In science there are ethical guidelines that scientists must abide by for their experimentation and research.
With medical research in particular, there is a certain extent at which humans can no longer be used for studies due to the aforementioned guidelines. This point is where non human animals are utilized for experimentation. Animal testing and research is the use of non human animals in scientific experimentation in order to control the variables that would influence the behavior and biological functions being studied. The unprecedented technological advances that have occurred in recent decades have led to an even higher demand for medical research and consequently animal testing.
This increase in the use of animals in experimentation has fueled controversy surrounding the validity and ethics of the situation. Supporters of animal testing claim that it is a necessary part of the experimentation process while those who oppose the use of animals in experimentation argue that it is not a reliable enough source of data and that it is no longer a viable means of translational research and medicine. Arguments have been made that using non human animals for testing helps to ensure that medicines and medical procedures are successful and safe. The contradictory argument is that using animals for models is not accurate enough and therefore not worth the resources it demands. The question is, given these conditions, whether the use of animals for scientific studies is justified in today’s world.
The purpose of using animals in scientific research is not meant to bring harm to undeserving animals. Scientists utilize animals because they provide extremely valuable information that is imperative for the millions of people suffering from conditions that don’t currently have satisfactory alleviations in addition to developing preventative medicine. Whenever there is an adequate alternative to animals it should be used in order to reduce the most amount of harm possible. But the problem with some of the alternatives, computer models in particular, is that they cannot provide the answers that scientists need that could be answered with the use of animals. Simulations can only function with the information produced by scientists for the computer program. Provided that the scientists know enough information for the simulation to be successful, computer models can be extremely accurate and provide results without any extraneous variables to obscure them.
But if the scientists do not know enough about what they are studying then a computer model will not be a sufficient method of research. Researchers can’t simulate something they don’t have information for. If adequate testing is done on animals, scientists can determine whether or not a drug is safe for human use and any adverse effects it will cause. Thalidomide was a drug used to suppress morning sickness in pregnant women until it was found to have extreme effects on the unborn babies. 15,000 babies were born with limb defects due to the consumption of Thalidomide during pregnancy. The drug was tested on animals but the full range of test was not completed and the U.
S FDA did not approve it for sale. If the correct testing was done using animals, many babies’ lives could’ve been saved. After the tragedy following the initial sale of Thalidomide, it was made a requirement to test on pregnant animals to ensure that there would not be negative effects on the fetuses. For those suffering from clinical depression, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are an essential that could not have been developed without tests on animals (Chu-Carroll). These drugs led to the confirmation that neurotransmitter reuptake inhibition was a real concern in psychopathology (Spinks).
SSRIs are a class of drugs that suppress the effects of depression and scientists still don’t really understand the mechanisms of action that make SSRIs effective. SSRIs have also been used to aid those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (Fineberg). These drugs have been shown to be effective in short-term trials of 6-24 weeks and also more long-term trials of 28-52 weeks (Sertraline prescribing information). In patients recovering from stroke, SSRIs have been administered to help the patient regain independence.
Statistics showed that they were effective on dependence, anxiety, depression, and neurological deficit (Mead). Simulations are not effective enough to understand why these drugs work, only real life tests can provide these answers. Without the use of animal testing, understanding these drugs would be near impossible. Animal testing has provided the world with lifesaving leukemia treatments, anesthetics, and antibiotics that could not have been developed with alternative methods.In recent decades, there has been a global rise in the use of animal testing.
Animal research statistics published by the USDA report that in 2015 the number of animals being used for research was 767,622. By 2016, that number had risen by 6.9% to 820,812 (USDA). One of the issues with this has to do with the animals that are being tested on, specifically concerning their treatment and protection. The Animal Welfare Act regulates the treatment of most animals that scientists test on but fish, birds, and some rodents are not covered despite the fact that mice and rats are some of the most common test subjects. The USDA and APHIS don’t count these animals in their statistics because they are not covered under the AWA. With that being said, in the United Kingdom where such rodents birds and fish are included in the statistics, 97% of research is done on these animals that are not protected by the AWA (Speaking of Research). We can’t be sure that these animals are being adequately protected if there aren’t enough regulations.
To be clear, there are guidelines for scientists to follow such as The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and The Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals but both of these elaborate on the standards of the AWA which, as mentioned before, does not protect mice, rats, birds, and fish (American Physiological Society). As well as being unsafe for many of the animals being studied, animal testing produces unreliable results that have the potential to put humans at risk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducted a study in 2004 that reported that 92% of drugs that pass animal trials are not approved for clinical trials. Furthermore, half of those that do gain approval for clinical trials are relabeled or withdrawn due to extreme adverse effects or even lethality that was not detected in tests using animals (Capaldo). The main reason animal testing is so unreliable is because of how artificial scientific experiments have to be to control extraneous variables.
Laboratory environments are obviously unnatural and that affects the way that animals behave and respond to testing. Human produced noises, harsh artificial lighting, and restricted confinement cause atypical behavior in lab animals and elevated stress levels which, in fact, alter the data (Akhtar). The phenomenon of contagious anxiety explains these behaviors (Suckow, Weisbroth, Franklin). For example, when monkeys watch others of their species being restrained to undergo phlebotomy, their cortisone levels increase significantly (Flow, Jaques).
When rats see other rats being decapitated their heart rate and blood pressure rises. Capturing and removing the test subjects from their cages as well as the routine procedures that are carried out as part of experimentation perpetuate significant elevations in animals’ stress markers which skews the results being collected from them. When rats, one of the most common animals used for scientific research, become overly stressed they develop intestinal leakages and inflammatory conditions that add extraneous variables to scientific tests (Baldwin, Bekoff). Nerve generation, neurochemistry, and genetic expression can be influenced by many other conditions brought on by stress from laboratory environments (Akhtar). The fact that lab environs cause elevated stress levels, specifically concerning the cardiovascular systems of rats, is very important to consider because some of the more prominent research currently being done on rats includes drug development for ischemic stroke. Replicating the predisposing conditions of such a complex disease are difficult because most animals don’t naturally develop atherosclerosis. To mimic the effects of atherosclerosis, scientists must clamp the blood vessels of the test subjects or insert artificial blood clots. These procedures do not replicate atherosclerosis congruently to the effects on humans (O’Collins et al.
). Moreover, the forenamed effects from laboratory environments make it even more difficult to discern the results accurately. Ischemia causes stroke when the build up of fats and cholesterol in the arteries restricts a significant amount of blood flow to the brain. If the blood pressure of the test subjects is high because of stress, then it can be difficult to determine whether the underlying causes of stroke, such as atherosclerosis, have been successfully replicated or if an extraneous variable is causing their high blood pressure. Hindrances similar to these can pertain to other experimentation using animals as well. Unreliable results should not be acceptable in biomedical research because of how These data are alarming considering that animal testing is such a large part of drug development, not to mention that it consumes so much of the resources intended for scientific research. In vitro testing has a much lower cost across the board than animal testing.
Using animals in toxicology has been notoriously unreliable and ironically, is much more expensive than in vitro testing. Chromosome aberration costs $30,000 using animals and $20,000 using in vitro methods. For DNA synthesis the difference in cost is over $20,000 (Humane Society International). These differences are far too vast to make the use of animals worth the price, especially when it is less accurate than in vitro testing.
Minimizing the amount of harm being brought upon an undeserving living thing should always be a priority. The argument has been made that “some information is better than none” concerning animal research. The flaw in this logic is that it neglects the fact that misleading information can put people at risk. Using non-predictive animal experiments can produce misleading safety data and cause potential treatments to not be pursued and misdirecting limited research funds from valuable research methods. When the negatives outweigh the positives it isn’t hard to deduce whether or not something is justified. Animal testing isn’t just going to disappear.
Efforts to reduce it more and more until it is only used as a last resort need to be made as well as to improve computer modeling and in vitro testing so that these methods are the primary research methods and then animal testing will default to being the final course of action.