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Essay:Against Animal Testing

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"I would not want to promote research on animals. Fortunately, only my back is twisted, not my mind."
—Linn Pulis
Essay.svg This essay is an original work by Juror8.
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It's true, what the rumours are saying about me. I have to come clean, be true to myself and admit the horrifying truth I've spent so long trying to conceal. I, Juror8, am opposed to animal experiments. *gasp*

  • How can you be so stupid, so anti-science, so anti-human?
  • Do you use ANY form of modern medicine? If so, you are a fucking idiot and a hypocrite
  • You better kill yourself then you fucking moron because you wouldn't be alive without animal testing
  • Do you want a child to die because we didn't test the medicine on a fucking mouse?
  • PETA Retard - humans are more important than animals, DEAL WITH IT
  • It's a necessary evil, you fucking stupid overly-emotional retard
  • Are you going to volunteer yourself for the experiments? If not, sit down and shut the fuck up.

Yes, yes, anything you are currently shouting at your screen - I've heard it all before. All of it. However, all I ask from you is an open mind and that you give me a chance to explain first.


I am well aware that animal testing is important for medical research and advancement for both humans and animals. I do understand that. Although there are debates about the scientific validity of animal-based research, and many animal activists engage in those debates asserting that much of vivisection is misleading, wrong, or misguided, I am not one of these people. In fact, I’ll even concede to the whole “Nearly every medical advancement in history came from animal testing”.

The problem I have with animal experimentation, is the speciesist nature of it.

Now before you click away from this essay, just hear me out.

At present, society views it as justified to harm and kill hundreds of millions of animals annually for the sake of medical research. However, very few (if any) civilised people that agree with this line of thinking would ever also suggest that it would be right to do medical research on human beings, regardless of the possible benefits it could produce.

To begin, consider the following 4 example experiments:

  1. One that will sacrifice 50 animals and will find cures for thousands of humans
  2. One that will sacrifice 500 animals and will find a cure for 1 human
  3. One that will sacrifice 3 humans and find cures for thousands of other humans
  4. One that will sacrifice 6 humans and find cures for millions of non-human animals.

In examples 1, 3 and 4, from a utilitarian perspective ("the greater good"), the benefits would greatly outweigh the losses. However, the vast majority of people would agree that only examples 1 and 2 would be justified morally, but examples 3 and 4 would be not be.

In the case of example 2, the argument is made that humans are more important than animals. It is always worth it to abuse and kill X amount of animals to save Y amount of humans, no matter how much X is greater than Y. I will come back to this point in Argument 1 below.

A more interesting case is the response to examples examples 3 and 4. It is typically (and rightfully) argued that the humans should not be sacrificed in these cases, every human is deserving of protection from abuse and torture, regardless of how beneficial doing otherwise may be for others. Even if there was medical knowledge that could only be acquired by researching on humans, most people would agree we should forego it.

I agree with everyone up to this point, but I just go one step further: I think that animals should also have these protections.

In my experience, a mix of five core arguments are made to justify this double standard. They are:

  1. Humans are more important than other animals
  2. Every species looks out for itself over other species, we are no different
  3. Researching on animals is more practical than researching on humans
  4. We have no choice, what else can we do?
  5. You use the benefits of animal testing don’t you? So you should go fucking die if you really are opposed to it that much are a hypocrite.

I'd now like to consider these arguments seperately:

Argument 1: Humans are more important than other animals[edit]

NOTE: People very rarely explain this point beyond the words mentioned above. They always fail to mention exactly why humans are more important than animals. I think that everyone falls into a train of thought of "it's so obvious why humans are more important that I don't need to say it". Well, for once, try it. Why are humans more important? After some teeth pulling people usually respond with ideas of humans being more intelligent or more self-aware or can reason.

Problem 1 - The Argument from Marginal Cases[edit]

The first problem with this argument is that it is simply not always true. There are many severely cognitively disabled humans that are less intelligent and/or self-aware than say a fully-grown pig, mouse or chimpanzee, yet it would be (rightfully) considered barbaric to experiment on humans like this to find cures for other’ diseases just because of the fact that they have less cognitive ability. We recognize that even though they may have lesser cognitive ability, they are still capable of suffering as much as us, and thus to inflict this type of suffering on them would be wrong. In the same way, even though animals may have less cognitive ability, they suffer just as much as we do. Thus, it is completely irrational to assert that their suffering should be viewed as "not as important" in the face of achieving “a greater good” than a similarly (or even lesser) cognitively-abled human’s suffering would be.

Problem 2 - Animal Suffering vs. Human Suffering[edit]

Secondly, this argument can also carry the assumption with it that less intelligent animals don’t feel pain the same way we do. But it is nonsense to say that the animals do not suffer, or even suffer less than we do, because they have a lower order of intelligence. Pain is pain, conveyed by nerves to the brain, and there are other nerves than those of intelligence, nerves such as sight, smell, touch, and hearing. And in some animals these nerves are much more highly developed than in man. To quote the famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins:

"I see no reason at all why there should be a positive correlation [between capacity to feel pain and mental dexterity]. Pain feels primal, like the ability to see colour or hear sounds. It feels like the sort of sensation you don't need intellect to experience.....I can see a Darwinian reason why there might even be be a negative correlation between intellect and susceptibility to pain. I approach this by asking what, in the Darwinian sense, pain is for. It is a warning not to repeat actions that tend to cause bodily harm. Don't stub your toe again, don't tease a snake or sit on a hornet, don't pick up embers however prettily they glow, be careful not to bite your tongue......Isn't it plausible that a clever species such as our own might need less pain, precisely because we are capable of intelligently working out what is good for us, and what damaging events we should avoid? Isn't it plausible that an unintelligent species might need a massive wallop of pain, to drive home a lesson that we can learn with less powerful inducement?"[1]

Pretty harrowing when you think of it that way.

Problem 3 - Speciesism[edit]

Finally, this type of reasoning has been used throughout history to justify all sorts of discrimination such as sexism and racism

Read the following sentence carefully: The same logic that makes racists racist and sexists sexist is the logic you are using to place animals below humans.

I have no doubt you are offended by what I just said, but it is illogical and irrational for humans to always consider humans to be more important than other animals.

Any criteria one uses to explain why humans are always more valuable than animals will always fail in at least one circumstance. This is because there is no known morally relevant ability that all humans have that all non-human animals lack.

Let's say for instance, instead of intelligence, you take ability to reason to be your criteria for ethical consideration. The argument would then take the form of:

(A) It is not ethical to sacrifice humans for scientific progress, but it is ethical to sacrifice animals because humans have an ability to reason that animals do not have.

This sounds plausible and effective. Order is restored! Right?

Well consider this response:

(B) Not all humans have ability to reason, such as very young infants, the senile and the cognitively disabled. And some non-human animals (particularly primates) probably have a greater ability to reason than those humans. So, if we want to keep the position that ability to reason is what matters morally then we have to accept that some humans can be experimented on and some animals cannot. Thus, ability to reason cannot be our criteria for valuing all humans above all animals.

And now, the boundary begins to collapse. Replace ability to reason in the above paragraphs with any criteria you want (intelligence, understanding, sense of morality, language, ability to use tools, higher level of consciousness, ability to feel greater pain etc.). You will see that you can never find any justification for valuing all humans above all non-human animals - (B) will always be a valid response to (A).

The only way to avoid this would be to say humans are more valuable than animals "just because they are human", which is discrimination - namely speciesism. Speciesism has the exact same form of every other discrimination that has ever existed. Members of Group 1 are more important than members of Group 2 just because they are members of Group 1. No logic, no rationality, no justifications, only "just because" they are in the right Group. This is the exact same argument that was used by sexists and racists to justify their denying of rights to women and blacks when they realized that they couldn't use logic to do it.

1900s - "Why are men more important than women?" - "Because they are men" (no further explanation was apparently needed)

1950s - "Why are whites more important than blacks?" - "Because they are white" (no further explanation was apparently needed)

Today - "Why are humans more important than other animals?" - "Because they are human" (no further explanation is apparently needed)

The boundary between human and "animal" is completely arbitrary. There are far more differences, for instance, between a great ape and an oyster, for example, than between a human and a great ape, and yet the former two are lumped together as "animals", whereas we are considered "human" in a way that supposedly differentiates us from all other "animals.". After all, if laboratory animals are so like us that we can substitute them for testing instead of using humans, then surely those animals must also have the very attributes (ability to suffer physically and mentally, conscious awareness) that mean they deserve to be respected and be protected from harm – as we would wish for humans.

Argument 2: Every species looks out for itself over other species, we are no different[edit]

Problem 1 - Animals are not ethical role models[edit]

If animals really are speciesist, does that necessarily mean that we should act the same way? Remember that animals exhibit all kinds of behaviours that you would seek to avoid, for instance, violent territorial disputes, and for example, male lions will kill the cubs of a female he wishes to mate with because she won't mate while she has cubs around. We don’t usually consider animals to be valid ethical role models in any other context. In fact, people accused of "behaving like animals" are usually being reprimanded for doing so.

Problem 2 - Flaws of the Reciprocity Argument[edit]

The position that we should give rights only to those able to respect ours is known as the “Reciprocity Argument”. Unfortunately for the pro-vivisectionist, the Reciprocity Argument is truly unconvincing both as an account of the way our society works and as a prescription for the way it should work. Its descriptive power is undermined by observation mentioned in Argument 1 above that we give rights to a large number of individuals who cannot respect ours - elderly people, people suffering from degenerative diseases or irreversible brain damage, the severely cognitively disabled, infants, and young children. Future generations are unable to reciprocate our concern, for example, so there would be no ethical harm done, under such a view, in dismissing concerns for environmental damage that adversely impacts future generations.

The key failing of the position lies in the failure to properly distinguish between the following capacities: (A) The capacity to understand and respect others' rights (moral agency) and (B) The capacity to benefit from rights (moral patienthood). An individual can be a beneficiary of rights without being a moral agent. Under this view, one justifies a difference of treatments of two individuals (human or nonhuman) with an objective difference that is RELEVANT to the difference of treatment. For example, if we wished to exclude a person from an academic course of study, we could not cite the fact that they have freckles. We could cite the fact that they lack certain academic prerequisites. The former is irrelevant; the latter is relevant. Similarly, when it comes to animal testing and considering the right to be free of pain and suffering, moral agency is irrelevant; moral patienthood IS relevant.

Argument 3: Researching on animals is more practical than researching on humans[edit]

When the ethics arguments start to fall apart, the argument then quickly becomes one of practicality, along the lines of the following:

Animals can be purpose-bred much more easily, quickly and cheaply than humans could be, they can be controlled more easily and scientists can know much more about them since they are often bred from a small genetic pool and kept in a controlled environment which also makes the results more reliable by having reduced variations. Laboratory animals have shorter lifespans than humans, they can reach adulthood more quickly than humans and their shorter lives can help us see the effect of medicine over a subject's life more quickly

And yes, this is all true. However, to respond to this argument, we need to be clear on what exactly is the point the opponent is making with this argument. I will assume the arguer is effectively saying "Yeah we would test on mentally-impaired humans if it was practical and efficient, but it isn't, so we use animals instead":

Case 1: This is NOT the arguer's position[edit]

We're going in circles here, the original accusation of the pure speciesist bias still isn't being addressed. This argument is just a smokescreen. Once again, why is it okay to research on animals but not to research on humans at comparable mental levels? Peter Singer posed this question in his book "Animal Liberation" in 1975. In the last nearly 50 years, a convincing answer hasn't come. Do you finally have the answer?

Case 2: This IS the arguer's position[edit]

I admire your consistency, I really do. You're clearly more rational in thought than 99%+ of the population. But seriously? Is this really the only thing you would consider wrong about experimentation on mentally-impaired humans - just that it would be inefficient? The fact the humans would be harmed is completely irrelevant? Do you feel that the Nuremberg Code from the Nuremberg Trials was right to be implemented because both (A) experimentation on "healthy" humans would be morally outrageous and (B) experimentation on cognitively disabled humans just because it would be inefficient and impractical? Also, what about cases where there is no difference in practicality, for example when we send animals to space instead of humans?

Argument 4: We have no choice, what else can we do?[edit]

Case 1: Current Alternatives[edit]

Many anti-vivisectionist and animal rights groups propose various types of alternatives that could be used to reduce or replace animal testing[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13].

I am not a scientist, so I cannot comment on the effectiveness of these methods over animal testing, though I think it goes without saying that if any of these methods could reduce or replace animals, they should.

Case 2: Potential Alternatives[edit]

In a way, if it is indeed true that there are "no viable alternatives", one could argue that this is as actually another consequence of our speciesist culture. Considering how standard and accepted vivisection is in modern society, there is actually very little research being actively carried out by scientists to try to find viable alternatives.

In 2015, the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget of gave well over $10 billion of funding for projects that included animal testing and experimentation[14]. I can find no figures for how much money (if any) was contributed to research into finding animal testing alternatives, but I think that we can make a reasonable assumption that it would be similar to the situation in the European Union. The 27 Member States in the European Union spent around €250 billion in science research and development in 2011. In a survey of the 27 countries, it was found that just €18.7 million of this amount had been given by just seven of them combined into funding research into finding alternatives to animal models. The other countries didn't respond (or openly gave nothing)[15]. This is a joke.

Imagine for a second that most or all vivisection suddenly was temporarily paused and the money being continuously invested at present into such was instead directed towards current and new research initiatives into finding other animal-free research methods and refining current ones. Progress so far, with barely any funds, has already shown immense potential:

  • Scientists have developed advanced microchips that use real human cells and tissues to construct fully functioning postage stamp–size organs to allow researchers to study diseases and also develop and test new drugs to treat them[16].
  • Other scientists have used human brain cells to develop a model “microbrain,” which can be used to study tumors, as well as artificial skin and bone marrow[17].
  • We can now test skin irritation using reconstructed human tissues[18],
  • We can produce and test vaccines using human tissues.[19]
  • We can perform pregnancy tests using blood samples instead of killing rabbits[20].
  • A wide range of sophisticated computer models that simulate human biology, the progression of developing diseases and can predict the ways that new drugs will react in the human body have been developed.[21] [22].

Is it not plausible that if there was a dramatic increase in scientists looking for alternatives, we would find them? There have been many cases in history where alternatives to vivisection had to be sought, and they were found. For example, Sharpe writes in The Human Cost of Animal Experimentation:

"Historically, a classic example is the conquest of yellow fever. In 1900, no animal was known to be susceptible, prompting studies with human volunteers which proved that mosquitoes did indeed transmit the disease. These observations led to improved sanitation and quarantine measures in Havana where yellow fever, once rife, was eradicated."

If you really are unconvinced that we could find methods of research as good as animal models, does that mean we shouldn’t try? People still play the lottery when odds are 187 million to one, and all they get is money. Avoiding abusing and killing hundreds of millions of animals annually is arguably an even bigger payoff, right? I find it amusing how much potential pro-vivisectionists say science has when it involves animals. Like when science uses animals it'll be able to find cures for cancer, AIDs, dementia, Alzheimer's, strokes etc. Yet when it's suggested that maybe if scientists tried they could come up with alternatives to animal-based research, the response is that science is "centuries away" from being able to do this or "science can't perform miracles". Outright denying the possibility that this could be done with substantially larger funds given that the current minuscule funds have shown great potential - that's fucking stupid.

Case 3: When There's REALLY No Alternatives[edit]

And if there really is no alternative for pursuing a particular line of research, well, so what? Remember that we are happy enough (today) to forego knowledge that could only be acquired at the expense of commandeering humans into service (for example, those suffering from types of diseases for which animal models are unsatisfactory such as AIDS). That is, a prior ethical decision was made that rules them out from experimentation, and that foregoes any potential knowledge that could be gained. Thus, for the reasons discussed above, to not extend this consideration to other animals is cruel, inconsistent, unethical, illogical and irrational.

Argument 5: You use the benefits of animal testing don’t you? So you are a hypocrite.[edit]

Problem 1 - The Tu Quoque Fallacy[edit]

Tu quoque is a form of ad hominem fallacy that occurs when it is assumed that an argument is wrong if the source making the claim has itself spoken or acted in a way inconsistent with it. The fallacy focuses on the perceived hypocrisy of the opponent rather than the merits of their argument. Whether or not I am a hypocrite has nothing to do with whether or not animal testing is rationally and ethically defensible.

I and most other animal rights advocates really do want to end all animal testing. If this is achieved, this point will become irrelevant.

Problem 2 - What Would It Gain?[edit]

With existing treatments derived from vivisection, the damage has already been done. Nothing is gained by refusing the treatment. Similarly, many other things in our society we regularly use came about through others’ exploitation. For instance, many of the roads we drive on were built by slaves. Consider a piece of knowledge obtained through vivisection. If vivisection were abolished, the knowledge could be used repeatedly without endorsing or further supporting vivisection. We can’t change the past; those who have already suffered and died are lost. What we can do is change the future by using non-animal research methods from now on.

Problem 3 - Adding Insult to Injury[edit]

If the Nazis had made significant medical breakthroughs from their experiments on the Jews, would you consider it unethical to use the information gained from this research? Wouldn't not using this information have made the suffering and deaths of those tested on be in vain? If someone did take advantage of these discoveries to alleviate their suffering or prevent their death, would that mean that they condone the method of research used to obtain this information?

Problem 4 - One Man's Error[edit]

Had the vivisection not occurred, the knowledge might well have been obtained through alternative, moral methods. Are we to permanently foreclose the use of an abstract piece of knowledge due to the past folly of a vivisector?

Problem 5 - An Analogy[edit]

Consider a thought experiment: assume that we find that the local water company employs child labor and we object to child labor. Are we obligated to die of dehydration because the water company has chosen to violate the rights of children? We would be obligated to support the abolition of this use of children, but would we be obligated to die?

Appendix A - Xenotransplantation[edit]

I have to hand this one over to Gary Yourofsky:

Xenotransplantation is an experimental procedure in which animal organs or tissues are transferred into human bodies. This is obscenely unethical because animals weren't created to be our spare parts, just like they weren't put here to be sandwiches. Trying to justify one unethical, immoral practice (meat-eating) with another (xenotransplantation) is vicious and invalid. It's like saying, "Since children are molested, we might as well make child pornography films." One evil act should not perpetuate another .......... If America instituted Europe's PRESUMED CONSENT, there would be no shortage of organs, and people wouldn't be looking to exploit animals further. Presumed consent means that everyone who dies is presumed to be a donor UNLESS stated otherwise. So people have a right to opt out of organ donation, but one has to take the initiative to opt out. [23]

Appendix B - A Middle-Ground Proposition[edit]

Since pro-vivisectionists are terribly concerned about the resulting "slowdown" in medical progress abolition would bring, and opponents are worried about the animals, I think I may have a potential solution: The pro-vivisectionists should volunteer themselves for the experiments

I know, I know, people like to twist that I know. They say "well if those AR people want to save the animals they should volunteer themselves". Well where's the logic in that? The AR people are the ones who don't want any sacrifices made for medical progress, the pro-vivisectionists do. If an AR person did do this it would be in direct contradiction of their argument that the few shouldn't be sacrificed for the benefit of the many. So if the pro-vivisectionists volunteered themselves as martyrs they get their sacrifices and their medical progress and the AR people get having the animals free. Everyone wins!

Appendix C - Taking Care of Yourself Instead of Expecting Animals To[edit]

(To Come)


"Vivisection is a social evil because if it advances human knowledge, it does so at the expense of human character" - George Bernard Shaw

"Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: "Because the animals are like us." Ask the experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: "Because the animals are not like us." Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction". - Charles R. Magel

"I wish that medical researchers who experiment on animals would experiment on humans to try to find a cure for their insensitivity to the suffering of animals.” – Rhonda Stagg

I believe I am not interested to know whether Vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t. To know that the results are profitable to the race would not remove my hostility to it. The pains which it inflicts on unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.” - Mark Twain

"Atrocities are no less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called medical research" - George Bernard Shaw

"All the arguments to prove man's superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals" - Peter Singer


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