Animal testing; the laws and debates

animal testing

Ewha Law School

Jungwoo Kang

24th April is the World day for animals in laboratories which was established in 1979 by the British National Anti-Vivisection Society. Demonstrations and protests take place on the date to oppose to or to uphold the animal testing.

The use of animals in research has been taken place throughout the history of biomedical research, so does the debate for and against animal testing. The early debate was mostly related to vivisection practice. Firstly, it was argued that the results are not reliable as the pain occurred to the animals affects their physiology. Others contended that results from animal testing cannot be applied to humans. Theses days most arguments are based on ethical reasons that the good for humans cannot justify the harm done to the animals, and humans have no right to make use of the animals in a way that is not helping the animals themselves. Animal rights activists have strongly argued for the stop of animal testing, and sometimes they have succeeded in making several labs shut down.

On the other hand, there are arguments in favour of using animals in research as it is necessary to advance medical knowledge, and both humans and animals can benefit from the advanced technology. Some goes on to say there is no alternative as there is no non-animal equivalents. Is is also argued that the regulations are strict enough prevent any mistreatment of animals.
Regarding the regulations, England enacted the first animal protection law in 1822, and it was followed by similar regulations and laws in different countries.

Most of the laws define animal in a way to include any live or dead animals, but the definition in most cases is limited to the warm-blooded ones. The laws also require researchers to consider the welfare of animal subjects. However, most of the regulations do not directly deal with the experiments themselves.

Aside from the laws, there are the Three R’s which refer to the guiding principles in the use of animals in research. The principles were created by William Russell and Rex Burch in 1959, and those have been incorporated into many animal welfare laws. The 3R’s are:
1. Replacement; the use of non-animal methods should be preferred over animal methods whenever it is possible to achieve the same scientific aims.
2. Reduction; methods that enable researchers to obtain comparable levels of information from fewer animals, or to obtain more information from the same number of animals should be used.
3. Refinement; methods that alleviate or minimize potential pain, suffering or distress, and enhance animal welfare for the animals used should be used.

Most of the laws and regulations seem to provide minimal protection for the animals as they do not provide a detailed requirement for the researchers nor does it impose a strict punishment to those who have possibly carried out any unnecessary or inadequate experiment on animals. The ongoing debate is inevitable as the laws are ambiguous.


Nicoll CS (1991). “A Physiologist’s Views on the Animal Rights/Liberation Movement”. The Physiologist. 34 (6): 303

Russell, W.M.S. and Burch, R.L., (1959). The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, Methuen, London.

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