MedicineSocial Issues

Animal Testing: Considering Both Sides

Each year over 100 million animals, including dogs, cats, bunnies, and mice are killed in U.S. laboratories for biological experimentation.  Although the Animal Welfare Act protects nonhuman primal animals, it fails to protect 90% of animals in laboratory testing.  Some feel that this is fair due to the success of traditional testing methods, but many feel troublesome about the treatment of these animals, especially in light of modern substitutions for medical testing.  Many argue that the intention is never to cause injury to the animals but rather that it comes as a byproduct of the necessity to further medical advancement. Analyzing dual sides of the argument can hopefully produce growth in the conversation as well as help both sides understand the motivations for the other. 

Person Holding Laboratory Flask

    In recent years there has been a growth in the fight against animal testing, and a rise in the idea of substitution among the medical world.   Statements released by the EPA  depicts and supports alternatives to the use of animals in testing chemicals, despite the disagreement of many scientists.  The primary goal of the EPA and many activists is the idea of “reducing the use of animals and increasing the use of cutting-edge science in chemical testing.” Modern non-animal alternatives that have grown in markability are silico and in chemico in order to test health concerns such as inflammation, allergic reactions, and sensitization.  Given the substantial scientific evidence and international activities supporting the new methodologies for skin sensitization testing,  many people have transitioned to supporting the fight for fair treatment among all animals, but those that have stuck to traditional testing methods have not given up. In the article “Is Animal Testing Necessary To Advance Medical Research” two women, Laurie Pycroft and Helen Marston, defend each side of the argument.  Laurie Pycroft, a leading member in Pro-test, argued that “the human body is the most complex machine encountered.  Biomedical researchers need tools capable of mimicking this level of complexity.”  A major argument for pro-test advocates is that animals are appropriate subjects because they are similar to human beings in various ways.  Chimpanzees and mice are 98% genetically similar to humans and have the same set of organs, making them susceptible to many of the same conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. On the other hand Helen Marston, head of Human Research Australia, believes that there is a better way to advance medical research.  Marston argues that “humans differ from other animals anatomically, genetically and metabolically. Meaning data derived from animals cannot be extrapolated to humans with sufficient accuracy.”  Her argument consist of believing no living animal can be replicated to the human body.  Due to the variation of animals, their tests may mislead researchers into ignoring potential cures and treatments. The article also roughly touches on the alternatives to the use of animals in lab experiments and how the development of these new methods can lead to breakthroughs in medical research. A primary point of many anti-testing supporters is that there is no research suggesting that animal testing was necessary in major medical advances and that if money and resources were devoted to animal-free alternatives, other solutions would be found.  The Human Research Australia reports that “many discoveries by non-animal methods were later verified by animal experiments, which gives false credit to animal use.”  Advancements such as insulin was reportedly discovered by Banting and Best by testing on rabbits in 1922, however, the discovery leads back to 1788 when Thomas Crawley performed an autopsy on a diabetic.  The anger does not necessarily arise from past methodology but rather that there hasn’t been significant changes for anti-animal testing. In fact, in the last few years animal testing has gone up 73%.  Vexation as also increased due to the AWA’s (Animal Welfare Act)  failure in preventing large percentages of horrific cases in concern for animal cruelty in laboratories. Cases such as infant mice being sealed in a plastic baggie and thrown on the counter left for dead, or chimpanzees being shot with a with a dart gun have not had many consequences following their rising among the media. In 2016 US government Statistics found that 820,812 animals were used in research, a 7% raise from 2015.  Further, this number excludes animals that ARE NOT protected by the AWA, including mice, rats, birds, or fish. Though more and more companies are going cruelty- free, millions of animals a year are continuing to be tortured behind the smiling ads.  

Animal Testing: Considering Both Sides

As touched on in the previous paragraph, there are two sides to every story.  One side believes that animals are a necessity to advance science, and the other side believes we can change science with alternatives.  Reasoning made by Jones Lee in “Pro Animal Testing” and April Powell (Letters, NI 391) suggests that animal testing is required by law to protect human beings along with being a necessity for the advancement in science and its eradication would lead to chaos.  For instance, the famous “Thalidomide Case”, in which 10,000 babies were born with deformities due to the failure of results of the experiments done on animals, has raised validation for many pro-testing supporters due to the idea that “thalidomide wreaked havoc precisely because there was too little animal testing.”  Scientists have come forward saying that the tests were not done on pregnant animals and had decided to test it on various rodents after its withdrawal from the market.  Once the experiment was conducted, scientists found that the  medicine induced birth defects in mice, rats, hamster, and baboons.  Overall, the experiment proved that if these tests were concluded earlier, the thalidomide issue would never have risen in the first place.  Another central argument is that successful traditional testing shouldn’t be messed with. The California Biomedical Research Association states that almost every medical breakthrough in the last 100 years has been directly from doing research on animals. Diseases like breast cancer, brain injury, malaria, and leukemia all had a major breakthroughs relating to animal testing.  “Foundation For Biomedical Research” proclaims that “every drug, treatment, medical device, diagnostic or cure we have today was developed with the help of lab animals.”  Pro-testers argue that without animal testing we are more prone to diseases, viruses, and alternate problems that will spread across the world more rapidly than we can stop it.  The issue arises when having to produce these liable results, animal researchers usually treat animals inhumanely, in both the animals’ sake and to ensure test results. In the article “Industry Pursuing Specific Solutions To Animal Testing” it explains the new practical alternatives to the use of lab animals in order to relieve the growing issue of villainous treatment many animals have to endure.  The new idea involves gaining special funding for individual research projects sponsored by Johns Hopkins Center for Alternative to Animal Testing (CAAT).  What they aim to do is to “hasten development of alternative procedure” that benefits the industry’s needs without depending on animals.  In addition to finding alternatives to the Draize Test, CAAT is working on other projects involving toxicity tests with sink and liver cells, and other ventures centered on the heart, kidney, and nervous system.  While many can argue that there is no adequate alternative to testing on a whole-body living system, scientists have found a wide variety of alternatives.  Testing methods such as In Vitro testing (studying cell structures in a petri dish), can actually produce more reliable results than animal testing due to human cells being used in these experiments.  Another option, microdosing, is furthered by analyzing human blood. The process includes microfluidic chips that are lined with human cells to recreate the function of human organs.  Although new testing methods, such as microdosing and In Vitro, have rose to the surface, many laboratories refuse to switch from traditional practices. The continuation of traditional practices have mislead researchers into ignoring potential cures and treatments, argue many anti-testing backers.  Backers of the cause, believe that the research industry should take into account that there is modern technology that can potentially save more human and animal lives.  As many see the prolongation of traditional methods wasting money and the lives of animal subjects, others see these techniques as prerequisite for furthering medical advancements. 

Two Yellow Labrador Retriever Puppies

Although millions of animals die in a year to animal testing, there are some survivors and the repercussions they undergo are heartbreaking. Beagles are the fifth most popular dog breed in the U.S., but unfortunately they are also popular among laboratories.  According to “The Freedom Project”, 96%  of dogs used in medical testing are beagles, due to their friendly nature.  While many make an argument that animals are a necessity for accurate test results, these “test experiments” take away beagles’ chance from having a family and a healthy life. There has been multiple movements to save these loving animals such as “Freedom for Beagles,” This is a bill in consideration to be passed in order to stop beagle animal testing in Nevada. Beagles who grow up in labs and are released, have lost the ability to function in everyday life which means many people don’t have the patience to teach them how to regain those skills.  Due to this, these dogs are kicked to the side, left for dead caused by their failure of defensibility.  Although the Beagle Bill is a big step forward for animal welfare in Nevada along with being a historic piece of legislation, there are still many animals that struggle to repurpose themselves on the chance that they do survive. 

Animal testing in the medical field has long been a controversial topic.  Individually we must decide where we stand. The medical benefits can be significant but is the profit achieved outweighed by the pain and suffering inflicted on the animals. Is the act of treating fellow species with little care validated since they are being used for serviceable results or is it morally wrong to test on them because they are a fellow species.  There is no doubt that animals have contributed to past advancements but is there better options without the repercussions that traditional methods produce or should we rely on what we know works?

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Animal Testing: Considering Both Sides