On Nov. 5, the China Food and Drug Administration issued a statement proposing that “non-special use” cosmetics will no longer allow animal testing, to go into effect June of next year. It’s a small step, but one that speaks to a larger global movement of animal rights awareness. Animal experimentation should be halted wherever possible, especially in the field of science where they are subjected to such terrible treatment in the name of a greater good.
Arguably the world’s largest supporter of animal rights, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has launched an initiative in conjunction with Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, consisting of 34 countries that have spearheaded the movement to save animals’ lives. PETA crosses international borders, with well-established programs in India and the U.K. The European Union also recently passed legislation to regulate animal experimentation in all 27 of its member countries.
With so many nations taking steps to utilize alternatives to animal testing, the topic of animal experimentation in non-commercial fields arises as well. Science has historically used animal experimentation to both understand existing conditions and phenomena, as well as to test hypotheses, drugs and treatment plans. From psychology experiments to the testing of new vaccines, the study of the body, or the ability to test generational studies on animals that can quickly reproduce, science subjects animals to conditions that are too controversial to test on humans.
Though one would be hard-pressed to find an argument that all animal experimentation should be eliminated, there is plenty of room for improvement. Furthermore, as PETA purports, not all medical and scientific advancements are due to the “sacrifice” made by animals. The fact of the matter is that health conditions are often unable to be replicated accurately in other species.
With the capability to accurately replicate human conditions, it seems reasonable that the possibility of virtual testing is not only more feasible, but perhaps also more fruitful. An abstract concept certainly, the BBC defines virtual testing as essentially “using computers to create virtual cells, tissues and whole organs, growing these components in the laboratory, or using new scanning techniques to peer inside the body.”
And though it would require a huge monetary investment initially, the payoffs would be well worth the cost.
Furthermore, the concept of a computer-generated and modulated experiment makes more sense in the realm of mutation and random variance. Even in fruit flies and mice, genetic variation and environmental differences can account for a significant amount of variation in data results. The beauty of a computer-simulated system would be the possibility of a perfectly controlled experiment. Of more practical significance, the Food and Drug Administration states that 92 percent of drugs tested on animals fail or are defective in humans, anyway — at the end of the day, we have different anatomy.
Ultimately, there might be benefits to animal testing. But current wasteful and ineffective methods lead to few positive results and a lot of unnecessary captivity and loss of life.
Arshya Gurbani is a senior majoring in biological sciences.