Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman
The topic of animal testing for research continues to generate strongly felt responses from readers.
This post begins with a comment from Willa Bass of Coarsegold. Her statement is followed by an outline of several of the major pro- and con- animal testing arguments.
Here is what Willa had to say:
I find it difficult to follow the logic of those against the use of lab animals for medical, drug and other health research. I am not sure how such research would progress without them. Is there just a desire for a different set of rules? Or is it a desire to altogether stop such research?
I worked at the Jimmy Fund (Children’s Cancer Research Foundation) in Boston …in labs where rats and mice are routinely used to test chemotherapy drugs, and potential mutagenic compounds….the reason being their systems are close to the human system. Also spent time at Washington U in St. Louis when we did research on leukemia using mice. Is this thoughtless and cruel? Are you willing to let research go that has saved many human lives?
We did our best to be quick and efficient in any procedures, so animals were not caused undue suffering….but animals were killed to get results. None of us liked to do that, but the pervading understanding was that this was to save or at least help children.
PRO-ANIMAL TESTING ARGUMENT:
Virtually every medical therapy in use today – including drugs, vaccines, surgical techniques, devices such as pacemakers and joint prostheses, radiation therapy – owes its existence, at some level, to animal testing.
In the following article you can read details about the advances made in twenty-six areas of medical practice that came about due to animal testing.
ANTI-ANIMAL TESTING ARGUMENTS
The results can be dangerous:
Example 1: Thalidomide (a drug to treat morning sickness) does not cause birth defects when given to pregnant rats and mice, but in humans it caused an international epidemic of birth defects, including severe limb malformations, in the 1950s and 1960s.
Example 2: TGN1412, a drug designed to treat leukaemia. Tested successfully in monkeys. Tested on six healthy young men in the first phase of clinical (human) trials in 2006, they immediately developed fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. Within hours, they were in an intensive care unit with multiple organ failure.
Example 3: Fialuridine, developed to treat people with hepatitis B, tested well in mice, rats, dogs, woodchucks and primates. Human trial in 1993 caused seven people to develop liver failure. Five died and the other two were saved through liver transplants.
The following is a list of anti-testing arguments from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals):
1. More than 90 percent of basic science discoveries from experiments on animals fail to lead to human treatments.
2. Eighty-nine percent of animal studies could not be reproduced.
3. NIH admits that 95 percent of all drugs that are shown to be safe and effective in tests on animals fail in human trials because they don’t work or are dangerous.
4. Experiments on animals divert time and funding from better methods.
5. While there are several reasons why experimentation using animals can’t reliably predict human outcomes, the most significant issue is the vast physiological differences between species.
6. Compounding the problem, these experiments siphon economic and intellectual resources from research that is relevant to human disease and could lead to cures and treatments.
7. Reliable, economical non-animal methods are available for a wide variety of testing applications, including antibody production, skin irritation and sensitization, eye irritation, endocrine disruption, and tobacco product development and testing.
Recently PETA took out an ad which focuses on the economics of animal testing.