Animal testing should be banned

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Animal testing is an approach researchers use to generate knowledge on the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, or management of health conditions by studying the behavior of model animals under exposure to certain experimental conditions. Researchers use diverse types of animal tests in basic biological research, including genetically modified (GM) animals and regulatory testing for investigating the safety and efficacy of healthcare products. However, animal experiments raise fundamental controversies. This work examines why animal testing should be banned based on a consideration of costs, harm to animals, and unreliability of findings. The overarching premise is that banning animal experimentation in research is justified because it does not yield benefits to society, harms animal welfare, and does not produce reliable evidence.

Arguments for Banning Animal Testing

Animal testing should be banned because the economic costs are higher compared to alternative testing methods. A preliminary literature search shows that the cost implications of animal experimentation are often concealed or ignored. According to Akhtar (2012), regulatory requirements stipulate the safety and efficacy testing of drugs before approval. The preclinical stage usually involves using animal or in vitro experiments. A growing body of literature about animal testing emphasizes that policymakers accept this practice based on the assumption that the benefits outweigh the costs (Bronstad et al., 2016). Although the costs and benefits of animal testing may vary from one project to another, existing research evidence shows that animal tests can take years to complete and involve exorbitant costs compared to alternative tests. For example, in the field of genetic toxicity testing, the estimated cost of an animal test involving chromosome aberration is $30,000 compared to $20,000 for in vitro test. An animal test involving sister chromatid exchange costs $22,000 compared to $8,000 for in vitro test. Other cost differences between animal tests and in vitro tests are found in other test experiments, such as skin corrosion tests. The costs of animal testing can be exorbitant, ranging from profits for animal breeders to salaries for researchers and technicians working for pharmaceutical companies and research institutes, as well as operational costs for charities that raise funds from donors and other benevolent financiers. Moreover, other non-animal testing alternatives like in silico modeling can be cheaper options for preclinical evaluation (Norman, 2022). Overall, these findings justify banning animal testing based on financial cost considerations. Since public-funded organizations are a major source of funds, it means that animal testing is a burden to taxpayers. Given that the costs and benefits vary with each research project, conducting a cost-benefit analysis should be considered before approving animal tests.

Animal testing should be banned because it violates the basic principles of animal welfare. The cost of animal testing has a broader meaning beyond investment and financial benefits. The term “cost” indicates the net harmful impact on animal welfare, such as painful procedures and effects on animal rights and freedoms (Bronstad et al., 2016). This means that researchers should be responsible for considering animal ethics in their research. Based on the risk-benefit analysis, only an action that is associated with a greater benefit than its harm should be approved. However, the challenge is that the future benefits of most scientific research using animal testing are difficult to measure or predict (Gutfreund, 2020). Since animal welfare is more important, it means that banning animal testing would be justified in the absence of supportive HBAs.

The unreliability of animal testing makes it a dispensable approach. Research evidence shows that it is difficult to transfer findings from animal experiments to humans due to methodological flaws, poor choice of model organisms, publication bias, and lack of placebo effect (Spanagel, 2022). For example, while a rodent model organism is ideal for biomedical research, it produces misleading data on drug safety and efficacy. Laboratory procedures and testing environment may also influence experimental results making it difficult to underpin cause and effect (Akhtar, 2015). These reliability limitations of animal experiments justify the use of alternative research methods.

Debunking the Counter Arguments for Animal Testing

One of the counterarguments is that the HBA is not an appropriate approach for analyzing the benefits of animal testing (Gutfreund, 2020). The main argument is that HBA has the potential to compromise scientific progress because it is difficult to predict the outcome of the cost-benefit analyses. While it is true that HBA may impose biases against basic research, the fundamental question is not whether or not the HBA approach is valid; rather, the primary concern is whether the benefits of animal experimentation outweigh the costs. This means that alternative guidelines can be used with the guiding principle that any research should convey benefit to society and ensure minimal harm to animals. Nonetheless, the very nature of certain animal tests justified their abolition as they do not meet the conditions of animal welfare.

Another counteragent is that the reliability of animal testing is an experimental problem that can be improved. For example, Spanagel (2022) explores the strategies for improving reproducibility and replication in animal experimentation. For instance, the researchers argue that increasing the sample size and combining animal studies with meta-analyses and systematic reviews can improve reproducibility in animal experimentation. Cross-species comparisons can also adduce convergent evidence and collaborate the findings. While meta-analyses and systematic reviews have a long tradition in clinical research, they have their limitations. More importantly, these approaches address the internal reliability of animal studies (Eggel & Wurbel, 2020). This means that the external validity or the level to which the findings apply to other studies remains a concern.

Conclusion

Banning animal testing is justified based on a consideration of the financial costs, harm to animals, and poor reliability of research findings. Since the overall risks and benefits may vary from one research project to another, researchers have the responsibility to ensure animal experimentation offers benefits to society, minimizes harm to animals, and provides reliable research evidence.

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  1. Akhtar, A. (2012). The costs of animal experiments. In: Animals and Public Health. The Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230358522_6
  2. Akhtar, A. (2015). The flaws and human harms of animal experimentation. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 24(4), 407-419. https://doi.org/10.1017%2FS0963180115000079
  3. Bronstad, A. et al. (2016). Current concepts of harm-benefit analysis of animal experiments- report from the AALAS-FELASA Working Group on harm-benefit analysis – Part 1. Laboratory Animals, 50(1), 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0023677216642398
  4. Eggel, M., & Wurbel, H. (2020). Internal consistency and compatibility of the 3Rs and 3Vs principles for project evaluation of animal research. Laboratory Animals, 55(3), 233-243. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0023677220968583
  5. Gutfreund, Y. (2020). Harm-benefit analysis may not be the best approach to measure minimal harms and maximal benefits of anima research – Alternatives should be explored. Animals, 10(291), 1-7. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10020291
  6. Norman, G. A. (2020). Limitations of animal studies for predicting toxicity in clinical trials. JACC Basic to Translational Science, 5(4), 387-397. https://doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.jacbts.2020.03.010.
  7. Spanagel, R. (2022). Ten points to improve reproducibility and translation of animal research. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 16, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2022.869511
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