Religion and Culture – Treatment and Rights of Animals

The world has become very advanced through scientific discoveries in the past. As time continues to progress, so does the world ‘s knowledge. New discoveries are made every day that help with diseases and technology. During the developments and discoveries in the scientific field, people find that the richest discoveries in health or medicine generally depend on animal testing. This is mainly due to the many changing perspectives on the relationship between humans and the other aspects of the world that are surrounding them. There are many reasons for this change, but the main reason is the different ideas that surrounded the use and exploration of animals in laboratories is what is being brought into question. The reasons for this becomes even more clear when the time period gets examined. Close to the time when the fight against animal research was taken up, there was huge growth in almost all of the areas of the scientific world, which caused a huge increase in the knowledge known about the world. The spread of ideas was spread very quickly through new advances in technology that came along.

To every argument, there are multiple sides. The negatives to this side are vast. For example, animal testing has contributed to many life-saving cures and treatments. Experiments in which dogs had their pancreases removed led directly to the discovery of insulin, critical to saving the lives of diabetics.The polio vaccine, tested on animals, reduced the global occurrence of the disease from 350,000 cases in 1988 to 27 cases in 2016. Animal research has also contributed to major advances in understanding and treating conditions, such as breast cancer, brain injury, childhood leukemia, cystic fibrosis, malaria, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, and many others, and was instrumental in the development of pacemakers, cardiac valve substitutes, and anesthetics (Gluck, 2013).

Another pro is that there is no adequate alternative to testing on a living, whole-body system. Also, that animals are appropriate research subjects because they are similar to human beings in many ways. Chimpanzees share 99% of their DNA with humans, and mice are 98% genetically similar to humans. All mammals, including humans, are descended from common ancestors, and all have the same set of organs (heart, kidneys, lungs, etc.) that function in essentially the same way with the help of a bloodstream and central nervous system. Because animals and humans are so biologically similar, they are susceptible to many of the same conditions and illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

However, the positives also have negative sides as well. One negative to animal testing is, to put it plainly, animal testing is cruel and inhumane. According to Humane Society International, animals used in experiments are commonly subjected to force feeding, forced inhalation, food and water deprivation, prolonged periods of physical restraint, the infliction of burns and other wounds to study the healing process, the infliction of pain to study its effects and remedies, and “”killing by carbon dioxide asphyxiation, neck-breaking, decapitation, or other means.’ The Draize eye test, used by cosmetics companies to evaluate irritation caused by shampoos and other products, involves rabbits being incapacitated in stocks with their eyelids held open by clips, sometimes for multiple days, so they cannot blink away the products being tested. The commonly used LD50 (lethal dose 50) test involves finding out which dose of a chemical will kill 50% of the animals being used in the experiment. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported in 2016 that 71,370 animals suffered pain during experiments while being given no anesthesia for relief, including 1,272 nonhuman primates, 5,771 rabbits, 24,566 guinea pigs, and 33,280 hamsters (Gluck, 2013).

Another negative is Alternative testing methods now exist that can replace the need for animals. In vitro (in glass) testing, such as studying cell cultures in a petri dish, can produce more relevant results than animal testing because human cells can be used. Microdosing, the administering of doses too small to cause adverse reactions, can be used in human volunteers, whose blood is then analyzed. Artificial human skin, such as the commercially available products EpiDerm and ThinCert, is made from sheets of human skin cells grown in test tubes or plastic wells and can produce more useful results than testing chemicals on animal skin. Microfluidic chips (“”organs on a chip””), which are lined with human cells and recreate the functions of human organs, are in advanced stages of development. Computer models, such as virtual reconstructions of human molecular structures, can predict the toxicity of substances without invasive experiments on animals.

Animals are very different from human beings and therefore make poor test subjects. The anatomic, metabolic, and cellular differences between animals and people make animals poor models for human beings. Paul Furlong, Professor of Clinical Neuroimaging at Aston University (UK), states that “”it’s very hard to create an animal model that even equates closely to what we’re trying to achieve in the human.”” Thomas Hartung, Professor of evidence-based toxicology at Johns Hopkins University, argues for alternatives to animal testing because “”we are not 70 kg rats (Gluck, 2013).

Drugs that pass animal tests are not necessarily safe. The 1950s sleeping pill thalidomide, which caused 10,000 babies to be born with severe deformities, was tested on animals prior to its commercial release. Later tests on pregnant mice, rats, guinea pigs, cats, and hamsters did not result in birth defects unless the drug was administered at extremely high doses. Animal tests on the arthritis drug Vioxx showed that it had a protective effect on the hearts of mice, yet the drug went on to cause more than 27,000 heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths before being pulled from the market.

95% of animals used in experiments are not protected by the Animal Welfare Act.The AWA does not cover rats, mice, fish and birds, which comprise around 95% of the animals used in research. The AWA covered 820,812 animals used for testing in fiscal year 2016, which leaves around 25 million other animals that are not covered. These animals are especially vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse without the protection of the AWA (Gluck, 2013).

Animal tests are more expensive than alternative methods and are a waste of government research dollars. Humane Society International compared a variety of animal tests with their in vitro counterparts and found animal tests were more expensive in every scenario studied. Biotechnology company Empiriko invented synthetic livers which can predict the liver’s metabolic reactions to drugs in a process that is quicker, cheaper, and more accurate than animal testing; in one trial it provided a level of specificity which previously would have required testing on 1,000 rats and 100 dogs. According to Senator Jeff Flake’s “”Wastebook”” of government funding, over $7.3 million of taxpayers’ money was wasted on studies involving animals in 2016. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) found $56.4 million of government funds spent on animal experiments that, despite running over many years, failed to provide any useful results (Gluck, 2013).

I believe that animal testing is cruel. The harmful use of animals in experiments is not only cruel but also often ineffective. Animals do not get many of the human diseases that people do, such as major types of heart disease, many types of cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, or schizophrenia. Instead, signs of these diseases are artificially induced in animals in laboratories in an attempt to mimic the human disease. Yet, such experiments belittle the complexity of human conditions which are affected by wide-ranging variables such as genetics, socio-economic factors, deeply-rooted psychological issues and different personal experiences. However, I do see how animal testing has allowed us to make great breakthroughs in science and has prevented a multitude of things.

Many religions would have various point of views on this topic. One religion in particular would view this in a specific light, this religion is Confucianism. The harmful use of animals in experiments is not only cruel but also often ineffective. Animals do not get many of the human diseases that people do, such as major types of heart disease, many types of cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, or schizophrenia. Instead, signs of these diseases are artificially induced in animals in laboratories in an attempt to mimic the human disease. Yet, such experiments belittle the complexity of human conditions which are affected by wide-ranging variables such as genetics, socio-economic factors, deeply-rooted psychological issues and different personal experiences. This to say, Confucians hold that humans must be highly protected and respectedeven a human image should not be sacrificed. On the other hand, however, Confucians are not vegetarians. They hunt, raise, kill, and eat animals in their society. More importantly, Confucians do not want to refrain from sacrificing animals in their established rituals, especially the rituals for serving one’s parents, accepting guests, and memorializing one’s ancestors or deceased parents. There is a well-known story in the Lunyu in which a student wished to do away with the offering of a sheep in a ritual; Kongzi replied that you care about the sheep, but I care about the ritual’. Indeed, contemporary Chinese people still hold the same attitude as Kongzi did (Adler, 1999). If one visits a Chinese temple or cemetery on a traditional Chinese holiday, one can easily find that animal meats are used in memorial rituals. Moreover, if one accepts a guest without offering any meat, Chinese people would think that one is not treating the guest seriously.

Another article states, For him, animals seemed not even to be on the map; they did not register on his moral compass. One cannot herd with birds and beasts. If I am not to be a man among other men, then what am I to be?’. However, his influential follower Mencius said that kindness or love (ai) should be extended to all things. This was based on his principle that the “”inability to bear the suffering of others”” (including animals) is in fact the distinguishing characteristic of the human species. It was also consistent with the greater awareness of and appreciation for the natural world that we see in Mencius (Fan, 2010).

On the one hand, Confucianism claims that one should love animals. But, on the other hand, they also believes that one can and even should eat or otherwise sacrifice animals for human purposes. Is it consistent to hold that one should both love an animal and still want it to die? Kongzi once pointed out that ‘when you love a man you want him to live, and when you hate a man you want him to die. If you want him to live and also want him to die at the same time, this is confusion. While Kongzi does not provide a specific human example for his point, the Confucian attitude toward animals seems to constitute a typical case for that kind of confusion (Fan, 2010).

Confucian tradition is its anthropocentrism, the traditional Confucian view of human beings as the ‘highest’ form of life. This is analogous, perhaps, to the Biblical claim that human beings have ‘dominion’ over the rest of nature. The ‘dominion’ does not necessarily imply a lack of responsibility for the welfare of the natural world. Similarly, the Confucian view of hierarchy involves mutual obligations on the part of both superior and inferior. The Confucian ruler, according to Mencius, is a humane ruler, whose first responsibility is to feed, clothe, and protect his people; only then can he expect them to have the ‘leisure space’ to develop their own moral potentials. In fact, the superior person becomes a superior person by helping others to realize their own potentials. The superior person is an agent of moral transformation for others and for him/herself. The morally superior person, or the Sage, is thus the crucial agent by which the moral potential inherent in the natural world comes to be realized or actualized. This is the sense in which human beings are unique among living species and occupy a special place in the natural/moral order and it is not inconsistent with a fully humane attitude towards other animals. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the word ‘humane,’ which we commonly use in reference to our treatment of animals, also happens to be the best translation of the cardinal Confucian virtue, jen, which is cognate with the homophonous word for “”human being.”” Both the Mencius and the Doctrine of the Mean say that ‘To be human is to be humane.’ That is, to develop or cultivate the inherent sensitivity to the suffering of other living beings is to become fully human and to ‘serve Heaven (Fan, 2010).

There are various views on the topic. Confucianism has one specific perspective on animal testing. However, many other religions and people have different points of view. If one is religious it is clear to see that this may have an influence on one’s ethical decisions. In this case, one may be on either side of the depending on their beliefs on many different topics. If research had not been conducted, the beliefs and progress in this field would be very different and therefore our opinions may have been different as well.

Reference

(n.d.). Retrieved fromhttps://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Fac/Adler/Writings/Animals.htm

Fan, R. (2010, January 12). How Should We Treat Animals? A Confucian Reflection. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11712-009-9144-7

Sgluck. (2013, May 20). OCD Statistics and Facts. Retrieved from https://www.healthyplace.com/ocd-related-disorders/ocd/ocd-statistics-and-facts

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