Protecting Animals With The Animal Bill Of Rights

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Table of contents

  1. Medical Testing
  2. For Animal Testing
  3. Against Animal Testing

A right is defined as a moral or legal entitlement to have or do something. Some basic human rights include the right to life, the right to fair trial and the right to respect for private and family life. Should animals have similar rights? People use animals for fashion (fur and leather), cosmetic and medical testing, hunting, sports, transport, entertainment, pets and food. Although animals have always been considered as lesser beings compared to humans, certain charities such as PETA have decided to challenge this and campaign for equal rights for animals. Their argument is that they are sentient beings who are able to feel both positive and negative emotions like joy, fear and pain. Having the right to life seems to be a basic right for all living things but is not being upheld when animals are being slaughtered for food or fur. Animals in puppy mills are also unable to have the right to a family life as their children are torn away from them as soon as possible. Many people think that this is unfair but there are also some arguments for humans using animals.

The first reason as to why humans should use animals is because they cannot exercise their rights such as the right to free speech, right to religion or the right to a fair trial, therefore they can’t have the same rights as us and we should be able to use them. Furthermore, animals don’t choose how to live and have to adapt themselves to their environment, including being used as transport or for entertainment. Finally, some people believe that man was created by God and that we are His most important creation so animals are of less importance. All of these arguments are good reasons for humans using animals in various ways but there are some arguments against this as well.

Firstly, animals are living and breathing beings like humans, show emotions and experience happiness which should be enough reason to treat them equally. Secondly, they are unable to defend their rights so it is impossible for us to know exactly what they are thinking but, if they were able to communicate with us, it is most likely that they wouldn’t want to be killed in a slaughterhouse. As well as this, all people in developed countries are given rights even if they are not capable of exercising them, for example people with ill health. We give rights to children even if they are not self conscious or autonomous and even though they cannot defend them. This should therefore also apply to animals. As living beings that share our planet, animals deserve the same treatment as humans, we are the most developed species in the world and should be compassionate towards other animals. Finally, animals can feel pain and suffer and should be treated with the same amount of sympathy and respect as humans because we are all animals.

Medical Testing

Animal research and testing is the use of non-human animals in scientific procedures. They are used for many purposes and many scientists agree that they are hugely benefitting as they are used for the development of new vaccines against deadly illnesses, testing new drugs and the development of new surgical techniques like organ transplants or open-heart surgery. Also, they help scientists to assess the safety of consumer products like pesticides, cosmetics and household goods, although the European Union banned all cosmetic testing on animals in 2013. People have ranging views that often depend on the number of animals, the species used, the purpose of the experiment, the expected benefits and the level of animal suffering that occurs. Although the vast majority of people working in laboratories don’t abuse animals, there aren’t enough regulations or sanctions for the people who do. In the 1970’s and 80’s people began to question people’s treatment of animals, particularly in experiments which in turn led to the ban on cosmetic testing in the EU, but in countries such as China, it is illegal not to test cosmetics from foreign countries on animals. Animal testing is only banned in around 34 countries worldwide, out of 195.

For Animal Testing

One reason for animal testing is that it played a vital part in nearly every medical breakthrough over the last decade. It has led to major advances in understanding and treating a wide range of diseases such as breast cancer, brain injuries, leukaemia, cystic fibrosis, malaria, multiple sclerosis and tuberculosis. The discovery of insulin was due to dog’s pancreas’ being removed and it has helped many diabetics around the world. Rabbits were fundamental in the development of anaesthetics, the rabies vaccine and blood transfusions and if not for chimpanzees, there would be no vaccine for hepatitis B. The polio vaccine was tested on animals and the number of cases drastically dropped from 350,000 in 1988 to only 27 in 2016. Testing on animals has been crucial over the past 100 years as 88 percent of all of the Nobel prizes in Physiology and Medicine wouldn’t have been possible without the help of animals.

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Secondly, animals do not have rights and no cognitive ability or moral judgement so it is acceptable to test various things on them. Throughout the course of history, they have never been treated the same and we shouldn’t start doing that now. If they had the same rights as us, we wouldn’t be able to keep them as pets and everyone would have to become a vegan. Although humans could replace the animals, we as a species are more important and shouldn’t be put into unnecessary danger, the World Medical Association Declaration states that human trials should come after animal ones. It would be unethical to perform certain procedures on people, especially since some involve genetic manipulation.

Furthermore, animals themselves benefit from the testing of others of their species. If vaccines weren’t tested on animals, millions would’ve now died from rabies, tetanus and the canine parvo virus. Other treatments that were developed with the use of animals include pacemakers for heart diseases and remedies for glaucoma and hip dysplasia, all of which help animals in the modern world. Most medicines used in an ordinary veterinary practise would be tested on animals at some point in the past. For the past couple of years koalas have been suffering from a Chlamydia epidemic which can cause blindness, infertility and, in the worst cases, death. A new vaccine may be developed to help them in the future but it would almost certainly have to be tested on other animals. To consequentialists, animal testing is morally right if the good done outweighs the harm done to the animals. This is because they believe that an action is morally right if the consequence or outcome of the action is of benefit to others.

In addition to this, there is no fully effective alternative to testing on a living organism as we are all extremely complex. Scientists are unable to do everything in a Petri dish, evaluating a drug for side effects needs a circulatory system to carry the medicine to different organs but the circulatory system cannot be replicated. Tissue cultures also can’t help with studying high blood pressure or blindness and even the best computers in the world are incapable of accurately imitating an organ as complex as the brain. Computer models are reliable only if accurate information has been obtained from animal research which means that testing is always going to involve a living being.

All mammals share the same common ancestors meaning we have the same set of organs (a heart, kidneys, lungs etc.) that function in a very similar way with the help of a bloodstream and a central nervous system We share 99 percent of our DNA with chimpanzees and over 95 percent with mice, making them the perfect test subjects for humans. As we are biologically quite similar, we are also susceptible to many of the same conditions including heart disease, cancer or diabetes. Mice are used so often because they are similar to us but have an incredibly short lifespan, usually living only two to three years. This allows scientists to study the effect a treatment has over a lifespan or over generations but would be tedious to do with humans, mice and rats are good candidates for cancer research.

Against Animal Testing

The first and most obvious argument against animal testing is that it is cruel and inhumane. Humane Society International reports animals being subjected to force-feeding, forced inhalation of various gases, food and water deprivation, prolonged periods of time with no exercise and being burned or otherwise wounded to study the healing process. Cruelty Free International launched a seven-month investigation to Imperial College London and witnessed the infliction of major organ damage, mutilation and double kidney transplants. Tubes were implanted into animals’ heads for substances to be injected into their brain and others were forced to run on treadmills to avoid electric shocks until they were exhausted. Some companies around the world use the Draize eye test which evaluates the irritation caused by shampoo and other cosmetics and involves rabbits having their eyelids held open so as not to blink away the product. LD50 is another test used to find out which dose of a specific chemical will kill 50 percent of the animals used in the experiment. In the USA in 2016 a total of 71,370 animals suffered pain during experiments without being given anaesthetics. This included 1,272 non-human primates, 5,771 rabbits, 24,566 guinea pigs and 33,280 hamsters.

Despite what some may say there are now many effective methods of in vitro testing which can produce better results. One method is studying cell cultures in a Petri dish which is better because human cells can be used without harming anyone. People can also volunteer themselves as test subjects and take part in micro dosing (giving doses too small to cause a harmful reaction) and will then have their blood taken and tested. Advanced technology now enables the use of artificial skin such as EpiDerm or ThinCert which is made from sheets of human skin cells grown in test tubes, these can also produce more useful results than testing on animal skin. Some computers can predict how toxic a substance is and microfluid chips are in advanced stages of development, these are lined with human skin cells and recreate the function of human organs. Consequently, it is clear that animals are not at all needed for testing. Although we are descended from the same common ancestors as mammals, there are many anatomic and cellular differences between people and other animals that make them poor models- for example, mice have a tail and whiskers whereas we don’t.

There is also a reliability issue in using animals as test subjects. 94 percent of drugs that succeed in animal tests fail in humans and, so far, over 85 HIV vaccines have been tried and failed in humans after working in non-human primates. Animal tests are also more expensive, Humane Society International compared in vitro experiments with animal tests and found that every scenario had this outcome. A company called Empiriko invented a synthetic liver predicting metabolic reactions, it is very accurate and would require 1,000 rats and 100 dogs if experiments were carried out on animals. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) found that the United States have spent 56.4 million dollars in government funds towards animal tests that produced no useful results. The majority of animals are killed during or after experiments and most of them suffer for nothing.

In 1957, a sleeping pill called Thalidomide was developed and tests on animals deemed it same for use and was advertised to pregnant women because it helped with morning sickness. By the end of the 1950s 10,000 children were born with flipper-like limbs and people realised that the drug was causing it. Thalidomide was later tested on pregnant mice, rats, guinea pigs, cats and hamsters but didn’t result in birth defects unless administered at extremely high doses, in some tests six hundred times the human dose. Another example of animal testing not having reliable results was the arthritis drug Vioxx. It had a protective effect on the hearts of mice but led to 27,000 heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths before getting pulled out of the market. Animal tests are often misleading and can have disastrous effects but can also lead to scientists ignoring potential cures and treatments. Some chemicals are harmful or ineffective for animals but beneficial for humans like aspirin or Tacrolimus, a drug that lowers the risk of rejection of a new organ.

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