Animal Research

Hello! Welcome back to the blogging world, I hope you enjoy my blogs of 2012 just as much as you did 2011……. Lol!

So this week I’m going to talk about Animal research. I previously mentioned Animal Rights on my post “Being Responsible with Research” where I briefly spoke about how animals are usually used instead of humans for  “nasty experiments”. So I wanted to explore more into this and find out just how fair/unfair animal testing really is!

First of all, I just want to say I do not intend to offend anyone with my opinions as I am aware animal testing can be a sensitive subject :-).

It is estimated that between 7 and 13 million animals are tested every year for research and teaching purposes. Including cats, dogs, rabbits, rodents, cows, pigs, birds and fish etc. Types of animals vary depending on the country, for instance Chimpanzees, orang-utans and gorillas have not been used for experimental purposes in the UK for over 20 years. (This is a whole other kettle of fish, how is it decided which animals “deserve” to be tested/not tested… feel free to comment on any points or opinions you have on this!).

There are many anti-animal testing organisations, they believe testing is cruel and that animal tests are even ‘pointless’ and unreliable. For example, it could be suggested that animal testing is unreliable as humans and non-human animals are different; medicine or cosmetic ingredients that may be safe on animals may have a completely different effect on humans or vice versa! (such as Aspirin, results show that it is toxic for rats yet humans are not negatively effected).

Dr John Pippin ( Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) lists examples of inhumane procedures that animals are subjected to due to the use of animal testing:

  1. Creating heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular traumas in mammals
  2. In some cases weights have been dropped onto rodents to produce spinal cord injuries and paralysis
  3. in order to study burn treatments, experimenters have caused fatal burns onto dogs prior to the testing
  4. (Here’s one you’ll all be familiar with) Inducing a state of “learned helplessness” in dogs, primates and other animals by subjecting them to an inescapable source of fear or frustration
  5. Implanting electrodes into the intestines of dogs to induce motion sickness and vomiting
  6. Inducing symptoms of migraines in cats and primates through brain stimulation and manipulation with chemicals

Someexample studies include: experimenters at Monash University investigating reaction to visual stimulations, actually implanted electrodes into the brains of monkeys in order to measure reaction. No significant or useful results were produced from the study. 

Also, The University of Sydney administered illegal drugs (speed and ecstasy) to rodents under high temperature conditions in order to replicate the mixture of these drugs in a nightclub atmosphere!!!

Furthermore, even though scientists are already aware of the effects alcohol has on unborn babies when pregnant women binge drink, University of Adelaide continued to run an experiment where they gave ethanol to pregnant sheep to see the effect alcohol would have on the lamb fetuses.

However, animal testing isn’t ALL bad!!!

Policies and laws that are put into place ensure that animals are only being tested for the purpose of science and helping humans. In the UK, it is considered that animals are essential in scientific research as they help scientists to develop medicines and safely test before administering to thousands of people. Even though animals  obviously do not have identical bodies to humans, they help us to understand the body in many health areas. UK scientists weigh up the potential scientific and medical benefits of the reasearch and the potential harm the animal will be in before the experiment begins! Also, animal testing is only used if there is no other alternative method, it is strictly forbidden to test animals if there is another way of conducting the experiment (in the UK…).

Scientists argue with anti-animal believers that animal testing is not always unreliable and is in fact very reliable and also very effective. A great example is the use of animal testing with  kidney dialysis and kidney transplants. Of the 5000 people who develop kidney failure every year in the UK, one in three would die without a kidney transplant or regular dialysis on a kidney machine. Kidney transplant techniques and dialysis methods would not exist if it wasn’t for the use of animal testing. Rabbits and dogs were used to test these techniques as they provide excellent experimental models due to their close physiological similarity to the human respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Now, in the UK over 2000 patients receive a life-saving kidney transplant!!

Furthermore, as some may accept that results are reliable when larger mammals (such as dogs) are tested as they are physiologically similar to the human respiratory and cardiovascular systems, people often continue to argue that humans are extremely different to rodents so how can we justify testing on rodents?! A case that can help explain this is the example of the polio vaccine!

The polio virus enters through the mouth and once it enters the blood stream can invade the central nervous system, destroying nerve cells in the limbs and the brainstem, resulting in paralysis and in extreme cases even death. The vaccine has shown excellent results! Living nerve tissue  is needed in order to research into the polio vaccine, this ensures that the virus used for vaccine production causes the paralysis typical of polio, and no human or tissue culture alternative is available. Therefore, mice have been genetically engineered to have the receptors for the virus, providing animal models of the disease. Despite the many differences between mice and humans, the use of genetically modified mice to establish the virulence of the vaccine provides an accurate model of humans. It is considered that as mice have a much shorter life span than many animals and they have a rapid reproductive rate, they are desirable animals to test as they make it possible to study disease processes in many individuals, thus gaining a greater understanding of the progression of the disease within a short space of time.

In conclusion, I believe that if used inappropriately, without rules and regulations, animal testing can be very cruel and would be extremely unnecessary. However, when used appropriately for the benefit of science I believe that animal testing is acceptable. The results produced from testing animals are astonishing, as shown by the amount of human lives that have been saved and improved!!!

http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/

http://thepetwiki.com/wiki/Animal_Experiments,_Cruel,_Unecessary_and_Harmful_to_Human_Health

http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/policy/publications/2004/9726.pdf

 

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10 thoughts on “Animal Research

  1. psucb2 says:

    I completely agree! i am against animal testing in general as i agree with what you posted and i think that some of the things that these animals are subjected to are horrific. However, i also think that it is important to carry out this research. There are rules in place to protect the animals, however they are a lot less strict than those governing research testing on humans. As stated in the Helsinki convention, testing on humans is only allowed if there is no lasting damage caused to them, and if testing out a new drug, for example, there is no way to garantee this, and this is why animal testign is important. Although cruel, it needs to be done to ensure that we can be as sure as possible that it is then safe to test on humans.

  2. psucfb says:

    Hey! You always have great blog topics. I always read them, but never leave comments because you pretty much cover everything that’s floating around in my head!

    Personally, I feel animal testing is horrendous in a lot of circumstances (especially in other countires). For years there was a lack of ethical considerations for animal research and so experimenters could do what ever they pretty much felt like doing.

    An example of this is on youtube. It’s essentially a severed dog’s head attached to a bunch of wires that’s basically keeping it alive. The researchers do things to stimulate the senses, for example, poke the eye to make the dog blink, or dab acid on the face to make the dog lick it away. (If you want to watch it, watch from about 2:30 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDqh-r8TQgs)

    Thankfully nowadays this sort of stuff is illegal, and to some extent animals are protected. However, the thing about animal research that always troubles me is that, unlike humans, animals can’t give their consent. They can’t say that they don’t want to do the experiment because of the sheer pain they are in. This is why I can’t agree with animal testing.

    You handled this subject very well – great blog!

  3. tinastakeon says:

    I totally agree with psucfb, in that animals cannot give their consent, and it is quite clear that in many cases the poor creatures exist in agony, unable to protest or change their circumstances. Yet still we proceed with experimentation, which in some cases is futile and repetitive.

    My question is, will we ever reach a point where we not only decide not to use animals in this way, but appreciate that animals may have consciousness not dissimilar to our own.

    This paper asks the question “Do Animals and People with Autism Have True Consciousness?”

    http://www.grandin.com/welfare/animals.people.autism.true.consciousness.html

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who find even the existence of such a question abhorrent, but it’s not a lot more than 200 years since white people justified their behaviour towards black people by claiming that blacks were not fully human. There’s a great exhibition in the Albert Dock slavery museum which illustrates scientific papers of the day which ‘prove’ that black people are animals and therefore it is not only fine to use them as slaves, but that by having a black slave white people are actually doing them a favour by giving them structure and culture. Thank the Gods that things have changed so much since then. no-one would have believed back then that a black man would one day be the President of the United States.

    Now new research is beginning to show intelligence in animals beyond what we had assumed before, (although I would imagine that many pet owners already know that their own pets are intelligent) How will we justify animal research once we’ve proven that animals have just as much consciousness as autistic people, and measured the intelligence of other species? Ok, so I guess we might not end up with a lab rat in the Whitehouse, oh, hang on…..

  4. emily2904 says:

    This was very interesting to read, and i fully agree with the view that yes animal testing is bad, but without it we wouldn’t have, as you stated, dialysis!
    This links in with my blog for this week where i looked at whether the benefits of a study could outweigh some harm that may have been caused to participants.
    As helsinki states it is okay to test on humans as there is no lasting damage, but the main question relating to your blog topic, would be as humans what gives us the right to test on animals even if there is no lasting damage? The sad answer is ‘because we can!’
    Surely if an animal cannot give consent to partake, but a human can, surely the effects caused to the human are less sadistic, as they are more aware of what they are signing up for? Not to say this still makes it ok to cause serious lasting effects, as sometimes the studies can prove useless, and the effort and suffering caused would have been pointless! I guess equality between animals and humans is maybe a silly thought, but more justification perhaps between the vast ethical differences between animal testing and human participation!

  5. re3ecca says:

    I think you’ve handled this topic very well – it’s true that a lot of human lives have been saved due to animal testing – but some of these positive benefits were the results of unethical procedures, so in that sense is it ok to use the argument that “it saved people’s lives” as a justification for animal testing being ok? After all, Nazi experimentation “found successful techniques for field-surgery, efficient ways of preventing hypothermia, measured the limits of pressure that a body could take, and treatments for wounds that decreased the amount of time needed for them to heal.” (http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/should-data-collected-from-nazi-human-experimentation-be-used-in-the-medical-field-do-not-post-gra/question-939398/) but I think almost everybody would agree that the fact lives have been saved by this research does not justify the sort of research they did! I think the issue’s raised in tina’s comment (https://sinaealice.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/animal-research/#comment-46) raised a brilliant point that what we view as acceptable (or even “animal”) is very susceptible to paradigm shifts – and it is is possible that one day people may view the “well it saved people’s lives” justification for animal testing as abhorrent as it’s use for justifying nazi experimentation. I’m not saying that’s necessarily what I believe but it’s definitely an interesting point to consider at this point, which is why I think this a great blog topic, as it brings these issues to people’s attention, which I guess is the first step towards change where it’s appropriate 🙂 great blog, looking forwards to the next!

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