While some animal activists are against animal testing in any form, most people recognize a distinction between using animals for cosmetic testing and the testing of experimental medical treatment using animals. While testing cosmetics on animals is not technically necessary anymore and seems to border on cruelty, many medical breakthroughs would never have happened without animal testing. It is important when discussing animal testing to understand the difference between these two forms of testing.
The use of animals in cosmetic testing has been decreasing steadily over the past several years, and has been totally outlawed in some countries (Kopp & Camosy, 2015). Alternatives to animal testing are now being used and others are currently under development. It is now possible to use human ex vitro tissue to determine if the ingredients in new cosmetics will be toxic or irritating to humans, making testing them on animals unnecessary (Reus, Usta, & Krul, 2012). In Europe, computer programs which analyze the chemicals in new cosmetics for toxicity by comparing them to existing known toxins are under development, and expected to be ready for use in approximately four years (Mone, 2014). These programs, made necessary by a European ban on testing cosmetics on animals, will revolutionize the cosmetic testing process (Mone, 2014).
It is universally acknowledged in the medical community that animal testing, while not perfect, is the best way to test new medications and medical treatments before using them on human beings (Animal research benefits, N. D). Many successful treatments would never have been discovered without the use of animal testing: breakthroughs in such serious illnesses as lung cancer, childhood leukemia, and heart disease depended largely on the use of animal testing to reach fruition (Animal research benefits, N. D.). While some animal rights activists feel that animals have rights equal to humans and should not be subjected to potentially harmful chemicals and procedures, the majority of people would argue that medical testing on animals is a necessary evil (Masterton, Renberg, & Kälvemark Spoorong, 2014). It is unreasonable to equate the rights of mice and rats to those of human beings, or to believe that their lives hold as much value as human lives. While there have been great strides in treating laboratory test animals in a cruelty-free, ethical manner while they are being used in medical tests, it is inevitable that these animals will experience some pain and suffering during the course of these tests; the goal should be to minimize the pain to the greatest extent possible, not to stop testing on animals completely (Masterton, Renberg, & Kälvemark Spoorong, 2014).
Cruelty to animals is clearly wrong; however, if it is necessary for some lower-functioning animals to give their lives so that more humans can live disease-free, this is a concession that must be made. Human life is, despite what some radical activists might state, obviously of greater value than the lives of white mice. Human beings have the ability to think, feel, love, and contribute to society. The sum total of mice’ contribution to human society could be seen as their use in finding cures for fatal or serious human diseases. Therefore, while unnecessary testing of cosmetics on animals should be outlawed, medical testing should, and must, continue. Perhaps someday, a new medical treatment will be found through the use of animal testing that will save the life of the person who will come up with an alternative to testing on animals. Until that time, animal testing is the best, and some would argue, the only, way to save and improve the quality of, human lives.
- Animal research benefits. (N. D.). Americans for Medical Progress (AMP). Retrieved from: http://www.amprogress.org/animal-research-benefits/
- Kopp, S. & Camosy, C. C. (May 25, 2015). Animals 2.0. America 212(18): 14-16.
- Masterton, M., Renberg, T., & Kälvemark Spoorong, S. (Mar 2014). Patients’ attitudes towards animal testing: ‘To conduct research on animals is, I suppose, a necessary evil’. BioSocieties 9(1): 24-41.
- Mone, G. (Apr 2014). New models in cosmetics replacing animal testing. Communications of the ACM 57(4): 20-21.
- Reus, A. A., Usta, M., & Krul, C. A.M. (Jun 2012). The use of ex vivo human skin tissue for genotoxicity testing. Toxicology & Applied Pharmacology 261(2): 154-163.