Animal Testing Fails Science

22/10/09

Quit monkeying around. Millions of animals are tested at universities and research facilities across Canada every year. On top of being morally wrong, animal testing gives little to scientific research

Behind closed doors at the University of Toronto live animals are the subjects of inhumane scientific research and testing. Immunologists and medical researchers conduct cruel and unnecessary experiments on mice, pigs, dogs, rabbits, primates, turtles, guinea pigs, and invertebrates in the Medical Sciences and MaRS buildings. The experiments are often carried out for the purposes of research at the behest of corporations that pay the university to do their bidding. But U of T is not alone in these cruel practices. Such means of testing is happening everywhere.

Using animals for medical experimentation, product testing, and education is a controversial and highly debated subject. While the issues are complex, the suffering involved in animal experimentation is painfully obvious. Millions of animals are used in federal and privately funded experiments in research centres and universities across Canada each year. For instance, non-human primates such as rhesus monkeys (also known as macaques) are tested on repeatedly and kept in laboratories for their entire lives. They are subjected to various research experiments and clinical drug trials involving tremendous pain, often leaving them with diseases such as SARS, TB, HIV, hepatitis, and various cancers. Primates are also routinely subjected to deprivation and psychological experiments for years on end.

Most animals are euthanized following experimentation. Their lives are viewed as disposable. Those who defend animal experimentation often cite how such experiments save human lives, but in fact most of the experiments do not benefit humanity. There are a number of famous cases where animal testing is alleged to have provided necessary breakthroughs, but upon closer examination, these allegations are not so clear-cut. One such example is the polio vaccine. Even in the medical community itself there are disputes over whether the vaccine was developed before or after clinical trials on monkeys. Additionally, the decline in cases of polio is now believed to be due to better public hygiene, not the vaccine. The small pox vaccine also has a contested history, as some claim that the major breakthrough occurred before clinical trials even began.

“I know of no achievement through vivisection, no scientific discovery that could not have been obtained without such barbarism and cruelty,” said Dr. Charles Mayo, son of the co-founder of the well-respected Mayo Clinic. Canadian animal cruelty laws do little to protect animal test subjects. The Canadian Council on Animal Care is a federal organization set up to monitor and regulate the use of research animals in Canada. It outlines basic standards of treatment for laboratory animals, but compliance is voluntary. In a critique of the CCAC, David Sztybel, an expert in animal rights ethics and a professor in Brock University’s sociology department, notes that safeguards against inhumane treatment are inadequate for a number of reasons. Peer-reviews by fellow experimenters, for example, are conducted by those already desensitized to animal suffering. The standards for what counts as scientific advancement are very low. Research organizations systemically fail to investigate alternative methods of experimentation. And some researchers may also be swayed by the financial incentive to opt for clinical trials, which net grant money. Szybel concludes that the CCAC legitimizes, rather than prevents, unnecessary cruelty to animals.

Animal testing has led us to countless scientific dead ends, while detracting attention and funds from more humane techniques. In reality, animal research rarely guarantees that medications and other products will be safe and effective for humans. Regulators pull many drugs off the market because they caused illness or death in humans, reactions that were unforeseen based on previous tests on other animals. For example, Thalidomide was tested on thousands of animals with no ill effect, but then caused severe deformities in humans once marketed. In order to know what the effect of a drug will be on a human, it must be administered to a human. This raises the question of whether many of the drugs now available are sufficiently beneficial to justify the harm they could cause to any species, in the lab or outside it. Those who oppose animal experimentation on ethical grounds believe that it is morally wrong to harm one species in hopes of benefiting another. When it comes to causing harm, there is no substantial difference between human and non-human animals: we all feel pain and do not wish to be held captive and tortured. If non-consenting experimentation and torture on human beings is ethically wrong on these grounds, it is also wrong to do this to non-human beings. Ethicist Peter Singer argues, “Either animals are unlike us and hence the experiments provide no useful data, or they are like us, in which case the experiments shouldn’t be done.” What’s more, there are several viable alternatives available to animal testing. Modern and innovative methods, including advanced computer technology and microsurgery models and mannequins with feedback mechanisms, have become the norm at many universities. Several universities now have medical program curricula with no live animal laboratories.

John Hopkins University is working with scientists to find new methods to replace the use of laboratory animals, to reduce the number of animals tested, and to refine tests to eliminate pain and distress. The University of Toronto should follow their lead and rid itself of these inhumane, antiquated research practices.

For more information see the facebook group Stop Animal Experimentation at University of Toronto. To confidentially report harm to animals at U of T, or for general support, contact StopAnimalExperimentation@gmail.com

By Paul York

 

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© Keith Mann
puppypincher@yahoo.co.uk