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Animal Testing: Reasons Against It. There are several arguments over animal testing. There are those who fight for it, and there are those who fight against it. Those that fight for animal testing argue over its benefits for human beings. Those that fight against it do it for the rights of the animals. Everyday there are countless animals bred just for testing and caused pain from experiments. One of the biggest benefits for people comes from animal testing in medical research. Why use animals in research? Several scientists argue they use the animals because they are like human beings. So why use animals for research? The answer is simply because they are not like human beings. There are several products that are pulled off of the shelf, even after passing with positive results from animal testing, because they are not safe for human use. There are products which do not even make it to the public because they were tested on animals. Why is this? Animal anatomy and human anatomy are not always the same. Not all animals have the organs that function as ours does, some animals lack some of our organs, and not all animals have the same enzymes in their body as we do. Since animals are seen as animals of lower intelligence compared to us, it seems perfectly logical that it would be ok to test on them. However, the animals used are living breathing creatures. The use of animals used in research is a large ethical issue. Yet we still use them in studies such as medical research and the treatment they get isn't always proper. There are animal safe alternatives out there though.
Out of the different types of animal testing, medical research is one of the more familiar. With medical research, cancer research is well known. These are several different animal species used in the research. Possibly the most common animal you hear in cancer research is the mouse. The development of cancer is not just found in humans. Animals can also get cancer, but it behaves in different ways. The cancer develops at different rates and responds different to treatment (Darling & Dolan). Animals never get the form of cancer which affects membranes like the lungs (Borade). There are also substances that react differently in the body in animals than in humans. There are monkeys used in medical research. They are used in areas including, but not limited to, human pathologies and diseases, psychological disorders, toxicology, transplantation, nutrition, dentistry, biological warfare and bio-defense, drug abuse, vaccine and other drug testing, and cloning (The Human Society). While drugs and vaccines are tested for safety, how effective they work is a different story. HIV is a retrovirus specific to humans, which means that HIV is not naturally found in any other animal (HIV drugs, vaccines). There are diseases such as FIV, which is found in cats, and SIV, which is found in simians, but these are not the same thing as HIV. While you can infect a chimpanzee with HIV, it will not develop AIDS, no matter how long it has the virus. Over eighty-five vaccines have gone to human clinical trial and all have failed, with some increasing the likelihood of HIV infection (The Humane Society). A common issue with animal testing is that animals have different immune systems than humans. This is a fundamental problem when macaques are used. When it comes to genetically modified animals, they cannot be used for animal testing (Borade). When something is genetically modified, it will not always work the way you may want it. Before gene therapy made it to humans, it was tested on animals. With animals such as mice, which have a relatively short life span, you cannot see the long term effects of the gene therapy. With some of the larger animal species, which have a longer life span than mice, they later developed leukemia as a result of the gene therapy Journal of Clinical Investigation). In vitro analysis, there was a clear link established between a gene called HOXB4 and the leukemia that later developed (Journal of Clinical Investigation). There was a case where gene therapy had passed animal testing and a boy had died from the therapy only a few days after receiving it.
What do these animals go through from day to day? What kind of treatment do they receive? How do the researchers get the amount of animals they need to use in order to do their experiments? With some animals, they are bred just for the purpose of being tested on. Since scientists study all stages of life and how they react to a given substance or disease, some of the animals used are killed shortly after they are born. With some of the cats and dogs, they are obtained from animal shelters and pounds. So if the animal is not bred into testing, it will be adopted into it. We are familiar with the phrase "no pain, no gain." In animal research, there are animals that are intentionally caused pain. There are more than seventy million animals in the United States that are blinded, maimed, hurt, killed, scalded, genetically manipulated, or force-fed chemicals (Bennett). In some studies involving severe burns on living tissue, an animal is burned alive until the flesh is charred and can easily be removed in large pieces, while the animal is still alive (Bennett). Today, if a woman goes to the doctor to see if she is pregnant, the doctor asks for a urine sample. This was not always the case. Rabbits were once killed in a laboratory test in order to tell if a woman is pregnant or not ("Faq - animal,"). With a common person, if he or she sees an animal in pain, the person would try to help the animal in some way. This is not always the case for a research animal. There are over a hundred thousand animals that are made to feel pain of some kind and were not given anything in order to reduce their suffering ("11 facts about,"). While some animals are only used in one experiment, others are used in several. The living conditions these animals go through are not much of a pretty sight either. Small animals such as rats, mice, and hamsters are kept in small clear boxes with more than one animal per container. For guinea pigs, the only difference from rats is that the box is just a little bit bigger. For cats, dogs, and non-human primates, they are boarded in either a kennel or a wire cage. These living conditions can put stress on the animal, mentally and physically. As with humans, the stress that an animal goes through can affect the experiment the animal is going through and the results. Just because one species reacts one way to a substance, it does not mean tat another species will react in the same exact way ("Faq - animal,"). This is why alternatives to animal testing are needed.
There are several alternatives to animal testing, but what does "alternatives" mean when concerning animal testing? Alternative methods fall under replacement, reduction, and refinement, which are three broad categories ("Faq - animal,"). Replacement is pretty much self-explanatory. It is when you replace an animal in an experiment or test with something else. There are two kinds of replacement methods. You have absolute replacement, which is when you remove the animal completely ("Faq - animal,"). An example of absolute replacement is using human cells or tissues. Another type of absolute replacement is Corrositex. Corrositex is a type of synthetic skin that can be used in place of an animal to test how chemicals will react on skin ("Faq - animal,"). It can basically test if skin will have some type of allergic reaction or if the chemical will corrode the skin and by how much. As mentioned earlier, rabbits are not used in the process of determining pregnancy for women. Now, if a woman wanted to know, all she would have to do is either get a urine test done by the hospital or urinate on a specialized stick to find out. In this case, the rabbit has been completely replaced by some form of test using the woman's urine. Another type of test that was done on rabbits is called the Draize eye test. Today the rabbits are no longer needed. The test is either performed with either computer modeling or corneas obtained from an eye bank (Bennett). Computer modeling can also be seen in high schools and middle schools for biology. Instead of using a physical animal for dissections, computer models are used instead. This actually makes it easier for some people to do the assignment. The other type of replacement is relative replacement ("Faq - animal,"). Relative replacement removes the majority of the animal. The only thing used is either cells or tissues with this type of replacement. When a reduction method is used, researchers try to use the least amount of animals possible and still get valid results. An example of reduction is improved statistical design ("Faq - animal,"). When using this method, researchers are able to get the most out of the data collected from the few animals used. A newer type of reduction method that has been accepted is the Murine Local Lymph Node Assay (LLNA) ("Faq - animal,"). This test is commonly used in a product safety assessment. It is used to figure out how chemicals will react to skin in the form of an allergic reaction. With this test, there are fewer animals needed than before. With the final form of alternatives, refinement includes reducing the animal's pain and distress, while enhancing the animal's well being ("Faq - animal,"). Enhancing an animal's well being includes simple and common sense type things. These things include less invasive techniques; giving the animals larger cages; giving them something for pain; giving them something to play with; and allowing then to have an animal of there own kind to be with.
An animal's well-being is put aside to improve the well being of humans. The animals are used in medical research through unethical means. With medical research, where vaccines and drugs are tested on animals, the results from the research is only agreeable five to twenty-five percent of the time between animal tests and human results (Borade). With insulin, which is fine for human use, causes birth defects in animals. While aspirin has failed animal testing, but humans still use it. HIV testing is not as accurate in tests because of how animal immune systems are different from a human's. With gene therapy, is it worth risking a person's life even if it passes animal testing? When messing with a gene, results can be unpredictable. When an animal is bred is born into animal testing, the odds of it seeing the outside world is low. A person would go stir crazy if he or she was confined to only one area. Keeping animals in small boxes or cages is not a stress free environment. Imagine that you are a mouse, stuck with other mice, stuck into a shoe box. Would you enjoy it? Or imagine that you are a dog that just wants to run around all day. You cannot do that if you were a lab animal. Test animals are caused pain. Would it be ethical to put potential poisons on your skin or into your stomach? Of course it would not be. So what makes it fine to do this to an animal? The answer is that it is not ethical either. At least with alternatives, animals are either replaced or the number of animals used is reduced. The methods of animal testing are even being refined. Professor Charles R. Mangel said, "Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, the answer is: 'Because they are like us.' Ask the experimenters why it is morally OK to experiment on the animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are not like us.' Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction." ("Animal testing 101"). While animals are indeed not like us, they deserve the same treatment as us. A new born child is entitled to life, so why not a new born mouse who will be killed shortly after birth for a test? There are baby monkeys torn from their mothers for psychological tests. Is it ethical to tear a child from its mother? With alternatives out there, the amount of animal testing can be reduced. So what is the overall value of animal testing when less than a third of testing results is agreeable?
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Darling, F., & Dolan, K. P. (2007, October). Animals in cancer research. Retrieved September 20, 2010, from: http://www.animalresearch.info/en/medical/articles/animalcancerresearch
Faq - animal testing and alternatives to animal testing (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2010, from http://www.geari.org/alternatives-to-animal-testing.html
Hiv drugs, vaccines and animal testing. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2010, from: http://www.avert.org/hiv-animaltesting.htm
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Journal of Clinical Investigation (2008, March 23). Gene therapy can cause leukemia in large animals. Sciencedaily. Retrieved September 25, 2010, from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080320173632.htm