A shift to a vegan lifestyle presents many opportunities for learning and growth. It’s an opportunity to eat better, to learn about the body care products you use, and to learn about the materials used in your clothing. While these are all fairly expected and welcomed changes, the thought of whether it is ethical to use medicine may not be at the forefront of your mind. Modern medicine can be truly miraculous when it comes to improving our lives. But as it turns out, it’s not as beneficial to the millions of animals its tested on yearly. All prescription pharmaceutical medicines are required to undergo animal testing. As is most medicine that is sold over the counter. Why are pharmaceuticals required to be tested on animals? Is it ethical to use pharmaceuticals if it’s a life-threatening situation? If most modern medicine isn’t vegan, what alternative medicine is available?
Why Pharmaceutical Medicines are Not Vegan
All modern pharmaceutical medicine, as well as most over-the-counter medicine, is not considered vegan for two reasons. The primary reason all these medicines are not vegan is that the FDA requires them to undergo animal testing. Additionally, some medicines use animal byproducts in their formulations.
The FDA requires animal testing as a means to determine how a drug works, its effects on the body and what potential damage it can cause. What this means for millions of animals a year is testing that requires them to be poisoned and undergo painful side effects. They go through these all in the name of providing researchers with data that are meant to serve the greater human good. The data pulled from animal testing have time and again, however, shown to be misleading. They do not paint an accurate picture of how the drug would react in humans due to a variety of factors. This includes a difference in animal physiology and biology. Regardless of how ineffective and cruel this testing is, modern medicine still considers it an accepted and necessary practice. One small, yet positive statement made by the FDA states:
“FDA has supported efforts to reduce animal testing. In addition, FDA has research and development efforts underway to reduce the need for animal testing and to work toward replacement of animal testing.”
This statement provides a small glimmer of hope for animals and humans who do not wish to partake in animal suffering.
In addition to all pharmaceuticals requiring animal testing, many contain animal byproducts. Many gel capsules are made from gelatin, which is a protein obtained from various parts of cows and pigs. Beyond the common gel capsule, animal products find their way into the most unsuspecting products. Birth control pills, for example, contain lactose. While vaccines* contain any number of animal by-products such as bovine blood and enzymes.
Modern medicine creates a tough moral dilemma for those seeking to lead completely vegan lifestyles. Is it ethical to use these medicines when their existence relies upon animal suffering? Lifestyle factors such as a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and stress cause many prevalent modern diseases. So one may argue that it is more ethical to change one’s lifestyle habits rather than rely upon medicine to alleviate their symptoms such as high blood pressure. While this may be important to consider, it’s worthwhile to note The Vegan Society’s definition of veganism for an alternative perspective:
“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”.
As far as is possible or practical, we seek to exclude animal products and not contribute to their suffering. But for that to be possible, we must be alive and well and make the best choices for ourselves to enable this.
Alternatives to Animal Tested Medicine
Seek out an expert
If modern medicine is weighing heavy on your conscience and you would prefer to try an alternative to animal tested medicine, what options are available and how do you find them? Natural and herbal remedies are the oldest forms of medicine that exist. Any search online or in a bookstore will turn up a plethora of information about herbs, homeopathic medicines, acupuncture, chiropractic care and more.
It can be almost overwhelming to begin to search for alternative medicines. One has two options when doing so. One can seek out a professional in the field to consult with to address their health concerns and find what treatments would work for their conditions and be in line with their morals. This could be a naturopathic doctor, a homeopathic doctor or an herbalist. One could also consult their doctor or pharmacist for alternative medicines. However, they may find themselves with little support in the mainstream medical world.
Researching alternative therapies online
If one can’t find a professional or wants to do their own research, this option can be more economical although more time-consuming. Our modern technologies afford us the luxury of being able to google our symptoms and search for natural or alternative therapies. When looking for alternative medicines that have evidence to support their usage, it’s helpful to search for the name of the natural remedy or herb you’re considering along with the term peer-reviewed studies. Doing this will provide you with details of studies that corroborate the remedies usage and whose results scholars have reviewed and accepted.
For example, turmeric is associated with helping to alleviate inflammation. When searching for this, there is evidence that backs this up, making it a useful alternative medicine to consider. Garlic is associated with helping with high blood pressure, while grapefruit seed extract is associated with being antimicrobial. Both of these have evidence to back these claims. Searching for natural remedies this way will provide one with scientific data. But it may severely limit what remedies you find as many natural remedies have not been studied.
There is an internet full of anecdotal evidence which you may find useful. But it’s important to keep in mind the source when determining what remedies will work best for your health conditions. When embarking on any healing journey, it is wise to consult with your doctor if you are on any medications and intend to get off of them or intend to add natural remedies to your repertoire just in case they interact with pharmaceuticals.
Man’s Relief Vs Animal’s Suffering
Veganism presents us with many opportunities to expand our knowledge and grow, and sometimes make hard choices. These choices include whether to use modern prescription and over the counter medicines. These medicines create an ethical challenge as they are tested on animals and cause suffering to millions each year, despite the potential health saving properties they possess.
We have the option to use these medicines to improve our health whether it’s everyday usage or lifesaving. Or we can try natural and alternative remedies if we are uncomfortable with the thought of using any products that have been tested on animals, regardless of the benefits. Whatever choice we make, it’s crucial to extend to ourselves and others the compassion we extend to animals. We should remember that the most important work we are doing is trying every day to reduce suffering, as much as is practical and to the best of our ability.
* this site neither supports nor opposes vaccines but is merely providing information so that the reader who chooses vaccinations can make an informed choice.