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Animals Right to Dignity and Fair treatment with respect to experimentation and testing

Over the years the Right to live with dignity has been protecting the individuals from all odds but now it is the time that it is extended to other beings as well, and by other beings, it must involve animals. Experimentation and testing on animals brings along an innate procedure of infliction of pain and suffering over the animals, which, the researchers often justify, that it is for the larger benefit of the society.

Animals are miserable beings, they cannot express like we humans do, in that case all they need is some assistance and voice to realize and exercise their Rights. This paper will be dealing with the question at hand in the following folds i.e.
  1. Do animals have the right to dignity?
  2. How is the Right to Dignity violated in the course of experimentation and testing?
Under these headings will be dealing with various aspects that are affecting the Right to Dignity of the animals.

Do Animals have the Right to Dignity?

In the case of Animal Welfare Board of India v Nagaraja and Ors,[1]:
It was established that:
All living creatures have inherent dignity and a right to live peacefully and right to protect their well being which encompasses protection from pain and suffering. Animals have also honour and dignity which cannot be arbitrarily deprived of its rights and privacy have to be respected and protected from unlawful attacks. Right to dignity and fair treatment is, therefore, not confined to human beings alone, but to animals as well.
The word life as per Art. 21, must be interpreted in the broadest sense. It includes all forms of life, including animal life. The recent judicial development records the recognition given to animals as 'legal person.'

Who is a legal person?

Animals qualify as a legal person as according to the Karnail Singh and Ors v State of Haryana and Ors,[2]
A particular object or a being which is valued enough by the community to make it a subject of rights and a unit of interests that needs and deserves social protection- is a Legal Person.[3] The legal personality plays an important part in making a thing count in the eyes of law.

The endowment of legal personality to the rightness beings, carries with it legal recognition that those objects have worth and dignity in their own right. Animals, as such, are helpless beings. They cannot express the way we do. Thus, if animals are drawn under the parasol of legal personality, it would ideally encourage the development of more respectful and less exploitative social attitudes towards animals. [4]

Recognizing the Rights of the animals, Justice Rajiv Sharma, in his Judgement, said that:
All the animals have honor and dignity. Every species has an inherent right to live and is required to be protected by law. The rights and privacy of animals are to be respected and protected from unlawful attacks. The entire animal kingdom, including Avian and Aquatic are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.

They should be healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior without pain, fear and distress. They are entitled to justice. They cannot be treated as objects or property. Further declare that the Citizens as the guardians of the animal kingdom with a duty to ensure their welfare and protection.[5]

Since animals are recognized as legal entities by which the right to dignity and fair treatment is extended to them as well. It naturally involves a life free from pain and suffering. As far as testing and experimentation on animals is concerned it involves infliction of pain and suffering in that course. It is in violation of the Animals' Right to dignity and fair treatment.

How is the Right to Dignity violated in the course of experimentation and testing?

Animals and humans have similar traits in many aspects. Both experience feelings like hunger, thirst, pain, fear, aggression, affection, etc. They also respond to circumstances just like humans. But over the years, the human interests have always dominated over the lives of the animals.

The violation of Right to Dignity of animals in the course of experimentation and testing is further substantiated in the following folds:
Pain and Suffering:
The researchers often justify that the organs and body system of animals are similar to human beings and are susceptible to the same diseases. They only experiment on those animals who rank lower in the phylogenetic scale, thus there is no pain and suffering.[6]In contrast to this, we must understand the meaning of pain and suffering.

Pain as per American Veterinary Medical Association refers to:

An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience perceived as arising from a specific region of the body and associated with actual or potential tissue damage. Pain is distinguishable from moods such as sadness or body feelings such as hunger, which may be felt as arising from the body but not necessarily a particular body region. [7]

As rightly stated by Jeremy Bentham in his work Introduction to Principles of Morals and legislation that:
The question is not, Can they reason? Nor can they talk? But can they suffer? Suffering is also one of the components which is basically the effective, behavioral or emotional response to the pain. It is an unpleasant emotional response which is often associated with pain and distress.

The normal laboratory procedures require the animals to be kept in captivity, catching an animal and removing him or her from the cage, Debarking procedure which is basically a procedure where the animal vocal cords are severed and many such other practices which are very painful and it results in stress and depression in animals.[8]

The animals are force fed, the Gavage procedure which involves the insertion of a thin long tube into the mouth passing through esophagus and then stomach, and the side effects of the drugs which causes abdominal bloating, esophageal trauma, aspiration pneumonia are very stressful and sometimes results in death.[9] They are made to suffer seizures, the diseases that cannot be contracted by them are artificially induced into their bodies, repeated surgeries are conducted on them, wires are implanted in their brains and many other painful procedures they are made to undergo.

For example, in the Draize test, it requires to place the substance in the eyes of the animal and the damage of the cornea and the other tissues in and around the eye is monitored. This process is severely painful and the end results can be scarring, blindness and death. Another test i.e the LD50 test wherein the procedure is such that the endpoint is death. The dosage of the substance is used to cause death in 50% of the animal subjects within a specified time frame. The animals are hooked onto the tubes that pump the test product into their stomach till they die. Animals suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, paralysis, convulsion, and internal bleeding. It is extremely painful to them because it takes weeks for them to die.[10]

From the aforementioned instance it can be implied that during this course animals are exposed to a great amount of pain and suffering. They are forced to do something which is not their natural behavior and thus it is in violation of their Right to live with Dignity.

Predominance of human interests over the lives of Animals:

Animals are also no less than humans in the sphere of pain, suffering and emotions. But as far as experimentation and testing is concerned, in human trials the importance is given more to the individual interests over the scientific question whereas the same precedes over the interests of the individual animals.[11] The drugs are first tested over the animals and then on the human subjects in order to ensure safety of the product.[12] It is moreover like trading one life for the other. Humans and animals both have life, a nervous system, conscience and emotions. They can be considered as equals in terms of pain and suffering.

During clinical trials, human subjects are given sufficient opportunities to give or withdraw their consent. They are also given several reliefs such as compensation and they are remunerated for the participation. Whereas the same cannot be found in the case of animals. They are not provided with the opportunity to express their consent because they are voiceless and vulnerable. But that doesn't provide license to humans to exploit them so brutally. Though animals cannot voice their consent, they can refuse to participate through their actions.

In an undercover operation by PeTA it can be observed that the primate screams when the ducts are passed through their nose. The subject makes an attempt to move when it is placed on the platform where the procedure is going to be conducted.[13] They are dragged out of their cages and in that gap they are trying escape but they are restrained from doing so by exercising force.[14] By relying on the actions of the primates it can be implied that they are unwilling to be a participant in all these painful procedures but inevitably they are co-ercively made a part of it. Their unwillingness, their movements to escape, their response to the human actions in that course can be considered as a denial to be a part of the entire procedure of experimentation and testing.

Drugs that prove effective when tested on animals, fail to succeed in human trials:

The drugs are first tested on animals in order to ensure the safety of human volunteers. But, it is laborious, time consuming and the drugs often fail to deliver the same results when tried on human subjects.[15]

The National Institute of Health noted that 95% of all drugs that are shown to be safe and effective in animal trials fail in human trials.[16] Animal models and human diseases are not congruent , which serves as a hurdle to translational reliability. The disparity between the animal experimental model and the human conditions also contributes to failure in the trials. A study from the U.S Food and Drug administration that was conducted in 2004, discovered that 92% of the drugs that were previously tested on animals were disapproved as they failed in human trials. Half of them were withdrawn as the adverse effects were not detected during animal tests.[17]

For instance, human subjects who volunteered for the testing of the new monoclonal antibody treatment at North wick Park hospital, UK in 2006 suffered a severe allergic reaction and nearly died. The same drug was tested on monkeys at 500 times the dose given to the volunteers totally failed to predict the dangerous side effect.[18] In 2004, Journal Stroke reported that more than 700 treatments of stroke that turned out efficacious in animal models, out of which not even approximately 150 of these treatments showed any clinical benefit when tested on humans.[19]

A 2008 study recorded in the journal, Alternatives to laboratory animals, showed that more than 80 HIV/AIDS vaccines successful in non human primates failed in human trials.[20] Considering all these aspects, it can be concluded that animals do not deserve to be exposed to such inhumane treatment. Since it is already established that animals are a legal entity which makes them equal in the eyes of law.

With reference to the above mentioned aspects, Section 14 of the The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, states that experimentation on animals for the purpose of advancement of physiological knowledge which will be useful in saving or prolonging life or alleviating suffering or for combating any disease whether of humans or animals or plants. This shall be carried on exclusively by registered establishments.

Registration of establishments to carry on experiments on animals is like a license to inflict pain and suffering over the animals, which is defeating the primary purpose of prevention of cruelty to animals. The advancement in the field of science and technology is happening at the pace of wildfire.

Therefore, the following are some of the Alternatives that can be used in place of animals and thereby protecting their life and their right to dignity:

Human-Patient Simulators:

These are computerized simulators that exhibit the human functions like breathing, bleeding, convulsion, death etc. It is a wonderful alternative to animals. These simulators mimic the injuries and illnesses and give appropriate responses to injection and interventions. In normal procedure the animals had to be first injected with the disease into their bodies and later the drug would be tested. But with the help of these simulators, the animals' lives can be protected as well as the progress and development in science is also not compromised.

Organs on chips:

Organs on chips can be considered as one of the marvelous inventions in the history of innovation as it brings down all the complex human organ functions in just a small chip. This chip is used to replicate human physiology and diseases and it is very cost effective, time efficient and predicts accurate results as compared to animal models.

Human derived 3 dimensional models (3D):
These models have replaced the Draize tests in Rabbits. They are generally used to conduct local irritation and corrosion assays. Most of the industries in India are shifting to these methods due to ethical concerns.[21]

By considering all these aspects, it is established through judicial pronouncements that the entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic animals are a legal entity. As rightly stated by Immanuel Kant in his lecture on Ethics, that:
We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals. So far as animals are concerned, we have no direct duties. Our duties towards animals are merely indirect duties towards humanity.

Since animals are now endowed with the legal personality, citizens are regarded as the guardians of the animal kingdom that means we have both direct and indirect duties towards them. In the course of experimentation the animals are exposed to a lot of pain and suffering.

The human interests seem to dominate over the animal lives as animals cannot voice their consent. But, the animals should be liberated from these practices as various reports and studies show that animals are poor predictors of the end result. Thus there are many alternatives available such as human-patient simulators, organs on chip, human derived 3D models and such others that can be helpful in this course and at the same time the animal lives can be protected and their Right to Dignity can be upheld. As Article 14 of the constitution ensures equality among the equals animals' as legal persons must be treated equally and as per Article 21 No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law. Animals as legal persons are wholly and solely entitled for their Right to life and shall lead it with Dignity.

  1. [2014], SLP (Civil) No: 11686 of 2007
  2. [2019], CRR-533-2013
  3. Ibid 2
  4. Ibid 2
  5. Justice Rajiv Sharma, in Karnail Singh and Ors v State of Haryana and Ors, [2019], CRR-533-2013, All the animals have honour and dignity. Every specie[s] has an inherent right to live and is required to be protected by law. The rights and privacy of animals are to be respected and protected from unlawful attacks. The Corporations, Hindu idols, holy scriptures, rivers have been declared legal entities, and thus, in order to protect and promote greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/legal person. The animals should be healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour without pain, fear and distress. They are entitled to justice. The animals cannot be treated as objects or property.
  6. Ethics in Animal research CPCSEA guidelines, 5th July 2020
  7. Orlans, F. Barbara. In the Name of Science: Issues in Responsible Animal Experimentation. New York: Oxford UP, 1993. Accessed on : 19 July, 2020,+F.+Barbara.+In+the+Name+of+Science:+Issues+in+Responsible+Animal+Experimentation.+ New+York:+Oxford+UP,+1993.&ots=z7xuJgiIsR&sig=mG8zaoUuZXeMVpzq4zbYFeqXxak&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=unpleasant&f=false
  8. Aysha Akhtar, The Flaws and Human harms of Animal experimentation, published on 14th September 2015, accessed on 6th July 2020
  9. The Suffering of Animals in labs, Accessed on 14th June 2020
  10. Save the Animals: Stop Animal testing, Accessed on 14 July, 2020
  11. Hope R. Fredowsian and Nancy Beck, Ethical and scientific considerations regarding Animal testing and experimentaton, Published on: 7th Sept 2011, accessed on 4th July 2020
  12. Supra 7
  13. Primates in Laboratories, < > Video: 0:52- 0:57 Accessed on: 17 July 2020
  14. Ibid 13, Video: 1:32-1:44 Accessed on: 17 July 2020
  15. Innovation and stagnation, Challenge and Opportunity On the Critical path to New Medical Technology, March 2004, Accessed on : 15th July 2020
  16. PeTA, Animal Testing is a Bad Science, accessed on 4th June 2020
  17. Animal Data is not Reliable for human Health Research, , Accessed on: 17 July 2020
  18. Arguments against Animal testing, Accessed on: 11 July
  19. Ibid 18
  20. Ibid 18
  21. Need for alternatives to animals in experimentation: An Indian perspective, Accessed on: 19 July 2020

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Anindita Angadi

    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: SP26327721781-19-920

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