An Opinion Piece
by Sheetal Bangalore, Staff Writer
An estimated twenty six million animals are used every year in the United States for scientific and commercial testing. Humans use animals to develop medical treatments, determine the toxicity of medications, check the safety of products destined for human use, and for other biomedical, commercial, and healthcare uses.Research on living animals has been practiced since at least 500 BCE; therefore, this cruel and inhumane practice has been going on for over two thousand years. Fortunately, there are many methods that now exist to replace the need for animals in the medical, cosmetic and health fields. Also, animals are a poor model and aren’t effective because they are very different from human beings.
The most important reason that animal testing should be stopped is because it is cruel and inhumane. Animals are a soft target for human beings; however, it is unfair to take advantage of their helplessness. Just because animals aren’t as advanced as us, doesn’t mean that they are not capable of feeling love and pain just as much as we are. According to Humane Society International, animals used in experiments are commonly subjected to force feeding, forced inhalation, food and water deprivation, prolonged periods of physical restraint, and other means of physical torment. For example, the Draize eye test — used by cosmetics companies to evaluate irritation caused by shampoos and other products — involves rabbits being incapacitated in stocks with their eyelids held open by clips, sometimes for multiple days, so they cannot blink away the products being tested. If this ever happened to a human, the culprit would be heavily punished and behavior would be marked as abusive and violating the victim’s rights. Not only are the tests extremely harsh, the conditions that animals have to endure before the tests are inadmissible. For instance, many small rodents used for tests are forced to live in cramped conditions, typically in spaces no larger than a shoebox. Larger animals are often confined to small cages with no opportunity to stretch their legs or run free.
It is a common misconception among the general public that animal testing is necessary and beneficial in order to make advances in medicine, cosmetics and other fields. However, animal tests do not reliably predict results in human beings and the products and treatments tested on animals can actually harm humans. There is no guarantee that drugs are safe for humans just because they have been successfully tested on animals. The differences between humans and other animals, cause the results from animal tests to not have the same effect on humans, leaving us vulnerable to exposure to drugs that can cause serious side effects. This is proven because about 94% of drugs that pass animal tests fail in human clinical trials. In addition, the physiological differences between humans and other animals prevent the results of animal tests from being accurate for humans. According to neurologist Aysha Akhtar, “Over one hundred stroke drugs that were effective when tested on animals have failed in humans, and over eighty five HIV vaccines failed in humans after working well in non-human primates.” A 2013 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that nearly 150 clinical trials of treatments to reduce inflammation in critically ill patients have been undertaken, and all of them failed, despite being successful in animal tests.
In this age in which science and technology is rapidly advancing, alternative testing methods now exist that can replace the need for animals. Animal testing was developed many years ago when we did not have advanced technology or the high level of medical knowledge that we have now. On top of saving the lives of countless animals, alternatives to animal tests are efficient and reliable. Non-animal methods usually take less time to complete, can be conducted at a fraction of the cost of the animal experiments, and are not plagued with species differences that make extrapolation difficult or impossible. Effective, affordable, and humane research methods include studies of human populations, cadavers, volunteers, and patients as well as sophisticated in vitro, genomic, and computer-modeling techniques. As Gordon Baxter—cofounder of Pharmagene Laboratories, a company that uses only human tissue and computers to develop and test its drugs—says, “If you have information on human genes, what’s the point of going back to animals?” Scientists have now developed artificial human skin, such as the commercially available products EpiDerm and ThinCert, it is made from sheets of human skin cells grown in test tubes or plastic wells and can produce more useful results than testing chemicals on animal skin. Such advanced methods can easily replace animal testing and are safe for everyone.
Animal testing should be banned because it is cruel, not reliable and now there are additional methods for testing products and procedures that work much better. Many are worried that banning animal testing will hurt humans; but on the contrary, the other solutions will benefit both animals and us. The solutions are more effective, not cruel and are less expensive.
If you want to take action to stop animal test, an easy first step to take is to not use products that have been tested on animals. For example, we should not buy/ use products tested on animals, such as many Johnson and Johnson products. Another step that individuals can take, is to support organizations against animal cruelty such as PETA. PETA is the largest organization that stops animal cruelty and saves their lives. If we, even as individuals don’t take steps to have animal testing terminated we are inflicting great, unnecessary danger to animals and in turn, ourselves.
Why are there double standards for humans and animals? After all humans are animals too.