There has been a controversy between animal rights supporters and scientists about whether it is right to use animals in experimental research. Also, it is very debatable whether using animals for such research results in finding a cure for diseases. From my point of view, if there are no other alternatives, and if it is possible that this will contribute to science, animals may be used for experimental research.
Although the animal rights activists claim that people and animals are equal and thus they should be treated equally, I think that people and animals cannot be seen equal, and therefore the death of an animal cannot be the same thing as the death of a person. For that reason, causing animals to die for science, for the sake of saving human lives, may be considered ethical to some extent if it will contribute to the advancement of science and will be to the benefit of humanity in general.
Furthermore, animal rights supporters label scientists as ‘cruel’ for causing animals to die in medical experiments, while they do not oppose the people, mostly farmers, who kill animals for food, even though they know that 99% of animals deaths is caused by farmers while only a small percentage, i.e. 1% is caused by scientists. The underlying reason for that is they find scientists easier to attack and cannot deal with farmers who are organized and strong.
Another basic argument of animal rights defenders is that people and animals are different genetically and therefore it is useless to use animals in experiments to see the effects of some substances on people. They claim that it will make no good to use animals in experiments because they are too different to be compared to people. Some of them even assert that it is better to use people directly as they think that the results of experiments on animals cannot be valid and reliable as long as the same observation has not been done on man also. However, these people cannot foresee the disastrous results of such a practice. Many people are likely to die until a healthy result is obtained.
People and animals may not be the same, but to some degree there are similarities which can at least give scientists an idea about their experiments. From this point of view, scientists are right to use animal models to provide themselves with information about what is happening at level of detail that could not be achieved in humans. Although there might have been some incidents when animal testing did not prove to be useful and some effects of some drugs observed on animals could not be observed on people, there are also a lot of examples that show that using animals resulted in significant developments and helped to cure some serious illnesses.
On the other hand, there may be alternative methods that should be used instead of animal experimentation. Then, of course, it is cruel and unethical to use animals. For example, in some experiments in-vitro methods can be used as an alternative to using live animals. In such occasions, it is certainly much better and right to employ these alternatives.
Ayse Ipek, Spring 2004 Adv