The use of laboratory animals is important to three main areas: biomedical research, product safety testing, and education. Biomedical researchers use animals to extend their understanding of the workings of the body and the processes of disease and health, and to develop new vaccines and treatments for various diseases. The research these people do isn¡¦t only for human benefit; it is also helping to develop veterinary techniques.
The industry uses animals to test the effectiveness and safety of many consumer products, such as cosmetics, household cleaning products, pesticides, chemicals, and drugs. Educators, from elementary school all the way up to college, use animals as parts of the teaching process, including dissecting worms, and frogs in science classes to medical students using animals to learn surgical techniques.
Scientists study animals to learn more about certain species: its history, its psychological and social behaviors, and its skills. If the animals are kept in captivity, they can be caused pain that isn¡¦t natural part of its environment. A number of organizations wish to replace and reduce the number of animals being used or, at the very least, lessen the pain.
Rats and mice make up 85-90% of animals used in research, education, and testing. Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, dogs, cats, and non-human primates are studied as well. Dogs and Cats make up about 1% of research animals. The certain animal depends on what is being studied. The majority of rats and mice are bred specifically for research. Half of the dogs and cats that are used are bred for that purpose too. Animal dealers are the primary source for the rest. Animal dealers must be licensed by the USDA, or the United States Department of Agriculture and have to obey the standards of care set up by the Animal Welfare Act.
„h Alternatives to Animal Testing
Alternative methods fall into three main categories, also known as the three R¡¦s: Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement. Replacement is when animals are replaced, either by absolute replacement, which is when an animal is completely replaced, or by relative replacement, just cells and tissues are used, instead of the whole animal.
Replacement isn¡¦t always an option although, for those animals that do undergo testing, scientists try to lessen the pain and make the animals more comfortable. Replacement isn¡¦t considered an option anymore-it has become daily. A few years ago, when a woman wanted to find out whether or not she was pregnant, she had to stop at a laboratory and get a test that involved killing a rabbit. Nowadays, she can buy and over-the-counter kit that tests her for certain chemicals. Computers are a new high-tech method of replacement. For example, dissection on a computer model instead of real, live frogs, which I would prefer! People are becoming increasingly popular when it comes time for the needs for volunteers for new facial and skin products.
Reduction is the second method involves ¡§sharing¡¨ research animals. For one example, if one scientist doing a study on the lungs of a sheep, when it comes time to kill the sheep he will allow the others to use his kidneys, liver or heart.
Refinement being the third choice means to reduce any pain and suffering that the animal is going through. Techniques that are less hostile to the animal can also be considered refinement. Researchers can use ultrasound or an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to see what is going on inside the animal instead of cutting into it.
The cosmetics industry, which 20 years ago tested all its products on animals has come so close to stopping using animals. Many companies have reduced the use of whole-animal testing by 80 ¡V 90%. Some have eliminated it completely. Since the 80¡¦s many companies have put serious amounts of money and effort into a search for alternatives for animal testing. Plus, most ingredients that are being used today have already been tested on an animal and have shown to be safe.
„h What kinds of tests are being done?
The chronic-toxicity tests assess the effects of long-term exposure, often at low levels, to certain subjects. Acute-toxicity tests evaluate the risk of short-term exposure, accidental contact with eyes, skin and indigestion. There have two different outcries of this test. The most public outcry of this test happened in the 1980¡¦s. One of them, the Draize eye test was one that used rabbits to estimate the ability of a test substance to irritate or damage the eye. This involves putting the solution into one of the rabbit¡¦s eyes. Then recording the changes in many different parts of the eye, as compared to the untreated eye over a week. Since then eye irritation tests have stopped by 87%.
The protest in 1980 led to great changes in the cosmetics industry and caused many increased efforts toward the development of non-animal alternatives. Many companies no longer use the Draize test at all. The other test acute-toxicity test is called the LD50 test. LD50 means ¡§lethal dose 50 percent.¡¨ This test estimates the amount of the substance is needed to kill 50% of a group of rats or other test animals. The LD50 test has been banned in parts of Europe and the EPA no longer supports it.
„h Arguments Against Testing on Animals
Arguments against testing on animals question the morality, the necessity, or the validity of the studies. A couple of major questions could be: Do we have a right and a need for the tests? Do these tests actually tell us something useful?
Animal Rights Advocates say animals have a right to their own life just as we do; that they are not ours to mess around with. When you think about this argument long enough, this argument also means we must maintain a vegetarian diet, not wearing leather or fur, and, at its most extremity, not keeping animals as pets. A moderate animal protection says that our responsibility toward animals is that we have a moral obligation not to cause then unnecessary pain. That argument isn¡¦t against all animal testing.
Arguments against animal testing take many forms. One of them could be we can¡¦t rely on animal results anyway. Humans are completely different: physically and mentally. Just because one species reacts to a certain chemical in a certain way, doesn¡¦t mean another will act the same way. Furthermore, animals kept in unnatural conditions aren¡¦t going to give accurate results anyway.
„h Arguments In Favor of Animal Testing
Now again, you can argue in terms of morality, necessity, and validity. The concerns on this side of the argument are the needs to protect and to improve the quality of life. The gains and benefits for humans outweigh the cost of animal suffering. Someone who supports animal testing may care for animals but don¡¦t place them on an equal scale as humans. Research on animals may be necessary for more than a few reasons: to develop vaccines, treatments, cures for diseases; and to ensure new products ¡V that they won¡¦t blind, burn, or even kill us (which has happened many times, before safety testing was required by law).
Animals make good research subjects, they are biologically similar to humans, and are susceptible to many of the same health problems. Some species make good models for human health or physiology. Most of what we know about the immune system comes from our study of mice, whereas what we know about the cardiovascular system has come from dogs! Many heart surgery techniques are learned from dogs too.
Animals make better subjects than humans for another reason. Many species have relatively short life cycles, so they can be studied throughout their entire life. Scientists can control certain aspects of the environment: its diet, temperature, and lighting. ¡§Animals cannot be completely replaced just yet¡¨ Say many supporters of animal testing.