Over 20 million animals suffer and die in U.S. laboratories every year. These innocent victims are subjected to addictive drugs, caustic chemicals, ionizing radiation, chemical and biological weapons, electric shock, deprivation of food and/or water, psychological torture and many other horrors.
We have been lead to believe that the animals used in experiments are well treated and that the procedures performed on these animals are thoroughly regulated and governed by federal laws. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Over 90% of the animals used in experimentation are purposely excluded from protection under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA — the only federal law that governs animal experimentation). Rats, mice, birds, and many other species have been expressly eliminated from all safeguards.
The AWA places no real restrictions on what can be done to an animal during an experiment. Animals are routinely subjected to addictive drugs, electric shock, food & water deprivation, isolation, severe confinement, caustic chemicals, burning, blinding, chemical and biological weapons, radiation, etc. The “scientist” in question only has to say that a specific procedure is “necessary” for the experiment, and it is allowed. The goal is not to protect the animal; the goal is to insure that the experiment proceeds — at any cost.
The species that are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act rats, mice, etc., are not just excluded from coverage of the AWA, they are not even counted. The majority of animals experimented upon in the U.S. are not listed in the official USDA statistics. The real number of animals experimented on in the U.S. each year is well over 20 million. Additionally, these statistics do not cover animals that are caged in laboratories but are being held for conditioning or breeding. For example, while the USDA reports the use of over 69,990 primates, an almost equal number of primates are imprisoned in breeding colonies.
While the public supports the idea of animal testing because they believe it necessary to find cures for human diseases, about two thirds or higher of all animal research has little or nothing to do with curing human diseases or advancing human medicine. The majority of animal testing is done on cosmetics and household cleaners for the purpose of protecting corporations from liability.
Even research that purports to advance human treatment of diseases has been shown to be irrelevant to human health. Animals behave differently than humans, so much of the results end up being inaccurate, inconclusive, or unreliable. The Food & Drug Administration recently reported that of all the drugs that tested safe and effective in animal testing, 92 percent are found to be either unsafe or ineffective in humans.
Biomedical researchers try to convince us that knowledge gained from animal studies can be extrapolated to humans yet their scientific papers reporting the results of research repeatedly include a disclaimer warning about making such an assumption.
Researchers get more money in grants by conducting animal testing, so there is little incentive for successful results or solid scientific design. Much of the research continues to be funded despite being redundant or inconclusive. And the animals suffer through torturous procedures, poor conditions, and poor treatment, with many animals dying as a result.
Animal “models” of human disease are erroneous because of the cellular and biochemical differences among different species. The best way to study diseases of humans is to conduct noninvasive and painless research on humans. This can be accomplished by a variety of methods. For example, increasing the number of human autopsies, which due to higher costs are undertaken less frequently than in the past. Virtually every disease has either been discovered or clarified by autopsies. Technological advances in the biological and physical sciences like CAT, MRI, and PET scans of humans have yet to have their full potentials tapped. Conducting epidemiological studies of human populations using high-speed computers has identified all known environmental poisons and occupational hazards. Clinical research – observing and analyzing patients’ conditions – has always been a vital component of medical investigations. Examples of diseases treated successfully as a result of clinical studies are innumerable. Post-marketing drug surveillance is yet another non-animal method. This is a system of reporting all of the effects and side effects of a medication after it has been released to the public. Health practitioners could detect and prevent the dangers associated with negative drug reactions. Many other effective non-animal methods are available in addition to these, such as such as in-vitro cell and tissue cultures, micro-fluidic circuits, computer modeling, and micro-dosing.
Even within the scientific community, there is growing concern about the use of animal testing. Three U.S. agencies aim to end animal testing, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Toxicology Program and the National Institutes of Health, realizing it is ineffective and wasteful. Non-animal-based research also is more ethical, as it doesn’t have the moral dissonance of taking one life in order to save another.
In addition, animal species routinely used in research have the capacity to feel pain, to enjoy pleasure, to think and act purposefully, and to prepare for future events. In short, they have degrees of self-awareness and lives that are important to them beyond any utilitarian purposes they may have for humans. To incarcerate them and subject them to painful research, even if such research may afford some benefit to humans, is unethical and immoral. If we are willing to subject animals to pain and agony in and attempt to improve our health, then what we lose in return, our compassion and empathy, is far greater.