Animal testing has long been a passionate source of debate. Not all animal testing involves dissecting the animal or injecting the animal with an illness; it could involve changing the animal's diet or determining which lipstick works best. Still, is the practice right or wrong? There are pros and cons to testing on animals.
Without animal testing, researchers would not have discovered important medications and treatments for human illnesses. Cancer patients would lack many treatment options and diabetics would lack insulin. Animal testing also determines whether medications are safe for humans. If the drugs have been determined unsafe for animals, they are not safe for humans. Trial drugs must be tested on animals first to avoid human injury or death, proponents say.
When testing treatments and medications, many animals have been injured or killed. Often, these animals died from faulty medication. Since animal chemistry and bodies are so different from humans, it is difficult to determine if the medication really was faulty or if the result was the animal's natural reaction to the medication. Costs of animal testing -- which cover experiments and the subjects' temporary housing -- are high.
Debate over animal testing has been ongoing for decades, with much exposure placed in the 1980s. Opponents say animals can't give consent to procedures; animals are treated poorly; and very few breakthroughs result from animal testing. Proponents argue that numerous and significant breakthroughs have resulted and it is better to test on animals than subject humans to the tests.
Animal testing has existed for thousands of years, as far back as early Greece when Aristotle used it. There have been significant breakthroughs since then: Louis Pasteur experimented on chickens in 1881 and developed a vaccine that eliminated smallpox; Willem Einthoven tested the first electrocardiograph on dogs in 1924; and in 1996, Dolly the sheep became the first successfully cloned living organism. In 1876, Britain regulated animal testing with the Cruelty to Animals Act, prohibiting experiments where animals were deliberately subjected to pain; it was replaced in 1986 with the Animals Scientific Procedures Act, which put animals' welfare under the British government's control. The act requires that the experiment's benefits outweigh research costs, including potential suffering animals might endure. The United States adopted the Animal Welfare Act in 1966, which allows the secretary of agriculture to regulate transportation of most animals to be used in research and requires dog and cat dealers to be licensed and subject to inspection.