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A current problem residing in the research field is the controversy concerning animal testing and research. Although the number of animal experiments is slowly declining and alternative methods are being substituted, the inhumane treatment of animals has yet to cease. The purpose of this essay is to examine the controversy in scholarship of testing on animals and focus more on subsequent experiment alternatives.
The number of animal experiments is still at a high rate. In Great Britain "more than 2.7 million live animal experiments were authorized in 2002" (Animal Experiments 1). The same article also states that "almost every medical treatment you use has been tested on animals" (1). Animals are used in testing a variety of products ranging from shampoo to new cancer drugs, but a question that always arises is whether or not animal testing really works. According to the internet source, "Animal Experiments," it states "animal experiments can be misleading. An animal's response to a drug can be different to a human's" (1). However, "biomedical scientists infer that the results of tests on animals will probably prompt ideas about how to think about and understand the functionally analogous human phenomena" (LaFollette and Shanks 144). Both resources have opposing views when it comes to using animals in laboratory experiments. While the use of animals may help in the creation of new drugs or products, it is not always deemed necessary to harm live animals when alternative methods can be substituted. Scientists also assume that experiments on animals can suggest fertile hypotheses about biomedical phenomena (LaFollette and Shanks 144).
Protests against animal rights did not appear until the year 1822 when the first law against the ill treatment of cattle was passed and was followed by a succession of similar acts over the next century. In 1824, the first anticruelty society-the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded and was soon followed by dozens of other societies and their branches (Li 8). As it gradually took shape the movement for animal rights has grown tremendously and thousands of people fight and protest for what they believe is humane and right.
Although researchers claim that non-human animals can be used to uncover underlying causal mechanisms of human disease, others like Hugh LaFollette and Niall Shanks disagree. They argue that animal tests are unreliable as tests to determine the causes and properties of human disease. Available evidence and the theory of evolution lead us to expect that evolved creatures will have different causal mechanisms containing similar functional roles. On the other hand, however, there are good theoretical reasons to think animals can serve as effective "testers" which LaFollette and Shanks discuss. Their theories of evolution lead us to expect that genetically close species will have a variety of similarities, but in today's society new and improved alternatives can be used which can produce just as accurate results. These new alternatives may even become a more important part of basic biomedical research.
Christopher A. Reinhardt's book, Alternatives to Animal Testing: New Ways in the Biomedical Sciences, Trends and Progress, notes the history of alternative concepts started with the contribution by Russell and Burch which began in the year 1959. Three alternatives, known as the Three Rs, defined the basic principles: Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement. The Three Rs concept is still recognized today and is also mentioned in the book written by Vera Rogiers and Sonja Beken called, Alternative Methods to Animal Experiments. Rogiers and Beken state:
Both the development of Russell and Burch's three Rs concept (1959) and its incorporation into scientific research and regulatory testing of substances foreign to the biologic system (also called xenobiotics) are regarded, in general, as an important improvement of the situation that has prevailed until now. (25)
They also explain how the Rs concept differentiates between two types of replacement methods: relative replacement and absolute replacement. Relative replacement is a method "in which animals are still needed, but are not exposed to any stress during the actual experiments (for example in in vitro methods such as cell cultures)" (24). While absolute replacement is a method "in which animals are not required at any stage (for example computer models)" (24). This concept is also mentioned in Christopher Reinhardt's book as well as in the internet article titled "Animal Experiments" where the concept is mentioned briefly. Christopher Reinhardt also discusses these two methods in his book, using in vitro methods and computer modeling, while explaining the benefits they have within the field of science. Moreover, Reinhardt, Rogiers and Beken all agree that the three Rs concept created by Russell and Burch has been the basis for all alternative method experiments. The capacity to achieve effective results using new methods not only adds to our growing field of science and research but saves the lives of thousands of animals that would otherwise be harmed for the sake of producing human drugs or products.
Another major factor concerning animal testing is the fact that the results from the experiment may be inadequate due to the simple fact that animals are not humans. The results may be similar in biological terms in a mouse and human, but a reaction in a mouse from a drug may conclude to be a totally different reaction when the same drug is tested on a human. G.P. Webb notes that "The major contribution of animal experimentation to human biology is acknowledged, but the general thesis presented is that, on occasion, a lack of rigor in the extrapolation of animal derived data to humans may have encouraged dubious or incorrect conclusions" (191). The same argument is discussed in the "Animal Experiments" web article by suggesting that "animal experiments can be misleading. An animal's response to a drug can be different to a human's and…the stress that animals endure in labs can affect experiments, making the results meaningless" (1). The article goes on to suggest that if such misleading results are found, then more humane and alternative methods should be used more often that will produce more accurate results. Moreover, the same article concludes that although legislation protects all lab animals from cruelty or mistreatment, animals still have as much right to life as human beings.
The main alternative method that seems to be highly recommended is the use of in vitro tests. In vitro tests include the testing of or on cell cultures. This method eliminates the experimentation on an animal and not only that, but results in accurate findings. Just as well as if the research had been done on a live animal. The method and use of in vitro tests are mentioned and highly recommended by Reinhardt, Rogiers and Beken, Balls, Caroline Debbasch et al., and Minne B. Heringa et al. These listed authors all discuss and concur that in vitro testing should replace in vivo (animal testing) experiments for the fact that they are more accurate and cause less to no harm to any animal. The article by Peter Sandercock called "Systematic Review of Animal Experiments" even states that "a recent study of the process of testing a potential treatment for acute stroke suggests that the relation between animal experiments and clinical trials is not so straightforward" (586). His statement is in accordance with the authors listed previously for the fact that not all animal experiments will produce accurate and effective results. There is always room for error. However, Sandercock further states that testing in animal models is believed to increase the chances of identifying drugs that are sufficiently promising to justify the effort and expense of further clinical development (586). Peter Sandercock's article also details the importance of systematic reviews in clinical trials. He explains that these reviews allow for a more objective appraisal of the research evidence than do narrative reviews and by increasing the precision of estimates of treatment effects, systematic review can reduce the probability of misleading results. And secondly, an observation found by the colleagues mentioned in Sandercock's article was that the systematic review of animal experiments was that the methodological quality of the included animal studies was poor. Moreover, in the Debbasch article, it says "particular emphasis was
given to the development of alternative methods to replace the traditional Draize rabbit eye test, the former "gold standard" for assessing eye irritation" (156-57). In conclusion to the use of in vitro tests is that they are on the rise so more and more research labs are switching to this alternative.
When it comes to in vitro methods, new technology is on the rise to test and research experiments that once used animals for testing subjects. The web article "Animal Experiments" explains some of these new testing advances by stating:
New scanning technologies (such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging) can help doctors learn about disease from human patients without the need for invasive surgery, or animal testing. Similarly, autopsies and cell culture studies can reveal a great deal of information without having to stimulate the disease in a lab animal. Computer models have also been developed that simulate an animal's response, removing the need for live animal tests. (3-4)
The method of using synthetic membranes is also suggested. Both Michael Balls article and the internet article as previously mentioned describe this alternative method and the effective and accurate results it can produce. "Animal Experiments" explains this method as to how it measures how far a corrosive substance ate into an anaesthetized rabbit's shaved back. Instead, the replacement uses reconstructed human skin, or a synthetic material called 'Corrositex.' Both articles agree, however, that this skin model alternative is safe and effective and should replace animal experiments. This method along with numerous others is also mentioned in the books, Alternative Methods to Animal Experiments and Alternatives to Animal Testing.
The majority of scholars generally agree that animal testing in the United States and Europe is not humane and unnecessary especially when so many alternative options are presented. The scholar's views may differ concerning the better solution or alternative but their opinions are similar concerning the fact that accurate and effective results need to be achieved before a product is presented to society. They all agree or imply that the topic of using animals in lab experiments is very controversial but is definitely something that needs to be dealt with and continue to search for new and innovative alternative testing methods. The scholars are very eager to find new solutions which would ultimately reduce the number of live animals used in lab research and are also in hope that testing on animals will ultimately be erased.
Animal Experiments. 2004. 2 Feb. 2005 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/hottopics/animalexperiments/index.shtml>.
Balls, Michael. "Alternative Methods and Cosmetic Testing." Soap, Perfumery and _____Cosmetics 70.6 (1997): 47-49.
Debbasch, Caroline et al. "Eye Irritation of Low-Irritant Cosmetic Formulations:
Correlation of In Vitro Results with Clinical Data and Product Composition."
Food and Chemical Toxicology 43.1 (2005): 155-65.
Heringa, Minne B., et al. "Toward More Useful In Vitro Toxicity Data with Measured
Free Concentrations." Environmental Science Technology 38.23 (2004): 6263
LaFollette, Hugh, and Niall Shanks. "Two Models of Models in Biomedical Research." _____
The Philosophical Quarterly 45.179 (1995): 141-60.
Li, Chien-hui. "The Animal Cause and Its Greater Traditions." Revision 27.2 (2004): 6-
Reinhardt, Christopher A., ed. Alternatives to Animal Testing: New Ways in the
Biomedical Sciences, Trends and Progress. New York: VCH Publishers, 1994.
Rogiers, Vera, and Sonja Beken. Alternative Methods to Animal Experiments.
Waversesteenweg: Brussel VUB UP, 2000.
Sandercock, Peter, and Ian Roberts. "Systematic Reviews of Animal Experiments."
Lancet 360.9333 (2002): 586.
Webb, G.P. "A Selective Critique of Animal Experiments in Human-Oriented Biological
Research." Journal of Biological Education 24.3 (1990): 191-98.
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