Researchers have from the past made use of animals in conducting tests meant to establish the toxicity levels of chemicals or the safety of certain products like household cleaners, beauty products and even vaccines. This is an issue that faces controversy especially from the animal rights activists who are against their use claiming that this subjects them to pain and death yet they are entitled to life in their own right. As much as what they claim has some weight the same people have failed to look and acknowledge the positive outcome from the tests. Were it not for the tests many other lives would have been lost either due to intoxication on drug administration or death from the diseases of which the animal tests have produced vaccines.
The use of animals in testing has made a tremendous contribution in the science world by aiding in the production of safe drugs and chemicals(). Samples of animals are used and results determine the levels that are safe for use as well as the intervals that the drugs should be given or that other products should be used. This in turn saves large populations of other animals including human beings. For instance it is through animal tests that vaccines against rabies, mumps, tuberculosis and others got developed. These diseases are highly deadly and once contracted, can lead to death in a short duration of time. Comparing the damage that is prevented by the use of these vaccines, it becomes clear that sacrificing a few animals for the lives of the entire humanity as well as other animals is worth the while. This paper is written with a view of showing my reasons for the support of animal testing. Protection of animals translates to harming the human race(Epstein 4)
The animals used for testing vary in type where they range from rodents, primates, reptiles and even insects. Establishing the toxicity of chemical substances is one of the objectives of animal testing. The traditional method of testing is known as LD50 which is a test known to have the highest mortality rate of experimental animals where it is usually expected that half of the animals used die as a result(Animalt-Zebet 1). This is a test that is used to determine the toxicity of a substance when used orally.The value of the test is measured according to dose per unit body weight. Usually 20 to 30 experimental animals are used to carry out a single test (EBSCO 1). However there are other tests that are known to entail the use of 2-3 animals per step. These are the Acute Toxic Class method, the up and down procedure and the fixed dose procedure. The experimental animals in the latter methods of testing must be of the same sex (Roll et al., 1986; 1989).
For the researchers to progress from one step to another the results of the former step have to be out because they are a guide on the next amounts to be administered and to what body weights. Initially the dose has to be 300mg/kg of the animals’ body weight. If on administration many test animals die, a lower dose is used in the second dose. On the other hand the effects are not disastrous a second test is done for confirmation (). The fact that many researchers have come up with other methods of animal tests that require less animals to be used, is a clear indication that some measures are being taken for ensuring less animals suffer from the tests. The course of time and the harshness of the toxin are what determine the intervals that are to be followed between treatments(Diener et al.,1994,1995: Diener and Schlede, 1999).
Looking at issues from a slightly different angle, It has become every holds responsibility to eliminate such domestic pests as rodents, insects like cockroaches because they are perceived to be dirty and disease carriers. Poison for such is even sold in shopping malls and are advertised in accordance to how fast they can kill such animals like rodents. It is more beneficial when an animal dies in the course of testing for the safety than them jut dying for no reason. Other domestic animals die in millions each day as they are slaughtered for beef, mutton, and fish and poultry meat. This just makes the death of animals in the process of testing more worth while because there is more value pegged on it. Activists do not come against killing of animals, all they lobby for is a painless mode of killing, for meat but are up in arms against their use in scientific research.
Though animal testing has not always been reliable as in a case where a drug that had passed the animal test nearly claimed the lives of six men when it made their immune systems hyperactive leading to multiple organ failure(), it would be prudent for the same activists to state whether there has been any good emanating from animal testing. The activists inclination to the deaths and hurts of the experimental animals, serves to show their pessimism by choosing to describe a glass whose content of water is a half as ‘half empty’ instead of ‘half full’.
Other trials have been carried out using other substitutes to animals such as the use of human livers to determine the toxicity of drugs ().Others like the Pro Bio Gen, a company in Berlin is in the process of developing an artificial lymph node that is supposed to resemble the human immune system. These developments are positive and will act to replace the use of animals but before they can be developed to reasonable quantities for research, there will still be need for research in the meantime. This is where the use of animals will come in handy and the reality is that every time a need for research presents itself through the emergence of new diseases and other conditions.
Animal testing can also be said to prevent the severity of global warming in that it leads to the reduction in methane production from their dung (Mooney 9). Methane is one of the gases that cause a blanket effect that causes the retention of heat on the atmosphere. If animals were not used for the tests, it means that many more would be alive and the negative effects of global warming would be more far reaching than they are now.
The use of animals for testing in search for new drugs and other biological products and treatments that would be beneficial to men is traced back to several centuries ago, even as far a 500 B.C. The premise is that, animals are the closest thing that could be compared to humans, in terms of physiological and anatomical aspects. Animals, like people, have muscles, tissues, heart, lungs and many other organs that function the same way. Without a doubt, animal experiments have been deemed vital in various field of medicine, “from immunology to surgery” (Matthews p.1)
Research on animals has assisted medical science in numerous ways. Animal studies play and important part in the preliminary development of candidate drugs, as well as the “development and testing of surgical procedures and medical devices” (Musch et al p.1). Most importantly, animal research is a source of information for clinical researches by way of building-up the foundation of our knowledge in biology; and being a basic form of research animal research and animal studies expand our understanding with regards the method of “how life systems function” which helps in indicating and guiding researchers on the question “what direction to pursue but what directions are possible” (Musch et al p.1). Experiments conducted on animals provide relevant information on the kind of treatment appropriately brought forward to clinical trials which would generate results that help clinicians on when to conduct such trial (Pound et al p.4). The use of animal models in testing the efficacy of a drug or method is usually conducted before proceeding to clinical trials as these animal models enable researchers to concentrate on “one particular pathological process without the confounding effects of other injuries and treatments” (Roberts et al p.1).
There are various reasons why almost all treatments are primarily tested on animals. Animal studies present a degree of environmental and genetic manipulation which is seldom viable in humans; initial testing of new treatments on animals gives information on the necessity of testing the said treatments on humans (Hackam p.1). If the results of animal tests show that the new treatments are not useful, then there is no need to proceed on testing the said treatments on human subjects. In addition, regulatory authorities responsible with overseeing the public’s safety, calls for the extensive tests on animals as a screening process of new treatments for its toxicity as well as establishing safety. Moreover, animal studies gives exceptional “insights in the pathophysiology and aetiology of disease,” which frequently expose new targets for intended treatments (Hackam p.1).
The link between laboratory animals and biological products, particularly vaccines, began in the late 19th century when the development of animal models in laboratories was a result of a great push given by vaccine researches. A number of animal models are used at present in regular quality control, like the test on toxin neutralization for instance. The connection that exists between animals and biological products is close enough that until now, it “still exists and reflected in the extent of animal use” (Coenraad et al p.4). Biological products like vaccines are produced by living organisms “in a batch-wise procedure” that requires “extensive batch-related quality control” to make certain the safety and potency of such biological product; “production and especially quality control of biological products are closely intertwined with laboratory animal use (Coenraad et al p.1). The utilization of considerable number of animals for the production of vaccines is reasonably necessary.
Reviewing of animal models systematically may possibly comprise a variety of animal species and models; and if the review results show consistency throughout the species and models subjected to the review, it is an indication that the process can also be applied to humans. In view of the fact that the foremost objective of animal testing and experimentation is to provide information on “human experimentation”; thus, the said information is valuable information (Roberts et al p.2); and being such, animal experiments are necessary and essential for the advancement of medical science and the establishment of public safety (Testing Times p.1).
There have been many reports evidencing that drugs tested on animals are not safe and beneficial to people. It should be noted however, that there are a lot of animal experiments at present which are poorly designed. Poorly conducted animal research and testing of treatments produced, without any evaluation by way of systematic reviews, is the factor that caused animal research on potential treatments on humans to fail and be wasted; simply because the animal experiment failed to give informed decisions regarding the treatments that should be forwarded for clinical trials. The implementation of systematic reviews in animal research “increases the precision of estimated treatment effects used in calculating the power of proposed human trials, reducing risk of false negative results;” it also sheds light on the method of translation between the animal subject and clinical research as it reviews the suitability of the animal models used in research (Pound p.5). Animal experiments which yielded biased and inaccurate results leads to the testing of “biologically inert or even harmful substances in clinical trials” putting patients at needless risks (Pound et al 1). If and only if, the results of animal experiments are valid and can be generalized it can positively inform human healthcare.
Individuals and organizations opposed to animal testing argue that laboratory experiments subject animals to intense pain and suffering. Cruelty to animals is always committed whenever animals are placed in laboratories for experiment. As animal studies and testing developed, scientists and researchers observe and follow guidelines in the implementation of animal testing procedures. Taking the case of the quality control procedure of vaccines; the procedure involves two types of tests, the safety test and potency test which are dependent on animals, and contrary to popular belief, these tests in general, bring only minor suffering because a great number of these batches of vaccines “are free from adverse effects” (Coenraad p.4). In a study on Non-lethal respiratory challenge assay for potency determination of pertussis vaccines, from AnimalT-ZEBET database of the German Institute of Medical Documentation and Information, the mice were subjected to a “non-lethal challenge approach for whole cell vaccine(WCV)” involving the immunization of several groups of mice with “serial dilutions” from the reference and test vaccines. The conclusion of the study was that the course in administering the test on mice was “less severe and less painful” (DIMDI p.2).
Another argument is the ratio between the number of animals used and the number of produced biological products such as vaccines. Vaccine research uses a great number of animals for research because of the way researchers conducted the experiment. It should be pointed out that even if the experts, doing the quality control, make an outline of “protocols for statutory required tests” most often than not, their background on laboratory animal science is insufficient; as a consequence of such, applied testing procedures fail to meet the requirements of best animal practices (Coenraad p.4).
Advocates of animal rights and animal welfare call for the prohibition of animals as test subjects and just use animal alternatives because it is more precise and safe, plus the theory that there is no need to involve animals in the testing of new drugs and other products. However, before any product or medicine is tested or used by humans, new drugs and treatments undergo three basic phases in testing, as written by Kathy Archibald (p.3). The first phase is the vitro or test-tube and silico (computer) modeling; the second phase is animal testing and that third and last phase is human trials. This makes animal testing as the basic research method, and involvement of animals is vital and necessary. On the issue on animal alternatives’ precision and safety on people, it should be noted that there has not been any method “neither animal, human nor test-tube” that was able to perfectly predict the reactions of each individual patient 100 %; and this is due to the fact that each and every person is different and therefore, the reactions also vary between ages, sexes, ethnic groups, even amongst members of the family, which means that “non-animal methods are not completely fail-safe” (Archibald p.4).
Many people believed that animal testing alternatives means the replacement of animals in scientific research which also leads to the prohibition of the use of animal subjects. An interesting view on this matter is that, the term animal testing alternatives still allows the use of animals in research and testing. Alternatives to animal testing is an evolutionized version of the traditional animal testing. New ways of developing and implementing of animal alternatives are being discussed, not to abolish and prohibit the use of animals for testing, but the employment of new sets of tests and approaches, “use of humane endpoints,” as well as the application of good laboratory animal practice principles, like the 3Rs (Coenraad et al p.1).
Animal testing is one practice that cannot be done away with. The availability of the animals makes work for the researchers easier less expensive. On the other hand there has been some positive progress that can be attributed to the use of animals like the development of vaccines for diseases like rabies which is deadly among human beings and the animals themselves. Though the ethical part of this practice raises eyebrows, it would also be important to look at other ways that animals die or are mishandled. For instance being slaughtered for meat or poached for tusks and hides. These deaths do not add value to the ecosystem and this makes it better off when they die in scientists’ pursuit of developing safe drugs, household products or even beauty products.
A commitment has been shown by scientists of their willingness to reduce the number of animals used for experiments by the inception of new methods such as the Acute Toxic class method, the fixed dose method and the up-and –down procedure. The most reasonable course of action for scientists would be the use of humane procedures ,as emphasized by Hakkinen and Green, that would ensure that animals are not subjected to pain and that the distressed caused to them is reduced e.g. through letting the animals free instead of capturing them and caging them when in the process of testing (1). The incorporation of the 3r’s which are reduction, replacement and refinement are other ways that have been proposed by the animal advocates (Coenraad et al 1). These methods do not exhaustively stop the use of animals for experiments but merely call for the reduction of the same. Animal testing is indispensable if any progress is to be achieved in the medical and surgical world and the best that the public can do is to accord credit for the positive achievement and not concentrate on the negative side of it.
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