High School Division
Man's Best Friends
Battle Creek Area Mathematics and Science Center
Battle Creek, Michigan
Teacher: Ms. Mary Z. Lindow
Most of us care deeply about animals.
Well, at least we favor humane treatment and oppose animal abuse. But we also like our on average 78-year life spans, our advanced healthcare and the vast arrays of pills, powders and syrups lining pharmacy shelves (not to mention all these prescribed miracles). .The importance of animal models in biomedical research is indisputable,. says Kristine Gebbie, from the Office of National AIDS Policy (PIR 2005). The use of non-human animals in scientific research is known as animal testing . two words which are sure to raise heated discussion any day of the week. The issue is so controversial simply because we as Americans are almost equally drawn by both sides; we love animals almost as much as we love the benefits to our own health that animal testing produces. Opponents of animal testing argue that it is immoral while supporters reason that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Take a moment to be convinced: Animal testing is necessary for medical research and overall beneficial to society.
The purpose of biomedical research is to protect all life from disease and disability. Animal research is meant to improve and save lives, not to mistreat the lab animals. One of the many major accomplishments of biomedical research that can be attributed to animal research is the development of insulin as a treatment for Type I diabetes (BRET 2002). Animal research is also responsible for producing a number of vaccinations for such diseases as polio, diphtheria, mumps, measles, rubella, pertussis and hepatitis (K-4-R date unknown). The impact animal research has had on our lives is immeasurable. So many once common or once fatal afflictions of the human race have been alleviated by animal research, culminating in perhaps the best indication of its success, 23 additional years on the projected lifespan. Animals themselves also live longer, healthier lives due to animal research. Animal research has contributed to the preservation of endangered species, the development of the vaccines for rabies and canine distemper, and animal surgical procedures (BRET 2002). Because animals and humans share over 250 diseases, research on one subject can often lead to breakthroughs in more than one species.
Animals are also used in safety testing of various consumer products, particularly cosmetics. Product safety testing protects consumers from potentially dangerous components of new products, and the best way to determine the reaction the consumer will have to the product is through animal testing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandates that all cosmetic, toiletry and fragrance products must go through a thorough testing before they can be marketed in the United States (CFSAN 2005). Some companies market their products as .non-animal tested,. which is misleading because all the ingredients in the product must have been previously safety tested on animals, in accordance to the law, and the slogan is only true in the sense that the company did not have to do any animal testing of its own (FBR 2002).
Besides the USFDA, plenty of other offices and organizations are concerned about animal testing. Federal law sets forth standards for nearly all aspects of animal care and treatment for lab animals in the Animal Welfare Act, in addition to many other requirements. The U.S. Public Health Service requires even more stringent adherence to the policy if researchers are seeking funds from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The intense competition for grant money picks off any unnecessary projects. The U.S. Department of Agriculture makes annual surprise inspections of all research facilities. Altogether, the humane treatment of lab animals is highly regulated (FBR 2002).
Due in part to all of these strict regulations, lab animals really do not suffer unnecessarily, and not nearly as much as is widely believed. Over 90% of all laboratory animals are rats, mice and fish, and bred specifically for laboratory use. Dogs, cats and primates account for less than 1% of the total. However, dogs, cats and primates each have specific areas of similarity to humans and are specifically needed for those studies. For instance, dogs are used for the studies of cardiovascular and respiratory systems, cats are used for studies of eye disorders, and primates are used for studies of blood diseases, reproductive disorders and infectious diseases (FBR 2002).
There is also no evidence that pets, either lost or stolen, are being sold to laboratories. Even most cats and dogs used in labs are bred for laboratory use, and those that aren.t are either obtained from animal pounds where the animals would have been put to death, or through licensed dealers. Researchers are required to keep official records of these transactions as proof. Therefore, all the evidence points to the conclusion that nearly all lab animals are just lab animals that are not canine, feline or primate (PIR 2005).
Even if there were not so many regulations, scientists would not want to mistreat animals. But contrary to popular belief, there is no complete alternative to animal testing. No man-made model can imitate the complicated processes that take place in living animals. Since animal research is so pivotal to scientific progress, researchers place high value on the policies of .The Three R.s.: Reduction, Replacement and Refinement (FBR 2002).
Reduction means to cut the number of animals used while retaining the same amount and same quality of data for the experiment. Limited funding due to economic pressures also requires animal researchers to eliminate the use of lab animals for any mere trivial purpose. The first step is for scientists to use the least number of animals that will give reliable results. Of course, the later aspects of research projects must also be properly designed and performed so the experiment will not have to be repeated. Other factors include birthing and breeding the animals in ultra-clean conditions for studying genetically identical animals, and preventing infections, illness or genetic variation from altering the results (FBR 2002).
Refinement means to minimize the discomfort of the animals. The scientific community strives to give lab animals first class animal care out of respect for their contribution to science, and because healthy, cared for animals provide better results. Before they become actively involved in research, laboratory animals live comfortable lives with social groups, toys and spacious living environments. Once they do become involved in research, the majority of animals do not experience significant pain or distress. According to the 2000 USDA Annual Report, animals in 63% of research procedures experienced slight or momentary pain, such as an injection; in 29% of research procedures, they were given anesthesia and painkillers; and in 7%, neither could be used due to interference with the research results. A portion of the 7% consisted of studies of pain itself. When an experiment is complete, the majority of animals involved in the experiment must be euthanized for the tissue that will undergo pathological evaluation and further analysis. Euthanasia is the act of inducing a humane death, and it is considered acceptable by The American Veterinary Medical Association. If the experiment did not call for pathological evaluation of the animal.s tissue, the animal may potentially take part in additional experiments. However, this is rare because most of the time federal regulations prohibit the use of any animal in multiple studies (FBR 2002).
Replacement means substituting non-animal research methods for animal research whenever possible. While live animals are really the best models for research, scientists can ease the great demand for the live animals by first conducting the experiments on computerized models, or cell, tissue and organ cultures. Although the results won.t be as complete as the results from live animals, they will be distinctive enough to allow the researchers to minimize their study specimen size further. That is about the extent of the ways we can replace animal research so far. A lot of effort has been put into inventing reliable, non-animal methods of performing biomedical research, from which there has been some remarkable achievements, but the ultimate goal has still not been reached. Neither models nor cultures as of yet can simulate all of the intricate interactions within the entire living system of a living animal (FBR 2002).
The considerations of .The Three R.s. make animal research a more humane system and we should continue to observe them as we continue our careful use of animal testing. Animal rights. activists who attempt to inhibit animal research through vandalism and destruction of equipment only delay fatal diseases from being cured and increase the cost of future research. Biomedical progress must not be delayed. Let us not be confused by the differences between animal rights and animal welfare while we have obligations to our fellow human beings and to ailing animals to find cures for their conditions, even if we have to employ animal testing to discover them (FBR 2002). The animals used for animal testing are not being tormented, but merely passing honorable lives as deliverers of better health and knowledge. However, once computer models become capable of fulfilling these duties in research, biomedical research will no longer have to rely solely on animal testing. Although animal testing is important, effective and heavily regulated, it would be even better if we could obtain the same information from a source that would not arouse moral issues.
But for now, they lend their bodies to save lives; these little lab creatures are truly man.s best friends.
Bird M. Animal Passions. Time Europe. Dec. 2003.
http://www.kids4research.org/. Diseases. Nov. 2005.
Foundation for Biomedical Research. http://www.fbresearch.org/education. Educational Resources. Jan. 2005.
http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-206. FDA Authority Over Cosmetics. March 2005.
http://www.bret.org.ukl/nec. The Necessity for Animal Research. Nov. 2002.
http://www.pirweb.org/pir03b_research. Understanding Biomedical Research. Nov. 2005.