Animal testingWhat is it?

Animal testing is the practice of trying out products soon to be used by humans with the aim of discovering any adverse effects arising from their use. Animals may be used to test medicines, cosmetics and a range of other products. These animals are acquired from a range of sources and regularly undergo pain during these tests. It can take place in universities, schools, hospitals and research institutes. The process is also commonly referred to as vivisection.

What’s the issue?

In Australia alone 6 million animals will be used in animal experiments this year. These animals will be gassed, electrocuted, deprived of food, water or sleep, poisoned, infected, treated with irritants, burned and stressed.

Many different varieties of animals are subjected to this. The most common is the lab rat but dogs, cats, monkeys, koalas, tortoises, horses, rabbits, fish and birds are also used.

These tests are not enough to show the adverse effects arising from a products use on humans. The people who are in favour of using animals admit this issue. The director of the Huntingdon Research Centre in the US a major animal testing facility said ‘The best guess for the correlation of adverse reactions in man and animal toxicity data is somewhere between five and 25%.’

A range of issues have arisen from testing on animals that have cost lives, Dr Albert Sabin the man who formulated the polio vaccine regrets that its release was ‘long delayed by the erroneous conception of the nature of the human disease based on misleading experimental models of the disease in monkeys.’

One of the largest killers in the western world is adverse reactions to prescription drugs which claims over 100,000 lives per year in the US and a similar number in the UK. Both smoking cigarettes and eating lots of cholesterol were given approval as products which are safe for you after tests on animals. Both of these have killed many people.

The monkey shown is the picture above is one of the silver springs monkeys. These were a group of 17 monkeys which were used by Edward Taub for neuroplasticity tests. These monkeys were born in the wild before being moved to the research centre. The case is regarded as the one which launched PETA. They were the people who released the photos which informed people of the issue. They fought for custody of the animals taking the case to the supreme court. It was the first animal research case ever to reach this court. In the end the animals were allowed to be euthanatized so the last phase of the research could occur.

These animals are not respected by the people who test on them. The EPA’s “Good Laboratory Practices” manual refers to these animals as ‘test systems.’ They are also commonly referred to as ‘models,’ ‘research tools,’ and ‘products.’ All of these are attempts by the industry to make these animals seem worthless Animal testingand non-living. They distance themselves from the reality of the pain and suffering the animals go through to avoid this issues admitting they are animals would cause.

These animals are also acquired in bad ways. One process which has recently risen in use is taking strays. These animals are collected off the streets or adopted from shelters and then used in tests.

Some animals used in animal testing are acquired from the wild. These animals are removed from their wild homes and locked in cages which are hardly big enough to move around in.

Is there a solution?

The solution is to stop animal testing. To make this work another method needs to be found to safely test new products. The Wyss institute has created organs on chips. These are human cells which mimic human organ functions. They can then be used to test the effect of these products on these different cells.

A wide range of computer models also exist. These can be used to model accurately what will happen.

Human tests are also being made safer. A process known as ‘microdosing’ is now being used. This is where a small amount of the medicine is taken and then tracked using computer scans.

To remove the need for dissection a range of test dummies have been created. These can breathe, bleed, convulse and die. This allows medical students to practice in a more real situation than if they used animals which would be dead.

What can you do to help?

One of the major things you can do is to stop buying products tested on animals. This can sometimes be hard but it can be helped by looking at the choose cruelty free list of accredited companies. The companies have been accredited and signed a legally binding contract stating that their products are not tested on animals.

Sources:

AnimalsAustralia.org, (2014). Animal Experimentation // Animals Australia. [online] Available at: http://www.animalsaustralia.org/issues/animal_experimentation.php [Accessed 14 Jun. 2014].

CCF Official Site, (2013). Against Animal Testing. [online] Available at: http://www.choosecrueltyfree.org.au/against-animal-testing/ [Accessed 14 Jun. 2014].

CCF Official Site, (2013). Against Animal Testing. [online] Available at: http://www.choosecrueltyfree.org.au/against-animal-testing/ [Accessed 14 Jun. 2014].

Alv.org.au, (2014). Animal Experiments / Animal Liberation Victoria. [online] Available at: http://www.alv.org.au/issues/experiments.php [Accessed 14 Jun. 2014].

Photo Credits

Top: By Alex Pacheo (Silver Springs Monkey) [Creative Commons Attribution licence 3.0.], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom: By Understanding Animal Research (Mice in Research for Animal Testing) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons