This House would ban animal testing

In this debate "testing" should be defined as all testing on animals including, medical research, cosmetics, toxicology testing, and psychological research involving animal subjects. Most existing bans on animal research, when they have been implemented, have involved some form of disciplinary action by a professional body and the possibility of criminal prosecution.

Medical research is the hardest case for proposition in this debate to prove, since it has previously yielded substantial benefits for humanity , while contemporary animal research continues to contribute demonstrably to the speed and efficiency with which new scientific break throughs are achieved. Focussing the proposition case on toxicology, or cosmetics alone would divert the debate into an area of law and ethics that is settled in most respects: many states around the world have instituted bans using animals to test cosmetics and the toxicity of domestic cleaning products. Thus the best proposition strategy is to focus on the hard case of medical research.

Animal research has been used for several centuries as part of efforts to better understand the world around us. Almost all states actively research on animals at present. The total scale of all research on vertebrates is hard to measure, but according to some estimates it could be as high as 115,000,000 animals per year, with the vast majority of these being euthanized at the end of the period of experimentation.

The pharmaceutical industry spends a significant amount of time conducting research on animals. Due to the relative paucity of drugs that make it on to the market place after the initial testing phases, the global cost of each successful new drug in terms of animal lives, is around 5.75 million animals. By contrast the now shrinking industry sector on chemical safety testing using animals, uses around 860 animals per chemical when screening for carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).

Whilst much the research described above is categorised as causing minimal pain and suffering, figures obtained in 2010 show that in the USA alone 97,123 animals were used in research likely to involve pain and suffering, where pain killers and sedatives would not be administered. However, it should be born in mind that this figure is equal to only 8.5% of the total number of animals used in research activities covered by the US Animal Welfare Act - but the act does not cover mice, rats, birds or fish.

Animals have a right not to be harmed

The differences between us and other vertebrates are a matter of degree rather than kind.[1] Not only do they closely resemble us anatomically and physiologically, but so too do they behave in ways which seem to convey meaning. They recoil from pain, appear to express fear of a tormentor, and appear to take pleasure in activities; a point clear to anyone who has observed the behaviour of a pet dog on hearing the word “walk”. Our reasons for believing that our fellow humans are capable of experiencing feelings like ourselves can surely only be that they resemble us both in appearance and behaviour (we cannot read their minds). Thus any animal sharing our anatomical, physiological, and behavioural characteristics is surely likely to have feelings like us. If we accept as true for sake of argument, that all humans have a right not to be harmed, simply by virtue of existing as a being of moral worth, then we must ask what makes animals so different. If animals can feel what we feel, and suffer as we suffer, then to discriminate merely on the arbitrary difference of belonging to a different species, is  analogous to discriminating on the basis of any other morally arbitrary characteristic, such as race or sex. If sexual and racial moral discrimination is wrong, then so too is specieism.[2]

[1] Clark, S., The Nature of the Beast: are animals moral?, (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1982)

[2] Singer, P., “All Animals are Equal”, in La Follette (ed.), Ethics in Practice, (Malden, Mass; Oxford : Blackwell Pub, 2007)


Animals do not have such a right not to be harmed; even if they are similar to humans in terms of their feelings (that opposition does not concede) this right is impossible to argue for. The right of a human not to be harmed is a part of a quid pro quo that we will also not do harm to others. Animals are unable to engage in such a contract either to us or to other animals. Animals are not about to stop hunting other animals because the animal that is hunted feel’s pain when it is caught and it even if animal experimentation was to be ended it is unlikely that humanity would stop killing animals either for food, to prevent overpopulation or by accident all of which would have to be the case if animals feeling of pleasure and pain and resulting rights had to be taken into account. 

Animal research necessitates significant harm to the animals involved

Animal research, by its very nature necessitates harm to the animals. Even if they are not made to suffer as part of the experiment, the vast majority of animals used, must be killed at the conclusion of the experiment. With 115 million animals being used in the status quo this is no small issue. Even if we were to vastly reduce animal experimentation, releasing domesticated animals into the wild, would be a death sentence, and it hardly seems realistic to think that many behaviourally abnormal animals, often mice or rats, might be readily moveable into the pet trade.[1] It is prima fasciae obvious, that it is not in the interest of the animals involved to be killed, or harmed to such an extent that such killing might seem merciful. Even if the opposition counterargument, that animals lack the capacity to truly suffer, is believed, research should none the less be banned in order to prevent the death of millions of animals.

[1] European Commission, 1997. Euthanasia of experimental animals. Luxembourg: Office for official publications


Firstly, due to our larger and more sophisticated brains, one would expect the average human to have a great many more interests than any animal, for those interests to be more complex and interconnected, and for there to be a greater capacity for reflection and comprehension of the satisfaction gleaned from the realisation of such interests. Thus, we can ascribe greater value to the life of a human than an animal, and thus conclude there to be less harm in painlessly killing an animal than a human. Secondly, to the extent that research on animals is of benefit to humans, it is thus permissible to conduct experiments requiring euthanasia of the animal subjects.[1]

[1] Frey, R. G., “Moral Standing: The Value of Life and Specieism”, in La Follette (ed.), Ethics in Practice, (Malden, Mass; Oxford : Blackwell Pub, 2007)

Research can be done effectively without experimenting on living creature

As experimenting on animals is immoral we should stop using animals for experiments. But apart from it being morally wrong practically we will never know how much we will be able to advance without animal experimentation if we never stop experimenting on animals. Animal research has been the historical gold standard, and in the case of some chemical screening tests, was for many years, by many western states, required by law before a compound could be released on sale. Science and technology has moved faster than research protocols however, and so there is no longer a need for animals to be experimented on. We now know the chemical properties of most substances, and powerful computers allow us to predict the outcome of chemical interactions. Experimenting on live tissue culture also allows us to gain insight as to how living cells react when exposed to different substances, with no animals required. Even human skin leftover from operations provides an effective medium for experimentation, and being human, provides a more reliable guide to the likely impact on a human subject. The previous necessity of the use of animals is no longer a good excuse for continued use of animals for research. We would still retain all the benefits that previous animal research has brought us but should not engage in any more. Thus modern research has no excuse for using animals.[1]

[1] PETA. 2011. Alternatives: Testing Without Torture.


Most developed countries, including the United States and the member-states of the European Union, have regulations and laws which require the research methods that do not involve animal models should be used wherever they would produce equally accurate results. In other words, scientists are barred from using animals in research where non-animal methods would be just as effective.

Further, research animals are extremely expensive to breed, house and care for. Developed countries have very strict laws governing the welfare of animals used in research; obtaining the training and expert advice required to comply with these laws is costly. As a result, academic institutions and medical or pharmaceutical businesses function under constant pressure to find viable alternatives to using animals in research. Researchers have a strong motive to use alternatives to animal models wherever possible.

If we ban animal research even if research advances continue we will never know how much further and faster that research could have gone with the aid of experiments on animals. Animal research conducted today produces higher quality results than alternative research methodologies, and is thus it is likely necessary for it to remain in order for us to enjoy the rate of scientific advancement we have become used to in recent years.[1] Precisely because we never know where the next big breakthrough is going to come, we do not want to be narrowing research options. Instead, all options - computer models, tissue cultures, microdosing and animal experiments - should be explored, making it more likely that there will be a breakthrough.

[1] Ator, N. A., “Conducting Behavioural Research”, in Akins, C. Panicker, S. & Cunningham, C. L (eds.), Laboratory animals in research and teaching: Ethics, care and methods, (Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association, 2005, Ch. 3.

Some groups of people have less capacity for suffering than most animals

It is possible to conceive of human persons almost totally lacking in a capacity for suffering, or indeed a capacity to develop and possess interests. Take for example a person in a persistent vegetative state, or a person born with the most severe of cognitive impairments.

We can take three possible stances toward such persons within this debate. Firstly we could experiment on animals, but not such persons. This would be a morally inconsistent and specieist stance to adopt, and as such unsatisfactory. We could be morally consistent, and experiment on both animals and such persons. Common morality suggests that it would be abhorrent to conduct potentially painful medical research on the severely disabled, and so this stance seems equally unsatisfactory. Finally we could maintain moral consistency and avoid experimenting on the disabled, by adopting the stance of experimenting on neither group, thus prohibiting experimentation upon animals.[1]

[1] Fox, M. A., “The Moral Community”, in La Follette (ed.), Ethics in Practice, (Malden, Mass; Oxford : Blackwell Pub, 2007)


We do not need to justify the moral value of severely cognitively disabled persons, although if we wanted to, we could invoke notions of kinship, and family as providing a justification for acting in an apparently specieist manner.[1] Rather, it is sufficient to highlight the point, that experimenting on humans of any cognitive function, carries with it certain negative externalities. Such persons are likely to have relatives who would be harmed by the knowledge that their loved ones are being used in medical experiments for example. Even in the case of such a person who lacks any relatives, broader society and disabled rights groups could be harmed by a policy that allows treating some disabled persons differently to the rest of our moral community.

Such externalities would make experimenting on animals, rather than such persons, both preferable and morally consistent.

[1] Fox, M. A., “The Moral Community”, in La Follette (ed.), Ethics in Practice, (Malden, Mass; Oxford : Blackwell Pub, 2007)

Would send a positive social message, increasing animal welfare rights more generally in society

Most countries have laws restricting the ways in which animals can be treated. These would ordinarily prohibit treating animals in the manner that animal research laboratories claim is necessary for their research. Thus legal exceptions such as the 1986 Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act in the UK exist to protect these organisations, from what would otherwise be a criminal offense. This creates a clear moral tension, as one group within society is able to inflect what to any other group would be illegal suffering and cruelty toward animals. If states are serious about persuading people against cock fighting, dancing bears, and the simple maltreatment of pets and farm animals, then such goals would be enhanced by a more consistent legal position about the treatment of animals by everyone in society.


We do not have to justify cock fighting and other acts of animal cruelty as morally permissible. These are different acts to animal research in an important respect. It is not the intention of the researchers to harm the animals, but rather to produce high quality research for the betterment of human lives. Whilst it is true that in some cases harm to the animals is a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the research, this is minimised wherever possible, with pain killers, anaesthesia, and attempts to use other research means. There are many exceptions in law which maintain moral consistency due to the intention behind the act. For example, killing someone for money would be murder and illegal, whilst an exception might be made if you were killing in war, or self-defence, as the intention behind the act is held to be both different and morally just.

Animals' rights are of less moral worth than human rights

Humans are complex beings with large well developed brains, that form sizeable social groups, have significant ability to communicate with one another, possess interconnected desires, preferences and interests about the world, have an awareness of their own existence and mortality, and as such are beings worthy of moral consideration. Animals too express some of these characteristics to some degree and thus animals too are worthy of moral consideration. However, animal lives and human lives are of unequal value. This is due to the fact that no animal possesses all of these characteristics to the same degree as the average human, or even comes particularly close. Thus any rights ascribed to animals should be truncated relative to the rights we ascribe to humans.[1] Therefore animals should not rightly possess the same rights to not be experimented upon as humans might. To the extent to which causing some harm to animals brings great benefit to humans, we are morally justified in creating some moral harm, to achieve a far greater moral good.

[1] Frey, R. G., “Moral Standing: The Value of Life and Speciesism”, in La Follette (ed.), Ethics in Practice, (Malden, Mass; Oxford : Blackwell Pub, 2007)


To argue that the ends justify the means does not justify research upon animals. Firstly we do not know the extent to which animals are capable of holding interests or experiencing suffering, as they are unable to communicate with us. Our shared similarities give us cause to believe they must have at least a truncated experience of the world to us, but we cannot know the level of that truncation. Thus in order to avoid committing a significant moral harm upon a being we do not fully understand, a precautionary principle of non-experimentation would be well advised. Secondly, even if we would be achieving a net gain on the utilitarian calculator, that is insufficient justification on its own. By that same logic, experimenting on one person to save the lives of many could be justified, even if it caused them suffering, and even if they did not consent. Common morality suggests that this is an objectionable position to hold, as the moral principle would allow us to treat any being as a means to an end rather than existing as a being of independent value.[1] In short such logic would allow us to experiment not only on animals but also on non-consenting people, and we posit that to be an unreasonable position to hold in this debate.

[1] Crisp. R., Mill on Utilitarianism, (Routledge, 1997)

People would die and suffer needlessly under such a policy

23 new drugs are introduced each year in the United Kingdom alone .[1]. While almost all of these drugs will have been brought to the market after extensive animal testing, the number of animals used to check their safety only seems to be a high cost when the benefits that each drug brings to its users are inadequately considered.

New drugs that are approved for medical use have the potential to relieve human pain and suffering not only for the first group of patients given access to them, but also for future generations of sick and suffering individuals too. Consider all the lives, all over the world, that have benefitted from penicillin since its discovery in 1928. If drugs cost more to research and develop, then that reduces potential profit margins, and some drugs that would have otherwise been discovered and released will fall below the new threshold of likely profits necessary to fund the research. Adopting this proposition will lead to more people suffering and dying in the future than would have otherwise been the case.

[1] BBC News. 2013. Falling drug breakthroughs 'a myth'.


Firstly the vast majority of drugs released today (around 75%) are so called “me too” drugs that add little, if any genuine innovation to the existing body of pharmaceuticals in production. Rather, they represent only a slight molecular tweak on an existing drug line. Such drugs rarely save lives or even relieve much suffering upon their release, as they are only very slightly better, for only some patients, than the drugs available prior to its release.[1] None the less, the development of only technically novel compounds is used as a justification for research on animals, even when the benefit from such research is marginal at best. Secondly, even if there was a small increase in future human suffering, relative to a future where such a policy was not adopted, it would be worth it due to the saving of so much animal suffering, and the moral impermissibility of inflicting that for our own gains.

All this is notwithstanding the proposition point that much of the research does not necessitate animal testing.

[1] Stanford Medical Magazine. 2005. Me-too drugs: Sometimes They’re Just The Same Old, Same Old.

Animal research is necessary for the development of truly novel substances

Undoubtedly then, the most beneficial research to mankind is the development of truly novel drugs. Even according to the proposition this represents about a quarter of all new drugs released, which could be seen as significant given the great potential to relieve the suffering beyond our current capacity that such drugs promise.

After the effects, side effects and more complex interactions of a drug have been confirmed using animal and non-animal testing, it will usually pass to what is called a phase I clinical trial - tests on human volunteers to confirm how the drug will interact with human physiology and what dosages it should be administered in. The risk of a human volunteer involved in a phase I trial being harmed is extremely small, but only because animal tests, along with non-animal screening methods are a highly effective way of ensuring that dangerous novel drugs are not administered to humans. In the United Kingdom, over the past twenty years or more, there have been no human deaths as a result of phase I clinical trials.

Novel compounds (as opposed to so-called "me-too" drugs, that make slight changes to an existing treatment) are the substances that hold the most promise for improving human lives and treating previously incurable conditions. However, their novelty is also the reason why it is difficult for scientists to predict whether they may cause harm to humans.

Research into novel compounds would not be possible without either animal testing, or tremendous risk to human subjects, with inevitable suffering and death on the part of the trial volunteers on some occasions. It is difficult to believe that in such circumstances anyone would volunteer, and that even if they did, pharmaceutical companies would be willing to risk the potential legal consequences of administering a substance to them they knew relatively little about. In short, development of novel drugs requires animal experimentation, and would be impossible under the proposition's policy.


This again highlights some of the problems with animal research. In the UK example cited, animal testing had been done, and the dose given to the human volunteers was a tiny fraction of the dose shown to be safe in primates. Animal research is an unreliable indicator of how drugs will react in the human body, and as such alternatives should be sought and improved upon. 

Animal research is only used where other research methods are not suitable

Developed countries, including the US and all members of the EU (since EU Directive 2010/63/EU) have created laws and professional regulations that prevent scientists from using animals for research if other, non-animal research methods would produce equally clear and detailed results.

The principle described above is also enshrined in the "3Rs" doctrine, which states that researchers and their employers have a duty to identify ways to refine experiments conducted on animals, so that yield better results and cause less suffering; replace animals used in research the non-animal alternatives where possible; and reduce the number of animals used in research. Not only does the 3Rs doctrine represent a practical way to reconcile the necessity of animal research with the universal human desire not to cause suffering, it also drives scientists to increase the overall quality of the research that they conduct. Governments and academic institutions take the 3Rs doctrine very seriously. In EU countries scientists are required to show that they have considered other methods of research before being granted a license for an animal experiment. 

There are a huge number of ways of learning about our physiology and the pathologies which affect it, including to computer models, cell cultures, animal models, human microdosing and population studies. These methods are used to complement one another, for example animal models may well produce data that creates a computer model. Nonetheless, there is some research which cannot be done any other way. It is difficult to understand the interaction of specific sets of genes without being able to change only these genes – something possible through genetically modified animals.

Finally, as noted above, given the high cost of conducting animal research relative to other methods, there is a financial incentive for institutions to adopt non-animal methods where they produce as useful and accurate results.


The opposition's conclusions can be attacked in three ways. First, countries that are less economically developed than wealthy North American and European states are not likely to support rules or laws similar to the 3Rs doctrine or Directive 2010/63/EU. In these countries, low animal welfare standards often mean that animal research is cheaper relative to the cost of non-animal methods such as computer models or cell cultures.

Second, across the world, researchers tend to specialise in certain fields. Animal researchers tend to involve animal work in most of their projects, meaning that they may be less aware of alternative methods that could be used. Essentially, an individual who has spent their entire career as an animal researcher is likely to see all scientific problems in their field of research as solvable through animal experiments.

Finally, toxicology work on new drugs (and sometimes other products) still legally requires animal testing in most countries of the world. The length of time it took to introduce the EU ban on animal testing for cosmetic testing shows the difficulties faced by governments in adopting new methods of regulating animal research.

Animals involved in animal research are mostly well treated.

The vast majority of animals used in research are not subjected to suffering. Where there may be pain, they are given painkillers, and when they are euthanized it is done humanely.[1] They are looked after well, as the health of the animals is usually not only required by law and good practice, but beneficial for the experimental results. Many of these animals live better lives than they might have done had they been born into the wild.  Many animals, and indeed humans, die untimely deaths that are due to reasons other than old age, animal experimentation may increase these numbers slightly but so long as the animals are treated well there should be no moral objection to animal research. If the foundation of the argument for banning animal experimentation is therefore based upon the cruel treatment and pain suffered by animals then this is a reason for regulation to make sure there is very little suffering rather than an outright ban.

[1] Herzog, H., “Dealing With the Animal Research Controversy”, in Akins, C. Panicker, S. & Cunningham, C. L (eds.), Laboratory animals in research and teaching: Ethics, care and methods, (Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association, 2005, Ch. 1.


This logic assumes that one positive moral action can cancel out a negative moral action. That an animal is well treated before being involved in animal testing and its suffering during testing is kept to a minimum does not balance the very real suffering the animal experiences during the experiments themselves.  Regulation would not be helpful in addressing this contradiction as the suffering during the experiments could never be eliminated as if we knew the effects the experiment will have on the animal the experiment would not be necessary in the first place. 


Ator, N. A., “Conducting Behavioural Research”, in Akins, C. Panicker, S. & Cunningham, C. L (eds.), Laboratory animals in research and teaching: Ethics, care and methods, (Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association, 2005, Ch. 3) Available at:

BBC News. 2006. Drugs Volunteer’s “Living Hell”. [online]

Carruthers, P., The Animals Issue: Moral Theory in Practice, (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1992)

Clark, S., The Nature of the Beast: are animals moral?, (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1982)

Crisp. R., Mill on Utilitarianism, (Routledge, 1997)

European Commission, 1997. Euthanasia of experimental animals. Luxembourg: Office for official publications

Fox, M. A., “The Moral Community”, in La Follette (ed.), Ethics in Practice, (Malden, Mass; Oxford : Blackwell Pub, 2007)

Frey, R. G., “Moral Standing: The Value of Life and Specieism”, in La Follette (ed.), Ethics in Practice, (Malden, Mass; Oxford : Blackwell Pub, 2007)

Herzog, H., “Dealing With the Animal Research Controversy”, in Akins, C. Panicker, S. & Cunningham, C. L (eds.), Laboratory animals in research and teaching: Ethics, care and methods, (Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association, 2005, Ch. 1) Available at:

PETA. 2011. Alternatives: Testing Without Torture. [online]

Regan, T., The Case for Animal Rights, (London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984)

Singer, P., “All Animals are Equal”, in La Follette (ed.), Ethics in Practice, (Malden, Mass; Oxford : Blackwell Pub, 2007)

Stanford Medical Magazine. 2005. Me-too drugs: Sometimes They’re Just The Same Old, Same Old. [online]