Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals and the answer is: ‘Because animals are like us.’ Ask the experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘Because the animals are not like us.’
Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.
-Professor Charles R. Magel
Anyone who knows me would know that I absolutely love animals and hold them to the same regard as humans. In fact, animals are the greatest friends as they provide unconditional love to their human companions. However unfortunately, we live in a society where humans place themselves at the top of the animal hierarchy, with the belief that their power, strength and intellectual capacity supposedly lets them govern the treatment of animals. Such a cultural norm has induced the belief that we can love, abuse, exploit, ignore or simply prioritise animals as inferior at our leisure. I personally struggle with this because I believe as humans, we must be the voice for animals. It is our duty to protect them. However, human society has failed in this respect as we use animals for our own personal benefits, namely, for research and education.
Animals are vulnerable to pharmaceutical and chemical industries, as well as university and government bodies, who use animals for the pursuit of scientific progress. These animals are used for experiments such as: genetic engineering, cosmetic testing, psychological research, and medical research. These experiments and the confinement in unnatural enclosed spaces usually subject animals to pain and mental distress. For example, the Draize Rabbit Eye test involved substance being inserted into the eyes of rabbits. The result is evident in the image below.
Animals are sadly used for such experiments because they are considered to be ‘like’ humans. However ironically, we would never experiment upon humans without their informed consent. Furthermore, as Animals Australia claims, ‘if animals are like us…then surely those animals have the very human attributes’ of conscious awareness and the ability to feel physical and psychological pain, which means they too, deserve to be respected and protected from harm.
According to Animals Australia, more than six million animals are used annually in research in Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, while animal testing is legal, all States and Territories have adopted requirements that animal research be conducted in accordance with the ‘Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes’. This aims to reduce the use of animals in research by ensuring that all proposals abide by three main principles:
- Reduction: reduce the number of animals used.
- Replacement: use alternative non-animal methods.
- Refinement: refine procedures to ensure minimal pain and stress.
However, despite these protections, according to Humane Research Australia, as a result of animal testing in 2012, almost 350 000 animals became unconscious without recovery; almost 130 000 animals needed surgery; almost 143 500 experienced major physiological challenge; 144 331 animals were genetically modified; and sadly, 36 070 animals died. These statistics illustrate how the law is failing to protect animals from pain and suffering.
Many organisations such as Animals Australia are lobbying for changes in the law such as prohibiting animal testing as well as banning the importation of products that have been tested on animals.
Advocates urge further steps are needed to protect animals. These include:
- Placing the onus on the researcher to rebut the presumption that non-animal testing alternatives exist.
- Eradicating pain and suffering.
- Conducting and investing in research and development of non-animal testing techniques, resulting in the compulsory adoption of these procedures.
- Establishing a National Code at the Federal Level, which will ensure a uniform application of the law.
It is clear that public perception towards animal research is changing, with 64% of Australians surveyed in a 2013 opinion poll, agreeing that humans do not have the moral right to experiment on animals.
What can YOU do?
You can educate yourself and others about animal testing and find out whether the products you use at home have been tested on animals. You can also take a pledge to not buy such products and only use products which are not tested on animals. In relation to cosmetic testing involving rabbits, you can help ‘take the cruelty out of beauty’ by only buying cosmetic products with the leaping bunny symbol! Finally, we need to ensure our elected leaders hear our concerns and take Federal action.
Check out this video for more information on animal testing: