Another pressing issue in the topic of animal rights is the controversy of testing on animals. Throughout history, animals have often been used to test medical research and theories. In early Greek culture, physicians and scientists, such as Aristotle, and Erasistratus, performed experiments on living animals (Hajar, 2011). There have been debates on the topic of animal testing since the seventeenth century and more recently, the practice of using animals in testing and research, has come under severe criticism from animal rights advocates who believe this practice is cruel and inhumane.
People who are against testing on animals believe the benefit to companies and the public does not justify the cruelty and harm done to the animals while those who support animal testing argue that testing on animals is necessary in order to make advancements in the medical and research world. Claude Bernard who is known as the father of physiology, states that experiments on animals are entirely conclusive for the toxicology and hygiene of man, (Hajar, 2011) Bernard concluded that the effects of these experiments have the same effects on humans as they do on the animals used for testing, which not always results in positive side effects.
Vivisection, the practice of performing operations on live animals for the sole purpose of experimentation or research, is considered to be one of the worst forms of legal and sanctioned animal abuse in society. Animals in labs live unnatural and stressful lives that consist of continuous confinement and deprivation of basic needs. Every year in the United States, over 25 million animals are used in biomedical experimentation, cosmetic testing and science education (NEAVS, 2019). The majority of animals used in testing are rats, mice and birds, however this can extend to dogs, cats, ferrets, sheep, pigs, rabbits, monkeys, and many more species. In medical research and testing, animals can be subjected to stressful and often painful experiments such as being infected with diseases, being poisoned or burnt, inducing brain damage ad implanting electrodes into the brain, as well as other extremely invasive and painful experiments. Many of the protocols used in animal testing cause suffering as well as long-term social isolation and can also include withholding of food and water. Many experiments use stressful, restraining devices in order to prevent the animal from moving during the testing or procedures. For example, researchers at many United States universities have conducted stress experiments on mice and rats which consists of immobilizing the animals in tubes while shocking their feet, suspending them by their tails, or forcing them in water while also avoiding drowning (NEAVS, 2019). It was claimed that these experiments held relevance to anxiety and depression in humans . Restraint has been proven to be extremely stressful on animals and in some experiments, animals are held in partial to total restraint for months which can have severe physical and mental effects on the animals. Animals in research labs not only experience pain and suffering from the experiments themselves, but also from the stress of daily living in laboratories. Most research and testing animals live in small, cramped, cages with little to no interaction with other of their species and many of these animals never experience the world outside of laboratories and having never experienced fresh air, grass or sunlight. Studies have shown that mice are capable of experiencing empathy and actually become more stressed when witnessing the stress and pain of other mice (NEAVS, 2019). When this suffering is added onto the procedures and constant breeding to keep up with research demands, the animals live an undesirable and cruel life. Dr. Jane Goodall stated, In no lab I have visited have I seen so many chimpanzees exhibit such intense fear, when talking about her horrifying experience visiting a research laboratory that used chimpanzees as their subjects of experiments (NEAVS, 2019). Animals in labs live in constant fear, endless boredom and deal with the emotional stress of the only lives they have ever known and will likely ever experience. The last issue in animal rights I will cover in this paper is the issue of using animals in the clothing industry for their skin and fur. The global fur industry has grown rapidly in recent years and each year, more than 100 million animals worldwide are killed on fur farms. Due to recent increase in demand for animal fur in the fashion industry, the need for fur has risen which unfortunately means that more animals will be bred and killed solely for their coats . There is a wide variety of animals that are subject to the abuse of fur farms with the most popular being mink and fox. These animals, along with species such as beavers, seals, bobcats, lynxes, and weasels are often trapped in the wild and then killed and stripped of their skin and fur. Many animal rights groups and welfare scientists have expressed concern of the conditions of fur farms and the abnormal conditions and behaviors that animals kept on the farms have exhibited. Ethicist Andrew Linzey states, Fur is a luxury item. Fur is not essential to human health or well-being, which expresses the fact that there is no essential need for fur to be used in fashion besides the preference of fashion companies of using real fur instead of faux fur (Bale, 2016). Animals in fur farms are almost always unable to express natural behaviors they would use in the wild such as digging, swimming or hunting for food. The lack of natural behaviors is due to the small and often overpopulated conditions the animals live in which leads to stereotypical signs of distress like pacing and circling their cramped cages. In some cases, this distress can lead to even more serious issues such as animals self-mutilating or fighting with other animals in their cages or around them (Humane Society International, 2018). Fur is considered at its best point when the animal reaches age one which means these animals often only experience short lives that consist of nothing they would normally encounter in the wild like proper social stimuli and the chance to use their survival instincts and hunting skills. Their lives mostly consist of small spaces, lack of nutrients and exercise which can lead to mental and physical deformities that can greatly affect the animal’s health and quality of life. When thinking of ways to prevent and end animal suffering, all changes first start with spreading awareness of the issue at hand. Animal rights has been a topic of debate for hundreds of years, and although the issue will likely never fully go away, there have been significant improvements in respecting and protecting the rights of animals around the world. Currently, there are no laws that prohibit the housing of orcas in captivity, but there are laws that govern how they are housed. The Animal Welfare Act has established standards that must be met in order to keep an orca in captivity. This act also has established standard care requirements that must be followed when housing, transporting and handling orcas as well as other marine mammals (Tierney, 2010). The Marine Mammal Protection Act is another law that is aimed at protecting marine animals from being unlawfully caught from the wild. This act requires a permit for the taking of marine mammals from the wild and are issued for the purposes of scientific research, public display, or for rescuing and protecting potentially injured animals (Tierney, 2010). Along with federal laws, there are also systems of self-regulation that marine mammal facilities adhere to. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) are programs that are able to give a facility accreditation if they meet the standards of care the programs require. The SeaWorld franchise has made many changes to improve the housing and health of their animals as well as changes that protect the rights of the species they house. In 2011, the San Diego SeaWorld announced they would begin phasing out the use of orcas in circus-style shows while instead showcasing the natural environment of the orcas they house (Hogenboom, 2016). SeaWorld also ended its breeding program of captive orcas in 2016 after years of public anger at the previous breeding program. Munchkin, a children’s clothes and toy company offers to donate $1 million in order to construct a coastal sanctuary for captive orcas which PETA then offered to match the funds if SeaWorld agreed to retire their captive orcas to this sanctuary. This sanctuary would allow previously captive orcas to finally regain a somewhat resemblance of their natural life (PETA, 2016). Public awareness and protests over this issue have allowed for significant strides to be made for the rights of animals. On the topic of testing on animals, solutions that eliminate the use of testing and experimentation on animals are much harder to implement. There are valid concerns the public have about the human treatment of animals in science which has led to the heavy regulations companies that use animals follow. The 3Rs campaign has greatly advocated for the replacement of animals with non-living models, reduction in the use of animals, and the refinement of animal use practices. This campaign has brought further awareness to this topic (Hajar, 2011). Because the practice of using animals in research has led to advancements in treatment of many diseases, it is likely that the use of animals will never completely stop. The 3R campaign as well as other acts that work to protect the wellbeing of animals, are continuously working to develop alternative solutions and options that expel the use of animals in research. Although the use of animals in research and testing has led to medical advancements, the alternatives of non-living models will always be a better and more humane option for companies to use. The issue of using animals in the clothing industry for their fur and skin is an issue that is seen all around the world. Most of the fur farming in the world takes place in European countries as well as China. In 2009, the European Union developed an animal welfare regime called WelFur which works to improve and regulate the conditions of mink farms. Welfur scores farms based on the health and behavior of the animals as well as the housing conditions the animals are kept in (Bale, 2016). Overall the absolute need for fur clothing is not a necessity, therefor the farming of fur solely for this purpose is immoral and cruel. Faux fur is quickly becoming a more popular alternative to using real fur. Faux fur is synthetic fur created without the use of animals that is very similar to the look and feel of real fur. By making a switch to using faux fur, it saves many animals from the pain and torture of having their fur harvested. Many popular designers such as Gucci, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger are fur free and do not include the use of any real animal fur in their designs (Humane Society International, 2018). As more designers go fur free, the demand for fur as well as the number of fur farms will decrease. Overall, the issue of animal rights will most likely always remain a controversial topic around the world because the use of animals for human benefit will likely always remain to some effect. Boycotts and bans of companies that use animals has helped make companies evaluate the necessity of the use of animals in their programs, whether it be for public entertainment purposes to medical research. The continued public awareness of these issues has and will continue to help make improvements in animal rights as well as working to protect and preserve all species.