shutterstock_104589365Animal testing is a process that has been going on for centuries for numerous reasons, such as developing medical treatments, determining the toxicity of certain medications, confirming the safety of a product designed for humans, and other health care uses. Because of animal testing, many cures and treatments to a variety of illnesses and diseases have been discovered that might have otherwise continued to plague mankind over the years. Without question, animal testing has proven useful on more than a few occasions throughout history.

Animal testing is one of the most fascinating topics for debate, and is a great subject for anyone concerned with social issues to learn about, whether it involves adding meaningful insight to an intelligent discussion or writing a great speech for a class at school, something you can learn more about with Udemy. As with any debate subject, there are two sides to the world of animal testing, and there’s no question the process has provided humanity with many of benefits. In successful cases, for instance, it isn’t just humans that benefit from the scientific findings; the animals treated first are helped as well. While many horror stories exist about animal testing, much of the testing is a highly regulated process now, and laws do exist to keep animals from being wrongfully harmed.

Even taking all of this into consideration, however, the staunchest proponents have to acknowledge that there are cons to animal testing as well. In fact, this could explain why there is such a downward trend in using animals for scientific experiments. Researchers are relying more and more on other methods as technology has improved and social awareness has increased, and that could be due to the cons involved.

Many Animals Not Protected

Unfortunately for many of the animals subjected to testing, the Animal Welfare Act does not protect them. This includes animals like mice, birds, fish, and reptiles, which for various reasons do not even fall under the animal category by this federal law. This means that the experiments these animals are subjected to may fall under a classification some may call cruel.

To satisfy the requirements of the testing process, animals may be force-fed, deprived of food or water for lengthy periods of time, or physically restrained against their will. While it’s inaccurate to say that all animal testing is inhumane, experiments that inflict pain upon animals or at the very least put them through an unpleasant experience can occur without violating any law.

Even worse, animals that do fall under the AFA are not necessarily protected from torture either. While not all animal studies involve subjecting the test subject to pain or other forms of torture, footage can be found that indicates the Animal Welfare Act by itself is not enough of a deterrent for the researchers who are less concerned about ethical standards.

Some Tests Have No Purpose in the End

Even if the testing process does not kill an animal or inflict any lasting damage, it’s an unfortunate fact that the experiment may end up being pointless in the end. The product being tested on the animal, for instance, may never satisfy the requirements needed in order to be released to the public due to any number of problems or unintended side effects. When a cure to a disease is discovered while working with animals, at least that test subject served a purpose that helped humanity, even if the results were not positive in the short term for the animal population. The situation is much worse when an animal is harmed or even killed to test out a product that never contributed anything positive to mankind, and unfortunately this does happen.

Additionally, the benefits of some of the products tested on animals may seem on the trivial side when compared to the pain it puts the animal through. For instance, improved laundry detergent (in an experiment that may not even prove successful) is not necessarily a very good reason to risk harming the health of an animal. Medical breakthroughs are one thing, but when it comes to products that are designed merely to make our everyday lives a little easier, animal testing begins to look a little more suspect. With even a basic understanding of the principles of chemistry, which you can gain through this Udemy course, it’s possible to create new products that do not need to be tested on animals in order to ascertain their safety for humans.

It’s Not Free

Running experiments on animals may be less morally ambiguous than releasing untested products to the general public, but there are other costs to consider: fiscal ones, for instance. During the experiment process, the animals involved must be taken care of, and that means money for food, housing, and any other treatment needs. This doesn’t even take into account the cost of the drugs used on the animals, which likely cost thousands of dollars in scientific research money to produce. Some experiments involve testing on large amounts of animals and over many different sessions, so over the course of many months or even years of testing, it isn’t difficult to see how these costs can balloon.

When you consider that there are labs that breed animals specifically for the purpose of testing and then sell them off when the next project comes along, even the animals themselves come at a great cost. If all of this money spent on animal testing were instead invested in other methods, the scientific results might have been far superior.

Humans Differ from Animals

There are many similarities to humans among the more evolved animals of the world – that much is scientifically proven. However, even similar organisms taken out of their natural habitat may not react in a reliable, consistent manner to a drug intended for human use. This problem is only more significant when considering experiments done on animals like mice and fish. Just because a certain medication has the desired effect on mice, for instance, does not mean it can be neatly translated into human form to achieve the same result to a much more complicated body. Testing a product on animals may be a good starting point in certain areas, but it’s far from a safe bet to have the same effect on humans it does on an animal.

While it’s been many years since the more disastrous incidents took place, past medications that have proven successful on animals went on to cause serious problems with humans. A sleeping pill tested on animals in the 50s caused thousands of babies to be born with birth defects, while a heart pill tested on mice was released to the public only to cause nearly 30,000 heart attacks. What works on animals, even animals similar to humans, will not necessarily work for people. Conversely, some drugs that work wonders for humans (such as aspirin) can prove deadly to animals, so something that doesn’t work in animal testing might have been a huge medical breakthrough for mankind.

Indeed, there is no reason to believe that animal testing is a necessary component of achieving new medical insight. It has led to discoveries in the past, but only because it was one of the only methods humans were using previously. As the years have passed, many treatments and cures have been discovered without involving animals at all, and in fact the results may be more reliable this way.

There Are Other Methods Available

With today’s technology, it’s not as necessary to study the results on animals. Thanks to in vitro testing, which involves studying cells in a Petri dish, we can identify how cells might respond to drugs without actually having to use a live creature of any kind. Not only does this keep animals out of harm’s way, it also provides more relevant data, as the cells used in such an experiment are human.

Another option we have for testing today is using tiny amounts of a drug on human volunteers. By dividing the dosage into an amount too small to cause any adverse reactions, we can get a good idea of how humans would react to a drug without subjecting them to any risk.

There are also various computer simulations that would allow us to recreate the effects of a drug without having to involve a living creature of any kind. If you’re intrigued at the wonder of computer programming and how it’s possible to reproduce something as complicated as the human body’s reaction to a drug, maybe learning the basics of computer science is a good first step.

Any of these methods is a safer, possibly even more reliable method of testing out a drug without involving animals, and with all of these options available, the argument could be made that using animals for experiments is no longer necessary. Interested in biology and how some of these more advanced methods can work to determine the effects of a drug on a human body but don’t have much of a background in the subject? Don’t be discouraged; take an introductory Biology course at Udemy today and see if you might have a future in the field of science.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

Featured course

Animalist - zoology of animal 2

Last Updated April 2021

  • 2 total hours
  • 52 lectures
  • All Levels
5 (1)

English | By Gove Lee

Explore Course

Biology students also learn

Empower your team. Lead the industry.

Get a subscription to a library of online courses and digital learning tools for your organization with Udemy for Business.

Request a demo