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Hundreds of diseases that once killed millions of people every year are either treatable or have been eradicated altogether as a result of animal experimentation (Evans 1). Animals have been used repeatedly throughout the history of biomedical research. The use of animals for scientific research more specifically dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans.
The use of animals for biomedical research is needed in order to seek advances in human as well as animal health. Since at least 500 BC animals have been used to develop medical treatments, determine the toxicity of medications, check the safety of products destined for human use, and other biomedical, commercial, and healthcare uses. Proponents of animal testing recognize the difference between animal experimentation versus animal torture while at the same time, divulging the effects of animal experimentation but opponents of animal testing say that alternative methods available to researchers can replace animal testing. In recent years, the practice of using animals for biomedical research has come under severe criticism by animal protection and animal rights groups. What many activists for anti-animal experimentation fail to realize is the difference between animal experimentation and animal torture. An anonymous critic from University Wire argued that research on animals is one of the more highly regulated practices in science (“Animal Research and Torture”).
Research on animals is only considered acceptable when it deepens basic understanding of biology, or when it has the potential to provide insight that could improve human or animal health. This means that research on animals is not performed as thoughtlessly as many believe it to be. On the contrary, animal torture is defined as: “the crime of inflicting physical pain, suffering or death on an animal, usually a tame one, beyond the necessity for normal discipline. It can include neglect that is so monstrous (withholding food and water) that the animal has suffered, died or been put in imminent danger of death” (Bailey 2). Animal-based research is extremely expensive and it requires a tremendous investment in well-trained people and special facilities. It is also heavily regulated: an institution must spend a significant amount of time and money to ensure that all applicable regulations and guidelines are met.
Laws have been passed in several countries to make the practice more ‘humane’. Laws and organizations such as Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are currently in place to regulate and suspend practices of animal experimentation. Conducting animal-based research is not something that institutions undertake without a great deal of deliberation and preparation.
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