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Essay/Term paper: Vivisection

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Animal Rights

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Many people today, including scientists and doctors, are questioning the
suffering and killing of animals for the sake of human beings. Is it morally
correct to dissect a frog or a worm for the purpose of educating a high school
student? On the other hand, must "We study life to protect life" (1:131) The
issue of killing animals for the use of biomedical research, education, and
cosmetics can be referred as "vivisection". Twenty-five to thirty-five million
animals are spared in the U.S.A. each year for the purpose of research, testing,
and education. Although vivisection serves as an important tool for scientists
and doctors to work in research and may benefit humans, the harms indeed
outweigh the benefits.
Animal experimentation was not common until the early nineteenth century
and emerged as an important method of science. The first recorded action of
vivisection was the study of body humors by Erasistratus in Alexandria during
the third century (1:3). Later, in A.D. 129-200, the physician, Galen, used five
pigs to investigate the effects of several nerves (1:4). He is considered to be
the founder of experimental physiology. During the Renaissance Era, Andreas
Vesalius conducted experiments on monkeys, swine, and goats (1:3). By the late
eighteenth century, the methods of scientific discovery were changer to
experimentation of live animals by two French physiologists, Claude Bernard and
Francious Magnedie. They revolutionized methods of scientific discovery by
establishing live animal as common practice (1:4). Claude Bernard believed that
in order for medicine to progress, there must be experimental research, and
affirmed that "vivisection is indispensable for physical research". This is when
the anti-vivisection movement was established ("vivisection").
There are different views as to why or why not there should be animal
experimentation. For example, Descartes believed that animals are incapable of
feeling pain. He said "The greatest of all the prejudices we have retained from
our infancy is that of believing that beasts think" (1:4). In other words,
Descartes believes that animals have no sensations. Singer argues and thinks
that animals have feelings, desires, and preferences. He observed that stimuli
that cause pain to humans, such as hitting and burning, cause pain to animals
(1:25). Singer "s position is that equal harms should be counted equally and
not downgraded for animals. However, he does not say that humans and animals
have an equal moral status, for he believes that "humans are superior to their
fellow animals by virtue of God-given soul" (12:37). Regan, another opposer to
Descarte's view, feels that animals do feel pain and have desires as well. He
believes that animals are "Subjects of a life just as human beings are and a
subject of a life have inherent values" (1:26). He also feels that animals
should not be tested for toxic substances, instead one should use cell tissue
cultures (5:26).
The people who favor animal experimentation feel that research is for
the purpose of humans. Research is a cultural value to acquire knowledge for
knowledge's sake. In other words, the means justifies the end if the end
benefits society. (4:62). They also believe that humans are superior to all
other creatures (1:28). Research is for biomedical purposes; 1) to add
scientific understanding of basic biological behavior, functions, and processes
2) to improve human or animal health by studying the natural history of the
disease (1:22). Henry Foster, the founder of Charles River Breeding Laborator,
said that "the use of animals in experiments is all for the benefit of mankind.
If you don't use animals you don't do research!" (2:45).
Most of the times by doing research one performs tests on animals. For
example, rabbits are locked in a chamber and forced to inhale grass, sprays, and
vapors. In dermal toxicity studies, rabbits have their fur removed to have
substances placed on their skin. In this case they are restrained so they don't
scratch (2:55). Testing is conducted to assess the potency, effectiveness, or
toxicity of substances that have established or potential usefulness for medical,
scientific, or commercial purposes (1:39). For instance, new drugs are tested
for efficiency and safety before clinical trials are conducted on humans. Tests
on animals are done to establish safety levels for humans of known toxic
substances (1:40).
Although testing might seem like the most efficient way to gain
knowledge in these areas, alternatives exist. The use of slides, films, computer
programs, and models can fulfill the same job without any harm. For example, in
vet schools the symptoms of strychnine poisoning were demonstrated by poisoning
dogs and then put on a video tape. On the video the students can go over steps
repeatedly and see what is taking place more clearly than in a lecture hall
(9:234). In medical schools procedures are easier to follow by camera. Students
can watch surgery performed by the top practitioner of the area. By using videos
lives are saved, suffering is reduced, and money is saved (6:107).
Animals are also used to teach human concepts at all levels of education,
to instruct students in biology, to teach certain skills, and to train the next
generation of scientists (1:40). For example, high school students have been
conducting frog dissections for the past fifty years. In some schools it is part
of the curriculum. A fifteen year old, Jennifer Graham, refused to take part in
the dissection of frogs. She was told by her teacher that if she did not do the
assignment she would fail the course. She was an "A" student and received a "C"
for the course. She took this matter to court. The judge compromised and told
her to dissect a frog that died of natural causes, however she never found one
and the matter was not resolved (1:195). There are benefits using animals in
school like the previous case. It gives students opportunities for detailed
function and observations of the structure. When studied in school an increase
in interest and motivation to study living animals is provided. It also
stimulates children's creative ability and encourages appreciation towards
animals. Finally, it contributes to the personal development of students. Thus a
responsibility for animals and the growth of caring attitudes is established
In veterinary training, animals are used as models for other animals. In
the United States students dissect animals to study their anatomy and function
(10:233). Veterinarians practice with animals so they can form technical
abilities. In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, veterinarians are trained
without ever touching animals. Their first experience with live animals is on
the job (9:232). The issue of vet students is serious and is left as an endless
debate (10:232).
The United States Congress Office of Technology Assessment has estimated
that several million animals are used each year for toxicological testing in the
United States (2:54). Cosmetics and other substances are tested in animals' eyes.
J.H. draize developed a scale for assessing how irritating a substance is when
placed in a rabbit's eye (2:55). The animals are usually placed in holding
devices from which only their heads protrude. This prevents the rabbits from
scratching their eyes. Shampoo, ink, or bleach is placed in the eye of each
rabbit and is then observed daily for eye infection or swelling (2:56).
Antivivisectionists are unconvinced that animal experimentation has
benefits. They feel that vivisection is cruel to animals and detrimental to the
moral character of humans. Humanitarians believe that this suffering leads to
insensitivity. Their sensibilities hardened thus vivisects became capable of
barbarous acts against humans as well as animals (7:59). Medical students,
corrupted by hospital teaching, absorb such a love of cruelty that when they
visit their homes they practice it for their own sake. Antivivisectionists say
that vivisection "reverses the order of the refining forces of civilization"
(7:60). The use of animals in these issues should be limited and controlled even
though some cases are justified (8:338). The debate among moral philosophers is
never ending. There are undoubtedly many moral choices in animal experimentation.
But most philosophers agree that animals should be granted a higher status when
people decide to "use" them (11:9).
In conclusion, animals should not be viewed as man's gift to the world
and, therefore, should not be used excessively without a proper justification.
When educating students in grade school, the killing of animals is unnecessary.
For educating in high school, college, and graduate school, alternatives can be
used. It is also inhuman and unnecessary to kill animals for the use of
cosmetics. For this purpose animals are being killed to perfect the beauty of
humans. In some cases, such as research to help cure diseases, many questions
are raised about morality. These cases must be researched individually . The
bottom line is that "a life is a life and animals have the same right as humans
do to enjoy it!"


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