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Animal testing was raised by the need of human society. Humans utilize many different kinds of animal on experiments and researches. It was regarded as important actions of speeding science research benefiting our human welfare. In addition, prior to releasing to the market, pharmaceutical and biological products need to pass animal tests as a prerequisite. Most people only recognize the significant contribution of animal testing towards psychiatric, pharmaceutical, and biological research. While animal testing is still widely adopted in main stream modern medical and scientific researches, few people are aware of the cruel facts and ethical dilemmas behind it. In order to evaluate the pros and cons of animal testing, one must take animal rights into account as well as the benefits it has been generating.
The history of animal testing can be dated back to the 17th century, when scientists began to learn more about basic physiology, medication to defeat diseases, and possible dangers to human health caused by chemical substances. Since the 19th century, the usage of animal testing has been increasing rapidly. By the 1920s, 365,000 animals were used annually. During the 1950s, 3.5 million animals were used each year. According to estimated reports, the total animal usage in United States has ranged from 20 to at least 70 million animals. (Animal Testing and Consumer Product, Chapter V: Analysis of Animal Use Reported to the USDA. pp129-154) Most of them were rats or mice. They meet the same demise: either killed during the experiments or euthanized afterwards.
The usage of animal testing was founded on the "dualism" which was claimed by René Descartes (1956-1650) who is a French philosopher, mathematician, physicist, and writer. He claimed that only humans have minds; therefore, he believed that animals do not feel pain. Consciousness became the basis of determining whether animals have moral status or not. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), who was a German philosopher, also claimed that only the independent and self-control individuals, who can behave rationally, are subject to moral consideration. Since humans are the only species that can think rationally, other species cannot be included within the scope of moral considerations. Kant's theory had encouraged vivisection in medical research at that time. Although animal rights were excluded completely from moral considerations at first, these supporting theories are being rejected in the modern society.
Despite the fact that Kant's theories are no longer widely accepted, advocates of animal testing nowadays protests that animal testing is beneficial to the human society as their main argument. This argument, which essentially suggests that the interest of humanity is more important than that of other vulnerable species, is prejudice and "specieism".
The necessity of animal testing has been based on four myths and misunderstandings in the general community. First of all, many people mistakenly believe that medical science was founded on animal testing; however, this is not the case. The father of classical medicine has never done any animal testing. The development of medicine study does occasionally, but not necessarily, involves in animal testing. Moreover, the essence of classical medical knowledge is based on observations-observations on the difference between healthy and unhealthy individuals-not on animal testing. Animal testing were mainly used for testing and gaining results on a certain concept, but were rarely used for developing new ideas. Also, there are important medicinal milestones that were developed without animal testing at all. For example, "Acetylsalicylsäure," a drug that is used to reduce fever, "Phenobarbital," a drug that is used to help sleep or treat epilepsy, and the discovery of using vitamin C to prevent scurvy were all developed without the use of testing on animals. It is ignorant to think that the basis of medical knowledge is based on animal testing.
The second myth is that animal testing is indispensible in order to defeat new diseases and prolong human lifespan. According to McKeown's thesis, the fundamental causes of diseases are unsanitary living conditions, and keeping epidemics under control is the most important factor in prolonging human lifespan. Moreover, the top six causes of death are Diseases of the heart (heart attack), Malignant neoplasms (Cancer), Cerebrovascular disease (Stroke), Chronic lower respiratory disease, Unintentional injuries (accidents), and Diabetes mellitus. They are mostly caused by individuals' life style. It does not prove that animal testing would be helpful at this point. Therefore, there is not any scientific evidence that supports this myth.
Thirdly, animal testing proves that once a certain medication has been tested and approved, it will most likely be harmless to human beings. This is one of the most dangerous myths. Even if we are unsure about a new drug or chemical, we seem to believe that it is safe to use since it was tested on animals before. However, animal testing can only provide evidence to a certain degree. Human do not react to drugs or chemicals in the same way as animals do. There are a few examples of drugs that have caused terrible harm to human, even though they all have passed the animal testing. One of the examples is Contergan (Thalidomide), which is introduced as a sedative drug in the late 1950s. One of the purposes of this drug was to reduce the pain of women during gestation. It was marketed as a "harmless tranquilizer for the pregnant woman and absolutely safe for the unborn child." However, a few years after the drug was released, a doctor found an abnormal increasing rate of women giving birth to a malformed child. Soon after that, scientists found that Contergan was the cause, and it caused more than 10,000 children in 46 countries born with deformities. (FDA Consumer [US Food and Drug Administration]) Contergan also have other side effects, such as peripheral neuropathy (permanent nerve damage), fatigue, and constipation. In addition, "Scientists believe the drug harmed the growth of new blood vessels in the developing embryo."(Nick Triggle, BBC News: Health [BBC News] 14 Jan. 2010) Sadly, these side effects were not detected in the animal testing. Another example is the Clioquinol (Entero-Vioform). It is an anti-fungal and anti-protozoal drug, which is given as an anti-diarrhoeal drug. Between 1958 and 1970, it has caused over 10,000 cases of paralysis, blindness, and deaths worldwide. (Wadia NH . "SMON as seen from Bombay") It also developed a new disease called SMON (subacute myelo-optic neuropathy). Many people claim that animal testing is required to ensure safety before releasing to the public; however, the examples given above shows that none of the side effects were predicted or detected under animal testing duration. It also shows the evidence that animal testing is not only helpless and worthless, but also dangerously unpredictable to the environment and human. "Animal model systems differ from their human counterparts. Conclusions drawn from animal research, when applied to human beings, are likely to delay progress, mislead, and do harm to the patient. Vivisection, or animal experimentation, should be abolished." (Dr. Moneim Fadali, M.D) Although we see that some drugs are safe on animals but not necessarily safe for human, there are also some examples of drugs that are harmful to animals but harmless to human, such as, Aspirin (Analgesic), Penicillin (Antibiotics), Digitalis (A drug for heart treatment), Chlorophorm (Narcotic), and Morphine (Tranquilizer). This will lead us into our last discussion.
The last myth suggests that animals do not feel pain during an experiment. That is wrong. All animals have the capacity to feel pain, and can generate the corresponding response to it. Pain is a complex experience; pain causes when the cellular tissue damages due to external stimuli or feel the potential crisis. The stimulation of pain can motivate us to withdraw from damaging or to avoid those situations. When animals feel pain; however, they do not necessarily demonstrate an expression or make a sound. In addition, when animals get injured or ill, they often do not move nor make any sound due to self-defense, which is opposite as human. However, that does not mean that animals do not have the ability to feel pain. On the contrary, animals' sensory perception is much more sensitive than human, such as dogs. Dogs are highly complex psychological mechanisms and have a high awareness of activities. If a dog were locked in a cage, he soon will know that he had lost his freedom and the ability to defense himself. At first, he may bark, but soon, he will stop barking and start feeling constant despair. The only thing he will be left showing are the empty and desperate eyes. Major R.F.E.Austin, M.D. once said, "Experiments on animals do not only mean torture and death for the animals, they also mean the killing of people. Vivisection is a double-edged sword." We human are ignorant to believe that animals do not feel pain just because animals do not make any expressions or sounds. It is merciless for those people who support animal testing to use this as an excuse.
In dozens of animal testing, the two most well-known tests and vilified by the animal protectionists are the "Draize" and "LD50". Draize test is a toxicity test developed in 1944. The procedure involves applying a bit of testing samples to the eye or skin for a couple of hours to test for any irritation or allergic reactions. The Draize eye test usually uses rabbits as a testing subject since they do not have lacrimal gland, and thus the testing samples will not be washed away by tears during the experiment. The purpose of this experiment is to study the reaction after contacting the animal's eyes in order to measure the irritant level to the human eyes. During the experiment, rabbits are forced to close their eyes after applying the testing substance, so that scientists could test the full irritation and damage to the eyes. Their necks are trapped in an instrument to avoid any interference to the testing result. A researcher describes the most severe reaction that may happen to the testing subjects: As the structure of the cornea or internal of eye injuries seriously, the animals are blinded completely. As a result, they try to close their eyes urgently. They scream, jump, try to escape, and try to touch their eyes, which is impossible since they are stuck in the special instrument. Often times, they end up breaking their necks trying to escape out of the instrument due to severe pain. However, even if they survived from the experiment, they would not get any treatments, they would be euthanized instead. The Draize skin test has a similar procedure as well, such as, testing for a make-up product. Instead of using rabbits as an experimental subject, scientists use the technology of GM (Genetically Modify), making rats born with wrinkled skin. Then, they apply the testing substance on the whole body of rats.
The Draize test is worthless and inhumane, and there is no scientific evidence to support it. The eyes of rabbits used in the Draize test are substantially different from human eyes since rabbits have more sensitive eyes than human, which causes them to feel more pain. Therefore, they do not react the same way as we do. This test is not only expensive and time consuming, but also meaningless and cruel. The scientists are putting animals through painful experiments, and might even kill them afterwards or kept for future use. Moreover, the results vary widely depending on different laboratory workers, small test populations, and minor changes in test protocols. Since the testing results do not have consistency, the Draize test is scientifically invalid. Scientists should end this animal testing and spent the time on other meaningful researches instead.
LD50 is abbreviated from "Lethal Dose for 50 percent", a toxicity test requiring the killing of half of the testing population after certain test duration. In the classical version of this toxicity test, up to 100 or more animals in each test are exposed to the test substance. The procedure involves forcing testing subjects to eat, subcutaneous inject, inhale, or by using a gastric tube to insert testing samples. Depending on the different testing samples, the symptom or reaction to animals may include cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, paralysis, and so on. HSUS says this method "produces signs of poisoning including bleeding from the eyes, nose or mouth; labored breathing; convulsions; tremors; paralysis; and coma." "The experiment will be over after half of the experimental animals die. This is also the reason why the test is called "LD50." The surviving animals are killed and examined after two weeks to learn how the substance affected their bodies.
The LD50 test has a defect in itself, and it does not stand on any scientific evidence. According to the scientists, LD50 is highly influenced by factors such as the sex of the animals and where the test is performed and so on, but it is not directly related to the experiment itself. In addition, the test concentrates mainly on when the animals die but not why they die. That does not help us to understand the problem but to torture animals. Animals experience extreme pain and distress during the experiment. However, painkillers are not used for reducing the animals' pain because the experimenters think that it would interfere with the test results since not all the effects of the substance would be seen.
From the examples given above on animal testing, we can clearly understand the reason why we should be against animal testing and find alternatives. In addition, some animal testing is just repeating the same studies over and over again, which is meaningless and a waste of time. Many debates over animal testing argue that some animal testing does have some advantages. The head of Johns Hopkins Center, Alan Goldberg, points out that the most obvious and important advantage of whole-animal testing is that it provides an integrated biological system that serves as a surrogate for the complexities of human and other animal systems. However, the overuse of animal testing does not benefit our society at all. In 1959, two British scientists, W. Russell and R. Burch proposed a principle called the "three Rs": reduction, refinement, and replacement. The role of the three Rs principle mainly tries to obtain the balance and compromise in the interests between humanity and animals.
The first R: "reduction" means reducing the number of animals in tests. To achieve this goal, we should collect and organize the test results that have been published, and avoid repetition of experiments. Moreover, whenever we need to conduct an animal testing, we should plan the procedure carefully and implement sophisticated statistical methods to analyze the data in order to use fewer animals to obtain the result.
The second R: "Refinement" means refining tests to decrease pain or increase efficiency. It mainly focuses on improving the living quality of experimental animals. The improvement includes providing comfortable living environment, lighting, noise control, and other conditions. Therefore, it may reduce the animals' discomfort which may arise and would therefore affect the results. However, we should be aware that no matter how the methodology is refined, it does not change the fact that animal testing has no scientific value.
The third R: "replacement" means replacing methods that use animals as testing subjects. It refers not to use experimental methods to do testing. For example, an alternative method for Draize eye test is the skin irritation testing. It suggests that before testing the substances in the eyes of animals, a skin patch test can be done either on animals or humans. If the substance is classified as a dermal irritant, it is assumed to be an ocular irritant as well. As a result, there is no need to do further tests. Another easy alternative method for Draize eye test is the measurement of pH. If the reading for pH is under 2 (very acidic) or over 12 (very alkaline), the ocular irritancy is assumed. There are also other alternatives available nowadays, such as, the Ames test (Biological assay), CAM / CAMVA assay, computer assimilation, organ / cell cultures, bacteria cultures, and protozoan studies, and so on. The AGD (agarose diffusion method), or the Kirby-Bauer disk-diffusion method, is one example of cell culture techniques. It uses cell cultures from mice which are now available in "immortal cell lines, so no more animals are required" according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The committee also indicated that the test "only takes 24 hours and cost only about $50 to $100, compared with up to three weeks and $500 to $700 for the Draize test." However, the AGD has not been used for consumer product testing; otherwise, the usage of animal testing will reduce dramatically. Another example of cell culture test is neutral red uptake assay, which developed by Dr. Ellen Borenfreund. This test predicts toxicity by measuring cell damage by stain the exposed culture with a dye that is absorbed only by healthy cells.
In the conclusion, animal testing should be abolished without delay because it offers little to no values and is ethically controversial. We learned that results from animal testing cannot be applied on humans. In fact, sometimes substances that pass animal testing can still be harmful, even lethal to humans. Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, M.D. also believed that animal testing "just simply does not work and has no scientific value" and can hinder the development of medical research since there are some medications helpful to human but harmful to animals; and some medications harmless to animals but harmful to human. Moreover, when diseases induced artificially on animals for testing purpose to evaluate drugs, the result can never be compared to the diseases arising spontaneously. It is substantially different. The massive time spent on animal testing for unreliable result fail to contribute anything. It is better to utilize the time in other meaningful researches or other directions. There are dozens of alternatives that already exist and available to replace animal testing. Therefore, we as human beings, lord of creation, should stop uncontrolled exploitation of animals. In order to maintain the interest of humankind and protect animal rights at same time, we should completely abandon animal testing and seek efficient means of medical verifications.
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