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:
- Creating heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular traumas in mammals
- In some cases weights have been dropped onto rodents to produce spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- in order to study burn treatments, experimenters have caused fatal burns onto dogs prior to the testing
- (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
- Implanting electrodes into the intestines of dogs to induce motion sickness and vomiting
- 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!!!