As stated by Niccolo Machiavelli in The Prince “The means justify the end”. This novel was similar to a manual that taught royalty how they should conduct themselves. This famous quote was a means for justification for cruelty by royals as long as they were successful rulers in the end. Regardless of the fact that The Prince was written in 1532, this theory is still applicable in many fields today. Many unethical things have been done with the justification that these actions are for the greater good. This is seen in many of our worldly affairs such as politics and ethics. For example animal research has been seen as a cruel and unethical thing for years. However, one may believe that the benefits that mankind have received from animal research outweighs the ethical dispute that exists.
One huge benefit that has come from animal experimentation is the progress medicine has made in cancer research. The biggest progress we have made in regards to cancer survivor rates has to do with the new drugs that have been developed. As quoted by the AMP (Americans for Medical Progress) “Until recently, surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy have been the dominant treatments for cancer”. However, now thanks to the use of animals in research, scientists have a better understanding of molecular genetics and a greater depth of understanding of tumor based biology. Due to that scientists are able to work on creating drugs that are more direct in killing the cancer cells, rather than killing normal cells. Due to the fact that we are able to direct the medication to only kill the cancer cells, the new therapy will not be as taxing on the patient (Animal Research Benefits).
One type of cancer that animal research has been particularly helpful in developing medicine is breast cancer. Breast cancer is one of the most common diseases in women around the world. The frequency and mortality rate due to breast cancer has been significantly increasing over the past fifty years, even though there is a lacuna in the diagnosis of breast cancer at early stages. According to the 2012 World Health Organization (WHO) report, breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women. Breast cancer has also been so frequent that it now accounts for 23% of all cancer deaths (Donepudi).
The biggest contribution that animal research has presented in the development of drugs against breast cancer are the developing drugs Herceptin and tamoxifen. The main goal in all cancer patients is to treat them while inputting a minimal amount of toxins into their bodies. However as noted by Jones, Brian, and Smith, “annual relapse rates of up to 12 to 13% during the first 10 years after treatment are commonly seen”, and while advanced medicine has been reducing the amount of toxins the patients would have received years ago, toxicity still remains to be a problem in a body of patients that are otherwise without symptoms. Therefore scientists are still working on ways to reduce the amount of toxins being administered to the patients (Leylend-Jones, Brian, Smith). The over-expression of the human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) is an early sign in the development of a large proportion of breast tumors. Now that scientists have that information which was obtained from animal research they have been able to develop drugs like Herceptin which is a drug that is effective, quick, and is received well in the body. Also this drug is most efficient in a consistently changing environment therefore, making it a great choice for use in breast cancer treatment (Leylend-Jones, Brian, Smith).
Another major disease that animal research has proved to be a beneficial asset to is HIV. HIV or also known as Human Immuno Deficiency Virus, is a pathogen that is spread via bodily fluids that specifically affects the T-cells of the immune system. Eventually, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that we are unable to fight off disease this is why is regarded to as an immuno deficient disorder. After the T-cells have been destroyed, the HIV pathogen leads to AIDS (About HIV/AIDS).
“Since the beginning of the AIDs epidemic around 78 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 39 million people have died of the disease”. According to the World Health Organization approximately 35.0 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2013. Also, Sub-Saharan Africa remains still remains the most severely affected country, with “nearly 1 in every 20 adults living with HIV and accounting for nearly 71% of the people living with HIV worldwide” (HIV/AIDs). In fact this is where scientists have been doing most of their research in trying to find a cure.
Mice have been taken a large role in the development of medicine for HIV patients. One important thing that we have learned in regards to HIV using mice is that the Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) encodes four sets of genes: vif, vpu, vpr, and nef. New undergoing studies have help to elaborate the specific roles that these genes play in counteracting, changing, and avoiding multiple cell functions that are responsible for working against the HIV-1 virus. However, this method has not completely revealed everything to us because while mice are a great model for research, the virus’s specific host is humans, so therefore scientists cannot replicate all of the effects of HIV in mice (Yamada).
A final disease that animal research has strongly helped to develop progress with are strokes. A stroke will occur if the oxygenated blood path to the brain is blocked. The stroke happens because without the presence of oxygen in the brain, the cells begin to die due to the lack of cellular respiration. A less common cause of a stroke is internal cranial bleeding. Some symptoms that can occur when the brain cells are killed off include sudden weakness; paralysis or numbness of the face, arms, or legs, trouble speaking or understanding speech; and trouble seeing (What is a Stroke). Many of the animal test that have been done to help with stroke medication have been fairly successful, and have helped to develop a lot of new medication however, many people still disagree with animal experimentation.
Multiple arguments against animal experimentation exists. The most commonly made argument is that animal testing is both cruel and unethical. In fact the Humane Society International claims that animals used for experimentation are subjected to “Force feeding, forced inhalation, food and water deprivation, prolonged periods of physical restraint, the infliction of burns and other wounds to study the healing process, the infliction of pain to study its effects and remedies, and killing by carbon dioxide asphyxiation, neck-breaking, decapitation, or other means” (Should Animals Be Used for Scientific or Commercial Testing?) While the Humane Society claims to all of these things, it has yet to be discovered where their sources are from. Without being able to justify and verify their information who is to say that these accusations weren’t myths spun by an extremist (Should Animals Be Used for Scientific or Commercial Testing?)?
Another common counterargument to animal experimentation is that there are more ethical alternatives such as studying tissue culture. When scientists study tissue culture, they are essentially looking a cells in a dish. Therefore, some people may believe that these tests are more accurate and relevant due to the fact that they are human cells. In fact, some companies such as Epiderm and ThinCert grow skin cells and sell it to scientific labs for research and some individuals believe that it has proven to be more useful than animal research. However, tissue culture cannot replace a breathing organism (Should Animals Be Used for Scientific or Commercial Testing?).
A living body system is very complex, and while studying cells in a petri dish can prove to be very useful, one cannot receive the same level of understanding that you could get from studying a living organism. For example, all of the body systems are intertwined to be able to fully understand one thing one may need to understand multiple different aspects. Additionally, scientists cannot truly understand the effects of a medication until the medicine runs through a living tissue. Not all medication can be tested on a dish. Furthermore, some medical conditions cannot be replicated with cells in a dish. To exemplify this one may study blood pressure. Scientists cannot replicate high blood pressure with just cells, they need a fully functional system to test these medications (Should Animals Be Used for Scientific or Commercial Testing?).
Another argument against animal research for scientific purposes is that people claim that molecular differences between humans and other species are too great, and therefore the animals will not prove to be good models. In fact, Paul Furlong who is a professor of clinical neuroimaging at Aston University stated “it’s very hard to create an animal model that even equates closely to what we’re trying to achieve in the human”. Accompanying this Thomas Hartung, who is a professor at Johns Hopkins University has made several arguments against animal experimentation and has implored for additional research into animal tests because “we are not 70 kg rats” (Should Animals Be Used for Scientific or Commercial Testing?). However, this thought process is just the result of a lack of understanding of molecular genetics.
Now that scientists have mapped the entire human genome we are able to better understand disease and animals that contract similar ones. We have also been able to decode the genomes of all the other known specifies on earth. Chimpanzees and mice, two commonly used animals in animal experimentation, share 98% of their DNA with human beings. Additionally according to the theory of evolution all mammals descend from very similar ancestors therefore out internal organs and bodily systems are very anatomically similar. Due to this biological similarity many animals and humans share they are both susceptible to many of the same diseases. In fact some diseases can even be passed from other mammals to humans and are known as a zoonotic disease. One common disease the both humans and other mammals commonly subdue to is cancer, which as previously discussed, has had new and improved medications made due to animal research (Should Animals Be Used for Scientific or Commercial Testing?).
Also many people want to focus on the negative aspects that animal experimentation has on the animals, however, it has been proven that animal experimentation not only helps humans, but animals as well. For example, if vaccinations were never tested on animals then millions of animals would have died from disease. Some of these diseases include: “rabies, distemper, feline leukemia, infectious hepatitis virus, tetanus, anthrax, and canine parvo virus” (Should Animals Be Used for Scientific or Commercial Testing?). Furthermore, many other treatments for animals have derived from animal testing. While there has been a lot of ethical disputes concerning the matter of animal research one may believe that the benefits have strongly outweighed the ethics. Animal research has saved millions of lives in its role cancer, strokes, AIDS/HIV and multiple other diseases throughout history. While there are alternatives to animal research, and many of these alternatives have been put into practice, they have been proven to be not as effective or efficient as animal experimentation.