Vivisection is the practice of experimenting on live animals for scientific and medical purposes.


Why is Vivisection Used?

Experimenting on animals first began as a way for surgeons to practise operations without carrying them out on humans.  As surgeons realised that they needed to learn more about the ways that bodies worked, they started to carry out experiments on people. This raised lots of ethical questions about which tests could be done and on whom. For example, historically people have sometimes believed that it is acceptable to experiment on prisoners.  Carrying out experiments on animals solved some of these moral problems, but created new dilemmas. 

Animal experiments are often performed to highlight any potentially harmful effects of newly-developed medicines and chemical substances on humans. In some cases, researchers try to mimic conditions affecting humans (e.g. cancer, cystic fibrosis, arthritis, etc.) in the animals they are experimenting on, to see if new medicines will be effective in treating them. Understanding Animal Research (a pro-vivisection organisation, previously known as The Research Defence Society) claims that inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis are now being accurately reproduced in specially bred genetically altered laboratory mice. 

Animals are also used to test new cosmetic ingredients, posing the question of whether we should put animals in harm’s way simply so that we can look good. 

Some of the most controversial animal experiments are tests like the Draize eye test,  in which a substance is dripped into the open eye of an animal (usually a rabbit) and any reactions are observed. The LD100 test (Lethal Dose 100%) uses 60 to 100 animals, and determines how much of a chemical or medicine the animals need to ingest before they all die. The LD50 test is similar, except that the dose needed to kill half of the animals is determined. This then assisted in deciding a safe dosage level for humans. The LD50 test is now banned in the UK.

In the United Kingdom, any experiment involving vivisection must be licensed by the Home Secretary.

Read More: What are some arguments against vivisection?

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