This essay investigates the problem of animal testing involving technological systems, and connects it with strategic leadership and ethicality. Description of various types of testing and existing trends in Australia provides a general understanding of animal experiments. Information concerning numerous benefits elucidates the increasing popularity of animal experiments. These benefits are reflected in the ability to investigate the response of animal organisms to technological solutions and treatment. It is similar to human response, the investigation of which, however, takes less time and does not violate human rights. Moreover, testing of technological systems on animals is connected with various issues, such as inflicted sufferings, constraint of living conditions, and killing. Unfortunately, the existing regulations cannot guarantee total elimination of these problems. Hence, engineers should be aware of the necessity of ethical attitude to animals during the performance of their experiments.
Keywords: testing technological systems, animal experiments, animal testing.
This essay provides description of the use of animals for technological systems testing. Benefits and drawbacks connected with these experiments will be discussed in the current work. They will be supported by the data from various researches, codes, bills and statistics. Experiments on animals should be minimized and performed in an ethical manner because they cause sufferings in these living creatures and violate animal welfare.
1. Testing Technological Systems on Animals
1.1 General Information about Engineering Testing
Joseph Herket (2004) in his work Engineering Research and Animal Subjects stated that, “engineers perform relatively little research using animal subjects.” Usually, animals are used for studies connected with methods of improvement of agricultural engineering, creation of new biomedical devices, as well as testing and production of new technological systems.
Agricultural studies tend to raise the productivity of animals, which are used for food. These animals are commonly kept in intensive housing systems (such as hen cages). This enables to reduce the amount of care and skills, which are necessary for looking after them and, at the same time, to minimize the negative impact on their productivity. These researches are represented by cloning techniques and genetic engineering. Unlike agricultural researches, biomedical investigations are aimed at finding technological solutions, which will improve the quality of life and health by “governing the function of living organism”. The most widely used forms of these studies are the following: genetic engineering, physiological investigations, and psychological studies.
In addition, animals are used for various medical researches, which are focused on investigation of new methods of disease prevention and ways of improvement of the existing ones. These experiments are not limited to the use of drugs and vaccines. The functioning of various medical devices is tested on animals in order to determine the safety of these products: “the focus of animal testing is on the device’s ability to function with living tissue without harming the tissue”. Frequently, these devices are made from unusual materials. The example of such studies is assessment of the effectiveness of “electrically stimulated silver as a bactericidal agent for indwelling residual hardware devices”. Bactericidal orthopedic implants, which have a prophylactic effect, are inserted into the medullary cavity of live rats. This research forms the basis for further investigations of these implants usage. They contribute to making similar devices for human treatment in the nearest future.
1.2 Statistical Information
Searching for the relevant statistical information concerning animal testing in Australia is a rather difficult task. The national collection of data is not performed in this country. There are also five-year delays in state reports. The existing collection and reporting methods are inconsistent. Moreover, in some states, the data is not collected at all. That is why, representatives of Humane Research Australia, who intend to assure that animal experiments in the country are continually under scrutiny, provide only conservative information concerning the total number of animals used.
According to the latest statistics of HRA, “approximately 6.7 million animals were used in research and teaching in Australia in 2013”. The existing trends of animal use in research and teaching in the country are shown in the figure 1.
Figure 1: The number of animals used in research and teaching in Australia from 2004 to 2013.
The figure shows that the number of animals involved in various experiments is growing. This trend is closely connected with the increasing necessity for implementation of the above-mentioned studies in order to improve human health and environment, as well as create new technological devices. Moreover, the growth is stipulated by considerable benefits provided by experiments involving the use of animals
2. Benefits Obtained from Animal Experiments
It is vital to focus on benefits, which can be obtained from testing technological systems on animals to explain the great popularity of these experiments and the relevance of the current issue. Such kind of testing significantly contributes to the development and improvement of life-saving treatment systems. The majority of medical breakthroughs are closely connected with researches on animals or resulted from them. Furthermore, nowadays, there is no adequate alternative to testing on living animals.
Testing of technological systems is performed on animals because human and animal organisms are alike. For example, 99 percent of chimpanzees’ DNA is similar to human DNA. Animals and people have similar reactions and reflections. There is no virtual modification, which has similar complex structure: “even the most powerful supercomputers are unable to accurately simulate the workings of complex organs such as the brain” (Procon 2015). Existing computer models provide reliable outcomes only if they are built based on the information obtained from animal researches.
At the same time, the majority of tests related to technological systems are not allowed to be performed on human beings because, besides the fact that it cannot provide accurate results, it is highly unethical. People have longer life expectancy than some animals (for example, laboratory mice). Hence, the effect of the use of new technological solutions could not be observed through their example. Besides, animals often benefit from the results of experiments. For instance, scientists from the Southern Medical University (China) are currently working on the project aimed at creation of 3D bones by using 3D printers (Alec 2015). It is expected that after the successful completion of all experiments, these solid objects without any metal components will replace broken bones of humans and animals.
3. Rights of Animals and Duties of Engineers
The process of testing of technological systems on animals is closely connected with rights of animals and duties of engineers. It should be noted that any animal testing performed on the territory of Australia should be checked to determine its correspondence to existing governmental regulations, as well as approved by appropriate professionals. The rights are protected by the national legislation. Current laws, which govern animal testing, are the following: the Animal Research Act, the National Animal Welfare Bill, Code of Practice, and the Engineers Australia Code of Ethics.
Animal welfare assurance is provided by the Animal Research Act and the Code of Practice. The special Code of Practice for the care of animals was developed by Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. The last edition of the code was introduced in 2013. This document contains duties of researchers and institutions, information concerning animal well-being and caring, among others. It forms the basis for testing procedures and ensures that they are “performed humanely, ethically, respectfully and with the purpose of safeguarding animal welfare at all times.” The major emphasis of this code is made on the justification of technological testing on animals.
Animals have the right to obtain adequate care. It is stated in the National Animal Welfare Bill prepared in 2005. The document aims to “promote good animal testing practices that abide by the appropriate ethics, responsibility and care that the public and scientific community demand and expect”.
The respect of the above-mentioned animal rights often contradicts duties of engineers. On the one hand, researchers should act for the sake of development of new technological solutions to improve the existing treatment procedures. However, on the other hand, they have duties to perform their occupational activities in the way that will assure animal welfare. The Engineers Australia Code of Ethics sets the standards of the engineering practice and all actions connected with them, including animal testing. This document makes an emphasis on the ethical duties of people who are involved in engineering process. According to the section 4 of this code, one of the aims of engineers’ work is to “practice engineering to foster the health, safety and wellbeing of the community and the environment”. In this context, animals can be considered as representatives of the environment. Hence, people who are involved in testing of technological systems on animals and, at the same time, follow standards stated in the above-mentioned regulations and codes, should direct their efforts towards elimination of harm caused to these alive creatures. Strict following of the National Animal Welfare Bill, the Code of Practice and the Engineers Australia Code of Ethics provides the background for protection of animal rights.
Also, according to this Code, engineers should reflect virtue to alive organisms. Fostering of health and well-being of the environment can be considered as the necessity to assurance of health and well-being of animals, because they are the integral part of the environment. Hence, during experiments, engineers should provide as much respect to animal rights as possible and eliminate any unnecessary sufferings.
One the one hand, the above citation shows that engineers have the duty to respect animal rights (by fostering health safety and well-being of the environment). As it is mentioned in the Engineers Australia Code of Ethics: “our Code of Ethics defines the values and principles that shape the decisions we make in engineering practice”. On the other hand, these documents (the Code and the Guidelines) only create the framework for the performance of tests. The values stated in the Code are expected to be applied to decisions made by engineers; thus, their decisions should have a favorable influence and they have not got any concrete duties. The stated favorable influence be reached by the demonstration of integrity, competent practice, exercise of leadership, and promotion of sustainability.In the same time, engineers are not obliged to put animal rights above the possibility to make some notable scientific study, even if this study can cause sufferings to animals.
The final part of the Code is represented by Guidelines on Professional Conduct, which are used to guide the application of the Engineers Australia Code of Ethics. These guidelines provide a broader understanding of the clause 4 of the Code, which was mentioned above. According to these explanations, engineers should “incorporate social, cultural, healthy, safety, environmental and economic considerations into the engineering task”. However, there is no exact requirement to act ethically. Consequently, there are no any duties of engineers to protect animal rights. If an engineer considers that achievement of a particular goal (whether it will be beneficial or not for the society in the future) is connected with animal sufferings, he can justify his actions due to Guidelines on Professional Conduct, while choosing unmoral side of testing on animals.
It should be mentioned that this code is also connected with utilitarianism. According to this document, engineers should balance the needs of current and future generations by “identifying sustainable outcomes consider all options in terms of their economic, environmental and social consequences”. Hence, researchers should pay attention to financial benefits which can be obtained from the outcomes of their studies. In the same time, the aim of testing technological systems on animals is “to deliver outcomes that do not compromise the ability of future life to enjoy the same or better environment, health, wellbeing and safety as currently enjoyed”. Consequently, if engineers will consider that during their researches they should hurt or even kill animals for obtaining relevant outcomes which can bring economical, social or environmental benefits, this code supports them in the performance of such experiments.
4. Issues of Technological Animal Testing
Notwithstanding a considerable number of benefits, which can be obtained from testing technological systems on animals, these studies are connected with various issues that will be discussed below. As it was mentioned above, the existing technological development cannot eliminate the necessity for performance of tests on alive creatures.
Prior to, during and after testing procedures, animals suffer from force-feeding, various deprivations, physical restraints, etc. These creatures feel fear, psychological stress and pain. That is why animal testing is considered to be inhuman and cruel. Moreover, outcomes of some of the tests are irrelevant, because there are certain differences between human and animal organisms (for example, metabolic and anatomic ones) and their reactions. Consequently, some of these tests do not provide reliable prediction of results after application of similar technologies on human beings. In other words, animal sufferings are useless.
It should be also mentioned that existing regulations cannot always provide animals, which are involved in the experiments, with the necessary protection. Testing of technological systems on animals according to the existing bills and codes does not grant ethicality of these studies. No Code of Ethics or Code of Care can provide the complete solution to all ethical problems because these codes are not rules. They only represent a set of values.
5. Necessity of Respecting Rights of Animals Who are Used in Experiments
Apparently, the existing legal documents and codes cannot grant ethical behavior of engineers towards animals. However, various studies can provide these people with deeper understanding of animal rights and liberties. This understanding can influence their ethical treatment of animals so that they will make everything possible for minimization of their sufferings.
Testing of technological systems on animals should be performed with a clear understanding and equal consideration of interests of all living beings. As it was mentioned by Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching, Peter Singer in his work Animal Liberation described the principle of equal consideration that aims to determine whether experiments of engineers are acceptable or not. It should be noted that this principle can be applied only to higher order animals, which can feel pain and suffer during experiments. Singer’s work states that engineers should assess the use of particular animals in experiments by weighing the interests of animals in the same manner as interests of people. The fact that animals belong to other species does not allow people to cause them harm or sufferings.
In his work, Peter Singer stated that ethics is “good in theory but no good in practice”. This argument is closely connected with utilitarianism. If engineers did not perform their technological testing on animals, because they can cause harm to living creatures, their new technological solutions would not be tested and realized. Moreover, they would not bring any profit. This reflects one of the major counterarguments of this work. Implementation of researches requires considerable funding. Hence, utilitarianism is based not only on human greed, but also on the necessity to find financing for future testing.
However, the feeling of utilitarianism should be connected with the feeling of virtue. The virtue is reflected in the necessity to ensure animal welfare prior to experiments, during performance of testing, and after it. The welfare is reflected in meeting animals’ major needs (for example, nutrition and behavioral needs). Engineers should comprehend that despite the fact that animals act as experimental subjects, their feelings and liberties should be respected and granted.
6. Ethical Issues
The ethicality of testing of technological systems on animals is based on personal understanding of the ways of making right and wrong decisions. Engineers should have distinct answers to the following questions: why do they perform testing on animals? What final goal do they want to achieve? What benefits it will bring to the society and the environment? Does achievement of final goal justify the means reflected in animal sufferings? Can these sufferings be avoided and minimized?
The ethical dilemma of engineers is based on the necessity for further technological development in order to improve health and life of people and solve environmental issues, as well as the importance to respect animal rights and liberties. It has become evident that the existing technological development cannot provide total replacement of animal testing. However, engineers can assure that performed studies are highly ethical and moral. Testing of technological systems on animals can be justified only when no any other ways of experimentation can be used. The final aim of the study should be connected with provision of benefits to people or the environment. Any possibilities of failure to obtain relevant results should be minimized with the help of preliminary tests and models, thorough selection of objects of research, and assurance that response of animal organisms will be similar or close to the response of human organisms. At the same time, engineers should ensure animal well-being, elimination of animal rights infringement, and minimization of sufferings of alive creatures, while meeting both human and animal needs. The observance of these terms may ensure that testing of technological systems is ethical.
7. Ethical Dilemmas
Technological testing on animals is connected with several ethical dilemmas. The first one relates to the necessity of performance of technological tests for the development and examination of new inventions, which cause pain to animals. Technologies are constantly developing. New solutions are being created and they should be properly tested before they can be used for treatment of people. The next ethical dilemma is connected with utilitarianism. Development of technological solutions requires considerable financing that should bring positive or negative results of testing. If results are positive, new technological solutions could be used for treatment of people. If results are negative, these solutions should be improved, or the development of new technologies should be initiated. Consequently, testing on animals is essential for further technological development. Nevertheless, it remains impossible not to cause pain to animals.
8. Strategic Leadership in Testing Technological Systems on Animals
The goal of strategic leadership in testing technological systems on animals is reflected in the stipulation of engineers to reach the organizational goal in the most effective manner. Simultaneously, they should keep in their mind that animals are alive creatures with feelings. Their involvement in any experiments should be connected with respect of their rights to well-being. Leaders should direct their efforts towards establishment and proclamation of ethical behavior and attitudes to animals during performance of the experiments. The engineers, who carry out experiments, should be acquainted with the above-mentioned codes and the Bill. The emphasis should be made on the necessity of moral attitude to animals, assurance of adequate living conditions and minimization of their sufferings. Leaders should state as far as possible that the use of animals in experiments should be replaced by computer modeling and other means of testing. Any unethical behavior (such as unnecessary infliction of pain, placement of animals in unsuitable conditions, which have negative impact on their health and cause stresses) should be condemned.
9. Recommendations to the Society
This essay reveals advantages and disadvantages connected with testing of technological systems on animals. These issues relate not only to engineers involved in the experimental process, but also to the whole society. Every member of the society (including researchers) should clearly understand that experiments have to be carried out, respecting all ethical rights and granting the welfare of animals. The society should proclaim the respect of these rights and duties. Furthermore, any unethical and unmoral behavior of researchers should be condemned in order to minimize it. If researchers feel social pressure, they will try to act ethically.
The current work provides the description of the growing trend of animal use for technological testing in Australia. Notwithstanding the fact that these experiments have numerous benefits, they are closely connected with ethical issues reflected in infliction of sufferings and constraint of animal well-being. Existing codes and the Bill cannot grant protection of animal rights and adequate living conditions. However, the improvement of the situation can be reached by providing engineers with awareness of the ethical aspects of animal experiments. This work shows that technological testing on animals can cause irremediable sufferings to living beings. Subsequently, experiments should be thoroughly prepared and performed in such a way that can assure minimization of these sufferings and improvement of animal well-being.