Is it Ethical, Unethical to Test on Animals, when Testing Helps Save Human Life?


Animal testing has been in existence for a long time for it is a common practice in medical research. Although medical research can be conducted in other ways like use of computer simulations, animals are mostly used because some of them are similar to human beings in several ways.  There are a lot of benefits that human race has derived from animal testing. New drugs are discovered that are able to combat dangerous diseases. In addition, it is possible to test new drugs for the side effects before they can be administered to people. However, it is important to note that using animals for testing has adverse effects because the procedure can kill, injure, increase discomfort or expose animal to a lot of pain. As a result, test on animals raises an issue of concern based on ethics in the view of the fact that life of animals, like that of human beings ought to be preserved.  With that background in mind, this essay is an argument on whether it is right or to conduct test on animals based on utilitarian concepts of the moral theory and Kantian Ethics and Categorical Imperative. The main issue of concern will be to argue out whether it is ethical or unethical to test on animals, when testing to save human life.

Testing on animals can be either wrong or right depending with the perspective the issue is being looked at.  For instance, in accordance to the utilitarian perspective, the correctness of an action is dependent on its utility as illustrated in the following extract

Bentham’s moral theory was founded on the assumption that it is the consequences of human actions that count in evaluating their merit and that the kind of consequence that matters for human happiness is just the achievement of pleasure and avoidance of pain. He argued that the hedonistic value of any human action is easily calculated by considering how intensely its pleasure is felt, how long that pleasure lasts, how certainly and how quickly it follows upon the performance of the action, and how likely it is to produce collateral benefits and avoid collateral harms. Taking such matters into account, we arrive at a net value of each action for any human being affected by it (Kemerling par. 2).


Therefore, the contribution of an action towards an intrinsic good state like happiness or pleasure as well satisfaction, determines whether it is right or wrong. Based on that perspective, test on animals is right because it is beneficial to human beings. Study of history has indicated that initially, before major discoveries were made in the scientific field, epidemics used to wipe out a large population within are very   short time. In addition, there were a lot of diseases which were affecting people like leprosy and used to reduce their ability to   enjoy life and continue with their daily lives. As highlighted earlier, human life is invaluable and ought to be preserved at all costs.

No one can negate the fact that animals are also important and ought to be preserved at all costs. In addition, studies have indicated that a lot of animals die due to testing while others are placed in conditions which are not favorable. It would have been much better of scientists used anesthesia while using animals. However, that is not the case since they argue that use of it can interfere with their results. Moreover, although scientists have argued that they try to keep animals used in research under almost their normal circumstances, the truth is they have removed them from their natural habitats.

Therefore, it is explicit that saving human life through the use of animals to conduct research and is detrimental to animals. Nonetheless, the action is right because of its utility. To begin with, it increases happiness of human beings. Moreover, the same increases pleasure due to the fact that animal testing helps to combat diseases. Therefore, although the act has got some shortcomings, it has more utility on the side of human beings.  Nonetheless, it is also important to consider the alternatives since in utilitarian perspective, an action is right if it has more benefits and if there are no other alternatives that can be used to achieve the same goal (Prate par. 4).

There are some other alternatives which can be used instead of animals. Even though the alternatives methods may not give the same results as animal tests, there is a high possibility that with some developments, the same can become beneficial and eliminate the trouble of using animals. If more research was carried, cell culture studies and computers can be used effectively although the results may not be as reliable as results of animal studies. Therefore, since other alternatives are not as reliable, animal testing is right. Nevertheless, that does not imply that there are no shortcomings

Focusing on the consequences of animal testing and the situation of the same qualifies an action to be right and morally acceptable. However, that is only applicable while basing the argument on the utilitarian perspective which considers the overall benefit of an action.  On the contrary, Kantians ethics and the categorical imperative lay more emphasis on the morality of a duty.  The morality of an action does not depend with the consequences, results or even with the situation at hand.  For that reason, in relation to the categorical imperative which is used by Kant to decide on the morality of an action, a moral action emanates from a good will and ought to be universal; meaning if an action is right to one person, the same case should be applicable to everyone in the whole world. The most important thing in categorical imperative is the intrinsic value of an action (Paul and Paul pp. 19).

In relation to Kant’s ethics, animal testing becomes an action of questionable morality.  On the same note, it is important to point out that Kant’s ethics drift away from the traditional view on the issue of animal testing. Initially, animal rights advocates argued out that animals feel pain like human beings and ought to be protected from any action or procedure that exposes them to any form of pain or discomfort. To Kant, animal testing is morally wrong not due to the pain it causes to animals, but due to the fact that it can affect the way human beings relate with each  other.   Consequently, as highlighted earlier, testing on animals is bad since it has a negative effect on human beings. According to Kant, although human beings do not have a moral duty to treat animals in a kind manner, they do have an indirect duty of doing so, because failure to treat them may end up affecting their character negatively. A bad character affects the interactions of human beings with other and causes more conflicts (McPhee par 4).

The question whether it is ethical to test on animals in order to save human life can be answered differently depending with the perspective the issue is being looked to at. While focusing on both on utilitarian and Kantian ethics, there is nothing wrong with testing on animals. However, each perspective has got a different reasoning. For example, the utilitarian perspective is usually more focused on the end result of an action. In the view of the fact that animal testing is beneficial to human beings, the action is viewed as right even though it inflicts pain on animals (Kemerling par. 6). On the contrary, in relation to Kant’s ethics, it is right because it helps human being to behave well towards each other and conserves morality. Even   with such philosophical reasons by some scholars, the debate of ethics may never come to an end because each perspective has got its own short comings. For instance, the reasoning that animals can be used for testing because the results are beneficial to a large group of individuals has been criticized because it is not clear whether the same tests can be justified if done on a few human beings to save a whole community. Whichever the case, other factors held constant, tests on animals can be ethical or unethical depending with a particular perspective.

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