The issue of Animal rights is a highly complex topic since both the positive and negative sides seem to have some major contradictions. Animal rights advocates propose that the basic interest of animals such as suffering avoidance should be accorded similar attention as that given to human beings (Favre, 2008). They argue out this issue from both an ethical as well as a philosophical view and they further add that animals should cease being regarded as property in Law as this is the major contributor to their use, abuse and misuse.
Animals should instead be perceived as legal members of the moral community who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity just like all other persons in the larger society. As a result of continued calls for animal rights, more and more law schools especially those in the U. S and Canada have introduced the study of Animal Law as a separate subject in colleges and universities. However, some people feel that animals are not eligible to any rights.
Roger Scruton, an American philosopher and a major critic of the animal laws argues that animals do not have the ability to make moral choices and for this reason, they can never have rights (Franklin, 2005). He adds that freedom comes with some degree of responsibility and in this case, since animals are not able to carry out duties or responsibilities such as the ones carried out by human beings, they can never be given any rights. Another concept which is parallel to Roger’s view states that there is nothing illegal or unethical in using animals as resources so long as they are not subjected to any unnecessary suffering (Bekoff, 1998).
This view which is commonly known as the animal welfare perspective specifically supports the use of animals for scientific and medical research but it seeks to regulate the unnecessary suffering and inhuman treatment of the laboratory animals. The use of animals in scientific research. Animals have for centuries been used in medical and scientific research. The most commonly used animals in research include rats, mice, dogs, cats, rabbits among others. For decades, the value of animal research has been overrated with much emphasis on the benefits which emanate from this medical research than on the moral and ethnic issues of such practices.
This deliberate infliction of pain and harm on the animals has not been not taken seriously in the modern society but according to Sharman (2006), the actions and horrors which occur in the research laboratories trigger some major ethical issues in regard to animal law. The process of animal scientific research often requires confinement, starving, infection, mutilation, poisoning among other unethical practices carried out on healthy animals in order to achieve the much needed scientific results.
Although there are few regulatory measures which limit the use of animals in scientific research, very few if any animals are safe from these unethical practices. Whether one approaches the issue of animal rights from an ethical or from a scientific point of view, Sharman (2006) argues that, the necessity or the benefits which emanate from this studies form the basis for the establishment of many regulatory frameworks especially in the developed countries.
From such a view, it is obvious that the benefits of animal research are far beyond the ethical issues raised by most animal rights advocates but this does not mean that it is right to subject animals to extreme suffering at the expense of research. In fact, the public today seems to be warming up to the idea that the use of animals for research is not only wrong but is also morally unacceptable and calls for animal welfare have expanded.
Most people however agree to the fact that it is morally acceptable to carry out animal research if the results will confer significant benefits either to man or animals as long as the research is conducted without causing any necessary suffering to the animal in question. Regulation of animal research. The laws and regulation policies which seek to address the issue of animal research especially in the industrialized nations exhibit measures and actions which contradict each other.
The question of whether or not animals should be used for scientific research mostly exists due to the classification of animals as properties by animal laws in most countries. This particular perception reflects that animals have no legal rights in respect to life, freedom and integrity and just like any other property, the owner is free to do whatever he or she wishes with the animal, provided it is within the confinement of the anti-cruelty laws which govern animal research.
This concept of animals as property has particularly become prevalent in the modern era where improved technology has led to new fields of bio-medical research such as stem cell research, genetic engineering, xenotransplantation among others. All these research studies require the use of animals as specimens or research models and they have elevated the law classification of animals a new class where animals are now seen as intellectual properties.
The probability that animal laws can ever help to reduce suffering among animals used in scientific research is still very low and some animal rights advocates claim that the only useful law would be a total ban on animal based scientific research (Regan, 2001). This they add is because, as long as the use of animals in research is allowed even with the prohibition of unnecessary suffering, it is very hard for the law to control what goes on behind closed laboratory doors.
However, some people feel that if animal laws are properly adjusted to promote accountability and more humane treatment of animals, they would greatly reduce unnecessary suffering for the animals. Animal welfare law in Australia. Unlike in the U. S and most other industrialized countries, Australia does not have a national legislation to govern animal research (Sharman, 2006). Instead, it regulates the use of animals in scientific research through a self regulation regime which has two major components.
The first component consists of a state and territorial legislation which regulates animal research through licensing and monitoring functions. Each state and territory law is incorporated in the “Australian Code of practice for care and use of animal for scientific purposes” which forms the second component of the legislation regime. This code defines the individual responsibilities for individual researchers and research institutions which are licensed to carry out animal research in regard to the handling processes, humane conduct and overall care for the laboratory animals.
Though the code is clear and comprehensive, only the New South Wales state in Australia has so far enacted the state legislation as a separate law while all the rest have chosen to incorporate the legislation in their animal anti-cruelty animal laws. This situation is quite anomalous in that, just like in most countries, animal laws and statues which govern the use of animals in cruel acts such as sport, food and work are arbitrarily classified together with anti-cruelty laws governing animal research.
The fact that the Australian federal Constitution does not have laws which directly address animal rights has made the state and territory governments to take it upon themselves to enforce animal welfare laws which incorporate even the regulation of animal use in scientific research. The current system of legislation addressing animal welfare in Australia does not provide a comprehensive definition of the an animal and as a result, some state and territory laws only protect vertebrates and fish in some cases.
Some states have further extended their laws to protect the lives of unborn animals or pre-hatched creatures which have at least reached the last half of development. Compared to the U. S, animal laws in Australia are relatively expansive in the ‘animal’ definition in that, they include a wide variety of animals such as rats, birds as well as farm animals which are all put under the law protection.
The major disadvantage of this state and territory legislations however is that an animal might be protected while in one state but it immediately loses its protection once it is taken to another state or territory which does not have similar protection laws. In this case, state and territory laws in Australia have contradicting actions of protecting the rights and the welfare of the animals. Disparities in the Australian legislation.
Though all the State and territory laws which governs animal welfare in Australia have some common features, Sharman (2006) has identified some clear inconsistencies by taking a clear macro view at the legislation. For instance, the imposition of the conditions included in the legislation on the applicant vary widely from one state or territory to the other. Major inconsistencies are prevalent on paper and in practice whereby, written laws and regulations provided in the State and Territory legislation fail to correspond with the monitoring and law enforcement measures put in place in real situations.
In this case, even though certain animals may seem to be well protected under the written laws in this legislation, their actual protection in practice highly depends on the jurisdiction in which a given animal research is to be carried out. The code which governs individual state and territory laws also contains some principles which are inconsistent with the state laws. For instance, New South Wale state laws in Australia consists of properly implemented Animal Ethics Committees (AECs) which help to promote transparency and accountability in all animal research processes carried out within the state.
In this state, AECs have the major responsibility of evaluating the viability of all research proposals submitted by people who wish to carry out animal research. The Code provided by the Australian government provides some principles which inhibit proper functioning of the EACs in that it promotes the use of animals for research as long as the research is aimed at improving animal production, understanding human or animal understanding, achieving certain educational objectives as well as improving human or animal health. This categories are so broad that it tends to accommodate all experiments whether necessary or unnecessary.
In this case, members of the EAC find it very hard to establish grounds on which they can reject proposals which are not viable. As a result, the code which is supposed to promote animal welfare acts as a barrier for the same. It is thus clear that though this state and territory laws seem to be protecting animals by reducing suffering theoretically, there is very little that the laws do in practice when it comes to imposing the written rules. To deal with such ambivalence, Sharman (2006) has proposed a detailed analysis of all these legislation systems to determine their effectiveness and med the existing disparities.
In addition, Sharman has also suggested that the emergence of some international norms to regulate animal research which may be seen as a backward step by many animal rights advocates can be beneficial in the long run. These international laws are subject to revision after which they may be adjusted to accommodate more animal rights. Alternatives to animal research. Scientists and pharmaceutical companies have for a long time claimed that every new drug must be tested on animals before being given to patients to ensure that it is safe and effective.
Most of these animal tests have been successful and have led to major discoveries of drugs like penicillin, tuberculosis vaccine, polio vaccine and insulin for the treatment of various human diseases. However, research has shown that such animal tests are at times worthless and dangerous since animals do not show similar drug responses as human beings. The use of vivisection method to predict drug safety has in the past led to death or paralysis of millions of people across the globe due to the terrible mistakes made from the method (Regan, 2001).
Some examples of drugs which have had great harm on people after being proven to be safe by animal tests include opren, clioquinol, thalidomide and eradlin drugs. Due to this reason, it is vital and imperative to end animal based research in order to open a way for more meaningful research thus restoring faith in the medical profession. Calls for animal rights have also heightened and this makes it highly necessary to stop the use of animals for research purposes. Many replacement alternatives have so far been developed and others are still in the process of being approved (Lewin, 2007).
The most common alternative methods currently employed in the modern biological and medical research include the use of computers to construct models, epidemiology and utilization of in vitro cell and tissue cultures. Examples of this non-animal studies include the use of artificial cell models which has proved successful in replacing the Draize eye test or irritants previously carried out in rabbits, the use of human blood rather than rabbits to test for bacterial contamination among others.
The use of computer models of the human biological systems also facilitate the prediction of various effects of a new substance or drug in the human body. Since we now have other ways of conducting medical and scientific research, some people claim that it is no longer necessary to continue subjecting animals to such suffering encountered in the laboratory studies (Lewin, 2007). On the other hand, some medical researchers have argued that it is not possible to stop the use of animal research since most non-animal studies have not yet been proven to be reliable and viable for use. Conclusion.
It can not be disputed that the value of animal based medical research is incredible as it has led to the discovery of some important treatments and remedies such as aesthetics, medicines for the treatment of malaria, cancer, heart diseases, arthritis, kidney transplants, anti-retroviral drugs among others. However, there are many alternatives for the use of animals which can yield similar results to avoid the use of animals. Despite the increased number of alternative models for replacing animal research, millions of animals still continue suffering today in the hands of scientific and medical researchers.
This suffering is often ratified by various laws which do little or nothing to prevent the infliction of harm and suffering on the animals. Law modifications and introduction of new international animal laws might help to solve this problem and accord substantial rights to animals. This will eliminate unnecessary suffering for the animals while at the same time promoting ethically sensitive scientific and medical research all over the world.