Everything has two sides - and animal experimentation is no exception. On one side is the group of people comprising animal activists, environmentalists, etc. who argue that animal testing should be banned. On the other, is the group comprising all those people who are of the opinion that we can't do without animal testing - and hence it should not be banned. With both these groups at loggerheads, it has become all the more difficult for the layman to take a stand on this issue. It is very important to evaluate animal experimentation pros and cons that are put forth by either of the two sides involved in order to take a stand on this raging issue of debate.
Animal Experimentation Debate: An Overview
The practice of using animals for the purpose of research is being condemned by animal protection organizations - like the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), for quite some time now. The authorities however, seem to be too busy to pay attention to this issue. That explains the numerous loopholes in the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 - the only federal law to regulate treatment of animals that are used for testing in research laboratories. The law is often criticized for excluding numerous animal species which deserve special protection, as it legalizes the use of these animals in research laboratories. Every year around a hundred million animals - right from small rodents to considerably large mammals, are either killed or subjected to torture in testing labs in the United States alone. And that, mind you, is just an estimated figure; with the actual number allegedly lying in multiples of the same.
Should Animal Experimentation be Permitted?
The entire debate on the issue of using animals for testing can be traced back to the 17th century. Back then, those in favor of animal research argued that humans are superior species and this gave them the right to control those species which were inferior to them. These people also argued that it was perfectly normal to use animals for research as they lacked rationality and stimuli. These views were opposed by some sections of the society which eventually lobbied against the use of animals in research and formed animal rights groups to oppose the practice. Large-scale opposition was first witnessed in Europe, and eventually spread to other parts of the world including the United States. In fact, the animal rights movement in the United States gained momentum only in the 18th century. The new group banked on utilitarian thesis which stated that humans and animals are not just linked by their ability to suffer, but also by their right to not suffer or die at the hands of each other.
Even though the arguments have changed considerably today, the core issue remains the same. The arguments for animal testing put forth by those in support of animal research today are more inclined towards the necessity of this practice, and not towards the superiority-inferiority debate. They argue that we can't afford to ban animal experimentation as it is bound to backfire on us. If we don't test medicines and medical procedures on animals, we will have to test them on fellow humans - and that can spell disaster for us. More importantly, nobody would volunteer to be a subject for such experiments which will again trigger equality crisis among humans. This may eventually result in oppression of people from lower strata of the society. Those people who are in favor of animal experimentation don't forget to highlight the fact that we could only develop medicine for diseases like measles and pertussis because of this practice, and that is absolutely true.
While these arguments may sound convincing, they are incomplete because animal experimentation goes well beyond the realms of medicine into the world of cosmetic industry - wherein thousands of animals are used for product testing every year. The fact is that the thousands of animals used in cosmetic industry are sacrificed for the vested interests of some people for whom it means nothing more than business. Those people who call for a ban on animal testing argue that it is insane to go ahead with such inhumane practice when alternatives to animal testing, in form of cell culture, human-based testing, computer simulation, etc., are available in plenty. The never ending debate on whether the use of animals in research should be allowed or not, will continue forever with both the sides being too adamant to give up on their stand. For a layman, it is even more difficult as it is not wise to out-rightly dismiss the arguments put forth by either sides.
One has to go through all animal testing pros and cons before deciding whether he/she is in favor of this practice - or against it. Similarly, the government has to carry out a through 'research' on this subject and set guidelines to ensure that animal species are not exploited in the name of 'research'. Development does come at a cost, and animal experimentation is a classic example of this statement. Humans - being the so-called supreme species, are too shrewd to pay this cost on their own - and that explains why they prefer to put this burden on non-humans who can't oppose this cruel practice. Even though animal cruelty can be condemned on moral grounds, whether 'morality' in itself holds ground today is a question which is difficult to answer.