Animal experimentation (sometimes known as vivesection and animal testing) is a well-known form of animal use. We humans use animals as laboratory tools to test things and procedures we would never find acceptable on humans; even if they consented.
Unfortunately, all medication has to undergo testing on non-human animals before they can be tested or used on humans. This is a decision made by scientists; not something required or decided by consumers. That means experimentation is a form of animal use we cannot avoid or control, unlike other forms of animal use like food or fashion, where consumers can decide between vegan or non-vegan products and where their health is not compromised by their election. By consuming a medicine that does not contain animal products one is not encouraging or promoting animal use.
Some medication does contain animal products and so whenever we can we should always try to find vegan alternatives.
However, what if we can’t find alternatives to medicine we require? Does the fact that we don’t have any vegan options mean that we must not use that medication or that we cannot undergo certain medical procedures, putting our health at risk? No, of course not. No-one is morally obligated to put her/his life at risk by not taking medication.
Nevertheless, it does mean that we should always try to use medication that does not contain any animal products. Capsules, for example, tend to be non-vegan since they are made with gelatin. Tablets with sucrose usually contain lactose. However, liquids and other dissolvable formulations tend to be vegan. We should always try to find vegan alternatives and take care of our health by eating healthy and doing enough exercise.
Here is a list of some of the most typical animal products you can find in medication:
- Gelatin (E441)
- Lanolin (E913)
- Glycocholic Acid
There is a detailed list here.
In short, we as patients cannot avoid experimentation on animals. Animal experimentation exists because we live in a non-vegan world where animals are seen as resources and means to humans ends. The only way we will be able to abolish animal use is by being vegan and educating others about veganism. Only when a large portion of the population rejects the use of animals as resources we will be able to put an end to all forms of animal use. As far as experimentation is concerned, we must eat healthy, have a healthy lifestyle, and use medication that contain no animal products whenever we can.