The Use Of Animals In Biomedical Research Research Paper Examples
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The scholarly researched basis regarding the use of animals in biomedical experimentation holds that an arguable conclusion can be known, but it is impossible for all scientists to arrive at an agreed upon resolution. The vibrant conversation has even adapted the conversation towards whether genetic manipulation, in today’s biomedical research, has crossed the line of ethics. Nevertheless, facts are facts. In Chapter 7 of ‘Arguing about Bioethics,’ by Holland (2012) Cohen argues from a position why animals have no rights and faces the sentiments concerning nonhuman-animal suffering or harms, resulting from scientific biomedical research (p. 94). For one, Cohen (2012) marks the central point that human beings exclusively “confront choices that are purely moral,” and that animals do not wield this sense of capability to exercise any response to “moral claims” (p. 94, 95). While Cohen does not allocate that animals should needlessly suffer, he further posits (insistently so) that there remains a moral status difference between humankind and animals.
In any case, there is an historical pathway in the discussion over the use of animals in biomedical research. In ‘Animal Experiments in Biomedical Research’ Nuno Franco (2013) reviews the historical debate from the perspectives of philosophical, and the scientific outlook of how medical experimentation with animals has played a role in sometimes heated confrontations, in terms of its “ethical controversy” (p. 238). This research paper examines several aspects of factual evidence regarding the topic of the use of animals in biomedical research. This paper covers an overview of the reasons for the need for nonhuman in vivo research experimental work while briefly delving into a historical background. While it is certainly true that all researchers may not agree, one way or the other regarding the issue, certain facts persists. The paper herein attempts to lay out the various facts, reasons, history, and arguments (pros and cons) of the debate maintaining an erudite tone that does not take a position on either side of the disputation.
First of all, certain facts and historical realities exist. According to Kalat (2009) animals have traditionally been “used in many kinds of research studies, some dealing with behavior and others with the functions of the nervous system” (p. 21). These myriad sorts of laboratory research involving animals has provided a plethora of knowledge contributing to what is learned about behavioral studies in psychology, and brain function. In fact, the activity has literally been ongoing for centuries from ancient times, up through the European Renaissance. According to Franco (2013) the early Greek civilization engaged in live animal-medical experimentation with no reference to ethical questions, rather relying upon an acceptance of the higher ranking attributed to humans in terms of their “anthropomorphic deities” (p. 239). In other words, during this era, potent influences of the Judeo-Christian ethic determined an assumption that human beings were naturally superior by divine appointment.
Thus, the exploration of such uses of animals in biomedical experimentation is an old role. Perhaps an initial hint pertaining to any ethical implications, arose with Thomas Aquinas. According to Franco (2013) Aquinas held that any cruelty foisted upon animals was “sinful,” and wrong, but not due to the animals’ suffering per se – but rather because such animals were deemed as “someone else’s property” (p. 239). As studies in anatomy and physiology pressed forward, the actual dissection of human bodies (cadavers) ensued alongside animal vivisection and experimentation. Franco (2013) explains that this emerged around the time of the 1500s, mostly in medical-student settings. With the gradual emergence of philosophers coming onto the scene such as Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, and Kant, things began to change. Franco (2013) informs that John Locke was adamantly opposed to disregarding the feelings and pains of animals, fully advocating that “children should be brought up to abhor the killing or torturing of any living thing” for the satisfaction of cruelty (p. 241). Kant arrived at a kind of functional justification for the use of the in vivo use of animals in biomedical experiments. Franco (2013) says Immanuel Kant justified their use for the sake of furthering scientific knowledge, since their ultimate “aim is praiseworthy,” but firmly frowned on perpetrated any cruelty upon animals for sport (p. 241). Perhaps more importantly, many reasons remain for the use of animals in biomedics.
Our textbook’s author names a few. Kalat (2009) maintains that some reasons for animal use in research include the following: (a) similar underlying similarities of behavior between the species, (b) an interest and curiosity about animal biology and their exclusive behavior, (c) information learned and gleaned from animal research studies helps to understand human evolution, and (d) legal restrictions and regulatory statutes forbid certain kinds of experiments being done on human subjects (p. 21). One might inquire at this point, what is the ethical debate and argument all about, then? The textbook has explained that, in general, some object to brain damage, hormonal injections, or electrodes’ implantation as unnecessary procedures which are not beneficial to the animals. Yet, Kalat (2009) continues to note that Nobel Prize winning scientists have based their research in physio-medicine on critical animal experimentation. He cites that a hopeful search for diseases like Alzheimer’s or other disorders largely rely upon animal experimentation.
Another idea to keep in mind, as this discussion proceeds, is that many different kinds of animals are utilized. Mice, rats, cats, dogs, and monkeys have commonly served as in vivo subjects for biomedical research. Additionally, it is also important at this juncture to realize that the ‘minimalists’ allow for some types and levels of animal-based biomedical research, while their more radical brethren the ‘abolitionists’ view no such allowances, perceiving all animal killings (for any reason) as murder. Two things are certain. All are not going to agree, and the issue is a complex one. Dr. Ringach (2011) explores the various perspectives by looking at the claims. One such claim Ringach (2011) cites states that “humans do not benefit from animal research” (p. 305). Deeming this claim as little more than a blanket statement, Ringach (2011) reminds readers that such assertions are falsified because a number of experimental “medical breakthroughs” have occurred in instances such as the discovery of insulin by using dogs and rabbits, and “the development of efficient breast cancer drugs” from mice participation (p. 305). Also, he argues that scientific research is not an absolutely clear-cut pathway to success, and that the results and benefits from studies are not immediately tangible. To reiterate beliefs from other science professionals, Weitzman (2004) quotes from, and summarizes an article by Carl Cohen that suggests “Animals cannot possess rights,” so therefore we cannot violate them, and that “the grounds of our obligations to humans and to animals are complicated” (“Summary of Cohen’s ‘Case for the Use’ from New England Journal of Medicine”). Harold A. Herzog weighs in his contribution to the discussion.
Herzog explains the animal rights movement in terms of its two philosophical positions: the utilitarian argument, and the rights argument. Herzog (1990) notes that the utilitarian argument holds that since all creatures can feel, there is no reason to elevate one species above another. The argument attaches a logic to making preferential differences in treatment in humans according to racial-ethnicity, intelligence levels, or gender. As aforementioned, the rights argument sustains that animals harbor a fundamental criteria of certain respects – in particular – not to be harmed. The bottom line however, supports the factual evidence that animal biomedical research is necessary to help scientists to find new, and safe medical treatments. According to the California Biomedical Research Association (CBRA), (2015) “For more than a hundred years, virtually every medical breakthrough in human and animal health has been the direct result of research using animals” (“CBRA Fact Sheet”). Their fact sheet reports that animals share a biological similarity to humans, and therefore make ideal research subjects. The report cites that “99% of DNA” is shared between chimpanzees and humans, while over “98% DNA” is shared between mice and human beings (“CBRA Fact Sheet”). What may be surprising to remember, is that animals have a shorter life span than their humankind neighbors, which lends to the possibilities of extending biomedical research over a lifespan. Another good reason cited, in this report, why animals make ideal in vivo study-subjects is that many of their health conditions and correlated susceptible problems are the same as humans. CBRA also expanded upon other questions pertaining to the issue.
In expanding a listing of the different types of animals used in biomedical research, several species were named. The gamut of animals so enlisted as living models for experimentation included “rats, mice, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep, fish, frogs, pigs, dogs, cats, primates” and others (“CBRA Fact Sheet”). In terms of quantitative data gathered from the Office of Technology, a rough annual estimate of the numbers of animals used in research runs between 17 and 23 million. CBRA (2015) emphatically highlighted the fact that “only 0.75% of the animals in research are cats, dogs, and primates” (“CBRA Fact Sheet”). If you think about it, it seems as though most researchers might agree that there are levels of differences among animals, which may merit greater or lesser concerns regarding the ethics surrounding their use in biomedical research. In fact, CBRA (2015) also advised that researchers avoid using animal subjects at all in modeling research, whenever it was possible to avoid it. Public awareness might also keep in mind the following. Increasingly, computer model-sampling and cell-tissue cultures employ methods for biomedical research. These types of procedures especially drive medical investigations of toxic substance levels, and represent a valuable research tool.
While it may be true that the various alternative research methods replacing the need for animal biomedical experimentation exists, and a good reason for researchers to stave off attacks and criticisms, scientists have much to contribute to the ongoing discussion. The reader may recall that Cohen had decidedly indicated that he deemed that animals have no rights. However, his viewpoint is far from simplistic or unreasonably arcane. He does not radically dismiss any obligations that humans have towards their fellow nonhuman creatures. In fact, Cohen (2012) insists that “Plainly, the grounds of our obligations to humans and to animals are manifold and
cannot be formulated simply,” and that they deserve to be treated with “decency and concern,” yet maintains that they must not necessarily be equated with a level of the importance human life affords, or ascribed like rights (p. 95). In terms of human experimentation, Cohen (2012) related in the same Chapter 17 that he sees no problem with it as long as the individuals consent to such procedures. Obviously, any consenting human beings would require to be deemed of sound mind and ensuring voluntarily participation – on both legal and moral grounds.
In continuing his treatise in explaining why animals have no moralized ethical rights as commonly viewed by human beings, Cohen gives specific examples to support his argument. Cohen (2012) asks, “Does a lion have a right to eat a baby zebra? Does a baby zebra have a right not to be eaten” (p. 96)? In other words, Cohen’s point suggests that this line of thinking does not represent a logical approach because it is a blunder to assume any justified condemnation of animal use in biomedical research, due to the ‘animal rights’ argument. The distinguishing caveat, and overall emphasis Cohen (2012) makes is that human beings owe an undeniable moral obligation to other humans, to a higher degree than what should be ascribed to the defense of any such ethical obligation to animals – comparatively. Furthermore, Cohen (2012) fosters that “If biomedical investigators abandon the effective pursuit of their professional objectives because they are convinced that they may not do to animals what the service of humans requires, they will fail, objectively, to do their duty” (p. 98). That duty being to finding ways to eliminate human suffering and discover ways to improve or cure disorders, as of primary importance. Essentially, Cohen frames his argument in approaching the best scientific practices in the long-run, that benefits and supports how biomedical scientists may discover answers to alleviate human disease. A litany of specified diseases and conditions illustrate various medical advances achieved by the usage of nonhuman animals in biomedical research. According to CBRA (2015) these ailments and biological foes include: HIV/AIDS, cancer, asthma, vaccines, organ transplants, antibiotics, and high-blood-pressure concerns (“CBRA Fact Sheet”). Others would disagree.
Thus far, reasons confronting an objection to the use of animals in biomedical research have protested upon the basis of animal rights, or in general due to animals’ sentient conditions. One scientist has inspected the situation from a non-philosophical approach, adding a key reason why it is critical to continue to use chimpanzees (for example) as animals used in medical-scientific studies. In a Journal of Medical Primatology article, Dr. VandeBerg (2013) expresses a concern that if chimpanzees were to be attached to the roster of endangered species, by the “US Fish and Wildlife Service” that doing so would constitute “devastating consequences on critical areas of basic biomedical research for which chimpanzees are uniquely suitable as animal models,” also explaining that this move would negatively impact naturally wild chimps to survive – thereby curtailing the purpose for putting them on the ‘protection’ list in the first place (p. 225). One of VandeBerg’s main arguments says that using chimpanzees in biomedical research studies has afforded the progression of scientific insight of comprehending disease mechanisms, and has particularly aided the establishment of a knowledge base in pathogens associated with Hepatitis A, B, and C. In a review of hepatitis research, VandeBerg (2013) insists that the data shows over one billion doses of its vaccine had been administered, resulting in people being “protected for life against hepatitis B, which kills 600,000 people annually” (p. 225). The reason why the chimpanzees’ role in this biomedical research is crucial, is because they are the only animals which are enabled to be infected with the specific ‘B’ strain of hepatitis. VandeBerg (2013) also commented that only humans and chimpanzees could sustain infections of “hepatitis C virus,” or HCV, “which kills more than 350,000 people each year” thereby allowing the unique qualities of the chimpanzee animal as a perfectly suited “model for research on hepatitis C” (p. 226). The impact rate of chimpanzee survival has been a concern among veterinarians, as specialized trained stakeholders.
Amidst current serious discussions pertaining to formulations of Ebola vaccines, reflecting scares in the latest global news reports, VandeBerg refers to other data. VandeBerg (2013) mentions that during the time of the primate researcher Jane Goodall, in “Gombe National Park” a survey indicated that “22% of the chimpanzees” there in Goodall’s population “were infected with an immunodeficiency virus, SIVcpz,” that tragically increased the death rate among these animals (p. 226). His point is that placing the chimpanzees on the endangered list would not protect them, and would certainly not provide for any medical interventions to help the animals in the wild. Towards the latter part of the article, VandeBerg makes an emphatic justification why chimpanzees are so important to further biomedical research, indicating that such facilities would ensure an intensively high-quality and safe environment for them, claiming “enrichment programs to ensure the psychological well-being of” these animals (p. 227). At least two other scientists disagree.
Kathleen Conlee and Andrew Rowan certainly disapprove. Conlee and Rowan (2012) think that conducting such biomedical experiments on chimpanzee, and other nonhuman primates, simply does not yield the acceptable results that scientists hope to produce (p. S31). They posit a strong argument for phasing out the use of all primates for research. Conlee et al. (2012) cite the data as indicating some “70,000 nonhuman primates are used for research in the United States” annually, “according to U.S. Department of Agriculture,” while breeding an additional 45,000 (p. S31). In other words, Conlee and Rowan are arguing from the standpoint of usage of these animals in unfruitful and a waste of resources, reflecting poor outcomes in biomedical research results. In terms of policy and funding, they point out that almost 30 percent goes towards HIV research, and besides a lack of positive scientific results ethical ones must be noted as well. Conlee et al. (2012) state “Phasing out primate use should be a priority for ethical, scientific, and economic reasons” (p. S32). The moral reasons fall into two categories. One represents the factor that primates are more higher-developed in mathematical skills, and emotional reactions, and as such suffer by repeatedly being subjected to endless imprisonment in laboratories. Conlee and Rowan (2012) suggest that due to primates’ “very long lifespans” being held for “decades” in labs is extremely cruel (p. S32). Other issues connect to their recommendations, too.
The researchers explain how smart these animals are. Conlee et al. (2012) describe that studies prove chimpanzees’ abilities to learn sign language, and that breeding colonies in China sells the infants all over the world to places like the U.S. and European nations (p. S32). Within this reality, the researchers explain, the chimpanzees experience “considerable stress,” transportation in tiny crates, and food restrictions, with studies showing “it takes months for their physiological systems to return to baseline levels” (p. S32.). Also, the research itself is traumatic for them as they are exposed to social and food deprivation, as well as virulent diseases. This is very disturbing, given that primates are keenly associated with deep socio-psychological needs. Andrew Knight, a London scientist has expressed similar concerns in an article entitled, “The Poor Contribution of Chimpanzee Experiments to Biomedical Progress.” On a parallel mirroring the work of Conlee and Rowan, Knight’s earlier work in 2007 described similar details. In review of a number of globally published journal-level papers “between 1995 and 2004” Knight says, a “detailed examination of these medical papers revealed” that no chimpanzee study “made an essential contribution” to any biomedical aspirations sought (p. 281). He continued to inform that such primate use in studies advocated for medical explorations in the areas of immunology, virology, hematology, neurotoxicology, and other bio-level warfare agents – like Ebola and anthrax. A further complaint was that the ongoing arrangement of procuring the primate animals, storing, feeding, and so forth, showed inconsistencies in cost effectiveness. In other words, the practice according to Knight, simply makes no economic sense.
While cutting down on the use of nonhuman animals in the practice of biomedical research seems to be the new pattern, as state-of-the-art technology develops, certain forms of utilization may always be necessary. According to the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) (2015) law and regulations mediate some controls. The Animal Welfare Act under the auspices of U.S. federal code covers research animals, regulating all aspects of their care – whether in teaching or testing (“Animals in Research, Laws”). The USDA is charged with its enforcement imposing fines to $10,000 for violations, having been raised from $2,500 (“Animals in Research, Laws”). Of course, all intelligent stakeholders and conscientious biomedical researchers realize that de jure legislation and de facto practice and enforcement, can be two entirely different things. One shortcoming in the humane regulations of animals may permit procedures to utilize anesthetics to relieve pain caused by experiments, this is not always dutifully enforced, because researchers can “withhold anesthetics, painkillers, and tranquilizers if deemed ‘scientifically necessary’” (“Animals in Research, Laws”). While it may be true that animals have no rights on par with the standing of human beings, and animal biomedical testing has created better disease control for people, there seems to be no viable or cogent excuse for being poor stewards and perpetrating unneeded cruelty towards them.
With freedom comes responsibility.
California Biomedical Research Association. (2015). CBRA fact sheet – Why are animals necessary in biomedical research? [Data file]. Retrieved from
Conlee, K.M., & Rowan, A.N. (2012). The case for phasing out experiments on primates.
Hastings Center Report, 425S31-S34. doi:10.1002/hast.106
Franco, N.H. (2013). Animal experiments in biomedical research: A historical perspective.
Animals (2076-2615), 3(1), 238-273. doi:10.3390/ani3010238
Herzog, H.A. (1990). Discussing animal rights and animal research in the classroom. Teaching of
Psychology, 17(2), 90-94.
Holland, S. (2012). Chapter 17 – The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research by
Carl Cohen. In Arguing about Bioethics. London: Routledge.
Kalat, J. (2009). Biological psychology (10th ed.). Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Knight, A. (2007). The poor contribution of chimpanzee experiments to biomedical progress.
Ringach, D.L. (2011). The use of nonhuman animals in biomedical research. The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 342. Retrieved from http://ringachlab.net/lab/Welcome_files/ringach_ajms.pdf
The New England Anti-Vivisection Society – NEAVS. (2015). Animals in research – Law and regulations [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.neavs.org/research/laws
VandeBerg, J.L. (2013). Reclassification of captive chimpanzees as endangered would cost lives.
Weitzman, N. (2004). Summary of Carl Cohen’s ‘The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research’ from the New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 315, No. 14 (1986) [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/SocialSciences/ppecorino/MEDICAL_ETHICS_TEXT/Chapter_7_Human_Experimentation/Readings-Cohen-Case-Use-Animals-in-Research.htm
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