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Is it okay to test cures on animals?

Have you ever stopped to inspect how the products you are using are made? It is possible that in the process of their development live animals, such as guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, and mice, were tested. While animal experimentation has been a key element in biomedical research, it has also been used in numerous other cases. According to Moxley, many companies conduct animal testing on cosmetics, personal care, and household products to satisfy safety requirements (26). The practice is the topic of heated debates across the centuries as it brings up the issues of morality and necessity. The question of whether or not animal testing is ethical remains unanswered.

To fully understand the practice of animal testing one must know its background. It began in ancient Greece, where scientists, such as Aristotle, (384 – 322 BC) performed vivisections to advance the understanding of anatomy, as dissection of humans was a taboo and animals were thought to be a lesser form of life. Across the years animal rights movements became widely acknowledged and animal testing started to be frowned upon. Since antiquity, humanity evolved and alternatives to this practice are being developed. Until then, certain laws have been passed to humanize experimenting on animals. But is it enough?

The most common argument in favor of animal testing is that throughout the years it has helped scientists and researchers to find new drugs and treatments. Some say it is the only way to ensure drugs and cosmetics are safe for human use. The contributions of animal research to medical science and human health are undeniable (Ringach 312), as proved by the Foundation for Biomedical Research – animal testing is behind most of today’s prescription drugs for asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, or even schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (“Animals Behind Top Drugs”). We cannot overlook the great impact it has on biomedical research, but nowadays scientists point to the subtle differences between animals and humans, which cause changes in xenobiotics. These discrepancies translate to the differences in the effects of drugs between spices. For instance, paracetamol, a popular analgesic and antipyretic, harms cats, just like morphine – causing anxiety instead of total calming.

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Many diseases, including AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and certain types of cancer are considered characteristic only for our species. Their equivalents in rodents and other animals, which are tested upon, are a simplified model that does not take into account all environmental factors. There have been cases of approved drugs, which caused unexpected health problems after being released to the public. Up to nine out of ten experimental drugs that work on animals were discovered to be harmful to humans during clinical studies. Other studies have revealed differences in genetic response to diseases. As famous science researchers, MacLennan and Amos said, “There is no doubt that the best test species for humans are humans. It is not possible to extrapolate animal data directly to humans due to interspecies variation in anatomy, physiology and biochemistry”. (“Animals in Science / Alternatives”)

Secondly, it is argued that alternative methods for animal testing do not even resemble human reactions as closely. Animals are thought to be the closest to humans, despite their differences and limitations. Not only that, but by conducting the practice scientists can estimate how it will act on a living specimen, as the only other alternatives are in vitro studies on human cell lines or computer simulations. However, in reality many important medical discoveries, such as aspirin, were made without the use of animals. Given that, it is difficult to estimate how many effective drugs might have been discarded. A good example is Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering pharmaceutical that did not give satisfactory results during experiments conducted on mice, but after being tried on healthy human volunteers proved to be efficient. The polio vaccine can act as another example as it was not effective in chimpanzee experiments, but tests on human cells have proved differently. Apart from possible loss of effective medication, scientists also lose valuable time and billions of money. According to a founder of the Safer Medicines Trust, “a shift to advanced techniques based on human biology would accelerate biomedical research, and deliver safer and better medicines at lower costs: a win–win situation that should be supported by everyone.’ (Archibald)

Overall, due to the wide usage of animal testing, it is a subject of heated debates among scientists and animal rights activists. Although humanity developed greatly since ancient times, to this day for instance the only federal law in the U.S. that covers animals in research is The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) (7 U.S.C. § 2131), and its ethical and moral rightness is questioned. Supporters of animal testing claim that human life is above animals and that experiments help and expand biomedical research. After viewing the problem from a broader perspective it seems unnecessary and unethical to keep experimenting on animals when alternatives could and should be developed. ”[S]urely we can all agree that replacement of animals in testing and research is morally, ethically and scientifically the only way forward.’ (Marshall)

References:

    1. Moxley, Angela (2009) ‘The End of Animal Testing?’ ALL ANIMALS: Vol. 11: Iss. 5, Article 5. Pp. 20-26 Available at: https://animalstudiesrepository.org/allanimals/vol11/iss5/5
    2. Dario Ringach, ‘The Use of Nonhuman Animals in Biomedical Research,’ American Journal of the Medical Sciences, Volume 342, Number 4, October 2011 305-313
    3. “Animals Behind Top Drugs.” Foundation for Biomedical Research, fbresearch.org/medical-advances/animal-testing-research-achievements/animal-research-behind-top-drugs/.
    4. Seok, J., Warren, H.S., Cuenca, A.G., Mindrinos, M.N., Baker, H.V., Xu, W., Richards, D.R., McDonald-Smith, G.P., Gao, H., Hennessy, L., Finnerty, C.C., Lopez, C.M., Honari, S., Moore, E.E., Minei, J.P., Cuschieri, J., Bankey, P.E., Johnson, J.L., Sperry, J., Nathens, A.B., Billiar, T.R., West, M.A., Jeschke, M.G., Klein, M.B., Gamelli, R.L., Gibran, N.S., Brownstein, B.H., Miller-Graziano, C., Calvano, S.E., Mason, P.H., Cobb, J.P., Rahme, L.G., Lowry, S.F., Maier, R.V., Moldawer, L.L., Herndon, D.N., Davis, R.W., Xiao, W. and Tompkins, R.G. (2013) Genomic Responses in Mouse Models Poorly Mimic Human Inflammatory Diseases. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110, 3507-3512. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1222878110
    5. “Animals in Science / Alternatives.” Harm and Suffering, www.neavs.org/alternatives/in-testing.
    6. Archibald, Kathy. “Of Mice, but Not Men.” What Doctors Don’t Tell You, Aug. 2016, www.wddty.com/magazine/2016/august/of-mice-but-not-men.html.
    7. Marshall, Lindsay. “Science In Transit; The Move Away From Animals In Research.” HuffPost UK, HuffPost UK, 17 Dec. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lindsay-marshall/science-in-transit-the-mo_b_13645840.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_cs=8IkJMdenjYW09I6MKKwEPg.

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