Should Animal Testing Be Banned? Experts Pick Sides

Posted by: John S Kiernan

Imagine your pet dog or cat sitting terrified in a small, nondescript cage inside a clinically cold laboratory, just waiting to be poked, prodded and experimented on – all in the name of advancing human health…or at least making better beauty products. Now, take a peek in your closet and a gander around the rest of your home. Odds are you’ll find countless products made by companies that still perform testing on animals, which reportedly include the likes of:

  1. ChapStick
  2. Clorox
  3. Coppertone
  4. Dove
  5. Febreze
  6. Johnson & Johnson
  1. Lysol
  2. Old Spice
  3. Pampers
  4. Tide
  5. Windex
  6. Vaseline

The dozens of organizations using animals – ranging from monkeys to actual guinea pigs – as the basis for experimentation serve as a reminder that most of us indirectly support the practice, not only at the grocery store, but also in the voting booth. After all, the National Institutes of Health allocate more than $12 billion of our tax dollars to animal experimentation each year. So while the practice of animal testing is unquestionably immoral in the minds of animal-rights activists, the issue isn’t so obvious to human-health officials, government regulators, much of the corporate crowd or many consumers. And there is something to be said for the numerous medical breakthroughs that animal testing has helped foster, from antibiotics and antidepressants to insulin and HIV drugs.

With arguments to be made on both sides of the issue, we invited a panel of leading experts with diverse viewpoints to share their thoughts. We asked them one simple question – should testing on animals be banned? – and received 16 Yes votes, 2 Nos and 1 Maybe. You can check out the experts bios and comments below. And if you have an opinion on the topic of animal testing, make sure to share it in the Comments section.

Animal Testing SHOULD Be Banned


  • “Animal experiments are typically justified by referencing that the benefits to humans outweigh whatever harm the animals are subjected to. However, as the outcomes have been scrutinized, findings have shown that the results are highly variable, often irreproducible and have little human relevance. … Public awareness of animal testing and its limitations has led to bans on animal testing of cosmetics in several countries around the world, which have provided key momentum for the development of human-relevant alternatives that don’t involve animals.”

    – Pascaline Clerc // The Humane Society of the United States

  • “The fields of comparative psychology and cognitive ethology (the study of animal minds) have established that animals have sentience and so can experience pain, anxiety and other forms of distress. Further, we now have scientific demonstrations of various sophisticated intellectual capabilities and complex social organization in nonhuman animals: self-awareness, tool construction and use, cooperation, and deceit.

    Building on these findings, the emerging field of animal-related political theory is extending the important capability of agency to nonhuman animals. That nonhuman animals are not reduced to passive respondents, but can form plans and take action in the full sense of that term enhances their moral standing and the burden of our responsibility toward them.”

    – Kenneth Shapiro and Martin Stephens // The Animals and Society Institute & John Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing

  • “Many cures have been developed for illnesses induced in laboratory animals. The problem is that few have successfully translated to human beings. Our limited public health resources would be more responsibly spent elsewhere.”

    – Andrew Knight // University of Winchester


Nathan Nobis

Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morehouse College

Animal Testing Should Be Banned

“Animal testing” involves experimenting on animals to try to determine whether drugs and medical treatments are safe and effective for humans. It’s wrong and should be banned.

Why? First, and most obviously, drugs and medical procedures treat diseases, injuries, and other health problems. So, to see if a treatment works, a disease or injury must be created in animals. Understatement: this is often unpleasant. Heart attacks in dogs feel awful; bone cancers in mice are painful; pigs being burned, to test burn treatments, is agonizing. Animals living with the induced conditions is unpleasant also. And they are killed at the end of the experiments to study the treatments’ effects.

It’s now easy to see why animal testing is wrong: it violates basic principles of ethical research: it is maleficent, or harmful to the research subjects; it is not beneficial to them; it is forced on them since they don’t consent; and it is unjust in that animals are burdened with problems not their own. Research – at least with animals who are conscious, and so are able to be harmed or made worse off – is wrong for reasons that comparable human research would be wrong.

Some argue that the benefits to humans justify animal testing. But when one group benefits at the major expense of another group, that’s usually wrong. And how exactly might anyone know that humans benefit more than animals are harmed? And there is scientific evidence that animal testing often is not beneficial for humans and that clinical research, public health research, and technology-based research are more useful: see the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Americans for Medical Advancement for more information.

Some claim there are “no alternatives” to animal testing, that it is “necessary.” But there are alternatives (mentioned above) and it’s not literally necessary that anyone do it: they can refrain. But suppose someone wanted to rob a bank and needed a getaway car: there is “no alternative” to a car and so it is “necessary” for the robbery. Does that make using the car OK? No. Even if something is “necessary” and there are “no alternatives” to doing it to achieve a particular end, that doesn’t make doing the action right: the end determines that.

Finally, some say that this reasoning is all beside the point: if your child was dying and animal testing would save him or her, wouldn’t you want the testing done? Many would and that’s an understandable feeling. But it’s unlikely that animal experimentation would help their child much: other methods are likely more fruitful. And more importantly, if my child were dying and I tried to experiment on my neighbor’s children to try to save my own child, that would be wrong.

Why? Simply because those children would be harmed and treated as mere things to be used (and abused) for my and my child’s benefit, which they are not. Since those reasons apply to many animals experimented upon, animal testing is also wrong.

Randy Malamud

Regents’ Professor of English at Georgia State University

Animal rights advocates in the scientific community argue that animal testing is unreliable: a test performed on another animal may or may not have valid applicability to humans. Remember that thalidomide “passed” animal testing in the 1950s and 1960s, but turned out to have disastrous effects on people. Thanks to computer modeling and many other laboratory innovations, there are numerous alternative methods of testing drugs and medical procedures.

But I’m a humanist, not a scientist, and my argument is based on ethical objections. Science has a repulsive legacy of performing experiments on living creatures deemed inferior, “other.” Racism and anti-Semitism undergirded such scientific experiments as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and Josef Mengele’s barbaric genetic studies.

Today, we need to be aware of speciesism, the irrational and prejudicial discrimination against other animals. By what justification, other than our power to do so, do we subject mice, rabbits, dogs, chimpanzees, or any other animal to cruel and painful experimentation? The more we learn about other species, the more we come to realize that they are like us: they have feelings, emotions, anxieties, and desires.

We have developed morally to the point where we understand that it is unethical to use poor people, or disabled people, or people of color, as guinea pigs. I propose that we further acknowledge that it is wrong to use guinea pigs as guinea pigs.

We use too many animals – as food, as fur, as caged entertainment, as beasts of burden. And, not coincidentally, we stand on the verge of ecocide: our environment is toxic, our forests are disappearing, our cities are choking us, and our glaciers are melting. We are ignoring the realities of the web of ecology; we fail to appreciate that (as Barry Commoner said) everything is connected to everything else.

We should be kind to other animals; we should treat them as we would wish to be treated ourselves. If we exploit them imperiously, they are doomed, and so are we. We are all in this together.

Andrew Knight

Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics, & Director of the Centre for Animal Welfare at University of Winchester and Author of The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments

Contrary to poorly-substantiated claims often made, the scientific evidence about this issue is quite clear. Of course animal experiments advance knowledge to some degree, as experiments usually do. Yet this does not mean that knowledge leads to useful applications, or is worth the costs incurred in gaining it. In fact, animal experiments rarely contribute significantly to the development of cures for human diseases.

Recognising the diversity of opinions about this issue, and further, that opinions alone constitute a wholly inadequate form of evidence, for such an important and controversial field, scientists have recently begun calling for – and conducting – large-scale systematic reviews, which critically assess the contributions of animal models toward human healthcare advancements. These are reviewed in detail in my book, ‘The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments’. One study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (Matthews, 2008) is a critical assessment of the oft-repeated claim that ‘Virtually every medical achievement of the last century has depended directly or indirectly on research with animals’. It is shown to be completely invalid.

Many cures have been developed for illnesses induced in laboratory animals. The problem is that few have successfully translated to human beings. Our limited public health resources would be more responsibly spent elsewhere.

Craig Brestrup

Development Associate at Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation

The simple, unambiguous answer is “Yes, animal testing should be banned.” The argument in favor of testing, whether for medications, medical devices, product toxicity, or cosmetics and so on, is familiar and also simple: It is necessary, because it is the only means possible sometimes, to protect or enhance human lives.

The argument from necessity obviously raises more questions than it answers. How did it become necessity to sacrifice the lives of certain forms of life for the benefit of one other form? Where does the transcendent value of the beneficiary life form come from? And the subsidiary value of those sacrificed? Necessity raises an amoral defense against a morally failed practice, and it assumes values and disvalues that it never substantiates. There is obviously no necessity to impose the suffering and death of product or any other kind of testing on animals. It is a choice based on perceived self-interest. It says “My interests and desires are so important that the destruction of your vital interest in life may be denied.”

If we believe that life is sacred — all life, of course, for how could the truly sacred invest itself in only a portion of life — and if we can see the irrationality, egoism, and self-deception on which human moral supremacy are founded, we cannot help but want to protect and enhance the circumstances of all life. And not only that. Once we get past the false claim of necessity, and once we begin to examine all the ways that putting immediate human self-interests first have not only harmed animal and natural world interests in multiple and grievous ways but seriously jeopardized our own long term interests, we can reconsider what proper, moral relations between humans and the larger life world should be. Would we be facing the coming disasters related to anthropogenic climate and environmental changes if we had thought in larger and longer terms? Would biodiversity be shrinking at a pace not known since the last great extinction 65 million years ago? We might even consider if the pervasive violence among our own kind would be so unremitting if the violence of our kind against other kinds were not even more far-reaching, cruel, and tenacious. Violence of any kind tends to deaden sensibilities of all kinds.

We make the world better for all when we give up beliefs and practices that are anti-life. The world may become more humane and compassionate and less violent, a place we can love, when we restrain our appetites and expand our range of moral consideration. The value of animal testing can be challenged on its claims of necessity and its pragmatic benefits, but more compellingly, it fails the moral test.

Jarrod Bailey

Senior Research Scientist at Cruelty Free International

Confining animals to cages in laboratories, depriving them of many of their natural behaviours, and subjecting them to stressful environments and painful invasive interventions causes significant suffering. On this basis, a significant proportion of people object to animal experiments; independent polls show this to be true in the U.S. and across Europe.

There is also a human ethical dimension. If animal research does not constitute the very best science we can do, then billions of people relying on science to find new treatments and cures for cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and many others, are being let down.

In this regard, there is no robust scientific evidence to show that animal experiments are vital or even helpful to the advancement of human medicine. Indeed, all critical scientific inquiry to date raises serious concerns about the validity and human relevance of using animals in human disease research and drug development.

For example: There is no evidence to show that testing new drugs on animals reliably predicts how safe or effective they will be in people; while there is evidence to show it does not. The failure rate of new drugs in human trials — drugs that appeared safe and effective in animal tests — is at a record level (95%). Drugs should be tested using an array of methods using human cells and tissues, which are more human-relevant and more humane.

In spite of three decades of effort, there is still no HIV/AIDS vaccine – yet almost a hundred have apparently worked in animals. Hundreds of treatments for stroke and Alzheimer’s’ and Parkinson’s’ diseases have also appeared to work in animals, only to show little or no promise in human trials. The human relevance of using animals for other human ailments, such as ALS (a type of Motor Neurone Disease), sepsis, multiple sclerosis, and others, has been seriously questioned in recent years. The reasons are simple and intractable. Recreating diseases in animals that they do not naturally develop is artificial and not sufficiently representative of their nature in humans. Further, widespread genetic differences between species — and in the expression of genes even when they’re common to multiple species — mean that data cannot be extrapolated with any meaning or certainty between them.

Demonstrably, the real contributors to medical progress and the testing of new drugs have been, and will be, methods other than animal use: human cell and tissue cultures, clinical studies, molecular biology and genetics, scanning and imaging technologies, computer and mathematical modelling, and many others.

In summary: research using animals has considerable ethical costs, and claims of benefits to human medicine, and of its essential nature in the future, have no foundation and are contrary to scientific evidence. It will benefit not just animals, but humans too, if biomedical research moves away from archaic and unscientific animal use as a matter of urgency.

Susan McHugh

Professor and Chair of the Department of English at University of New England

Laboratory workers should be able to go home and tell their loved ones, especially the children, exactly what they do every day. They should be able to feel good about doing to their pets exactly what they do to their research subjects. They should have all confidence that their work makes significant contributions toward a greater good. The trouble is, people involved in animal testing rarely do.

Scientists empowered by instrumentalist reasoning have guided animal testing into murky corridors that are purposefully sealed off from the public gaze. All too often, students and other poorly paid laborers are made to do the dirtiest work while being bullied into silence and inured to misery. Regulators to prevent wastes of taxpayers’ money remain few and far between, and nonexistent in privately funded research. Where lives are cheap, callousness and cruelty inevitably flourish.

That said, simply banning animal testing offers no solution. While it feels good in principle, legislation could never end the suffering entailed in laboratory life. What stands to make the greatest impact instead is to direct funding to programs and projects that promote empathy for both the humans and nonhumans involved. Public funding, in particular, should require applicants to demonstrate how human as well as animal lives will be enriched by involvement in the proposed testing and, most importantly, how the principal investigators will be responsive to as well as responsible for the lives most directly affected by their procedures.

It is not the case that animal testing cannot be done well. It is possible to design experiments that cause minimal harm to research subjects while producing useful results, and that do not necessarily end in death for animals. Scientists can be trained and rewarded for promoting creativity, ethical rigor, and waste reduction in their workplaces. Principal investigators can join laboratory workers in discussing humanistic alongside scientific texts not just to improve technical knowledge but also to promote sympathetic understanding of the creatures in their care.

Why not design projects that invite public support for science precisely by honoring the value of the lives at stake? Why not approach animal testing with comparable standards to the ones that we apply to experiments involving human research subjects? What does science have to lose, apart from its bad conscience?

Joan Dunayer

Author of “Animal Equality” and “Speciesism”

Vivisection — harming animals in tests or experiments — is morally wrong and should be illegal. Cruel and unjust, vivisection usually entails extreme deprivation (e.g., confinement in a small cage), commonly inflicts severe pain, and normally ends with the victim’s death.

Even by conventional human standards, the average pigeon or rat possesses greater learning capacity and reasoning ability than many humans with mental disabilities. In many ways, a mature guinea pig is more cognizant than a newborn or senile human. The law rightly prohibits vivisection on any humans, whatever their level of intelligence. The same should apply to nonhumans.

Freedom from pain and misery is important for any sentient being. In various ways, nonhumans can be more sensitive to pain than humans. For example, the pressure sensitivity of a rainbow trout’s skin is comparable to that of a human’s cornea. Birds, nonhuman mammals, and a wide range of other animals clearly can experience psychological distress, such as grief and fear. Animals suffer if forcibly immobilized. Social animals suffer if isolated. Curious ones suffer if subjected to monotony. Nonhuman victims of inescapable human abuse can’t make sense of their plight, change their circumstances, or foresee an end to their situation. These factors may exacerbate their suffering.

The fact that nonhumans may harm other individuals doesn’t excuse vivisection. When not maddened by torturous confinement or other human abuse, nonhumans rarely kill or seriously injure other animals except to directly preserve themselves or others, as when a predator kills prey or a nonhuman mother attacks someone threatening her offspring. When nonhumans do needlessly harm others, they might not recognize the harm as needless or harmful. Like young children and mentally incompetent human adults, they can’t reasonably be held accountable. In contrast, while claiming to be moral, humans routinely torment and kill nonhumans for information, profit, and numerous additional reasons other than direct preservation of self or another. Also, many humans abuse other humans (often, children).

To vivisection’s proponents, humans have more value than other animals. In reality, many humans have a largely negative effect on other humans, not only through destructive behavior such as aggression and oppression but also through competition for opportunities and resources. Most humans have extremely negative impact on nonhumans, whom they harm both directly (e.g., in vivisection and slaughter-based food industries) and indirectly (e.g., by supporting nonhuman exploitation and destroying nonhuman habitat). Overall, in terms of their lives’ objective value to most other beings, humans probably rank lowest of all animals. Whether or not particular humans do more harm than good, they’re spared vivisection.

Vivisection has no justification. Its apologists simply demonstrate their personal preference for humans over mice, rabbits, and other nonhumans. We’re all entitled to our preferences; however, we’re not entitled to translate those preferences into abuse. The animals abused in vivisection are helpless and innocent. This makes the practice all the more vile. Inherently inhumane and fundamentally unfair, vivisection should be banned.

Peter J. Li

Associate Professor of East Asian Politics in the Social Sciences Department at University of Houston-Downtown

My answer is a definitive yes! Here is why I believe so.

On December 6, 2015, a video and photos showing dead and dying dogs on the roof of a medical college building in Xi’an, sent a shockwave across China. These were dogs who had been used in medical research and dumped as trash on that roof. What angered the Chinese public most was that several of the dogs were still alive and breathing. One dog with an untreated open cut on its back was searching for food among the toxic garbage and dead dogs. Outraged animal lovers converged at the college and staged a massive protest condemning the brutality that had been justified in the name of science and human health. This Xi’an incident was by no means isolated. Brutal treatment of laboratory animals is no secret in China. In the summer of 2015, 15 terribly abused laboratory dogs were rescued by animal lovers from a hospital in Beijing. Yet, cruelty to laboratory animals is also a global concern.

The West has its fair share of cruelty to laboratory animals. The industrialized West uses 100 million or more animals in testing and research procedures for a wide range of purposes. The research community in the West has been confronted with critical questions for decades. Is it ethical for humans to subject nonhuman individuals to intentional harm that is both psychological and physical in the interest of humans? How much information sharing exists among the scientific community that can help prevent redundant and wasteful tests? Can research agencies and funding institutions coordinate their research agenda so that scarce resources are not spent on similar or repetitive projects? How do we account for the majority of the test results sacrificing tens of millions of animals that are ineffective for solving human problems? Facing these questions, the animal testing industry, i.e., medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, research labs, government agencies and others, seem to have found a solution, namely outsourcing. China has, since the beginning of this century, become the target host country of outsourced animal testing for Western pharmaceutical companies and other clients.

Outsourcing animal testing to China is a particularly disturbing development. China currently ranks 3rd in the world in terms of the number of laboratory animals used. Some half a million Chinese citizens work directly or indirectly in the industry of animal testing. And, 20 million or more animals are used for testing purposes every year. China’s capacity to breed and export animals for laboratory use, and to conduct tests for domestic and international clients, is increasing. Yet, China is the only country in the top industrialized nation club that does not have a comprehensive animal protection legislation. A national standard for the humane treatment of laboratory animals is still in the drafting stage. Even so, the underlying reason why this standard is needed is troubling. It seems that the proposed new standard is more to appease the feelings of foreign clients rather than protecting the well-being of laboratory animals. China’s current lack of a national animal welfare standard for animal use is blamed by Chinese scientists for their failure to attract more animal testing contracts from foreign clients. China’s authoritarian state sees society’s vocal criticism of institutionalized animal cruelty as a threat to regime stability.

Is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) animal friendly? To do justice to TCM, it was traditionally an herb-based remedy. Despite the fact that it used more than 1,800 animal species as ingredients, it was not known to abuse animals for medicinal use in the scale and degree it does in contemporary China. TCM today is by no means an animal-friendly alternative. China incarcerates more than 10,000 live bears in rusty cages for the sole purpose of bile extraction from an open wound cut in their stomach. Scientific studies have confirmed that the bile extracted via such a brutal method is contaminated with blood, pus, germs and other impure substances from drugs fed to the bears. China also has the world’s biggest tiger farming operation, with some 6,000 tigers bred on approximately 200 facilities. At least two of the tiger farms produce tiger wine, allegedly good for health, body strength, and virility, despite a government ban in 1993. TCM’s use of pangolin scales is decimating the species in Asia and Africa. TCM is no alternative to the ethical problems of Western medicine.

Outsourcing animal testing to foreign countries, especially countries lacking animal welfare legislation, is not a responsible approach. It does not solve the problems of inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and inhumanity that is associated with animal testing. It only enables companies to put their animal testing activities out of sight, and delays adoption of more scientific and valid models of product safety and efficacy evaluation. Worse still, it frustrates humane progress in the host countries. Despite China’s authoritarian state system, the country has perhaps the most robust animal protection movement in all of East Asia. The protest against the Xi’an laboratory animal abuse was indicative of the strength of China’s animal lovers. In 2014, China announced the suspension of mandatory animal test requirements for general use cosmetic products made domestically. A nationwide campaign has been going on in China calling on an end to animal testing for all cosmetics products.

Phasing out all animal testing with the objective of its replacement with 21st century alternatives should be the action plan.

Gene Baur

Co-Founder and President of Farm Sanctuary

The way we relate to other animals says a lot about who we are. When humans abuse other animals, including by subjecting them to cruel experiments, we lose part of our humanity and our ability to empathize with others. Our actions and attitudes define our relationships with others. We can opt for mutually beneficial relationships, based on respect, or exploitive relationships where an individual or a group mistreats others. Human beings have long engaged in exploitive relationships with each other, and with other animals. But just because this is our history does not mean it should be our future. We can learn from mistakes, and change. For thousands of years, human slavery was considered a normal and acceptable institution, but today it is widely condemned.

The more we learn about the emotional and cognitive lives of nonhuman animals, the more we understand the importance of treating them with compassion. Like us, they have memories, complex relationships, and deep emotional lives. And, like us, they are capable of acting with generosity and creating mutually beneficial relationships with others.

Animal testing is ethically unacceptable and scientifically antiquated. While there have been efforts to lessen the suffering of animals in laboratories, there will always be abuses when these living feeling creatures are seen primarily as research tools. Human beings have an uncanny ability to rationalize intolerable cruelty and injustice, and as long as we harm and treat animals as tools, there is a psychological and emotional desire to distance ourselves from our cruel behavior, often by justifying it as a “necessary evil.” But what happens when it is no longer necessary?

Banning animal testing will refocus human ingenuity toward more scientifically advanced research techniques that are superior and can yield better results than animal tests. Instead, amazingly, government institutions require and subsidize animal testing. This is irrational and irresponsible, and it discourages innovation. We should incentivize compassion and progress, instead of cruel and outdated practices. Doing so will benefit both animals and humans.

Lisa Kemmerer

Professor of Philosophy and Religions at Montana State University Billings

If it was your child, wouldn’t you kill a mouse to save her?

One of the key roles of morality is to curb selfish, cruel actions among the powerful. For example, maybe I would kill a mouse—or a multitude of animals—to save my loved ones. And in the hope of protecting my beloveds, maybe I would also kill Thai immigrants, disabled elderly, and the very last grey whale on the planet. And this means that I would probably also kill you to save my loved ones. The question about the mouse and the loved one is intended to show that it simply makes perfect sense to kill a mouse to save someone you love. After all, we don’t value a mouse. But what this question actually reveals is the importance of ethics (including religious ethics) and law for preventing selfish, narrow inclinations.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the question posed misrepresents the truth. Scientists who experiment on a mouse, or a hundred macaque monkeys, do not do so to save a loved one. They invariably have much to gain, but not necessarily on behalf of humanity. Millions of tax dollars provide grant money for animal experimentation and research publications that provide prestige, job security, and sometimes increased salaries. It is therefore not surprising that there is a lot of money and strong feelings backing and defending animal experimentation.

The chance of any human life being saved by any one animal experiment is slim to non-existent. Most experiments have little to do with solving pressing medical problems — many animal experimenters are simply retesting yet another oven cleaner or detergent to gather yet more information regarding the effects of a new caustic substance, which they extrapolate to offer indications for humanity. Moreover, animal experiments that scientists put forward as performed with the intent of saving human life are just that — intentions. Good intentions do not save lives. Scientists may well perform hundreds of experiments on hundreds of animals with the intent of finding cures for human medical problems, but the vast majority of experiments fail to yield life-saving data — or any new or relevant data whatsoever. Meanwhile, the effects of such experimentation on animals are all too real: suffering and premature death.

Additionally, animal experimentation has caused serious medical problems for humanity. For example, thalidomide was tested on animals, passed every necessary test, and went on to cause many debilitating birth defects. Similarly, animal studies indicated that Vioxx was safe for combatting arthritis, and Vioxx caused tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. before it was recalled. And we have no idea how many wonder-cures we lost because of animal testing: just one Tylenol will kill a cat.

There are a handful of fine alternatives to animal experimentation, such as cell and tissue cultures, computer simulations, and micro-dosing volunteer human subjects. Not only have these alternatives proven their worth, but they also make good common sense: Either nonhuman animals are significantly different from human beings, in which case they do not make appropriate models for medical research, or they are not significantly different from humanity, in which case we ought not to exploit them for selfish and cruel purposes — we ought not to exploit them at all. As it turns out, non-animal alternatives are less costly, more dependable, and align with ethics and common religious teachings around the world, which call for compassion and respect for life — especially the lives of those who fall under our power.

Robert Cohen

Executive Director of NotMilk

It is ethically irresponsible and rationally futile to justify experiments upon laboratory animals. All mammals feel pain, and non-human organs and systems are quite different from the human variety. Results from animal studies should be rejected, particularly rat research.

Half of the cancers rats get, mice do not get. Half of the cancers mice get, rats do not get. Since data from one furry long-tailed rodent cannot be applied to another, how in the name of logic and the spirit of reason can humans arbitrarily apply experimental animal research results to non-humans?

Rats also lack gallbladders, and human and rat digestive enzymes differ, and yet, millions of laboratory studies based upon rat research have provided the foundation for nutritional advice dispensed by most American physicians. Many claim that chimpanzees are man’s closest relatives, but twenty years before the polio vaccine was approved for human use, a group of experimental chimpanzees treated with polio vaccine died. Clearly, even chimpanzee research exists as a betrayal to both non-human primates and humans, who rely upon unreliable chimpanzee data.

When it comes right down to it, the only time we really learn a scientific truth from an animal laboratory experiment is when the subjects are human. At least people have the ability to make volitional choices and volunteer for such research, right?

David Nibert

Professor of Sociology at Wittenberg University

The cruel and oppressive practice of using other animals as subjects of laboratory tests has no rational place in the 21st century. Today there are numerous alternatives, including clinical trials, in-vitro methods using cell and tissue cultures, and computer modeling and simulations. Tragically, though, approximately ten million other animals still are exploited as “lab animals” every year. Many suffer and die merely to test the level of toxicity in new consumer products – products that are often gratuitous and that exist only to satisfy unnecessary and socially engineered consumer demand.

Among the many people who disapprove of the use of other animals for experimentation, some will acquiesce to it because they are led to believe such tests have been and remain crucial to advancing human medical care. In fact, however, medical treatments derived from testing on other animals rarely are found to be safe and effective for use in humans. In reality, the true advancement of medical research and knowledge has been hindered due to the reliance on animal models. For example, the dangers of cigarettes and asbestos went unnoted for years because the products appeared benign in testing on other animals.

While Big Pharma’s multimillion-dollar advertising and marketing campaigns suggest they are striving to improve the health and lives of people around the world, the truth is that their real goal is to increase profits. It is plain that giant pharmaceutical firms’ intentions, toward humans or other animals, are not altruistic. These callous companies ignore medical conditions that cannot be treated profitably, wage legal battles to avoid regulation of drug prices, and combat efforts to permit the production of generic substitutes, even for sale in the poorest nations.

Testing on other animals mainly benefits the pharmaceutical, chemical and other large corporations who engage in it, by providing legal cover when people are harmed or killed by their products. These companies can cite in their defense that they conducted reasonable tests of their products and therefore they are not liable for any harm that occurred that was not identified through animal testing.

Today, considerable testing on other animals is conducted to find treatments for conditions such as coronary artery disease, various forms of cancer, and other “diseases of the affluent” – diseases that are primarily caused by the consumption of the flesh, body fluids and eggs of other animals. It is a cruel irony that billions of other animals suffer terribly in the production of harmful, disease-causing foods and then millions more suffer in laboratories in the production of drugs and procedures ostensibly to treat these diseases. The human inhabitants of the earth would be much healthier and would live much longer on a plant-based diet, without the need for many of these pharmaceuticals and medical interventions.

And, perhaps most important, the abuse visited upon the vast majority of other animals used for testing is simply immoral. Most are confined in small, barren cages for some or most of their lives and are deprived of any activities that are natural to them, never breathing fresh air or experiencing sunlight. These profound and torturous deprivations are usually compounded by painful and invasive surgical procedures, exposure to toxic substances, deliberately imposed injuries and countless other cruelties.

As Mahatma Gandhi noted, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” The 21st century will prove to be the period in which humanity saved or destroyed itself. The moral and ethical treatment of other animals in the coming decades will be the ultimate test for the future of the human species.

Pascaline Clerc

Senior Director of Animal Research Issues at The Humane Society of the United States

Whether it’s testing of cosmetics, chemicals, pesticides or drugs, animal testing has historically been considered the “gold standard.” Animal experiments are typically justified by referencing that the benefits to humans outweigh whatever harm the animals are subjected to. However, as the outcomes have been scrutinized, findings have shown that the results are highly variable, often irreproducible and have little human relevance.

Therefore, the search for alternative ways of characterizing the safety of chemicals and products has been increasing. Recent advances in technology and computer science have allowed rapid development of sophisticated cell-culturing techniques, reconstructed human tissues and the application of gene sequencing to better understand toxicity and disease.

In addition, public awareness of animal testing and its limitations has led to bans on animal testing of cosmetics in several countries around the world, which have provided key momentum for the development of human-relevant alternatives that don’t involve animals. Tests like the Draize eye test which involves rabbits being exposed to substances and subjectively scored for irritation and corrosion, have no place in our modern toxicity assessment paradigm. More than 30 countries have aligned their cosmetic regulations to those highest standards.

Non-animal testing methods have also taken the broader chemical world by storm. Given the fact that it takes at least three years and $6 million to generate screening data for a single chemical, it would be impossible to complete the safety assessment of all the chemicals in commerce in our lifetime. A 2007 report written by the National Academy of Sciences, recommended a new regulatory framework capitalizing on the knowledge of chemistry and biology to develop human-relevant methods for toxicity testing, envisioning a day when we no longer rely on animal testing for this purpose. This report spurred new initiatives at the Environmental Protection Agency, such as the ToxCast program and the Human-on-a-chip. The use of alternatives such as “read-across” and “in silico” to fill hazard data gaps for 261 high-production-volume chemicals has saved at least 115,000 animals and $50 million. The commitment to the 21st century toxicity testing paradigm has been further supported more recently by the reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which includes provisions to reduce animal testing, accelerate the development and implementation of human-relevant alternatives, and better protect human health.

Lastly, due to the same drivers, similar 21st century paradigms for drugs and disease are being pursued. The average time and cost to develop and test a single drug has soared to between 10 and 13 years and $2.5 billion, with a stunning ± 90% of new drug candidates failing in clinical trials. This is in large part due to unforeseen toxicity or lack of efficacy, even after extensive animal testing. Two recent examples of clinical-trial failures have had deadly consequences on some of the patients enrolled in those clinical trials. The US National Institutes of Health have begun to address this issue by creating the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, but much more in terms of investment and coordination is needed to see significant progress.

While animal research has led to advances in knowledge of human biology and diseases, as the questions investigated have become more complex, animal models have been less successful at predicting human outcomes. Additionally, animal models will always have limitations and can never be significantly improved, while alternatives will only continually improve as technology evolves.

In fact, the development of in vitro technologies has spurred a new global economy, which according to a recent BCC research report, would reach $9.9 billion by 2017.

There is scientific consensus on the need for new technology and the reduction or even elimination of our reliance on animal testing. Ultimately, our success depends on the availability of funding for those initiatives and on the commitment of regulators to accelerate their validation and implementation.

Kenneth Shapiro and Martin Stephens

President of the Board for the Animals and Society Institute, and Senior Associate Director of the John Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, respectively

The practice of using nonhuman animals to better our understanding of human diseases and to test medicines and treatments for human disorders is increasingly being questioned on ethical, scientific and economic grounds. Arguably, the emergence of the field of human-animal studies (HAS) and of animal advocacy as a social justice movement have provided impetus for that critique.

In HAS, several ethical theories (Singer’s utilitarianism, Regan’s rights theory, Donovan and Adams’ feminist theory) all concur that the interests and welfare of nonhuman animals must be considered in justifying any policy involving them. In most ethical positions, that consideration extends to the life of an animal. Welfare, then, includes loss of interests through an animal’s death; it also includes providing positive as well as negative welfare – the latter is limited to reducing suffering, while the former includes reducing loss of opportunity and capability to perform the full array of an animal’s species specific behavioral repertoire.

Another occasion of our reconsideration of the practice of animal testing comes from science itself. The fields of comparative psychology and cognitive ethology (the study of animal minds) have established that animals have sentience and so can experience pain, anxiety and other forms of distress. Further, we now have scientific demonstrations of various sophisticated intellectual capabilities and complex social organization in nonhuman animals: self-awareness, tool constriction and use, cooperation, and deceit.

Building on these findings, the emerging field of animal-related political theory is extending the important capability of agency to nonhuman animals. That nonhuman animals are not reduced to passive respondents but can form plans and take action in the full sense of that term enhances their moral standing and the burden of our responsibility toward them.

In the area of animal-based drug and product testing, non-animal technologies such organs-on-a-chip and high-throughput, robot-assisted screening are advancing medical progress and consumer safety while moving away from the uncertainties and slowness of animal-based approaches and focusing squarely on human biology. Researchers can use induced pluripotent stem cell technology to extract cells from, say, a cancer patient, and test scores of anti-cancer compounds against their particular tumor-type. The comparable experiment of transplanting a patient’s tumor cells into scores of mice would be expensive, time-consuming, and of questionable value. In recent years, researchers have had difficulty simply reproducing the results from the very same animal experiments, let alone proving they get the same results in people.

As these technological advances come on-line, the economically high cost of animal testing will complement the cost of unacceptable ethics and suspect science. Taken together, these factors are producing and will increasingly produce a dramatic shift away from the use of animals in testing.

In conclusion, we are seeing movement away from the practice of exploiting animals for the sake of human health and welfare. This shift is part of an emerging paradigm change from a human-centered to a biocentric worldview.

Richard Pitcairn

Veterinarian, Pet Nutritionist and Author of “New World Veterinary Repertory”

I answer “yes.” I come from 50 years as a veterinarian, working with many types of animals. Part of this career was in academia, obtaining a PhD in microbiology. This entailed the use of inbred mice and rabbits, harvesting their tissues for the purpose of growing viruses in culture. During this time I realized how many variables are not included in the reports of animal testing (or experimentation in general). I was shocked one day to find that up in the attic where the mice were kept (my first trip there) half of them were always in the dark. I thought “How can I compare mice always in the dark with ones living in a sunlit room?” Granted it might make no difference, but how can we be certain? There is the factor of the food used. These days the nutrition can be rather poor (processed, GMO, containing herbicides, etc.). How does that affect the results seen?

I am giving brief examples, but when you see how many influences there are in how results may be obtained you begin to question the accuracy. As well, there are many differences between how a mouse will react to a substance (drug, cosmetic, chemical) as compared to a human. Cats are extremely sensitive to chemicals compared to dogs. Whereas humans enjoy garlic and onion flavored foods, these will make dogs sick. And so on.

If I may push the envelope further, my personal view is that it is unkind to do this to animals. If we want to know what various things will do to us, why not study it in ourselves? I don’t mean we poison ourselves, but how about a teeny bit taken by volunteers? Maybe even reduced jail time for pot smokers if they will do it. I know, sounds silly, but if we think about it, a human centered program is really very possible and one that will be much more accurate. We actually are already doing this — think of the millions of people taking in chemicals from agriculture that have never been evaluated prior to now. We could just look more closely at them…

Animal Testing Should NOT Be Banned


  • “Animal testing in which there is consent, or in which the procedure is beneficial to the patient, is morally acceptable and should not be banned. You might wonder how an animal who doesn’t speak can consent to research. While we might not be able to guarantee informed consent, we can give the animal the opportunity to choose whether to participate in a study. For example, at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., orangutans live in one building, and are participants in cognitive and behavioral testing in another building. The orangutans can freely travel between the buildings by climbing on cables connecting the two areas. Orangutan research subjects can choose to go into the testing chamber, solve a few problems, and they can leave whenever they want.”

    – Kristin Andrews // York University

  • Scientific consensus on the use of animals in research is overwhelming: Over 92% of scientists agree that ‘animal research is essential to the advancement of biomedical research.’ In other words, halting the work would bring advances in many critical areas to a screeching halt and take away from the hope of new cures and therapies from our patients.”

    – Dario Ringach // University of California at Los Angeles


Dario Ringach

Professor of Neurobiology and Psychology in the Jules Stein Eye Institute and in the Brain Research Institute at University of California at Los Angeles

Responsible citizens agree that sound public policy ought to be based on the best knowledge science has to offer. This is true in all areas of public concern, including global warming, the use of childhood vaccinations, and the use of animals in biomedical research.

We must then point out that scientific consensus on the use of animals in research is overwhelming: Over 92% of scientists agree that “animal research is essential to the advancement of biomedical research.” In other words, halting the work would bring advances in many critical areas to a screeching halt and take away from the hope of new cures and therapies from our patients.

One must remember that a couple of generations ago, a visit to a physician might have resulted in a recommendation to induce vomiting, diarrhea or, more commonly, bleeding. Diphtheria, mumps, measles and polio were common and untreatable. Life expectancy in the United States was less than 50 years  — it now stands at 80 years. Our generation benefits from treatments, medicines and diagnostic devices that our parents and grandparents only dreamt about. By all measures, animal research was an integral part of these achievements. This is an indisputable fact.

Some opponents of animal research deny medical history, or argue that new methods like organs-on-chips, computer simulations or magnetic resonance imaging in humans, make the work obsolete. Unfortunately, such statements are grossly misleading. It is true that organs-on-chips may promise a new approach to toxicology tests. If and when such methods are properly validated they should be adopted. However, for the vast majority of medical research, from cancer, to heart disease and neurological disorders, none of these methods offer a real alternative to studying an entire organism.

Some oppose the use of animal research on moral grounds. We are told that we owe the same moral consideration to all living beings, and that all living beings have a basic right to liberty and life. If one accepts this premise, it is natural to conclude it is morally wrong to use animals in medical research, even if it leads to advances in human and animal wellbeing. One must also oppose the use of animals as pets or as food. There would be no moral difference between chickens in a farm and Jews in a concentrations camp — a point made graphic by PETA’s Holocaust in your Plate campaign. And we are also told that we must conclude that if it is morally permissible to use violence to free a concentration camp, so it must be to free mice from a research laboratory or kill scientists. Anyone who finds some of these conclusions abhorrent, like I do, must reject the moral theory upon which it is based.

Instead, I feel most people believe that all living beings deserve our moral concern, but not equally. Our moral concern for a human child is higher than that of a dog, which is higher to that of a mouse, and higher to that of a worm. Such sliding scale model is reflected in the strict regulations and guidelines that govern animal research in the U.S.

It would be wrong not to use our scientific skills, in responsible and well-regulated animal research, that aims to advance medical knowledge and human/animal health.

Kristin Andrews

Associate Professor of Philosophy and Graduate Program Director at York University

No, not all of it. Consider that we test humans, too, and we think it is morally acceptable to do so. Much of our science in psychology and medicine relies on human testing, and this research can give us valuable insights. For example, it was due to human testing that we learned that humans are implicitly biased, and human testing can help us learn how best to combat implicit bias.

However, there are constraints on what we can do with the humans we test. We inform potential participants about the research, and we allow them to choose whether they participate or not. Informed consent can be given by a third party who has the potential participant’s best interests in mind, and the requirement can be waived in some cases, like when an experimental medical procedure appears to be the best treatment for the patient.

What we have banned in human testing is experimentation that could cause unnecessary harm to the participant and research that uses humans without letting them know they are human subjects. The famous Milgram experiments would today be banned, given that they traumatized subjects who realized that they were capable of causing great harm when told to do so by an authority. The Tuskegee study, which looked at the effects of untreated syphilis in black men, would not be acceptable, either, because the individuals suffering from the disease were not given proper treatment, while being led to believe otherwise.

In parallel, animal testing in which there is consent, or in which the procedure is beneficial to the patient, is morally acceptable and should not be banned. You might wonder how an animal who doesn’t speak can consent to research. While we might not be able to guarantee informed consent, we can give the animal the opportunity to choose whether to participate in a study. For example, at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., orangutans live in one building, and are participants in cognitive and behavioral testing in another building. The orangutans can freely travel between the buildings by climbing on cables connecting the two areas. Orangutan research subjects can choose to go into the testing chamber, solve a few problems, and they can leave whenever they want.

And like the three-year-old child who objects to the experimental procedure that is the only hope of saving her life, it will sometimes be acceptable to run experiments on animals that have promise of saving them from harm or death. However, is there any situation in which it is acceptable to force an individual or any species to be an experimental subject in a way that causes the individual significant harm? Those who think that the interests of the many override the interests of the few might say yes. However, even if you take that principle to be true, it doesn’t follow that we should use animals in medical testing. If we are interested in solving human medical problems, our best models will be human models. We already know that nonhuman animals don’t make good models for many human diseases—chimpanzees infected with HIV for medical testing purpose never developed AIDS, for example. One might think that research that causes harm to individuals against their will for the greater scientific good might be justified in some rare cases, but only if we are confident that the harm caused will offer that benefit. And in science we don’t usually know the outcomes of our experiments; the point of an experiment is to find out if something works. So there should be a significant burden of proof required before thinking that it is acceptable to cause significant harm to an animal, human or nonhuman, in the hope of improving human lives.

Hani Miletski

Psychotherapist and Creator of the Happily Ever After Program for Couples

In order to improve the human race’s future, we must continue to research and to develop new medications and treatment procedures. Before these new developments can be released to the public, it is necessary to test them for efficacy and for safety measures. I know it doesn’t always help because animals and humans are not the same species, but sometimes animal testing makes a huge difference.

I am not an expert on these issues, but a quick search on the internet reveals that “every medical breakthrough in the last 100 years has resulted directly from research using animals.”

As much as I love animals, and could personally never cause them pain, when it comes to improving and saving human lives, there is no question in my mind – we have to do whatever we can do to bring us closer to finding cures. And, if scientists believe animal research or testing can assist in the process, then, that’s what we need to do.


Image: ThomasVogel / iStock.