It is time for society to realize that no one benefits from the suffering of animals used in expensive and useless experiments. Animals may not be able to speak like humans but it does not negate the fact that they are capable of suffering. The human species has taken the liberty of deciding what is valuable in the world, and therefore they prize themselves as the highest level of the food chain. The human species has used animals for transportation, food and companionship since the dawn of time.
Animals are at the mercy of humans and sadly, they are also very trusting of humans. Humans abuse this trust and have subjected these defenseless animals to their exploratory experiments. The benefits of this exploratory research do not outweigh the suffering that these powerless animals have encountered since the beginning of time. Or do they? Is it not human nature to value life, the lives of children, loved ones, family and friends? Is it not the suffering of these individuals which should be avoided? Is it not these individuals that should be protected?
While defenseless animals should be protected against humans, animal experimentation is necessary to continue advancing medicine because research produces important scientific developments which save lives. The use of animals in research for the advancement of science and understanding of humankind is not a practice developed in contemporary society. Documented animal use is rooted in ancient Greece with Hippocrates and Aristotle (Baumans, 2004). Experimental research using animals parallels the birth and development of medicine.
Both Hippocrates and Aristotle expressed their knowledge on structure and function in Historia Animalium and Corpus Hippocraticum based on their experience with dissection of animals (Baumans, 2004). These texts are timeless and contain an immense quantity of information. The details captured in these volumes are irreplaceable. Aristotle captured information on the individual organs of dozens of mammals, amphibians, primates, birds, reptiles and crustaceans. He also studied the form and function of everything he examined to gain an understanding and compare each creature.
Hippocrates compiled approximately 70 volumes of work which can be separated into six larger categories within the Corpus Hippocraticum. The Handbooks make up over half of the entire Corpus Hippocraticum and cover the areas of surgery, internal medicine and gynecology (Weissenrieder, 2003). Animal experimentation contributed to the discoveries and theories documented in this body of work. The text and details are so precise and accurate in the Corpus Hippocraticum that even three-thousand years later, the Corpus Hippocraticum is still highly regarded in medical and scientific community.
Even Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, retained a physician that performed animal experiments for purposes of research. “Galen (130-201 AD)…performed physiological experiments on pigs, monkeys and dogs” (Baumans, 2004, para. 1). Galen was not a brutal butcher experimenting on animals. The root of his research was based on observation and reasoning. Galen performed early physiological experiments that explored kidney function and the spinal cord in controlled research. The research he performed became the basis of medical practices for centuries thereafter (Baumans, 2004).
Even though Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Galen laid the foundation of structure and function, contemporary animal experimentation uses this foundation to explore the effects of medication, medical procedures, diseased cells, toxins and foreign substances on live tissue and organs of live animal subjects. The critics of animal experimentation focus on the ethical dilemma of whether or not man has a right to use animals in experiments. Descartes believed animals could not think and were more like machines. In opposition, Bentham argued that it was not a matter of animals thinking, but could they suffer (Baumans, 2004)?
This question of ethics and suffering are also tied to the academic need to regulate the use of animals. In more contemporary research, specifically in the 1950s, the need for a higher standard in animal models and the focus on the use, welfare of animals and ethical concerns lead to the development of the laboratory animal science field. The guiding principals of this science are the 3Rs of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement (Haack, 2007). Replacement refers to the substitution of animals with other techniques to perform research that will produce similar results.
Reduction refers to a decrease number of animals used by standardization of animal type and quality. Some animal activists widely publish pictures of cats, dogs and primates as the usual “victim” of research experiments. When in actuality, with the employment of Reduction, mice and rat models are the more frequently used animals. Refinement refers to the decrease discomfort for the animals. The 3Rs process is more involved than what was just defined and requires that regulations are followed to protect the animals.
For example, standardization down to cage size or “housing” and appropriate bedding material for each lab animal is strictly defined. The 3Rs process has been widely accepted and continues to expand and develop because of growing pressure from animal activists, consumers and awareness in scientific communities. Regulations established to protect and examine the usage of animals in research experimentation is enforced by committees such as Institutional Review Boards (IRB), Animal Ethics Committees (AEC) or Institutional Animal Care and Usage Committees (IACUC) (Savla, 2003).
Regulations to control animal experimentation exist on national, country, state and local levels. “On a European level, two important documents controlling the use of animals in experiments were issued, in 1985 the Convention for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals used for Experimental and other Scientific Purposes (ETS 123) of the Council of Europe and in 1986 the Directive for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals used for Experimental and other Scientific Purposes (86/609/EEC) of the EU, based on ETS 123, but more stringent” (Baumans, 2004, para. 5).
In the US, the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 9, Chapter 1, Subchapter A – Animal Welfare and the Animal Welfare Act as Amended (7 USC, 2131-2156) are only two of the national level regulations that currently are in place to govern the use of animals in research. There is an extended list of regulatory bodies, animal protection agencies and animal rights organizations that either regulate activity or influence the policy makers. There exist Animal Welfare Regulations within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that must be adhered to and are subject to surprise inspections of the animal research laboratories.
Good Laboratory Practice Standards enforced by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FDA require documentation of studies performed on animals and audits performed on these studies. The Environmental Protection Agency (2007) website recommends standard operating procedures for laboratories that require laboratory staff to be properly qualified and trained to function within their scope of work. The training is inclusive of education, training and hands on experience in each respective field.
The IRBs, AECs and IACUCs are active at a local level to enforce the national and their local regulations. Their primary task is to perform an ethical evaluation of the submitted research proposals which involve animals. The investigators that submit these proposals or protocols have to meet strict requirements by detailing their intention or purpose, expected outcomes, previous experience, types of controls, statistical analysis plans and types and numbers of animals proposed to be used.
The investigators also have to undergo research training which can come in the form of workshops, certification courses, training manuals, conferences, lab modules and special classes completely focused on the proper and ethical treatment of laboratory animals for experimentation. The labs that the investigators use must be closely regulated and evaluated on regular intervals. There are also necessary certifications that staff and the laboratory must obtain in order to perform valid animal research.
The proposed research submitted by the investigators to the IRB, AEC or IACUC is only acceptable to continue if the benefit of experiment outweighs the suffering of the animals (Baumans, 2004). Performing research on a human is almost easier than performing research on animals. The benefits and advancements that have been discovered or are yet to be realized through animal experimentation saves human lives. The list of ground-breaking discoveries owed to animal experimentation is extensive, but there are select remarkable events that warrant citation.
Mice and rodents contributed to the development of monoclonal antibodies which lead to advances in battling some types of cancer (Haack, 2007). Mice contributed to the development of the vaccine that eradicated polio (Haack, 2007). “Genetic research involving animals promises new treatments for diseases that were previously thought to be intractable defects in the human condition” (Haack, 2007, p. 199). AIDS is one of the conditions that rely heavily on animal experimentation for advances in treatment.
There is also the possibility that animals may one day be the carriers of specialized organs for life saving transplants (Haack, 2007). In the conceivable future there is the potential to have heart or liver transplants to save lives. People would have the choice to wait on a list for an organ donated from someone recently deceased or they could opt for organs harvested from animal carriers. Animal tissue and joints are currently used for tissue grafts or joint replacements. Ignoring these advancements and the lives that have been saved would be folly.
The research using the monoclonal antibodies for cancer research have not developed a cure yet but have improved the quality and extended the lives of cancer victims, bringing researches closer to new treatments and developments that may one day lead humanity to a cure. Targeted therapies for different disabilities, illnesses and chronic conditions can be developed thought the use of animal models. Robert Gallo, MD, co-discoverer of the HIV virus stated, “With animals, we may have a cure for AIDS in 10 years. Without animals, we will never cure AIDS in our lifetime” (Galsworthy, 2007, para.2).
The reality of discovering how much animals have contributed and continue to give to save the lives of humans is startling. Humans are indebted to animals for their sacrifice. Humans possess the responsibility to understand this privilege and uphold the standards and regulations enforced by regulatory bodies to protect animals and reduce the suffering. Scientists and technicians can further explore computer generated models and other techniques to reduce the number of animals or possibly the type of animals that are used in animal experimentation.
However, to remove animal models completely from the equation would be unwise. Almost all people have been touched by the advances of medicine and may have loved ones around today that are direct beneficiaries. Any diabetic, an individual that has taken an antibiotic, had surgery for heart disease, had a kidney transplant, had therapy for cancer, or had an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), has benefited from some of the life-saving research performed on animals.
These animals deserve every human’s respect, every human’s reverence and every human’s gratitude. References Baumans, V. (2004). Use of animals in experimental research: an ethical dilemma? Gene Therapy, 11(S1), S64-S66. Retrieved December 8, 2007, from ProQuest Research Library database. Galsworthy, S. (2007).
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Partners in Research. Retrieved December 8, 2007, from http://www. pirweb. org/pir05b_aids. htm Haack, S. (2007).
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