Is the use of animal testing for medical purposes considered ethical?

Group 72

The development of new medical treatments for both infectious and non-infectious diseases within the United States relies heavily on the usage of animal testing. The main purpose of these studies focuses on drug testing and toxicological screening. In 2016, the USDA reported a 7% rise in the usage of animal testing, reaching over 800,000 animals being tested annually [16]. Within the US, toxicity programmes are often funded by U.S. taxpayers and research conducted by PETA suggests the adoption of crude, painful methods.  The debate stands on whether animal testing is ethically appropriate for the medical industry.

Theories such as egalitarianism which base their objectives on the fact that the total amount of happiness in a particular situation should be distributed equally, rejects the use of animals for testing. This can be interpreted to imply that defending animals instead should be the main concern for humans, considering the current world (intensive farming, climate change), animals suffer significantly for human usage. Therefore, it is imperative that the circumstances for animals are improved and protection of their lives should be a priority [1] [2].

Negative consequentialism bases its theories on being able to reduce suffering in situations regardless of anything else, this however can be interpreted both for and against animal testing. Arguments could be said that animal suffering should not take place at all, whilst others argue that in fact if the suffering of animals does not take place due to testing, then more humans will suffer as a result. As negative consequentialism aims to reduce suffering by the highest amount, animal testing would be a way to lower the overall larger suffering by humans confined to that situation [3][4].

Theories that have impartial motivations such as ‘Care Ethics’ which base moral actions upon the significance of the relationship between two individuals, supports the use of certain animals, excluding domestic pets. This theory states that certain animals used for testing, such as wild rodents, with no special connections to humans, can be used for animal testing and that their interests are of less concern than humans [3]. Many people subconsciously support this notion of using animals that are not considered to be one of their ‘loving household pets’, which is a strong argument in the case of using animals for testing [5][6].

Supporting figures from the US Animal Welfare Act to indicate the recent increase in animal usage.

Thoughts on the moral status of animals in the writings of ancient philosophers, Aristotle and Descartes argue that animals do not have the capacity for creating individual ethical judgement [7]. Aristotle argues that animals have a sense of perception but lack reason, therefore fall below humans in a natural hierarchy and lack rational souls. Descartes goes on to say that although animals have cognitive functions, they do not possess the same feelings as humans, thus do not feel the effects of mistreatment. This view suggests animal testing is morally more acceptable than human volunteer testing, as animal wellbeing is below that of humans. Moral philosopher, Peter Singer supports the utilitarian view that animals feel mistreatment during biological testing. [8]

According to a recent study carried out in 2009, evidence suggests animals are sentient although their ethical judgement is not understood from research [9]. However, there have been occasions where animals display acts of ethical judgement beyond our understanding, indicating animals should have the right to consent to testing [10]. Philosopher Immanuel Kant suggested that animals only have a relative worth to human interest. This implies a moral justification to treat animals inhumanely for human benefits and opposes the principle of equality extended to all human or non-human. Kant’s arguments in defence of ‘speciesism’ [11], assumes human superiority, supporting the inapplicability of duty ethics towards other species.

The utilitarianism view to achieve the greatest happiness stated previously suggests animal testing is acceptable to reduce human suffering. This further highlights the importance of animal welfare to produce the greatest amount of happiness for both humans and animals alike. In 2010, the US government invested $16 billion in animal testing for the National Institute of Health [12], and at least 320,000 animals were involved. Although this has benefited humans, the utilitarianism view suggests the number of animals involved should be reduced. This could be done through disclosing research results to other nations, minimising the amount of animal testing conducted.

To share knowledge supports the act of equality, referring to the relation between people’s identity and the social reproduction with regards to resources of the environment. [13]. Allowing international access to research reduces the amount of animal testing globally and so minimizes the suffering of animals. Management theorist, Morten T Hansen explains how this promotes reciprocity, as sharing is an act of humanity for mutual benefit of both parties [14]. This implies the US government should get rid of their selfishness by sharing information as a way to learn and gain knowledge. However, philosopher T. Butler argues that humans are socially and evolutionarily programmed to do things for their own benefit [15], therefore sharing of data is unlikely.

Overall, alternative methods e.g. computer models or micro-organisms cannot produce the realistic biological reactions needed for medical testing. Using humans for testing is viewed largely as unethical in comparison to animals as their lives are viewed with less importance. However, ethically to achieve the most happiness, animal testing should be reduced, so sharing research should be encouraged. This also serves to encourage good fortune in humans and more happiness for animals.


[1] Horta, O. (2016) “Egalitarianism and animals”, Between the Species, 19, pp. 109-145 [accessed on 20 August 2016].

[2] Faria, C. (2014) “Equality, priority and nonhuman animals”, DILEMATA, 14, pp. 225-236 [accessed on 16 April 2014].

[3] Contestable, B. (2013 [2005]) “Negative utilitarianism and justice”, Philosophy as Therapy [accessed on 11 June 2016].

[4] Acton, H. B. & Watkins, J. W. N. (1963) “Symposium: Negative utilitarianism”, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 37, pp. 83-114.

[5] Noddings, N. (1984) Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education, Berkeley: University of California Press.

[6] Anscombe, G. E. M. (1958) “Modern moral philosophy”, Philosophy, 33, pp. 1-19.


[8]: Singer, Peter (1974) “All Animals Are Equal,” Philosophic Exchange: Vol. 5: No.1, Article 6.

[9]: National Research Council (US) Committee on Recognition and Alleviation of Pain in Laboratory Animals. Recognition and Alleviation of Pain in Laboratory Animals. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2009. 1, Pain in Research Animals

[10]: University of Bristol. (2010, August 4). Emotions help animals to make choices, research suggests. Science Daily. Retrieved March 13, 2019 from

[11]: Kant, I. (2002). Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals. Yale. Retrieved March 16, 2019, from – groundwork for the metaphysics of morals with essays

[12] Mooney, H. Scientific testing on animals grew again last year, Home Office says. BMJ, 339(jul22 1), pp.b2989-b2989, 2009

[13]: Thomas Widlok, Wolde Gossa Tadesse, Property and Equality, Volume 2, 2005

[14]: Serge-Christophe Kolm, Part 2 Motives, 6. Balance Reciprocity: An Economic of Social Relations, 105-106

[15] Butler, T. and Murphy, C. “Understanding the design of information technologies for knowledge management in organizations: a pragmatic perspective”, Information Systems Journal, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 143‐63, 2007.


43 thoughts on “Is the use of animal testing for medical purposes considered ethical?

  1. A well-written article! I believe that in an ideal world, where illness didn’t stalk the land, animals wouldn’t have to be tested upon. Unfortunately, however, this world isn’t ideal so there is a place for animal testing where it provides a genuine benefit to mankind. Animals are helpful to mankind in many ways, but shouldn’t be abused. We should be caring and faithful stewards of this world, including all animals. Decisions regarding animal testing presumably have to be approached with sobriety, asking questions like, ‘are we using animals because they’re the simple option or the best option?’ and indeed ‘will the testing provide a genuine benefit to mankind?’ Furthermore, are the animals being viewed merely as things for our consumption, or as creatures to be stewarded?

    1. This article is an interesting read, I agree with the point that we should be more grateful to animals and they really are helpful to humans in so many different ways. So people why would you want to put our dearest friend in a bad situation like this?

    2. Thank you for your insight. I understand the concept of where the world isn’t an ideal place, hence using animals to our benefit is not disputed. However, the abuse of animals in labs is not closely monitored as we’d like to think.

      The question on whether we are using animals because they are the best option or the simple option is valid. In my opinion, this would vary between species (Speciesism) for example researchers state that the use of primates was justified as they have the closest biology to that of humans this could count as to why it is the best option, however, an example of the easy option is use of rodents that are easy and simple to maintain.
      The points discussed will help us review the ethical theories involved in those aspects that would help us determine our final decision, so thank you again.

  2. I found this this topic quite interesting, and also there is a surge in the popularity that public cares more about animal right and the equality among all the living things including humans and animals. Personally, I agree with that animals are sentient, and people only think they are not because they are not able to communicate with the animals properly and thus a lack interconnection between human and cats. Overall, I agree with the point the number of animal testing should be reduced or even stopped.

  3. This article is well written which discussed animal testing issue in an ethical way concisely. It has changed my point of view on the topic completely as it has oven a broader insight on animal rights in comparison to human rights.

    1. As far as i am concerned, everybody’s right should be equal, no matter if you are humans, animals or even plants. We all have the rights to live on this planet. i think because of the selfishness in people’s mind, they dont want to risk their life to try nobody has done it before. And that is just selfish of them by putting other people’s or animal’s life in danger.

      1. Thanks for the comment first of all, but based on the fact that human is the top species in the top chain, and human contributed a lot and paid so much effort to make the planet flourished. That’s why I considered that humans life is slightly important that animals life.

  4. I am not totally agree with the point that animals suffered a lot during animal testing, as I think in the end of the day it is more important to preserve human’s life more than animals.

  5. Thank you for your comment, it is understandable that you think that human life is more important compare to animals life these days, however I think it is necessary to analyse this issue in an integrated view because based on the ethnical research, it is believed that animal has been suffering a lot.

  6. Very interesting and controverisal topic actually, recently I have heard mixed comments about animal testing. I think the ethics of the topic will come down to how much do you care about the people and things happening around you. It’s always nice to justify an issue in differrent angle of views. In general, this article provides a very clear explanation of the topic and I enjoy reading it.

  7. In my point of view, I think animal testing should become illegal when the animals are being tested on cosmetics products like makeup product or toothpaste. But, I think it is acceptable when it comes to medicine and healthcare products. As animals are only tested on for the sake of humans safety through medicine testing.

    1. My thoughts are quite similar to yours, I am thinking it seems to be inhumane to make animals performing a bunch of test without asking for their permission, but it might actually be beneficial to animals themselves as well. Considering the fact that millions of animals would have been died from diseases without carrying out the animal testing for them

      1. Hey josh, I do understand your view on this topic, but you mentioned the number of animals died from suffering disease will be decreased. And I don’t think that’s quite true due to the technology in medicial industry nowadays. With the help of the advanced high tech equipment, alternatives must be able to find out rather than carrying out animal test.

  8. After reading this article, it has raised my concerns on animal testing. I guess we have got up to a point that the advance technology these days can fully replace animal testing for most of the testing products. Therefore, animal testing is not actually necessary anymore.

  9. This article is an interesting read, I agree with the point that we should be more grateful to animals and they really are helpful to humans in so many different ways. So people why would you want to put our dearest friend in a bad situation like this?

  10. This article really justifies the topic nicely in an all-rounded view, and I admire the details mentioned in it. I am an animal lover myself and animal testing is just cruel and inhumane. Hopefully people would stop doing this.

    1. i thought the exact same thing as you , people do not have the right to do things they want on others, or else it is just illegal. Therefore, i really think laws should be changed to protect animal’s life more now.

  11. Based upon the major points discussed in the essay, I do think that animal testing should carry on, but it should not be performed on some endangered species, like pole bear, white tiger etc. Although I am not entirely concur with the article, the article does illustrste its own point of view precisely which is good.

    1. I could agree with you. The testing on rodents that easily reproduce and are easy to handle could be the only exception to the animals that should not be tested on as they are not entirely beneficial to human lives.

  12. Animal testing should be stopped regarding on both ethical and human aspects. Imagine if you were one of the animal being tested, think about what you will be going through and is this really fair to the animal? People will give the animal grief for something they cannot even control. It’s just wrong to perform animal testing.

    1. HI b7tmy2, firstly thanks for your comment. As a group we did think about that this way as well whilst we were writing it, and i agree with the point you mentioned about people are just giving the animal grief only. We will definitely take this into account whilst making our final decision.

  13. I don’t agree with this, would you like to suffer just like these animals did like how can people do this to animals that wouldn’t hurt a soul unless there predators they would hurt you but still not the point this is a disgrace

  14. Presented nicely throughout the whole article with statistics showing the number of animals being tested per year. I am delighted to see the number of it has gone down over years. But in the end of the day, animal testing should be terminated.

  15. In this day and age, I don’t really understand why people still torture and kill innocent animals when it is not the only solution out there. As the article mentioned, animals do have feelings and I am gutted that people still claim that the animals being tested die for the good of humanity.

  16. I genuinely could not agree more with this article, animal testing is just another word for animal cruelty. People who supports that are making more and more animals to suffer or even ended up dying.

  17. I like the way this article presents both for and against argument right after stating the authors own point of view, the language used in the article is spot on along with the statistics figure to support their own point being made. Overall it is a very interesting read and it has given me a broader horizon on this topic.

  18. I think it depends. If only a small number of animals suffer compared to a large number of people who benefit from the drug, then it is more ethical than lots of people continuing to suffer.

  19. Although this article sounds persuasive, I still think animal testing is the right to go to be honest. The animals that are being tested and going to be tested are treated with the best of care, or even treated better than humans treat other humans. They are still living blissfully without suffering with pain all because we as human care so much about them.

  20. Animal testing should be stopped. No matter what are your thoughts on the morality of animal testing, people should not do it regarding to the fact that the test is not even 100% accurate and reliable. Likewise, creating a false sense of security would lead to countless deaths and injuries to both humans and animals.

    1. @benstevens, thank you for your opinion. Although the actual success rates are not published as much, there is a valid debate on the success rate of the experiments as the efficiency of the results from the medicinal experiments would affect the base of our argument as well.

      We will consider this in our final decision

  21. After reading this article, I don’t think that it is within people’s right to make a decision on whether animals should be tested, because everybody is an individual ourselves and we cannot control other’s life like this. Also, some statement stated that human’s life is worth more than animals, and that is just immoral to think about this issue that way. Overall this is an interesting article and all very well written with facts and statistics.

  22. This article highlights one of the many important aspects to animal testing which is sharing of data on animal testing. Existing data on a product or medicine being tested on animals can be shared between companies and companies to significantly reduce the total number of animals used. The only reason I can think of why this is not in full practice is because large earnings can be made without giving enough credit to the source of the valuable data. Thus, companies refrain from going out of their way to share their data.

    Another point to consider is the awareness and funding towards the development of non animal testing methods. If the conscience of the youth against animal testing was captured and encouraged we might have had more alternatives being applied than conventional animal testing methods. A potential ban on animal testing would cost countless number of researchers losing their jobs who have spent their lives making breakthroughs with animal testing only. Not to forget to mention the destruction of the large industry that is based off animal testing purely.

    1. @CraigNewhall, thank you for your opinions and evaluation. your evaluation of sharing data from experiments would make sense. If a company would want to share their data they are at risk of losing potential business with healthcare companies when another company uses their data to make a breakthrough. Thus, leaving the researchers employed at risk of losing their jobs due to running costs.

      This would help us review the utilitarian view on sharing data between organisations

  23. The argument regarding use of rodents is interesting as many would day they are not beneficial to humans so we wouldn’t have any responsibility for their rights. They may have sentience but the species can reproduce very easily and can be handled easily. I am not sure if animal rights activists would save a family of rats over a family of primates that are going to be tested on. This could also depend on the species, if they are endangered or are crucial to the ecological balance in the habitat they belong to.

    1. @yash, thank you for your comment. Your evaluation of why rodents could be used is very interesting as this is where Speciesism exists. There could be two sides to this argument, if all sentient beings are equal then why would a rodent not have the same rights as a primate?
      Secondly, if it is easier to use animal that is easier to maintain, why not go for that option and reject the animal that is difficult to handle?
      These could potentially be discussed further in our group.

  24. Very well-illustrated with the organised layout, and personally I agree with the initial decision of the group, I think there should be more public awareness of animal testing as it is actually threatening other’s life in the sense that animals are too innocent to be treated this way.

  25. I can see the argument where animals don’t have the capability to make ethical judgements so it is alright to test on them. But they certainly don’t want to be tested on, that is for sure. They are sentient and need some consideration as sentient beings as they eat, live, and reproduce just like human beings.

  26. Interesting point of view, I think a very good stance has been taken and the various ethical arguments make this a very interesting discussion. I defo believe animal testing for medical purposes is a must for other reasons it makes sense not to use

  27. I like the way writer give out both for and against of the arguments. I agree with the argument about utilitarianism discussed in the article. Animal testing should not be done or we will put many animals life at risk.

  28. Clear and concise argument with good supporting references and figures. I believe this illustrates a knowledgeable stance on the use of animal testing. From my own conclusion I believe that animal testing is wrong and many parts of this article support this. I think its a well balanced argument however my views on animal testing being used as a last resort can be supported by various points mentioned above.

  29. Hello.

    The article and comment section was an interesting read. It’s compelling to see the different stances on animal testing that people have. Understandably, I can see why many people are against animal testing. It is a cruel thought to test on animals, knowing they cannot defend themselves. However, it is worth noting that most of the drugs, vaccines and medicines we use today stem from the use of animals.

    Some comments mention how the advancements in todays technologies does not necessitate animal use in developing medicines. It is difficult to replicate the biokinetics of a human body in a test tube. A lot of the time, in vitro (outside the body) work does not equate to cases in vivo (in the body). Also, if a drug has been deemed successful on animals, it doesn’t automatically end up on the market or in hospitals. They are then tested on higher animals, from mice to primates AND then humans in clinical trials.

    One important case worth highlighting out is the 2006 CD28 super agonist antibody TGN1412. This phase I clinical trial incident lead resulted in the volunteers developing multiple organ failure, even with drug dose 500 times smaller than that found safe in animal studies. One of the main reasons why this development was unsuccessful was because the researchers did not select a proper non-human primate model to test on, thus the effects elicited on these animals were different to that of humans.

    Recently, there have been attempts to create organoids that mimic human organs in vitro, but these are still under development. We have come a long way in attempting to not utilize animals for testing. However, it’s the best option we have at the moment.

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