According to the National Committee reflecting on animal testing, “animals are sensitive beings, capable of feeling pain, endowed with cognitive and emotional abilities, and they have physiological and behavioural needs proper to every species.”
Unfortunately, this does not spare them from being used for research, toxicology or university teaching. According to the latest figures provided by the European Commission, Europe would have used 12.1 million animals for science and for experiments (2.3 million in France). This is only for the year 2005. These figures are expected to increase as more and more rodents are being used, mainly genetically modified mice. 1
Many ethical reasons should make us have sympathy for lab animals. As a matter of fact, since animals have a brain and a nervous system, their emotional and physical sensations are similar to ours. Ethologic studies (scientific studies on animals’ behaviour within their original environment) show us that animals have a conscience, and can even show empathy and altruism, qualities that usually apply to human beings only. Animals can feel joy, pleasure, but also pain, fear, stress and boredom.
Even though animals are endowed with intelligence, they cannot understand why they are kept captive and are used for experiments. Even if they could understand, they would not volunteer for being experimented on, whatever scientists’ arguments are. No human being would accept to substitute for animals.
We are all scared about the idea of being kept confined and tortured. Film directors sometimes play with that fear when showing aliens kidnapping humans in order to use them for experiments. Thus we are able to understand what lab animals can feel but we perfectly put up with it.
It is easy to feel ok about the legitimacy of animal testing when scientists, politicians and big companies’ directors, who profit from it, can display arguments to convince us. Journalists, however, like to write about scientific discoveries and hopes but they certainly avoid enquiring about these lobbyists’ real motivations.
To make animal testing more acceptable, some rules are meant to guarantee lab animals “well-being”. It is seemingly necessary “to reduce the number of animals used for tests or scientific research, to a minimum, to provide these animals with adequate care, to prevent pain, suffering, anxiety or needless permanent damage to them […]” (Directive 86/609/CEE)
The word “needless” is very important for those who carry experiments on animals as it is them who judge how useful suffering inflicted to animals, and its limits, can be.
Protocols on pain have to be declared to local authorities and permits as well as a supplementary evaluation are required for the use of non-domesticated animals. A national ethics committee supervises the running of local ethics committees (but scientists have no obligation whatsoever to present their works to those ethics committees). 2
Even with a bigger cage, “not too much” suffering and a little pat before being euthanized, lab animals will never ever be happy. Vivisection practitioners inject animals with illnesses, toxic substances, they create tumours, painful cancers, damage their organs, etc… The “luckiest” animals are those who are used as support test animals and are kept healthy until they are euthanized.
Humans have been maintaining their superiority and difference over animals for a long time and they grant themselves the right to enslave them.
Scientists who experiment on animals will use this principle to justify the morality of their acts. Paradoxically, when it is question of ethics, those animals, so different from us, become our cousins in experiments.
Do you think that it is legitimate and inevitable to “scarify” animals in labs to save humans?
This question should not even be asked, since, as we explain it in our article “Scientific Reasons”, no species is the biological replica or model for another, and results taken from experiments are not applicable to humans. In fact, animal testing curb medical research and disguise some side effects induced by chemicals.
There are real scientific procedures that should replace animal testing, you can read about some of them in our menu “Good Science”.