THE RIGHT CHOICE
The use of animals for medical experimentation has been one of the most controversial issues in our world since the seventeenth century. Edward Augustus Freeman stated, “The awful wrongs and sufferings forced upon the innocent, faithful animal race form the blackest chapter in the whole world’s history.” In the United States, it is estimated that twenty to seventy million animals including cats, dogs, primates, rabbits, rats, and mice suffer and die in the name of research. At least thirty-three animals die in laboratories each second worldwide, in the UK, one every four seconds (Vivisection Information Network Plan 2000, Leaflet 4). Who has the authority to make a choice that the human race is a greater race than that of animals? People say: “We have rights over animals. They are given to us for use.” You have no rights over them. You have duties towards them (Annie Besant). At no point and time should we ever justify ourselves through the pain and suffering of another being. I have always felt that the way we treat animals is a pretty good indicator of the compassion we are capable of for the human race (Ali McGraw).
Throughout years of practicing animal experimentation, researchers have stumbled across findings that have promoted the well being of humans and animals alike. It has helped provide antibiotics and vaccines, insulin for diabetics, treatments for leukemia, local and general anesthetics, and has made possible advances in medical technology such as blood transfusion, kidney dialysis, and the heart lung machine. Distemper, which killed dogs, seals, and dolphins, and is now prevented by a vaccine, was developed using dogs in the 1920s (Cornelius). Media reports of medical research often give us the impression that progress moves in leaps and bounds, from one ‘breakthrough’ to another. In reality, the original ‘blue skies’ research that underpins each advance may take decades (Research Defense Society). About 40 years of research using monkeys, rats and mice led directly to the introduction of the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines in the 1950s (Sabin) So we ask ourselves again, how do we weight the costs and benefits between saving lives by eliminating others? Professor Albert Sabin’s 1956 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated “Approximately 9,000 monkeys, 150 chimpanzees and 133 human volunteers have been used thus far in the quantitative studies of various characteristics of different strains of polio virus”. An animal is no less sensible of pain than a man. He has similar nerves and organs of sensation; and his cries and groans, in case of violent impressions upon his body, though he cannot utter his complaints by speech, or human voice, are as strong indications to us of his sensibility of pain, as the cries and groans of a human being, whose language we do not understand…A man can have no right to abuse and torment a beast (Humphry Primatt). Is animal experimentation a price too high for some to pay? I guess the answer would depend on whether you were asking a human, a researcher, or an animal.
Animal experiments occur when a researcher has an educated ‘guess’. Then they must decide whether the benefits will outweigh the costs of the experiments. Scientifically, there are no correct answers to the question until the experiment has proven to be beneficial. More often than not, researchers will run into roadblocks when trying to compare results found in animals with results found in humans. When asked if they agreed that animal experiments can be misleading ‘because of anatomical and physiological differences between animals and humans’, 88% of doctors agreed (Tony). The SmithKline Beecham International Report shows that 95% of drugs passed by animal tests are immediately discarded as useless or dangerous to humans. Although the lives of many animals are destroyed for the purpose of medicine, forty percent of patients will suffer side effects and some will die as a result of prescription treatment. (D. Icke) In essence, researchers waste hundreds of animal lives to find that the results will harm or even kill humans. Those costs outweigh the benefits by far. As stated by Dr. Vernon Coleman, “One in six patients in hospital is there because of a treatment they have taken”. In America, 100,000 deaths a year are attributed to medical treatment. In one year, 1.5 million people were hospitalized by medical treatment (Hans Ruesch). Not only is animal research harmful to animals, it is harmful to humans as well.
Although animal testing continues to occur, the number of animals used for experiments has declined greatly over the last few decades. In order to prevent animal cruelty, many laws and regulations have been passed. Computer models, cell structures, or artificial substances are now used in place of animals. In 1986, the Animals Scientific Procedures Act was passed to ensure regulations on animal experimentation. Researchers must now follow the principle of the three R’s, which include reduce, refine, and replace. To reduce the number of animals used to a minimum, the correct amount of animals must be used the first time in order to prevent the experiment from being unnecessarily repeated. Research involving animals has to be designed so that any distress or suffering is kept to a minimum. For example, if the experiment would hurt the animal, an anesthetic or painkiller must be administered. Researchers must also replace animals by developing non-animal techniques that can be used in experiments instead of using animals. The director of The Research Defense Society (which exists to defend vivisection) was asked if medical progress could have been achieved without animal use. His written reply was “I am sure it could be”. Until we can all agree on the right choices to make regarding animal experimentation, we must trust that our fellow historian Albert Einstein was correct by saying, “There will come a day when such men as myself will view the slaughter of innocent creatures as horrible a crime as the murder of his fellow man – Our task must to be free ourselves — by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty”.