Animal Testing

This theme song to a popular cartoon is a farce dealing with experiments carried out on animals. In the cartoon one mouse is made very smart and wants to take over the world while the other is clearly not as smart. While the cartoon makes jokes, the reality is that mice and other animals re being used for medical tests every day. For some people this testing brings up ethical questions. One of the biggest questions: is it really necessary to take the lives of animals in the name of science and for the betterment of humanity? For animal rights activists, like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the answer is no. PETA pressures labs into halting experiments because they believe that animals are not to be used by humans for food, clothing, entertainment, or to experiment on (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals 1). Its stance is that any testing is painful, inhumane, and unnecessary when alternatives are available. The PETA website says that animals, like humans, have interests that cannot be sacrificed or traded away simply because it might benefit others. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals 2-3). Essentially, PETA is of the opinion that animals and humans should have identical rights. In their press releases PETA puts out pictures of rabbits with open flesh wounds and dogs with rashes on their skins--all in an attempt to disgust people into sympathy for their cause. In actuality the number of lab animals used has been cut in half in the last 25 years (James-Enger 254). Of the animals used, 90 percent are rats and mice (James-Enger 1). Moreover, 11 million animals die each year in animal shelters (Americans for Medical Progress 2) and an astounding 95 percent of the animals that die in America do so from human consumption (James-Enger 254). The reason that animal testing is appropriate is that there are regulations in place to minimize testing and pain, the alternatives are insufficient for now, and most importantly the information obtained from experimentation is irreplaceable. While animal rights groups such as PETA advocate abolishing all animal testing that inflicts pain on animals, proponents of testing cite laws and regulations which minimize pain and discomfort. PETA\'s position is based on the belief that humans are not superior to animals (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). The vice president of the Humans Society of the United States (HSUS), an animal rights group that is nearly as extreme as PETA, has been quoted as saying the life of an ant and that of my child should be granted equal consideration (Americans for Medical Progress 2). If, as PETA and HSUS say, animal and human life is equal, then putting an animal through any pain is immoral. However, there are laws in place to minimize discomfort and inhumane treatment. The laws limit the amount of distress and pain an animal is subjected to. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the body that governs animal testing, must approve all tests (United States Department of Agriculture 2). The USDA must also authorize the numbers and types of animals experimented on (United States Department of Agriculture 2). Tests can no longer be performed if conclusive data is already available. In 1991 it was discovered that Procter and Gamble had performed experiments on 300 guinea pigs when the data the tests was to obtain was already available (Animal Testing by the Cosmetic Industry 2). This is just one of the situations that newer animal testing legislation would have prevented or at least deterred. A fifty-point criterion for assessing pain is in place (United States Department of Agriculture 3). These points include everything from vocalization of pain to apparent depression. If there is no clear criteria then it is assumed that procedures that cause pain in humans also cause pain in animals (United States Department of Agriculture 50). When an animal must be restrained it is to be limited to brief periods of around three minutes (United States Department of Agriculture 3). This is similar to the procedure followed when a doctor holds a child to administer a vaccination shot. For all surgeries and painful tests, sedatives and anesthetics must be utilized (United States Department of Agriculture 49). If the test will leave