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The number of animals used in research has increased with the advancement of research and development in medical technology. Every year, millions of experimental animals are used all over the world. The pain, distress and death experienced by these animals during scientific experiments have been a debating issue for a long time. Besides the major concern of ethics, there are few more disadvantages of animal experimentations along with some advantages. While there are more disadvantages than there are advantages, these advantages are what have made us who we are today.
Those in favor of animal testing argue that it has led to many advances in science, increasing the quality of life for both humans and animals. Animal testing aids researchers in finding drugs and treatments to improve health and medicine. In research and testing, animals are subjected to experiments that can include everything from testing new drugs to infecting with diseases, poisoning for toxicity testing, burning skin, causing brain damage, implanting electrodes into the brain, maiming, blinding, and other painful and invasive procedures. It can include protocols that cause severe suffering, such as long-term social isolation, electric shocks, withholding of food and water, or repeated breeding and separating of infants from mothers. In toxicity testing, animals used in chronic toxicity and carcinogenicity studies receive the test substance daily, seven days a week, for up to two years with no recovery periods. Many, if not most, animals die before the end of the study. With the exception of chimpanzees, animals who survive their use in research and testing can be killed after the study is completed. The California Biomedical Research Association states that nearly every medical breakthrough in the last 100 years has resulted directly from research using animals. Experiments in which dogs had their pancreases removed led directly to the discovery of insulin, critical to saving the lives of diabetics.
The polio vaccine, tested on animals, reduced the global occurrence of the disease from 350,000 cases in 1988 to 27 cases in 2016. Animal research has also contributed to major advances in understanding and treating conditions such as breast cancer, brain injury, childhood leukemia, cystic fibrosis, malaria, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, and many others, and was instrumental in the development of pacemakers, cardiac valve substitutes, and anesthetics. Chris Abee, Director of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s animal research facility, states that “we wouldn’t have a vaccine for hepatitis B without chimpanzees,” and says that the use of chimps is “our best hope” for finding a vaccine for Hepatitis C, a disease that kills thousands of Americans annually. If thalidomide had been properly tested on pregnant animals, its potential for causing severe birth defects would have been discovered before the drug became legal for human use.
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