation involving the removal of pancreases from dogs has
directly led to the discovery of insulin, which is now a key to saving the
lives of diabetic patients (10).

In spite of this, the number of
animals used in experiments is still on the rise to keep up with the rapid pace
of medical and technological advancement. Around the world, it is estimated
that 100 million or more animals are being used in experiments annually (1). In
the UK, 3.71 million animals were used in animal experimentation in 2011 (2).

In 2009, the estimated total number of animals used was 1,131,076 in the USA,
and in Germany alone, this figure has risen to 2.13 million in 2001 (3).  This growing number is accompanied by the
range of animals being used like rabbits, fishes, mice, rats, guinea pigs,
amphibians, primates, dogs, cats, and many more (4). The huge demand for
experimental animals is fed through breeding centres from different
universities and national breeding centres. 
These are known as class-A dealers. However, there exist brokers who
obtain the animals from auctions or through unorthodox methods like capturing
wild animals illegally and they are known as class-B dealers (5).

Several estimates for animal used in
laboratory experiments have been published annually. This however does not
provide an accurate estimate and has been severely impeded by considerable
variation in reporting standards internationally (11). The majority of
countries only record live animal usage and ignore the large number of animals
killed in preparation for organ or tissue harvesting experiments. Sadly, a lot
of less developed countries do not record or publish the statistics for animal
usage as protocols for this has been ignored deliberately or the protocols
simply do not exist yet. This explains why the calculation for the number of
animals used worldwide of 100 million by Taylor et al. (2008) is
unreliable and undervalued. This unreported animal usage figure in addition to
the sum of the number of animals used worldwide illustrates that the number has
risen to a cardinal scale and is impossible to put a blind eye to.

Consequently, alternatives to animal experimentation must be explored.

Despite of the number of animals
used, the general society has accepted this in favour of the claimed benefits
brought to human beings (12). Chimpanzees share 99% of their DNA to human
beings and mice are 98% identical to humans (13). Because of the closely
relation to humans, they almost have the same set of organs like the heart,
kidney, lungs which essentially functions the same way alongside the aid of a
central nervous system and bloodstream (14). From this, it can be said that
they share a biological similarity; hence they are susceptible to a lot of
conditions and illnesses like cancer, diabetes and heart disease (15).

Animals are also used in toxicology
tests which includes the health care products and some cosmetics. An average
woman uses around 12 personal care products each day; therefore the safety of
the products must be ensured (16). Toxicology testing is carried out by
pharmaceutical companies and it involves examining the effects of various
substances on animals to ensure the safety of the chemicals on humans (17).

According to Nature, each chemical must be tested on at least 5000 animals
and 12,000 for pesticides (18). The safety of many products is assessed
including pesticides, food products, medication, food additives, packing
materials, and air fresheners. From this, humans can feel safe when using the
products.

Although animal experimentation
carries several distinct perks, conservationists and animal welfare activists
continue to pressure the government to come up with non-animal alternatives.

Some people claim that humans do not have the right to govern animals whether
it is for human consumption, research, clothing material or other uses (19).

This gives rise to the question of what gives human beings the privilege of
sacrificing animal welfare for our own pleasure and comfort? This query has
been attempted to be answered and many turn to the term “Utilitarianism”. It is
an ethical theory that states that the best action taken is the one which leads
to as much happiness and utility in the world. This suggests that the
exploitation of non-human animals can be acceptable only if the benefits and
happiness of their usage outweighs the harm it causes (20). However, the lack
of conclusive evidence means that this theory cannot be justified and that it
may only be an excuse for ignorant humans to mask all the negatives from the
benefits of animal experimentation.

Amongst the general consensus, the
number one reason against animal experimentation is that it is cruel and inhumane.

The Humane Society International stated that animals used in experiments are
subjected to forced inhalation of gases, deprivation of food and water, force
feeding, infliction of burns and wounds for the study of healing, infliction of
pain from methods like neck breaking to study its effects, and other inhumane
means (21). In one such example, the LD50 (lethal dose 50) test involves
identifying the dose of a chemical that would kill 50% of the animal test
subjects (22). The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a report in 2016
which states that 71,370 animals suffered pain from experiments without the aid
of anaesthesia (23).

Besides the unnecessary torment of
the animals, expenditure to fund animal experimentation is far greater than
alternative methods. The animals need to be purchase, fed, maintained, and
accommodated (24). The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
concluded that over $56.4 million of government funds went towards animal
experimentation and failed to yield any significant result, despite running for
years. (25).

Taking into account all animal
experimentation, it would be ethical to analyse the cost/benefit. The cost
represents the pain and distress inflicted on the animal subjects whereas the
benefit embodies the success rate of animal experiments and all its benefits to
humans (26).

To protect animal welfare, numerous
legislations were set up across the globe. The first animal protection law was executed
in the British parliament in 1822. Shortly after, the first law specifically
aimed at controlling animal experimentation known as the Cruelty to Animals Act
was enacted in 1876 (27). Other countries began to take notice of the newly
made laws and consequently set up various legislations. In United States of
America, researches who intend to carry out animal experimentation must consult
with the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) to obtain
permission and the judging criteria involves scientifically justifying the
intent for using animals in experiments (28).

With the formation of new laws, “The
Three R’s (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement)” soon came to light. These have
now become guiding principal worldwide which aims for promoting ethical usage
of animals in experiments. They were first introduced by W.M.S Russel and R.L.

Burch in 1959 (29). According to these principals, researchers should replace
animal models with non-animal methods whenever possible, use the most optimal
method to obtain the best results while reducing the number of animals used,
and refine experimental techniques to minimize potential pain and distress
(30).

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