Animal Experimentation: Saving Lives vs Humane Treatment

Angelina Xu ‘21

The thought of scientific experiments typically conjures the image of white lab coats and colorful chemicals in round flasks and long beakers.  However, the past century’s scientific and medical breakthroughs have all involved an essential player: research animals. Although human experimentation could be beneficial, research and tests should ultimately be conducted on animals.


While there are some anatomic and cellular differences between animals and people, many animals are almost genetically identical to humans, descending from common ancestors and having similar body systems.  Kaivu Hariharan ‘20 corroborates, “Despite the vast differences in physical appearances between mice and humans, we actually share 92% of the same DNA.” Due to these similarities, animals are usually susceptible to the same diseases as humans and thus can be used to test for cures and treatments, such as diabetes, polio vaccine, and cancers.  These potential vaccines and medicines have also benefited animals who suffer from these diseases, including saving species from extinction, such as the chlamydia vaccine for koalas. Additionally, the short life spans of laboratory animals facilitate easier observation of treatment effects over a lifespan or multiple generations.


Furthermore, when testing possible medicines, humans should not be put in potential danger and it would be unethical to perform genetic manipulation or invasive procedures on humans. These research animals can help determine the quality and safety of goods, notably makeup products, before distributing it to the market.


Opponents may also question the humane treatment of these research animals.  Local and state laws, including the federal Animal Welfare Act, have stipulated minimum standards and inspections for research to ensure their well being.  All institutes that use laboratory animals must receive permission from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee to enforce humane treatment at all facilities.  Hence, veterinarians and animal specialists ensure their well-being, which also ensures more accurate test results. Ironically, Rachel McCormick ‘21 says that “we eat more animals each year than we use for research.”


In terms of scientific considerations, scientific testing favors the advantages that animal experimentation provide, including the anatomical similarities to humans and short generation periods.  Ethical questions arise from the morality of experimenting on humans and putting them in potentially fatal conditions and the humane treatment of animals. However, many laws protect the rights of research animals to meet scientific and federal needs.  Through the use of research animals, more breakthroughs that could be potential antidotes will save an unprecedented number of lives.