By Dhiren Sharma

Editor’s note: This is an opinion piece and views expressed in this article are not necessarily reflective of The Beehive or The Beehive’s associated writers.

Since 1876, human beings have experimented on our “lesser” friends – animals. What I seek to find out is whether it is necessary, or if the other options are potentially better.

In my opinion, like a milking stool, the argument rests on three legs. Firstly, this argument begs the question: Do animals really have emotions? Next, we need to find out what alternatives there are. Finally, we ask ourselves: Are these alternatives as good as animal testing, and do they guarantee the same, accurate results?

A lot of research had been done into the question of animals’ feelings, and the subject has come on leaps and bounds over the past 30 years. For example, I can easily tell the mood of my dog by the way he wags his tail or the way he barks. The science is complimentary to this, and professor Gregory Berns of Emory university in Atlanta has carried our research to conclude that dogs use the same area of the brain as humans do to feel. This would make animal testing cruel and completely unfair. However, this begs a larger question. Do smaller, less appreciated animals (for example rats) work in the same way? Nobody experiments on dogs, so why experiment on rats? 95 percent of all lab animals are rats and mice, so surely there must be a reason why they are better than all other animals for experimentation. Firstly, mice and rats closely resemble humans genetic, biological and behavioral characteristics. Secondly, mice and rats are rather cheap, and can be bought in bulk for a relatively low price. Their anatomy is well understood by scientists, thus giving more in depth results. Finally, mice and rats are convenient animals, small, easy to manage and they reproduce quickly. On the other hand, a study published in 2012 in Science Magazine showed that “untrained lab rats will free restrained companions, and this helping is triggered by empathy. The rats studied would even free other rats rather than feast on chocolate!” Surely it isn’t morally right to experiment on the creatures who show definite signs of selflessness and compassion?

However, if the animals are giving their lives for a life-saving drug that could keep millions of humans alive, is it not worth it? Is a human life more valuable than an animal life?

Now, having looked at whether testing on animals is morally right, we seek to find alternatives. Strides have been made in the fields of computer modeling techniques, tests using human cells and tissues (in vitro techniques), non-invasive imaging techniques such as MRI’s and CAT scans. It is, in my opinion, absurd to still experiment on animals as there are all these alternatives. However, it is human nature to do things that you have done for hundreds of years.

In answer to the question “Are animal testing alternatives really effective?”, the answer is consistently yes. Not only are they more cost-effective and humane, they are often more reliable. For example, “In comparison studies, EpiDerm correctly detected all of the test chemicals that irritate human skin, while tests on rabbits misclassified 10 out of 25 test chemicals—a full 40% error rate.” – Animal testing alternatives are also eco-friendly as the corpses of animals tested on are germ-ridden and dangerous.

To conclude, in my opinion, animal testing is not necessary in the twenty-first century in all cases. Mainly this is because it is hugely unfair to put animals through immense pain and suffering for our own good. Also, with the fantastic alternatives available, there is no excuse to still test on animals. Animals are not ours, they do not give permission to have their babies and themselves put under excruciating pain for our gain. It is hugely unfair. It is also unfair to scientists being forced to experiment on and kill animals by their bosses. I strongly believe that more government money should be invested in alternatives to animal testing, to try and give scientists no reason to experiment on animals.