In Winter of 1992, Business Today focused in on the issue of animal testing—its efficacy, morality, and what alternatives to it could work. It presented three different opinions to the issue: the first expressed concern over whether animals can feel pain and are harmed by testing; the second thought that testing should only be allowed if animals are treated humanely; and the third defended the necessity of animal testing since computer modeling and cell culture alternative are unreliable. While animal testing is still in use, ideas surrounding it certainly have.
Why Test on Animals?
A 2011 poll of biomedical scientists in the journal Nature found 90% agreement that animal testing is an essential component of research. Almost all of the scientific advances of the past century owe some part of their breakthroughs to animal testing, according to The California Biomedical Research Association, from understanding diseases like cancer and diabetes to creating vaccines and effective methods of surgeries. These past successes were critical to the sciences of today in many regards, and could not have occurred without being able to test on whole, living organisms, especially organisms with DNA similarities to humans. The ethical issues of using human rather than animal subjects are far more complicated, and many researchers would rather avoid the public relations disaster of interfering with human lives. The progress that animal testing has made far outweighs its costs; the millions of both human and animal lives saved through the development of vaccines and surgeries should be seen as more valuable than what has been lost. With so many advances still to be made, many see continuing animal testing as essential to protecting further human lives.
Against Animal Testing
The above claims have been criticized, especially in the media. For one, critics point to the differences across species and the several examples of drugs that have passed on animal safety tests and went on to seriously injure humans. Critics also point to the thousands of chemicals that have already been tested and think that a large portion of testing could be cut back when only previously synthesized chemicals are used. From a political standpoint, the loopholes in the 1966 Animal Welfare Act, the only act regulating animal research, allow thousands of animals to fall through the cracks of legislation, at risk of maltreatment and cruelty. From a moral standpoint, as argued by BT before, it is the issues of pain and treatment that make animal testing so bad. Especially with the proliferation of the Internet, animal rights activists have found cases of cruelty and see this as evidence that the system needs a major overhaul.
Animal Testing & The Cosmetics Industry
Animal testing for cosmetics is perhaps the most advertised and rallied against form of testing. There is a wide spectrum of laws globally for the relationship of cosmetics and animal testing: China mandates that imported products be tested on animals, the United States requires some proof of safety, without indicating a preference for animal or human tests, and Europe, India, and more recently South Korea ban it outright. These differences in policy have created difficulties for multinational brands, which can face major public relations problems when entering new markets. Since cosmetics are less necessary and are about appearance rather than human health, many people see cosmetics testing as the most egregious form of animal testing.
This is not to say that every product labeled ‘cruelty-free’ is completely free of blame. One strategy for avoiding animal testing in the cosmetics or pharmaceutical industries is using chemicals whose safety has already been established. These approved chemicals may have been created using animal testing, creating a confusing legacy of what it means to be ‘cruelty-free.’
Modern AlternativesMuch of the more recent pushback against animal testing has been over the fact that there are more established alternatives. While in 1992, Business Today’s article argued that the current technologies of cell cultures and in-vitro testing were not a replacement for animal testing, it is much more unclear today. While ‘alternatives’ are any change that reduces or eliminates the number of animals used in the procedure, or minimizes animal pain, the greater technological change has come from the development of new methods. The development of tissue tests and advanced computer modeling have created greater potential for non-animal testing, but the need to validate the science has proved equally as challenging. According to The Humane Society of the United States, the scientific community has been slow to validate new technologies. While technologies have certainly improved since 1992, it is now in the hands of the scientific community to see what can be done.