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The US spends approximately sixteen billion dollars of the taxpayers’ money on animal testing every year. Many people think animal testing is a good thing for society and that it should continue. However, some people disagree saying it’s inhumane and cruel to all the animals used in the experiments. Animal testing is very misunderstood because people don’t know the purpose, the pros, the cons, the alternatives, or how animal testing has helped the medical field.
Many people don’t understand why animals are used for testing products that are mostly used on/for humans. Researchers usually use animals because they are very similar to humans. However, scientists do acknowledge the limits and differences between animals and humans. The trials are done on animals because they are seen as the closest and best match to apply the data to humans (Murnaghan “Using). So, where and why is animal testing performed?
Animal testing is performed everywhere for a variety of things. Animals are used for drug testing, creating vaccines, and more. There are many regulations that companies and laboratories must follow in order to use animals for their experiments. For example, the UK has very strict standards. Animals can only be used if there is no other option. Universities, the military, medical schools, and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are the only places allowed to use animals for research and testing (Murnaghan “What is”). There are some benefits to animal testing and people sometimes forget about them.
A major benefit to animal testing was the creation of vaccines and new drugs. Lots of treatments have been made possible by animal testing, including cancer and HIV drugs, insulin, antibiotics, vaccines and many more. Many scientists consider animal testing essential for improving the health of people. The scientific community support animal testing for that reason.
Pharmacologists use animals to test new a drug’s safety before allowing the public to use it. Drugs can carry major dangers with them but animal testing allows scientists to ensure a drug’s safety. Testing drugs on animals has prevented people from harmful drugs and increased the number of people saved – not by avoiding the dangers of drugs but due to the drugs themselves saving and improving human life (Murnaghan “Using”).Pharmacologists and scientists are not the only ones who use animals for testing. The military uses animals to mimic fight wounds and gage responses of operators utilized within a war. Animal testing will also be a critical piece for preventing a large disaster if there was ever a chemical attack on the country (Murnaghan “Controversy”). Many people question if the benefits of animal testing are worth the drawbacks or they say the benefits will never justify the use of animals in testing.
One of the drawbacks of animal testing is the animals will always live in captivity. Many animals die after being tested on and those who survive may be ‘disabled’ permanently after testing and be put down. About eleven percent are used for toxicity tests and about ten percent die in tests that are researching adverse effects of a product (Seiler 1363).
Another drawback is that some products tested on animals are not used in useful ways if released to the public at all. The unfortunate truth is that many of the products tested on animals are never used by people because they never get approved. This is the aspect of animal testing that people view as negative because the animal is put through tests for no direct benefits for people (Murnaghan “Using”). But what about the cost? Animals kept as pets can be expensive and so are animals used in experiments.
Another reason people think animal testing should be banned is animal testing is not cheap. The animals must be housed, fed, and cared for throughout the experiments. The experiments can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of years. We must also include “the price of the animals must also be factored into the equation. There are companies who breed animals specifically for testing and animals can be purchased through them” (Murnaghan “Using”). Many say the drawbacks of animal testing should be enough to ban it, but what are the alternatives scientists and researchers would use in place of animals?
There are many alternatives to animal testing, but what are this better replacements? The most common are organs, tissues, or cells grown in labs. These alternatives have the ability to decrease the tests performed on animals; a cell line, once created, terminate the need for animals in research (Watts). However, there are many more alternatives.
Some off-the-shelf frameworks are financially accessible. MatTek, for instance, has been promoting human skin equivalents for over ten years. Its EpiDerm system includes a sheet of human skin cells developing on the surface of a culture medium in a little plastic well. The solution is dripped on to the surface of the sheet then washed off after a set time. The reasonability of the cells demonstrates the danger of the chemical connected to them (Watts).
Mathematical models and PC simulations produce the most unfit enthusiasm among campaigners. One of their basic standards is that the natural impacts of a chemical will rely on the size, shape, and different qualities of its molecules, making it conceivable to foresee toxicity without real testing. The database on which such frameworks depend will have originated from animal tests. However, once the connection between sub-atomic structure and activity is comprehended, the toxicity of any new substance can be anticipated with a PC rather than in a living mouse (Watts). Micro-dosing is another alternative that some researchers are looking into.
A newer development is micro-dosing, which “puts experimental studies back into the bodies of human volunteers.” The process uses doses that are too small to create an adverse effect and ‘has been made possible by analytical methods that can detect substances in blood and plasma at concentrations in the pg/ml range” (Watts). This is another great alternative, but Seiler gives a great example as well.
Seiler gives another excellent example of an alternative testing method in this quote, “…with an estimated 64% of all animals used for testing reproductive and developmental toxicity. … Feeling this pressure, the OECD is currently in the process of adopting an extended 1-generation study that aims to replace the conventionally used 2-generation study by omitting the second generation and including more testing endpoints for the parental and first generation instead. If accepted, this could save 40–60% of animals per test and reduce the total of animals subjected to regulatory tests by about fifteen percent” (1364). Many people think the alternatives are enough to ban animal testing as a whole, but what about all the ways it has helped us in the medical field?
Animal testing has prevented many dangerous substances from entering the market. Using animals for drug testing became essential in the twentieth century. Hajar mentions an incident that occurred in 1937. “ … a pharmaceutical company in the USA created a preparation of sulfanilamide, using diethylene glycol (DEG) as a solvent … DEG was poisonous to humans, but [both] the company’s chief pharmacist and the chemist were not aware of this. He simply added raspberry flavoring to the sulfa drug, which he had dissolved in DEG, and the company marketed the product. The preparation led to mass poisoning causing the deaths of more than a hundred people. No animal testing was done. The public outcry caused by this incident and other similar disasters led to the passing of the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requiring safety testing of drugs on animals before they could be marketed” (“Medicine”). This was not the only incident.
In the late 1950s and early 60s, there was another horrible drug fiasco dealing with thalidomide. Thalidomide acts as a tranquilizer and painkiller. Proclaimed a ‘wonder drug’ because it helped with insomnia, coughs, colds, headaches, and morning sickness in pregnant women. As a result, over 10,000 children in 46 countries were born without limbs or with malformations. In both of those instances, no animal testing was done first and many people suffered the consequences (Hajar “Medicine”). Animals were used by early Greek scientists thousands of years ago.
According to Hajar, animals have been used for experiments as early as 304 BC. “Animals have been used repeatedly throughout the history of biomedical research. Early Greek physician-scientists, such as Aristotle, (384 – 322 BC) and Erasistratus, (304 – 258 BC), performed experiments on living animals. Likewise, Galen (129 – 199 / 217 AD), … was a giant in the history of medicine, conducted animal experiments to advance the understanding of anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology. Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar), an Arab physician in twelfth-century Moorish Spain, introduced animal testing as an experimental method for testing surgical procedures before applying them to human patients” (Hajar “Medicine”). This is the real purpose of animal testing, an ethical alternative to testing on humans.
Animal testing is very misunderstood because people don’t know the whole story behind why it started in the first place. If people tried to understand it from all angles, it would not be so misunderstood. People should take the time to understand the purpose of animal testing and they would find that it is to help the human race, but like most things, it has positive and negative aspects. People also need to understand that animal testing does have alternatives but these alternatives are still fairly new and still being tested. Animal testing has been performed since 304 BC, and people forget that it has a long history. Until people try to completely understand animal testing, it will always be misunderstood.
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