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Babette Vanlancker Animal Testing Modern animal testing has been a controversial topic ever since it began 150 years ago. While some people believe that animal testing is crucial because it is the key to medicinal development and human health, others question whether animals should be sacrificed in order for humans to ameliorate their standard of living. Today, researchers have the option of using alternative methods for testing, however, animal testing is still widely used, as it is believed to be to most reliable form of experimentation. Animal testing are “tests performed on animals that help to advance scientific research and medical development1 .” 33% percent of all animals tested are used in ‘basic (or fundamental)’ research. This is research that aims to increase knowledge about animals and human behaviour, development, and biological functions. 30% of the animals are used in ‘targeted (or applied) research’. In this kind of research, scientists aim to understand diseases and develop treatments for them. Furthermore, 8% of the animals are used in ‘toxicological evaluation’. This tests the safety of products used in order to minimize harm done to animals, humans, and the environment. The remaining 28% are used for a variety of different purposes. The three main reasons animals are used in research are: to advance scientific understanding, develop solutions to medical problems, and protect the safety of people, animals, and the environment. Many people refuse to believe that animal testing is beneficial. This is shown in some statistics. For example, in the US, those in favor of animal testing has dropped from 64 percent in 2004 to 50 percent in 2010. Regardless, it has shaped the people and the world we live in today. For example, animal testing allows us to ensure the safety of drugs and medicines we consume in our daily lives. Antibiotics, insulin, organ transplantation, HIV treatment, and heart-bypass surgery are all products that owe their existence or development to animal 1http://animaltestingperspectives.org/2011/questions/what-is-animal-testing- exactly/ experimentation. Furthermore, animal testing guarantees the safety of everyday products such as cleaning products, lotions, and makeup Most importantly, products that treat or prevent life-threatening diseases, such as cancer, have been developed thanks to animal testing. 25 years ago, cancer would inevitably have led to death within a few years, whereas when someone is diagnosed with cancer today, treatments is provided that could possibly save the patient’s life. Such treatments include treatments for bowel, breast, and lung cancer. Vaccines for cervical cancer are available as well. Overall, the most important aspect of animal testing is that it is the most reliable way to test new products. Mice and rats, for example, are used in testing because their bodies react to diseases and treatment almost the same way the human body does. In short, experimentation on animals allows us to use everyday products with certainty. Nonetheless, there are many negative aspects of animal testing. Testing leads to the deaths of countless animals, and some of these animals die in vain, as many drugs that are tested will never receive approval anyway. In addition, animal testing is very expensive. Researchers need to ensure that the animals are kept properly maintained and that they are given shelter and enough food. And lastly, contradictory to what was said before, even though it is the most reliable form of testing, it is not always one hundred percent reliable since animals do not have exactly the same organs as humans and do not always respond to product the way humans would. Researchers, however, try to minimize the testing on animals. There are several ways to do this. First and foremost, researchers refrain from testing products if similar products caused problems in the animal. This is a process called ‘read-across’ (i.e. the toxic characteristics of a chemical are deduced by observing the test data of a similar and toxic product). Another way to minimize tests is to plan a test. Using this method, researchers have to stick to a certain method so as not to cause animals to de in vain. First, researchers do what is called ‘acute testing’. These tests test for the most critical aspect first. This means that if the animal develops problems right away, researchers won’t test that product for any other aspects. If the animal did not show any problems, it undergoes what is called ‘chronic exposure’. This is when the animal is exposed to a product over a period of time in order to see if it develops problems over time. If the animal does not respond negatively to this test either, the animal undergoes what is called ‘multigenerational testing’. In this kind of testing, the animal’s offspring is observed to see whether they have problems. Another way to minimize tests on a large mass of animals is to do ‘target testing’. This means that instead of, for example, gassing a large number of animals, only one animal is tested. This one particular animal receives a mask and is then gassed individually. Other alternatives include genomics, which is the testing of cell tissues, and selective animal tests, which are tests that test the species of animals whose organ most closely resembles the organ in the human body at which the test is targeted. Furthermore, companies may share data with other companies, against a payment. All in all, researchers try to abide by the three R’s. They are: Reduction, which aims at reducing the amount of animals that have to undergo experimentation, replacement, which aims at using non-animal alternatives whenever possible, and refinement, which means that animals are looked after properly. There are some companies and industries in the world that do not test their products on animals. Or so they claim. One such company is The Body Shop. This store promotes their products by advertising that they are ‘animal-friendly’. This, however, could not be farther from the truth. The Body Shop may not test their products on animals themselves, but they do use products that were tested on animals by other industries. This shows how hypocritical some companies are in order to sell their products. If The Body Shop did indeed not test their products on animals, then there would be no proof that their products would be safe for humans or the environment. This is true for every company. Even though measures are being taken to minimize experimentation on animals as much as possible, many people still don’t agree with the concept. This is because they believe that animals have a moral status, just like humans. These people may feel strongly about the fact that animals should be protected from being used by humans. Laws have been established in many countries, such as England, France, Germany, and the US, which protect animals against abuse. These anticruelty laws against animals do not apply when animals are used for medical purposes or scientific research, however. It needs to be realized that animals in the lab are well protected and that here are laws ensuring that an animal suffering from severe pain is put down immediately. Even though animal experimentation may seem like an extremely cruel act, it is necessary for the development of our world and for the welfare of the world’s population. Without animal research, life-saving medicines, such as Avastin and Herceptin (which treat different kinds of cancer) would not exist and the chances of someone with cancer surviving would almost be inexistent. Nevertheless, innumerable animals die painful deaths in the name of science and are sacrificed for humans. Animal experimentation will not cease to be a controversial subject.
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