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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May 2004, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
Is animal testing justified?
Laboratory mouse
The UK Government has announced a radical change in the way animal experiments are controlled.

Science minister Lord Sainsbury, outlined proposals to reduce the number of experiments carried out on animals and to raise standards of welfare in laboratories.

The initiative will focus on the so-called "three R's" - the replacement, reduction and refinement of the use of animals in experiments.

There will also be increased funding for alternatives to animal testing such as computer simulations and experiments on cultured cells.

Do you think animal testing is justified? Can alternatives to animal testing be found and will they be effective? Send us your views.

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Animal testing should be reduced to a minimum and carefully justified in each case. But please don't pretend animal testing can be eliminated, unless you are prepared to do without each and every advance in health and medical technology and leave ourselves open to major outbreaks of infectious diseases, with no possibility of developing treatments or vaccines.

As a biomedical engineer involved directly or indirectly in the development of significant medical technologies (including cochlear implants), I know there is no other way to test their safety and efficacy. It is not possible to have a computer model or use cell cultures to study the complex physiology of a whole organism. My experience so far has been that those who do animal tests would rather there was another way, and take great care to minimise suffering to the animals.
Bruce Tabor, Sudney Australia

If anyone uses medicine of any kind they are being completely hypocritical if they protest the use of animals for testing
Raj, San Jose

Animal research continues largely because of generational inertia. Many researchers who were trained and are practiced in animal research are obstinate to new advances in 3-D simulations, mathematical modelling, proteomics, etc. This inertia needs to be addressed in order to further reduce unnecessary animal research.
Matt Hoostal, Toledo, OH, USA

Just a bit of information to add to the debate: I recently took a college course on endocrinology, and the professor spent a whole lecture and a half talking about stress in lab rats and mice. Precautions are taken to ensure that the animals are kept under conditions that minimize stress, because elevated levels of stress hormones have effects on all sorts of other things like immunity and cognitive function.
Shi-Hsia, Ipoh, Malaysia

If anyone uses medicine of any kind they are being completely hypocritical if they protest the use of animals for testing purposes.
Raj, San Jose

As an asthmatic I rely on drugs which have been tested on animals. This doesn't mean that I support vivisection. The drugs I use, and many others, could've been developed without the use of animals. In fact, animal experiments often delay medical advancement. I am completely opposed to vivisection for ethical and scientific reasons. Alternative methods benefit both humans and animals.
Lorna, Kilmarnock, Scotland

As a scientist I understand the absolute need for animal testing. There simlpy isn't an alternative. No matter what we do we just can't create the same conditions for observational experiments such as drug tests. Animal testing is the only way to provide accurate observations of chemical reactions in living systems.

People are being tortured, deliberately killed, starved, and their properties are destroyed, and you are talking about "little pretty animals!"
Erik, Ottawa, Canada

Most of the animal activists are ill-informed and rely on secondary information and even fictional movies as their basis of protest. What would they have us do instead? Test on humans? Human rights groups would love that. Obviously animal activists raise the concern of animal well being, and quite rightly so, what they don't see is that they reduce medical progress.
Kelvin, Cambridge

People are being tortured, deliberately killed, starved, and their properties are destroyed, and you are talking about "little pretty animals!" Get a grip!
Erik, Ottawa, Canada

One thing is for certain. Many laboratories do not need to run animal tests; they could change their protocols, and the technology to do so is already in place. But there is, as in everything, a certain amount of inertia. Why change anything when it's working? What is needed, particularly among biologists, is a moral ethic to look at an animal as another living thing that deserves life according to its own make-up, and not as an object to experiment on.
Richard Bentley, Tucson, Arizona, USA

The number of lives saved in the last century alone because of medical advancements derived from animal testing is unbeleivable, and yet animal testing is inhumane? Please. Explain to me how developing more effective medicine and safer surgery techniques which both humans AND animals benefit from is in any way inhumane, and I will take that comment seriously.
Chad Vincent, South Orange, USA

Using animals in such atrocious ways is deeply wrong
Harald, Detmold, Germany

I think animal testing is valid as cures for today's illnesses wouldn't have been discovered! It is better to test on an animal than a person. However, any steps to reduce the level of cruelty and frequency of tests should be taken.
Simon Flight, Derby

Reading some of these comments, anyone would think the scientists carry out these tests as a bit of a laugh, joking and slapping each other on the back as they go about their business. Would you rather your best mate die of cancer or a thousand mice be sacrificed?
James, UK

I think this is wonderful news, and a great step towards a brighter more animal-friendly future. Animals do not deserve these experiments. Thank you for your article!
Liza Jenkins, Greenville, South Carolina USA

Animal testing is essential for new drug treatments to ensure that they are safe to give to humans. Do you want to test unknown drugs on humans without knowing what effect they might have?
Naomi Wyatt, Bradford, UK

Animals are obviously sentient beings. Anybody who has a pet knows that. They suffer in similar ways as humans do. How can it even be a question then? Using animals in such atrocious ways is deeply wrong and hinders us humans to develop to the next level of consciousness.
Harald, Detmold, Germany

Animal testing is a necessary evil for the greater good and longevity of humans
Kerry, Lymington, England

No never, not ever. We have computer modelling so why on earth do we need to subject primates and small animals to pain and certain death? Some animals immediately shirk away as soon as they see the men in white coats with needles. Worst still the government uses our taxes to fund such animal torture. Disgusting, immoral and it must stop.
SW, Glasgow, Scotland

I must be in the minority here but I actually value human life far more than that of animals. I strongly believe that it would be exceptionally difficult to develop certain drugs for the benefit of many people without first testing them on an immune system which works in a similar way to ours.

If that means a thousand animals need to be tested on and ultimately sacrificed to save just one human being, then so be it. When you walk down the street and see a friend walking a dog, can you say that if both were killed, you would miss the dog more than the person? I doubt it.

Animal testing is a necessary evil for the greater good and longevity of humans. Whilst I accept others points of view and strong opinions, I still see animal testing as justified. Albeit in a "justified" manner, which is clearly subjective and not for debate here.
Kerry, Lymington, England

I believe that animal testing can be hardly justified as it's not human to take advantage of any living creature. Moreover such experiments can possibly have unpredictable outcomes when being abused. I'm sure mankind should find some other alternatives for testing to be held.
Svetlana, Moscow, Russia

The protestors play a vital role in curtailing any excesses
Rick Bakker, London, UK
The level of health and happiness as we know it would be unthinkable without animal experiments. However, the protestors play a vital role in curtailing any excesses that are almost inevitable in such situations, where the victims literally don't have a say. Keep testing, and keep protesting.
Rick Bakker, London, UK

If you or your family were suffering a debilitating illness, would you let a few mice stand in the way of a possible cure? To even consider this a question is complete folly.
James, UK

How much of this is necessary, and how much is pharmaceutical companies trying to make lots of money? Yet why is animal testing any different to animals used for consumption? Zoom out, you'll see one species using others to propagate better chances of survival, if not eating them, then lab tests. That's the animal primal level. On the spiritual plane, humans have morals and ethics where animals do not, and the intelligence to recognize that as rulers of the planet, we have to accept the responsibility of the wellbeing and survival of all species.
MDE, Newcastle, UK

Animal rights hysteria is holding back important medical research
Alastair Rae, London
Animal rights hysteria is holding back important medical research. The activists use a mixture of misplaced sentimentalism, deliberate misinformation campaigns and blatant terror tactics to impede potentially life-saving medical advances.
Alastair Rae, London

I am willing to bet that without animal testing, a large number of the people posting on this item might not even be here now! Animal testing is a necessary evil, and people need to accept that there will always be a need for it!
Andy, Leeds, UK

The bottom line here is that nothing that gives us the right to torture and abuse other species for our own gains. If the animals could actually speak to us and object, I'm sure they would have something to say about it.
John Willoughby, Colchester, UK

Animal testing must always be a last resort with ethical and experimental details thoroughly reviewed and other methods be vigorously sought. However are those that totally against using animals for any experiment going to put their money where their mouth is and refuse (for themselves or love ones) any product or medicine that has been tested in such a way or reliant on methods or knowledge which have been developed using animals.
David, UK

We should allow scientists to develop their own morals and ethics
Chris, Nottingham, UK
That is the question that should be asked every time scientists embark on an animal testing programme. Blanket bans or go ahead will not work in this situation. Sometimes testing on animals can be justified in that it may lead to the cure of a previously untreatable disease or other important break through. Sometimes however it cannot be justified. We should allow scientists to develop their own morals and ethics, rather than telling them what is right and wrong via a government body.
Chris, Nottingham, UK

It's either test on mice, or test directly on humans. I'm sure there would be as much a stink made of it either way. I actually went for an interview as an Animal Welfare technician at a laboratory, and they are very well taken care of, and everything, from what I could tell in the day I was visiting, was extraordinarily humane. The people who protest against animal experiments are the same people who protest about trees, about roads, about human rights, about the war... They are addicted to protest, without thinking, hang on, this actually might be the better of the two options here.
Amanda, Oxford, UK

New centre to reduce animal tests
21 May 04 |  Science/Nature
Animal tests see steady decline
23 Apr 04 |  Science/Nature
Primate research lab plans axed
27 Jan 04 |  Science/Nature


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