Debatable: Should animal testing be banned?

Debatable: Should animal testing be banned?

Debatable is a column written by the Otago University Debating Society. The Debating Society welcomes new members and meets at the Business School every Tuesday at 6pm.


Animal testing dates back to BC times, and has led to numerous medical and biological advancements, many of them life-saving. But last I checked, it was the 21st Century and with all the technology we have now, it's time to leave animal testing in the past.

It's a common misconception that one of the main reasons animal testing still takes place is because it's cheaper and faster; in fact, it's entirely the opposite. Drug development is bloody slow and expensive, taking up to 20 years and 4 billion dollars from compound to  finalised product. A vast majority of that is spent on perfecting a drug through animal testing before it can be tested on the precious homo sapien species. 

If you are thinking, “I don’t give a shit about the animals” (though I don’t know why you would), just think that the money and time spent on animal testing could instead be put towards ensuring medication can be in your hands (whether prescription or recreational) faster and cheaper. More importantly, even if you’re not the world’s biggest animal lover, it's easy to recognise that animal testing is just plain cruel. Just because they’re not human, it doesn’t minimise the harm and pain they go through for anthropocentric research. 

Imagine you are subject to being deprived of food and water for hours on end and constantly being afflicted with diseases, burns, chemicals, and toxic vapours. And once you have finally served your purpose and think you are going to be freed, you just get massacred so your tissues and organs can be examined. That happens most of the time after an animal has been sentenced to being tested. 

Surely getting rid of animal testing means getting rid of medical research and new medications, right? That’s actually not true, and there are a number of alternatives that have arisen in recent years.  

These alternatives include vitro technology, which uses human cells and tissues, and in silico testing, based on computer modelling techniques. While new, they have the potential to be cheaper, more time efficient, and more accurate than animal tests. And all without any pain or suffering. It seems like a no-brainer. 


Arguments against animal testing stem down to one simple idea: that animals should have the same rights as humans. Okay then, let’s abolish the farming industry or throw away the entire animal kingdom while you’re at it. And say goodbye to your beloved family pet. Why eliminate a system that has provided so many vital answers and cures to diseases and genetic conditions? 

Say we do end animal testing – throwing those animals into the wild will be a death sentence. They have been bred for science and have zero survival instincts. Is it sad? Yes. Is it also just nature? 100% 

Animals may not be physiological replicas of humans, but come very close. The term lab rat is used for a reason, so let's inspect rats. Humans and rats may not look alike, but they are both mammals, and all mammals are closely genetically related. We have the same kinds of organs and similar circulatory, reproductive, digestive, hormonal, and nervous systems. We inherit traits the same way and are susceptible to diseases, making rats and other mammals perfect for scientists to research the effects of new medications. And it can be fast; look how quickly the COVID-19 vaccine came around. 

And despite my pessimistic attitude towards animals so far, you can still test on animals while making it humane. Most countries around the world have laws restricting the ways animals can be treated and tested in experiments, meaning the conditions they work in ensure they are as happy and healthy as their lives can be. 
About 50 new drugs are introduced into society each year and nearly every medical breakthrough in the last 100 years has directly resulted from animal testing. Without this research, we wouldn’t have the information needed to find cures to help humans (and animals) living with illnesses or diseases. Just think how different life would be without penicillin, insulin or cancer treatment.

This article first appeared in Issue 11, 2024.
Posted 5:13pm Saturday 11th May 2024 by Otago University Debating Society.