Is the use of animals in research ethical?

Posted: March 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

Hi to all of you once again :)

(Just a small warning to you. There are some graphic images of the results of animal testing contained in this blog. Readers of a sensitive disposition who are easily upset should at the very least some how try to avoid the pictures)

This week we shall be discussing the use of animals in research. We will look at the positives of this and the negatives and I will try to stay objective but I can’t make any promises. Scrap that because I don’t think I can stay objective.

The main use of animal testing stated by aboutanimaltesting.co.uk is: it is used to assess the safety and effectiveness of everything from medicine to cosmetics, as well as how the human body works. They want to find out how the human body works from animals that all differ from humans in some way or another – seems logical to me …not.

When you walk up to the make up counter and pick up that mascara that is going to do wonders to your lashes do you think of the process of testing that the mascara has gone through to reach the shelves? One of the animal tests that the mascara has had to pass is the Draize Test. In this test a rabbits neck is caught in a stock so that it can not move while chemical is poured into its eyes to see what irritant effects it has. The rabbits are then made to suffer, sometimes for weeks, with the effects of this chemical.

The use of the Draize irritancy test is not necessary any more nor is it any good to us a consumer and there are alternatives to this test. Professionals such as Stephen Kaufman says the test is of no use as the eye of a rabbit differs vastly from the eye of a human and this test does not accurately reflect the degree irritancy in humans. There is no known case of the Draize test data being used  used help in the care of patients.

Okay so that is animal testing in the cosmetics industry and it is most definitely not right for these animals to go through such a huge amount of suffering just so that customers can look good on a Friday night while they go out clubbing.

If you are against animal testing in the cosmetic industry, keep an eye out for products with this logo on it!

But what about in medical research? Is it okay for animals to be tested on then?

For some people this is where the debate gets kind of tricky. They believe that for the advances in medicine then it is okay to conduct research on animals. But just think of some of the kinds of things that would need to be tested on animals before they reach humans. Things that involve inducing serious, painful and life threatening tumors or ulcers on animals.

The main ‘plus point’ for animal testing is that it can aid researchers in finding drugs and treatments that can improve the health and well being of many people. Many of the medicines that we have today have been possible due to animal testing. These medicines include drugs for HIV, insulin, antibiotics, vaccines and many more. This is the main reason that animal testing is seen as okay in the medical world.

Another ‘plus point’ for animal testing is that it can help to ensure the safety of the drugs and vaccines that we use today. In this case animal testing is used to gauge the safety of a particular drug before they are used in human trials.

Animals typically used in this kind of research because they are considered to be similar to humans. If this is true do they not feel the same kind of pain that we would? In my eyes this makes the ethics of using animals in research even more questionable. and its not just rats and mice that are used in medical research. other animals that are used in medical research include birds, guinea pigs, amphibians and fish, rabbits, non-human primates, farm animals and carnivores. 

What about in psychology? Is it okay then?

There have been many studies done in psychology that have involved animals, for example Harlow and the rhesus monkeys in the 1950’s with regards to maternal deprivation. But was it ethically okay to deprive the baby rhesus monkeys of the correct care they needed and to scare them to see which mother they would run to. If that was done to a human child there would be outrage across the world but because it was done to monkeys no/very little fuss was made.

As Psychologists we are supposed to leave our opinion at the door when writing things such as these blogs But just this once I’m not going to. Personally I do not think that using animals in research is ethical. we cannot get consent from them and we do not promise to do them no harm they also cannot with draw. One life is just as important as another in this world and i do not feel that our lives should be placed above those of our four legged (or more) friends.

I am going to end my rant there. Hopefully I have not got to carried away but I think I may have and i apologise for such a heavy blog so close to the holidays.

I hope you all have a good Easter :)

Comments
  1. psucd3 says:

    Researchers do their best to minimize the duration and intensity of the pain (Rowan, 1997), also most of the time animals are either anaesthetized or given analgesics (Rowan, 1997). Therefore the ethical guideline of harm does not apply. I can understand that the BPS insists for humans that we get full informed consent (Ethics Committee of the British Psychological Society [BPS], 2009) and we cannot get this from animals. However these animals are purposefully bred for animal testing, we are not testing on animals from the street or in zoos (Rowan, 1997). Beside the point, animals used for sport are not asked if they want to consent, and they’re not given pain relief, for example in Spain bulls go through horrible abuse for crowd entertainment (Velez, 2010). At least when we use animals for research we give them pain relief and it is for a noble cause (Rowan, 1997).

    References
    Ethics Committee of the British Psychological Society. (2009). Code of Ethics and Conduct. Retrieved from http://www.bps.org.uk/what-we-do/ethics-standards/ethics-standards
    Rowan, A. N. (1997). The Benefits and Ethics of Animal Research. Scientific American, 276(2), 79-93.
    Velez, A. N. (2010). Comment: Ole, Ole, Ole, Oh No!: Bullfighting in the United States and Reconciling Constitutional Rights with Animal Cruelty Statutes. Penn State Law Review, 115(2), 497-516.

  2. The British Psychological Society (1993)* guidelines such as consent, right to withdraw, confidentiality and debriefing cannot be applied to non-human animals as they do not possess language. Therefore, you it is not a fair argument to conclude animal research is unethical as animals do not consent to participating. It is important to consider the current ethical restraints within animal research in order to protect animals in the research procedure to decide whether or not animal research is ethical.

    For example, The BPS has set up a Standing Advisory Committee on the Welfare of Animals in Psychology, in order to advise the Scientific Affairs Board and through it, the Society more generally on the ethical issues involved in working with animals within psychological research. These guidelines consist of specific details specific to animal care and treatment.

    Firstly, permission for procedures involving animals will not be given by the Animal Scientific Procedures Act (1986)** unless the experimenter has justifiable reasons for the costs to the animal in terms of how beneficial the research will be. The 1986 Act reminds psychologists that their legal obligation is to avoid, or at the very least minimise discomfort to living animals whilst in the research procedure. Additionally, it is required that the researcher demonstrates they have made considerations to replacing animals with alternative subjects whenever and wherever possible, thus reducing the number of animals used and refining researcher procedures in order to minimise the animal’s suffering (Russell & Burch, 1959)***. Furthermore, psychologists are expected to choose a species that is suitable for the intended use in research and this requires psychologists to gain an understanding of a species’ natural history and sentience. Researchers should use the species that is less likely to suffer. Researchers under the 1986 Act are at a legal requirement to use the least number of animals as possible in order to accomplish research goals. Appropriate pilot studies are to be conducted in order to minimise the number of animals as well as sound experimental design and good use of statistical tests and reliable measures of behaviour. Researchers also need to consider the animal’s usual eating and drinking habits.

    Finally, under the section of Housing and Animal Care, researchers must also take responsibility for the conditions where the animals are kept when not in experiments. The standards of the conditions have to meet legal requirements. The 1986 Act states animals must be provided with accommodation, freedom of movement, water, food and care all appropriate to the animal’s health and well-being. Researchers should incorporate the natural living conditions of the animal as much as possible (Poole, 1998)****.

    To conclude, if researchers keep to these strict guidelines then such research can be seen as ethical by meeting current legislation and laws.

    References
    * The British Psychological Society (1993). Code of Conduct, Ethical Principles and Guidelines.
    ** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animals_(Scientific_Procedures)_Act_1986
    *** http://biosim-network.eu/ethics/the_three_rs/
    **** http://www.bsas.org.uk/downloads/Ethicalguidelines_website.pdf

  3. Hello & gwneud yn dda :)
    Its clear you put a lot of work in to this blog and it was superbilicious :)
    but because comments are required here a little information on the alternatives to animal testing…

    The main alternatives to animal testing are largely biochemical, basically experiments in cells that are carried out in vitro. This is sophisticated and specific but very very expensive and difficult compared to traditional approaches of animal testings, however these in virtro tests are often more capable of generating significant and generalisable data than animal testing.

    Animal testing g is largely based on toxicity which can be very inaccurate, for example the Draize test, in which a chemical (cosmetic or pharmaceutical) is applied to the skin or eye of a rabbit. The these results are supposed to indicate how toxic a chemical is to human skin (HOW? bit silly really). The inaccuracy of the Draize test has been recognized for many years, but yet has not been replaced, and the development of a better in vitro method will take years to develop fully.

    What i’m basically asking this comment is, is animal testing ok while we work on new methods? Or Should we use a vitro method that is not fully developed but more ethically apropraite?

  4. maspb says:

    I think that was a great blog on a hard and contraversial topic. I think you have raised a good point when it comes to cosmetics, but being a boy who doesn’t use them I’m afraid I cannot empathise enough to give a good enough argument.

    However, this business of Medical testing. I do not like one bit the idea of animal testing because I hate to see animals in pain (I watched the Grand National the other day for the first time and hated it). BUT, I’m afraid to say, realistically, I agree with animal testing for medical research. I would like to say that we as a human species are growing at a disproportionate rate due to the eradication of the darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ theory and that we should agree to stop curing incurable diseases but when it comes down to it if myself, my girlfriend, brother or parents were sick I would stop at nothing to find a cure. And if that means a few monkies or rats have to go then I’m really sorry, but thats fine by me.

    Here’s a great article justifying how and why we use animals in research: (http://www.ox.ac.uk/animal_research/research_using_animals_an_overview/index.html#awhy_is_animal_research_necessary). Just some of the points raised are how we sometimes have no other choice. There are certain techniques like minor human testing, testing drugs in biological cultures and computer modelling. However a computer will never be able to accurately replicate a human, or animal body… at least none that we have developed.

    Finally I would like to point out that a lot of medicine used by vets FOR the animals is developed from human medicine which has been tested on animals. I know that might not necessarily make everything right, but I hope it softens the blow slightly…

  5. mballen91 says:

    For me this blog makes me question the moral status of animals, specifically whether they understand death and fear it. If animals understand death then I can see how objectifying them in some way in their short lives can be seen as immoral, but if they do not understand death then how is it possible to understand life and the value of it. Animals can often look as if they are grieving, for example gorillas mourning over deceased offspring or elephants holding the remains of other dead elephants (Bekoff, 2002). Placing human emotions onto animals is unscientific and it is just as likely if not more to be the cause of confusion and a morbid fascination with death. I’m not justifying cruelty to animals; animals can feel pain and fear, but if an animal doesn’t understand death nor will it understand life, therefore will not consider the value of it whether it is in a research lab or its natural habitat.

  6. [...] mballen91 wrote a thought provoking reply to an article about the emotive topic of animal research.  He explained his argument rationally, alongside evidence in the literature.  Thought provoking is exactly that – provoking a thought or thoughts in your reader; perhaps even challenging their own views on the topic.  1jessicakes also wrote an excellent comment that cleverly broadened the debate about gaming/internet addiction and the DSM. 1jessicakes suggested that perhaps there should be a generic classification for addiction and dependence disorders, rather than creating a multitude of specific disorders, such as Internet Addiction disorder.  Thoughtful and thought provoking. [...]

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