Animal Research

Testing on animals is a very sensitive topic which some people may hide from, but I feel that it’s important to be aware of this type of research. Many deem it as cruel and unethical (me included), however, not every experiment harms its subjects.

When weighing up the pros and cons of animal testing, consent sticks out like a sore thumb. When we conduct studies on human participants, it’s essential to gain their consent; however, it is impossible to do so for animals. Yet, they are still experimented on, and may be subjected to horrendous suffering despite not being able to express their pain and distress. Harlow’s attachment experiment on rhesus monkeys is an example of the mistreatment of animals. These infant monkeys were taken away from their mothers at birth; some were given a surrogate mother of just wire and cloth, and the rest were reared in isolation, which subsequently caused many to die. The latter monkeys that survived were frightened and behaved abnormally. Harlow placed frightening objects in their cages, which caused them immense distress. Another of Harlow’s experiments, involved infant monkeys being left alone for up to 2 years of complete social isolation, which resulted in the babies being severely psychologically disturbed and in Harlow’s own words, just “12 months of isolation almost obliterated the animals socially”. It is for reasons like these that ethical guidelines are a must when dealing with animals as well as humans. Whilst researching animal experimentation, I decided to check out what PETA had to say on the matter. The descriptions of what can happen to animals made me physically sick, and I couldn’t believe that anyone could actually submit an animal to such malicious acts. I also found that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had stated that 92% of drugs tested on animals that are classed as safe and effective have failed in human trials due to being the complete opposite. PETA believes that absolutely no testing, under any circumstances, should be conducted on animals due to the pain and stress they suffer. However, apart from the gruesome pictures on their website, there isn’t all that much evidence for their argument. The pictures undoubtedly show that horrific research is carried out on animals, however, they don’t back up much of what they argue with sources, and these pictures may only represent a very small percent of research, with the rest following ethical guidelines within their experiments.

Then there’s the other side of the argument. The UK (thankfully) has strict regulations stating that animals must only be used if there is absolutely no other way to test, and if they must be studied then it is a necessity that they are treated properly. The majority of biomedical research is conducted through non-animal means, which indicates that the photos presented by PETA are not representative of animal testing as a whole (though this does not excuse the terrible mistreatment of those animals). Researchers left with the only option but to experiment on animals must consider the three R’s.

  • Replace – use alternative techniques or avoid using animals completely
  • Reduce – keep the amount of animals used down to a minimum
  • Refine – minimise the suffering of animals as much as possible

These guidelines help to protect studied animals by ensuring their welfare, and ensure that animal testing is the final option. Of course, this doesn’t mean that just because there’s no other way of measuring an unnecessary, trivial topic that animals can be experimented on. Animals must only be used for important research that can, in the future, help to save humans and animals.

 

Without any guidelines in place, I would most definitely join PETA in their battle against animal cruelty. I truly admire what they’re attempting to do. However, we do have regulations to protect our animals, and I feel that if they are cared for properly and their suffering is minimal, then we should allow some animal testing if it’s for the greater good. Those who commit the crimes shown in the photographs, should be experimented on in exactly the same way and given no option but to suffer. Maybe then there would be no more mistreatment of animals.

 

Thanks for reading, and I’m truly sorry if I’ve upset or offended you in any way.

http://animaltestingperspectives.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Harlow

http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-experimentation/animal-testing-101.aspx

http://www.simplypsychology.org/attachment.html

http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. francesdevine
    Mar 13, 2012 @ 20:58:01

    I have never really known much about animal testing other than what I have seen in movies, where they are always portrayed as being in dire and sometimes brutal conditions (such as the Harlow rhesus monkeys). Your blog led me to look into this further and I have come across websites that claim this is a misconception (http://animaltestingperspectives.org/2011/misconceptions/animals-are-kept-in-appalling-living-conditions/) who say research centers who use animals must follow strict EU laws to ensure the animals needs are met.

    I would also take into consideration the timeline that the monkey experiments took place. In the 1960’s, eithical considerations were not in place for human studies, and due to animals being considered by many as ‘lesser beings’ it is incredibly unlikely that their needs were being taken into consideration, hence studies such as Harlow’s being allowed.

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  3. Sinae
    Mar 14, 2012 @ 12:32:10

    You raise a good point about the three R’s as you explain that these guidelines help to protect animals. I consider the point that ‘animals must only be used for important research that can, in the future, help to save humans and animals’ very important. As there have there been studies that have been conducted (outside of the UK) which pointlessly test animals. For example; experimenters at Monash University investigated reaction to visual stimulations, in order to do this they actually implanted electrodes into monkey’s brains so that they could measure their reaction. No significant or useful results were produced from the study so the pain that the monkeys experiences was extremely pointless.
    A study that can be considered extremely unethical was conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney. Rats were put in high temperature conditions and administered speed and ecstasy, as the researchers wanted to replicate the effects of these illegal drugs in a nightclub atmosphere :S. Scientists are already aware of the negative effects that these illegal drugs have on humans so it was unnecessary to put the rats through the torture.
    Another shocking piece of evidence showing that some researchers test on animals with no intention of helping to save animals or humans was conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide. The researchers administered pregnant sheep with ethanol to see the effect it would cause of the fetus, this was deemed unnecessary as we are already aware of the effects alcohol has on unborn babies when pregnant women excessively drink alcohol, so why do we need to know what happens to sheep?

    http://thepetwiki.com/wiki/Animal_Experiments,_Cruel,_Unecessary_and_Harmful_to_Human_Health

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  4. 1jessicakes
    Mar 14, 2012 @ 19:31:55

    The three R’s (Russel & Burch, 1959) are majorly important to the welfare of animals in testing. There are two other major alternatives to testing on animals, one is in vitro testing, taking live tissue or recreating that tissue in a test tube to simulate effects (De Clercq, 2008 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1369527405001268) and the other is in silico (Rohrig, 2010 http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jm9014718) whereby computer simulation is used instead of real animals. De Clerq (2008) believes that these methods cannot replace animals as neither of these options offer the same reaction as the living organisms themselves. To an extent therefore, there may be some time in the future where we will have no need to test and experiment on animals, but for now it seems that there is no set reliability for these alternative options

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  6. statisticsbyrachel
    Mar 14, 2012 @ 21:02:13

    As well as set guidelines regarding the use of animals within research, the APA also have a specific committee set up called the Committee on Animal Research and Ethics (CARE) to deal with animal use in detail. Furthermore, there is UK legislation that helps with the monitoring of animal research. The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (1986) states that such research can only take place in licensed laboratories. A license may only be granted to researchers if: 1. Potential results are important enough to justify the use of animals, 2.The research cannot be done using humans, 3.The minimum number of animals will be used, and 4. any discomfort or suffering is kept to a minimum by appropriate use of anaesthetics or painkillers. In fact, the UK has the most rigorous laws in the world concerning this area of research.
    I do agree that using animals in general research is very unnecessary and often cruel. However, the use of animals in research has saved so many human lives. I bet a good proportion of the students reading this have had the meningitis vaccine – a vaccine that was developed using around 100 mice, but has consequently saved the lives of thousands of children. The majority of people in the UK eat meat and wear leather. In my opinion, ending the lives of animals for unnecessary goods such as food and clothes is a lot less justified than using animals within research to help to save the lives of suffering people.
    So I can accept that animals may be used within research, but only when the potential outcome is important enough to justify the use of the animals. The laws and guidelines in the UK today are extremely strict, and do minimize the amount of animals used and any suffering caused.

    http://www.apa.org/science/leadership/care/guidelines.aspx

    http://www.nhs.uk/news/2011/02February/Pages/universal-meningitis-vaccine.aspx

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