Animals have been used as the subjects
Animals have been used as the subjects of life-changing studies for decades on end. We can contribute them towards finding cures for various antibiotics, vaccines for diseases, and the discovery of hormones(Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection). However, animals in human disease studies are locked up into tight environments and often have no choice but to await their next harmful procedure. Researchers claim that they make their subject the least susceptible to harm as they can, but they often fail. According to the article, “Animal Experimentation”, “820,812 animals were used in experiments at USDA-registered facilities in the United States in 2016.” This number does not even account for the animals not protected by the AWA; which are most of the animals that researchers use in scientific studies. There have been many developments in the medical world which could eliminate the use of animals in human disease studies. Instead of exposing our mammals to painful procedures, unfairly closed environments, and death; we need to find and use alternative methods for human disease research.
One method they have found useful is vitro experiments. This is when they use human cells and tissues in a laboratory. The objective is to test for cures or medications towards human disease. It could be argued that this method is more “relevant to human safety” (Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection). An example of a vitro experiment is the polio vaccine. Poliomyelitis was a deadly virus that affected thousands and left them hopeless for decades. For many years they desperately tried to find a cure for the virus with animals, but all test results were inconclusive. It was not until Jonas Sulk used a vitro experiment to find the first successful vaccine for polio. Without testing on human tissue, we may not have ever found a cure for the polio vaccine(Sylvia Engdahl). If we continued to use animals for studies, we are at risk of not finding cures for deadly diseases that could instead be found with human-made methods.
In addition, researchers can use the silico method that will create computer models. It can simulate the effects of disease and medicine on the human body with greater accuracy(Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection). They use these types of experiments to produce more accurate data for disease research and cancer studies. Just like vitro experiments, silico experiments can contribute immensely towards scientific advancements without harming animals. Today, we have developed these new technologies that can greatly help us in the medical world. The Times Editorial Board concludes that “Rabbits no longer need to be subjected to toxic levels of a substance to test products for skin irritation; likewise; scientists no longer need animal’s eyes to perform eye irritation tests so why make them?” If this technology has the ability to find more accurate and faster results than animal testing than they should be pursued; however, there are many reasons why someone would disagree.
With this in mind, others would say that there is not an issue with using an animal because they are the easiest way to get medical results. They claim that animal testing will “further veterinary treatments and services, improve environmental protection efforts, and better understand diseases that affect nonhuman animals and plants” (Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection). After all, researchers have been using mammals for decades to find cures for diseases. Even NASA had used chimpanzees to test in space before human astronaut’s like Alan Shepard(Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection). Consequently, it wasn’t until NIH reported that it was torturous to use them due to the amount of stress they were undergoing, that they were put under protection of the Endangered Species Act in 1990. Plus, they are also subjected to many experiments regarding the neuroscience field, helping to find how our brain controls movement(Stuart Baker). This is a few of the many ways that animals have contributed towards crucial medical advances. But, it’s also true that most of the animals will experience extreme amounts of stress, or even illness while being tested. “Animals are held in sterile, isolated cages, forced to suffer disease and injury, or euthanised at the end of the study”(Sylvia Engdahl). It is a harsh reality towards getting ‘quick’ results so that they can progress into human trials.
The most prominent issue regarding using animals is their physiology. Animals are entirely different from humans, and their anatomy doesn’t directly resemble ours. It would be hard to link results from animals to translate into a human vaccine or medication because many of our diseases are species specific. “Acetaminophen, for example, is poisonous to cats but is a therapeutic in humans; penicillin is toxic in guinea pigs but has been an invaluable tool in human medicine; morphine causes hyper-excitement in cats but has a calming effect in human patients; and oral contraceptives prolong blood-clotting times in dogs but increase a human's risk of developing blood clots”(Sylvia Engdahl). Basic medications we use can become harmful to many animals and even kill them. There are also many factors that can contribute to how a specific species can react to a vaccine or chemical. Just like humans, it can depend on their gender, breed, age and weight ranges. It would be a huge risk to rely on results made from animal experimentation for studies like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and AIDS because of how specific they are to humans. It has even been proven in the past that we risk not finding a cure for these awful diseases just because we didn’t test it on humans.
Unfortunately, many repercussions can occur if we choose to continue animal experimentation. It has been found that 9/10 drugs that are sent to human clinical trials because of successful animal trials fail (Sylvia Engdahl). The most significant contributor is the fact that our anatomy differences will cause a different effect on us than in the animal. There’s also the issue that the drugs can cause serious health issues in humans because they believed it would work. A study showed that "Adverse events associated with drugs are the single leading contributor to preventable patient injury, and may cost the lives of up to 100,000 Americans, account for more than 3 million hospital admissions, and increase the nation's hospitalization bill by up to $17 billion each year”(Sylvia Engdahl). Many of these drugs were sent for human use because they found the animal studies promising. Is it worth killing thousands of people and throwing their lives into lifelong debt? Instead, the drugs could be tested using alternative methods and can prevent those patient injuries.
Luckily, there has been some advancement towards eliminating the use of animals in human disease studies. President Obama signed a law that requires the EPA to develop alternative methods to animal testing and encourage companies to use them. They have to influence these companies to realize that this is a more ethical approach and that it will produce better results than exposing animals to harmful tests (The Times Editorial Board). Many organizations have been put into effect to protect animals rights and abuse as well. In 1966, the Animal Welfare Act was passed, which protected some animals from being used in research; however, many farm animals, livestock, and amphibians were excluded from that act; even though these are the animals used the most in human disease research. There should be a consideration to revise the AWA act to make the protection accountable towards all animals.
Now the animals have been exposed to too many chemicals and undergone too many risky experiments for it to be ethical. We can credit them towards finding cures for many illnesses and diseases, but it has subjected them to harmful environments. We shouldn’t have to force them to undergo these experiments when we’re depriving them of their health, psychological well-being, and overall quality of life. With having new technology to our benefit we can create more accurate results and find remedies for human conditions more safely. The future of our medical world is to use human-made methods to find cures for human disease.
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