Throughout the decades, the world has seen some significant advantages regarding animal rights. From ensuring that animals cannot be physically mistreated within a domestic household to the promulgation of conservation efforts throughout the world, humanity is slowly moving forward to a place where animals do not need to endure needless pain. However, there are certain industries wherein the exploitation of animals remains commonplace. Though one would not immediately venture to find similarities between the cosmetics industry and the realm of scientific exploration, both these industries are connected due to their reliance on animal testing. As the products they design and create can have a negative effect on the humans who use them, whether these are highly-sophisticated cancer medication or an ultra-glossy lipstick, they are usually tested on animals before they are released to the markets. The use of animals in laboratory tests is rather widespread, which is why the issue has become a source of controversy. On the one hand, animal experiments have allowed for the discovery of breakthrough medications or procedures that have saved countless lives; on the other hand, though, thousands of animals have been put through a torturous ordeal to allow it. A complicated issue, no doubt, animal testing remains one of the most important dilemmas of modernity. Should this approach to experimentation be prohibited fully, only when it comes to cosmetics, or not at all? While animal testing has certainly proved beneficial for humanity, there might just be enough objections for one to stand in opposition to the practice. From both a material and moral standpoint, the use of animal testing should be prescinded.
Though one might not expect it, animal testing is a very prevalent practice in the world. For both cosmetic and medical products, a wide array of animals can be used to attempt and measure the safety of a chemical. Recent years have brought with them alternatives to animal testing and a growing societal apprehension towards the use of animals for experiments that has not really helped decrease the number of animals that are used in experiments – more than 100 million animals are used, every year, in some kind of experiment (Mayir, et al., 2016). This is bound to decrease, as global initiatives to minimize the use of animals in testing are put forward. Canada, for example, is currently debating whether to prohibit, across the nation, the use of animals for cosmetic testing (Lake, 2019). Likewise, the Cosmetic Directory in Europe finalized the use of animal tests in high-toxicity settings by 2009 (Abbott, 2005). The REACH initiative in Europe sought to minimize the use of animals in these settings but not its elimination (Abbott, 2005). Scientific testing, on the other hand, does not generally see as much blowback. Yet, the arguments for and against these practices can be rather similar, because they infringe on similar notions. There are two main objections to the use of animals in laboratory test: practical concerns and moral objections (Hester & Harrison, 2006). The former relates to the issues that arise with the use of animals for these tests, or the issues that are failed to be resolved from their incorporation. The latter, on the contrary, refers to the moral or ethical objections that one might pose to the use of animals in scientific practices. The issue, though, can also be defended based on this framework, as these two positions are vital for having any stance on this matter.
From a pragmatic standpoint, animal testing is meant to reduce the risk that humans would face when using a product or ingesting a medication or undergoing a procedure. Testing in humans is not always possible, so animals are used. However, because there are differences between the animal model and the human body, it is possible that these experiments might lead to the incorrect label of ‘safe’ for a drug that might not be entirely safe for human consumption (Berkoff, 2010). Likewise, the way in which these experiments are carried out – despite the wide array of regulations that exist for the use of animal subjects – can be methodological flawed. Because of this, some of their results can be disregarded for certain products – for example, during the clinical trials of nimodipine – effectively rendering the studies worthless (Pound, et al., 2004). Then, there is the concern that these experiments lack the same thorough consideration that other chemical trials might undergo; for instance, there is no blind-testing in animal experiments, despite the usefulness of this tool (Pound, et al., 2010). In the world of cosmetics, too, it is possible to see some flaws in the use of animal testing, including the use of animals for skin-penetration tests that are not quite necessary (Hester & Harrison, 2006). Likewise, companies can sometimes move straight to animal testing, preferring them over in-vivo or in-vitro testing, because of the perceived confidence that these tests provide (Hester & Harrison, 2006). With the advancements that have been made on in-vitro testing, particularly when relating to toxicity, that makes it possible to opt out of using animals (May, et al., 2009). Still, the overwhelming understanding is that these tests work, even if they might come with some flaws (Berkof, 2010), which is why they remain in use.
From an ethical standpoint, the use of humans in experiments is more than just questionable, it breaches upon some of the most basic understandings of human rights (Hester & Harrison, 2006). Using animals, though, is not exempt from its own set of ethical troubles. One could either look at the matter from a utilitarian or deontological perspective and find ethical concerns with the use of animals in testing. From a utilitarian perspective, for example, most animal experiments are perceived as unjustifiable, because of the amount of harm that is caused by their implementation. As they might not always be necessary, as they might be unnecessarily painful, these studies can bring about a level of suffering that is not outweighed by the advantages that it provides (Alexander & Botzler, 2016). A deontological approach, or right-based approach, posits that animals possess the same qualities that gives humans rights (Alexander & Botzler, 2016). Though animals might not have the same intellectual capacities of human beings, they do possess other characteristics that bring them closer to the characteristics of human beings. Sure, it is preferred that these processes are chosen over those that might involve humans – because of the species’ unique capabilities, there are some extra ethical considerations to keep in mind when considering testing on humans – but that does not mean that they are good when seen in isolation. Instead, depending on the way one might perceive animals in general, they might can be seen as equally problematic.
Animal testing has long been regarded as a necessary evil – a set of procedures that need to be fulfilled to guarantee the safety of potential human users – but it might be time to consider whether it is necessary as one may believe. Those who oppose the use of animals in laboratory tests bring about two different sets of arguments against the procedures. From a pragmatic standpoint, animal tests can be considered unreliable due to the inherent biological differences between the animal model and the human, the flaws in design to these experiments, and the refusal of certain institutions for seeking alternatives before moving towards animal testing. Furthermore, with the modern processes that have become available in recent years, it might be possible to avoid using animal testing for certain procedures and still attain desirable results. From an ethical standing, the suffering that is caused to the majority of the animals that are subjected to this process might not necessarily be outweighed by the alleged benefits it provides; when there are no benefits yielded, then the pain of the animal is brought about in vain. Then, from a deontological approach, one can see that the use of animals in experiments might be a transgression on their inherent right as animals. Certainly, these procedures provide some benefit for human consumers and users, but these benefits might not be worth the suffering and death that they cause. Instead of investing the millionaire sums that go into animal research, a focus should be placed on the development of new and improved techniques to wage the safety of a product without needing the use of animals.
- Armstrong, Susan Jean, and Richard George Botzler. The Animal Ethics Reader. Routledge, 2016. (Berkof, Mark. Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare: Second Edition, Volume 1, 2nd Edition. 2010. 2nd ed., vol. 1. (Encyclopedia)
- Hester, R E, and Roy M. Harrison. Alternatives to Animal Testing. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry, 2006. Print. (Book)
- Lake, Holly. “Cosmetic Animal Testing Bill to Land in House after Break.” Thestar.com, Toronto Star, 6 Mar. 2019. Print. (Canadian Author)
- May, J. E., et al. “Toxicity Testing: the Search for an in Vitro Alternative to Animal Testing.” British Journal of Biomedical Science, vol. 66, no. 3, 2009, pp. 160–165., doi:10.1080/09674845.2009.11730265. (Online Resource)
- Mayir, Burhan et al. “Why scientists perform animal experiments, scientific or personal aim?” Ulusal cerrahi dergisi vol. 32,4 256-260. 27 Oct. 2016, doi:10.5152/UCD.2016.3196 (Journal Article)
- Pound, Pandora et al. “Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans?” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 328,7438 (2004): 514-7. (Journal Article)