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Antibiotics, insulin, vaccines for polio and cervical cancer, organ transplantation, HIV treatments, heart-bypass surgery – it reads like an A to Z of medical progress. But these major advances have something in common: they were all developed and tested using animals. Animal experimentation is a contentious issue, but it boils down to two essential questions: does it work, and is it ethical? The first is easy to answer: it works. Some would have you believe there are alternatives for all animal research, or that animal testing is always misleading and unsafe. These are fallacies.
Where there are reliable alternatives, of course, we use them – that’s what the law demands. Magnetic resonance imaging, computer models and work on isolated tissues and cell cultures can be useful; but they cannot provide the answers that animal research can. No one chooses to use animals where there is no need. It gives no one any pleasure, and it is time consuming, expensive and – quite rightly – subject to layers of regulation. Yet it is still the best way of finding out what causes disease, and of knowing whether new treatments will be safe and effective.
Biologically, we are similar to species such as mice and rats, because we have practically the same set of genes. Their bodies respond to disease and treatments much as ours do. If a genetically modified “purple tomato” can fight cancer in mice, as announced yesterday, it might work for humans, too. Medical research is an arduous process. By the time a therapy reaches the patient, it is easy to forget just how important animals were in its development.
Patients might not know that the powerful new drugs Avastin (for bowel, breast and lung cancer) and Herceptin (for breast cancer) were developed after research on mice. In fact, animal research has contributed to 70 per cent of Nobel prizes for physiology or medicine. Without it, we would – medically speaking – be stuck in the Dark Ages. It is not only drugs and vaccines. Just last week, researchers in Seattle announced that they had used an electronic brain implant to enable a monkey to move its paralysed limbs, a discovery with the potential to allow severely disabled people to regain movement.
I challenge anyone who has followed the tragic case of Daniel James, who committed suicide after becoming paralysed in a rugby accident, to try to stop research in the UK on spinal injuries, some of which involves rats. Far from being ashamed of this kind of research, we should be proud of our scientists, whose work offers hope to those suffering from incurable disorders. But what of the ethical issues? Some say that saving people from suffering is no excuse for the death of laboratory animals.
Those who object are entitled to refuse treatments that have been developed through animal tests – even if that means rejecting virtually every medical treatment that exists. But they don’t have the right to force that opinion on the majority, who expect and yearn for new and better treatments. We all hope for a day when animal research is no longer needed, but until then it is vital. To curb animal research – including, in special cases, research on monkeys – would impede the flow of treatments to people who need them.
Medical researchers are not a bunch of scalpel-wielding lunatics. Those I know are compassionate, humane people who carry out their work with great caution and consideration, and with every effort to minimise suffering. There are incurable diseases out there – for example Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia – that shatter lives. If we are to have any hope of treating such conditions, medical research needs every tool at its disposal. For everyone’s sake, that must include animals. However, animals may not suffer according to the law.
When the animal gets adverse events from the experiment, researchers are required to give them painkillers. At worst, if the animal reaches the human endpoints, like no eating or drinking, loss of body weight, extreme tumor growth, serious respiratory problems and aberrant behavior and movements, a scoring list will be evaluated. When a score above 4 is reached the animal will be euthanized (Holsbeeks, 2011). This indicates that the welfare of the animal is definitely taken into account. Have scientists developed any alternatives to animal testing? Yes!
Some of these are currently being used alongside animal testing. For example, some scientists are using synthetic skin to measure how drugs travel through the skin. Other scientists use human cell cultures to test how drugs work. Do animal based experiments produce useful results? It depends who you ask! YES: Life support machines, dialysis, and asthma drugs have all been produced using animal testing. Can we remove animal testing from the pharmaceutical industry? At the moment it’s the law that all medical drugs are tested on animals, so the law would need to be changed.
Perhaps the law could be changed so that animal testing was optional, rather than compulsory. Scientists could decide not to test drugs on animals if they knew that it was safe to do so. We would need alternatives to animal testing, which could safely test drugs without harmful consequences for humans. Animal testing alternatives are being developed in universities and laboratories across the country. Do you think we will ever be able to replace animal testing with these alternatives? Should animal testing be optional, not compulsory? You decide!
Answer: The reason for the most important animal testing is to save human lives, to establish whether there is some aspect of a drug or treatment that could be harmful or fatal. Other research helps find cures and treatments for animal diseases. However, other uses for animal testing are not as valuable, such as testing cosmetics, or improving surgical techniques by deliberately injuring animals in a certain way. In many of these situations, neither animal nor human testing is morally defensible. Why don’t we test on humans instead?
Answer In a Bible context, some would say it is because men have “dominion” over the earth, which means we are in charge and the custodians of all other creatures, so we can do what we want. But having dominion means we also have responsibility for the Earth and everything that lives on it. Therefore, we should not waste lives, even of animals. Whether testing is unnecessary is an argument that many people would have. Is killing animals during testing worth the lives that a drug may save? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
What is certain is that we should keep asking these questions, and be aware f how we interact with our environment. We should be careful with the lives that we hold power over. Answer This is a subject that is going to lead to great debate. Some people will say animals are needed to do research in order to save lives, but the myth of that is that when you hear on the news something such as a certain product has been deemed dangerous for human consumption or certain medications have bad side effects — guess where these are tested? The calculation of the doses they give to rats, mice, dogs, cats, and monkeys may not tell you exactly what it can do to a human.
Cosmetics industries have used animals for injurious testing, leaving the poor animals with blindness, sores on their bodies, and pain. If you notice now, not only cosmetics but other products will be labeled “not animal tested. ” There’s a good reason for that. Many people will refuse to buy products that are animal tested, and companies did not want to lose their customers. Several years ago, prisoners with life sentences were given the opportunity to become guinea pigs, to give back to society.
The prisoners were NEVER forced and shouldn’t be, but some truly wanted to leave this world by mending what they took away from society. There were, on occasion, other prisoners in prison for long sentences that were only too happy to try a new drug or treatment in exchange for reduced. But this should always be the prisoner’s choice. Answer To me it’s like putting poisonous flea collars on humans to see if they’ll work on a dog! If the human seemed to fare well and only a few had rashes or other maladies and 2% died from having that flea collar on, then it’s FDA approved! But, think of this one.
The people that put out this particular dog collar and tested it on people will now advertise it to pet owners as the best thing since sliced bread, and the dog gets a mega-dose of the ingredients in the flea collar, and some could have the same unfavorable side effects (even causing more death). This is the reverse of the animal-human scenario. Of course animals are smaller than people, but, scientists love to talk about a product or food that could be “dangerous to your health” when they have only tested it on rats or mice, and not in the same doses a human would ingest it.
Just look at the news at all the edications advertised for the betterment of the human race, but then listen to the side effects! It makes me want to take that medication like I’d want a boil on my backside. Also if you watch the news you’ll see more and more drugs being hauled off the market. I have investments and my advisor told me NEVER to invest in drugs because some drug companies were unreliable with their research and many of the medications were being hauled off the market. Think about that one! So much for animal testing. If anyone is in doubt what they do to these animals feel free to visit a testing lab, but I can guarantee you they won’t let you in the door!
Answer Animal testing saves more lives (both people and animals) than it kills. They won’t let you through their labs because visitors only want to tell other people about how horrific it is… or worse, to sabotage the labs. Why are people more bothered about animal testing than Third World poverty? Most people seriously need to get there priorities right. And human testing? That wouldn’t be cruel? Answer I’m an animal lover but when it comes to using animals or humans for testing I’m afraid I’d have to vote against animals.
I’m sorry some animal lovers care more for a bunch of mice, specially bred for testing, than the human lives that might be saved. There was a reference made to all the problems with some of the new drugs on the market. Did you ever stop to think that maybe it’s because of the fact that it has become a taboo subject to use animals in testing? It was also mentioned that “lifers” were given an opportunity to become human guinea pigs, I’m all for that! But, let’s face it why should they, there’s always a possibility that the ones that say they are innocent truly are.
Even spending the rest of their lives in prison, they’d likely rather live. Animal testing is a horrible thing. Human testing is far worse! What kind of society have we become when an animal’s life is more important than a human life? Answer It may be cruel, but it’s done before a medication or related item is released into the market. It’s tested on lab animals to make sure it’s safe. The catch is that animals have different enzymes and genetic makeups, so even though some animals are similar to humans, animal testing isn’t always so reliable.