Medicines, household products, food, and basically everything involved in the life of an average person has to under go a form of testing before it is legal to be placed on a shelf and if available to the public. The same tests are performed on every medical procedure that is introduced to surgeons. Since the only way to directly mimic the human body is to use it itself, scientists were forced to find the closest and best alternative. That is where animals were introduced to the medical profession.
Experimentation on animals date back to as early as 500 BC, making this form of medical validation one of the oldest known to humans. It is not only one of the oldest but one of the most informative. Scientists use animals in medical research to study how the body works and how to diagnose, cure, and prevent disease. Researchers also use animals for tests to try to protect the public from dangerous chemicals, (Day, 13) such as those included in detergents, bleach, and other household products. When live animals are used in experimentation, this practice is called vivisection.
Animals are used in many instances because their bodies often react in a similar way to that of a humans. Although animals have been used in medical research for numerous years it was not until the early 1920s that it became more prominent. It was at this point that the introduction of using live, un-anesthetized, animals to study toxic effects on an increasing array of drugs, pesticides and food additives was introduced. After this great advance in medical research the results of using animals grew with leaps and bounds.
In 1970 this process peaked with the use of millions of animals. Since then, according to the USDAs Animals Welfare Enforcement, 1,267,828 animals were used for medical purposes in 1998, which is more than a 50 percent decrease since 1970. Although this is a drastic drop in animals used there have been many medical advances; virtually every medical break through this century has come about as the result of research with animals. (Office of Technology) Of the many animals used for experiments, about 90 percent of the animals used are rats, mice and other rodents.
Animals such as these are used for two reasons, one because they are readily available upon request, and two because they are cheap which helps aid the large cost of animals experimentation. Although it has been proven, that in many cases, rats and mice are not an accurate subject to test medicines on; their popularity has only grown larger. Mechanize (a travel sickness drug) caused severe deformities in rats, but not in humans, whereas Thalidomide (a sedative drug) caused no reaction in rats but cause deformities in humans.
This is only one of the many cases where mice and rats have been found as faulty test subjects. With the wide range of animals that are available, the tests the are used on them are even vaster. The tests are broken down into many different categories, which allows scientists to zero in on certain areas of testing and to specify results. The largest and most useful area of testing is called Toxicity Testing. In toxicity tests, animals are generally exposed to chemicals in ways that are meant to mimic human exposure, by ingestion, inhalation, skin contact and contact with the eyes.
The type of animals used in this field include rodents, dogs, cats, fish, birds (chickens, hens, pigeons) rabbits, frogs, pigs, sheep, and primates. Toxicity testing is aimed at providing information, which can be used to attempt to protect society and the environment against the harmful effects of chemicals. (Boyd, 184) Eye irritancy tests, the largest and most controversial area in toxcity testing, began in 1920. It was introduced because soldiers were exposed to mustard gas in World War I, their eyes began to burn and some lost sight.
To understand what the effects of the mustard gas more clearly scientist used rabbits as their test subjects. They would force they eyes of the rabbit open and let mustard gas fester for days, they would then compare their findings to the effects on humans. After this first introduction to the benefits of eye irritancy tests its use began more useful. This method of toxicity tests is now used to test everything from shampoo to pesticides. Anti-vivisection activists consider this type of testing the most cruel because it directly damages a vital part of an animals body. Also, it is very hard to repair the eye due to its extreme sensitivity.
The Draize Test is used to measure the harmfulness of ingredients contained in household products and cosmetics. It is much like they tests that were used to test mustard gas, but it is much more scientific and in ways slightly crueler. The Draize testing involves dripping the test substance into a rabbit’s eye and recording the damage over three to twenty-one days. Scientists use rabbits for these tests because rabbits’ eyes have no tear ducts, so they are not able to wash away the irritant placed in their eyes, and their eyes are large enough for any inflammation to be clearly visible.
Reactions can vary from a slight irritation to complete blindness. The rabbits are confined in restraining devices to prevent them from clawing at the injured eye. All of the animals are usually killed at the end of the testing period, or “recycled” into toxicity tests. A less painful area of testing is the sub-acute and sub-chronic tests. These tests last between one and three months and use slightly less toxic doses then toxicity tests. The backs of the animals are shaved and the substance is placed under a tight plastic wrap, which is replaced with a clean wrap every two to five days.
The results from these types of tests help scientists understand what harmful effect could happen to humans if came into contact with the chemicals that are in our everyday life. Although it seems as though it would hard to torture an animal on purpose, it happens more often in the medical field than is believable. It is for this reason that there have been many laws introduced to the medical research field. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) has been amended several times. The latest amendment was passed in 1990, which concerned the welfare of guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits.
It covers the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of these small laboratory animals. There is also a requirement that states that all animals must be given adequate veterinary care, must be separated by species and all experiments must be given with a minimum of pain. Anesthesia must also be given when there is a chance of pain, and if the pain that the animals endured was of too high of a standard then the animal must be euthanasia. With such strict requirements that need to be enforced there are a few laboratories that do not abide by every law, which creates cruelty and inhumane conditions for animals.
There was a case in New York, too many animals had been packed into cages when beginning transported to research facilities, and they suffered from cramping and over heating. The lack of adequate ventilation and extremes in temperature caused death to over 55 percent of the guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits on their way to the research laboratory. This is not an isolated case, every year in Britain alone millions of animals suffer and die in laboratory experiments.
They are burnt, scalded, poisoned and starved, given electric shocks and addicted to drugs, they are subjected to near freezing temperatures, reared in total darkness from birth and deliberately inflicted with disease like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, oral infections, stomach ulcers, syphilis, herpes and AIDS, (Sharpe, 13) they also have there eyes surgically removed, their brains damaged and the bones broken. In military research in the United States animals are gassed poisoned with cyanide, shot with plastic bullets and deliberately wounded with high velocity missiles.
It is treatment like this that makes the question of weather animal research should be continued come about. Every day in North America animals are poisoned blinded and burned in consumer product tests. Products ranging from mascara, shampoo and nail polish to oven cleaner, ink and children’s toys are tested on animals. When animals are used to further medical research it can be somewhat justified, but when animals are used to test cosmetics it is considered cruelty to animals. In many cases animals have been made to consume huge amounts of cosmetics, particularly lipsticks and waxes.
In one experiment rats were forced fed up to twenty-five g/kg of several lipstick formulations, the humans equivalent to four pounds. For research such as this there is always alternatives. Especially is the research is being done for purely superficially reasons. The best alternative to substitution of animal research today is computer program. In the past few years scientist have been able to further computer programs to the point in which they can almost mimic the human body and its complicated functions.
When using laboratory animals there is always the issue that their body structure is not close enough to the human body to be used to predict the outcome of medicine on the human body. In most cases this is not a valid concern but in a select few cases it has been frighteningly true. Historys most infamous drug disaster left 10,000 crippled and deformed. The culprit was thalidomide, marketed initially as a sedative by German scientists. Its clinical acceptance was based on an apparent lack of toxicity testing.
Animals involved in testing could tolerate massive doses in routine tests without ill effects, but when the drug was introduced to the public it caused a reaction with the nervous system of small children, harming them for life. Although there is a great amount of controversy behind animal research and it has been brought up time and time again that animal experimentation should be abolished, the is the undeniable fact that without it there would be so much that the medical field would be lacking. It is hard to say where we would be if we never had introduced animals into medicine.
One thing is for sure, we would have lost millions of people to diseases that are now curable. Without animal research Polio would have killed thousands of unvaccinated children in this year alone, there would be no insulin, no control on high blood pressure, no chemotherapy, and no anesthesia resulting in painful medical procedures. Measles is another childhood infection preventable by vaccination, by introducing a vaccination in 1968, the numbers of children infected dropped drastically. Also deaths from heart disease has fallen twenty four percent in men and fifty one percent in women, a tremendous improvement.
Sharpe, 45) Other benefits to humans include bone marrow transplantation, cyclosporin and other anti-rejection drugs. One of the largest fields in which animals are used for experimentation is in cancer research. In 1918 Japanese scientists produced cancer on a rabbits ear by painting it with tar, and a new ear in cancer research began. (Sherry, 75) The research that followed was used to fight, understand and try to control the conditions of tumors that cause cancer, and to also learn how and why they grow and spread. The development of chemotherapy was tested on rodents, monkeys and rabbits in 1950.
Forty years later, in 1990, scientists began closing in on the genetic and environmental factors that lead to breast cancer, which is the leading killer of American women between the ages of 35-54, the main species used in these experiments were fruitflies, mice and rats. (History of Medical Discoveries and Advances website, http://www. amprogress. org/history. htm, 1999) Although cancer has not been cured completely the benefits that animal experimentation have brought to this field of research is without a doubt amazing.
Now, thanks to epidemiology we now know that 80-90 percent of cancers are preventable. (Sharpe, 173) In 1950 scientists used rats and mice to discovery DNA, which is what determines individual hereditary characteristic. Also in this same time scientists experimented on rats, rabbits and monkeys to develop tranquilizers. We now use tranquilizers to reduce hyperactivity, anxiety and tension. In 1970, by using monkeys and armadillos treatment foe leprosy was developed, as well as measle prevention.
Not only do humans benefit from the research done on animals but also so do the animals themselves. Many of the drugs and procedures that have been of importance for humans are of equal effectiveness in animals. The attempt to produce vaccines against animals disease began almost as early as that of humans. Over half of the veterinary medicine used today originated from medicine used on humans, such as the vaccine formed for feline leukemia. Animal organ transplantation has also been furthered by human experimentation on animals.
There is so much that is entailed when using animals in research everyone must be pleased. As with ever issue in the United States today not everyone can ever be pleased, and that is also the truth with animal experimentation. Without it people would be sick and dying, but with it animals are dying to save our lives. The only way that it could be completely cut out of the medical industry is if humans began to voluntarily donate their bodies for experiments, the chances of that happening are slim to none.
So the options need to be addressed, should people die from diseases and faulty medicines or should animals die to save our lives? It is hard to say weather this issue will ever be solved. It can be said though, that all people have benefited from animal experimentation at one point in their life or another. Weather that instance is in a surgical procedure, of the safety that is promised when we use a shampoo. Either way everyone has had a safer and more healthily life thanks to the animals that have sacrificed their lives for ours.