Today as I trot through the forests of my homelands, I feel free knowing that my life is free from torture. For me, there will be no new products tested on my body or any body of any organism. My life is safe now from all manufacturers and scientists. My life is no longer open for testing. Although this may be true for my generation and me in the year 2050, it unfortunately was not for my ancestors.
Long ago, I was walking through the forests of my homelands. It was a cold morning; so I wasn’t really worried about many predators, just something to eat. As I foraged, I began to sense something. My left ear turned 40 degrees to try and catch a sound to help me find out where and what it was I was hearing. Was it a predator or just a rabbit foraging like myself?
I wasn’t sure, so I forgot about food for a little while and started to fear for my life. Little did I know that my life wasn’t going to end with a quick bullet through the heart like other rabbits. I began to walk away from my foraging site; slowly, then faster and faster. Still not sure of what had made me so paranoid, I began to run. But as I jolted off, a net fell on me, preventing my escape. I began to frantically flop on the ground like a fish on the bank of a pond on a hot summer day. I finally gave up as I heard a human chuckle at me and mock my futile attempts at escape. My muscles ached and started to cramp because of the strain put on them from my useless attempts to shimmy away from the net I was so entangled in now.
As the end of the net was grabbed, I was dragged off; I did not fight because I knew it was useless now. The bed of the truck felt cold on my skin where my fur had been folded because of the tightness of the net against me. Still in shock because of the capture, I just laid there in a daze, staring blankly into the gray sky.
When the truck stopped, the human came around and grabbed the net with me in it and went into a building. The man took me in another room. There were bright lights in the room which seemed focused on a long metallic table. I was tossed onto it, and the metallic surface reminded of me of the lonely ride in the back on the truck.
A man with a long, light colored coat came over to me, observed me and said, “Thanks Charlie, this rabbit will do just fine for the tests.”
Part of my fur was shaved off, then a man rubbed some kind of liquid like substance on me. It burned badly, but I could do nothing to tell him. I could not squirm, I was tied down and all I could do was lie there with the unbearable pain hoping it would end soon. It did, I fell asleep and did not wake up for what seemed a very long time, along with the other animals in that laboratory.
These tests are still being performed today, keeping the issue of new product testing alive. The history and background, the players and their positions, and possible resolutions and solutions, must all be explored in fully researching this issue.
History and Background
Throughout the history of biological testing, no subject has caused more debate than product testing. The issue of testing products on living things dates back near the 17th century (All 1).
Around then, a philosopher named Rene Descartes stated that, “Animals are not able to reason and therefore do not feel pain and suffering,” (All 1). During the same time period another famous philosopher by the name of Jeremy Bentham strongly disagreed with Descartes statements on animals. Bentham’s belief on the issue of animal testing was that living creatures are able to suffer and enjoy and their ability or inability to reason is immaterial to the issue of the treatment of animals. Bentham’s philosophy was, “The question is not, can they reason, nor can they talk, but can they suffer?”(All 1)
The animal testing of cosmetics began in the early 1930’s in response to a lady using Lash Lure mascara on her eyelashes (All 1). First, the woman experienced a burning sensation in her eyes. Soon after this, she suffered blindness and in due course died (All 1).
The moral dispute for using living things in experiments and testing pivots on the idea that animals are inferior to humans because they are not as intellectual as human beings and are incapable of reasoning (Animal Experimentation 1). Some people believe that this conclusion has a defect in that if we were to follow it, testing could begin on the mentally disabled or on children (Animal Experimentation 1). As human beings, we do not base value or give rights to people based on their intellectuality (Animal Experimentation 1). We give rights to people based upon empathetic knowledge that not doing so could cause undue pain, harm and suffering. Morally, we have a responsibility as humans to acknowledge the potential harm we cause to living creatures and should attempt to end their suffering.
The scientific side of this issue is a result of a century’s work in using living creatures for medical studies in the search for cures and treatments of illnesses. Over the years the number of scientists who are finding animal testing to be obsolete and inaccurate has been rising steadily (Animal Experimentation 1). Scientists question the ability to accurately test and apply knowledge gained by animal testing to humans. Humans do have some of the same qualities and characteristics as those creatures used in laboratories, but the dissimilarities are very considerable (Animal Experimentation 2). For example chimpanzees, although known for being closely related to humans because they have 99 percent of the same genetics, are not vulnerable to some diseases including AIDS. In addition, they do not react similarly to humans when taking a drug or experiencing a medical procedure (Animal Experimentation 2). Because of this, some humans have suffered greatly, died, or even suffered from a disease that has gone undiscovered (Animal Experimentation 2). One example of this is with cigarettes. When experimented on using a variety of living creatures, scientists were led to believe that cigarettes did not cause cancer; therefore cigarette boxes went unlabeled with no cancer-causing label for many years (Animal Experimentation 2).
In testing new products on animals to conclude the safety of the product, there are two primary methods; the LD50 (lethal dose) test and the Draize skin and eye irritancy tests (Protest 1). For more than 600 years these test methods have set the standard for safety with new products.
The LD50 test procedures were invented in 1927 by J.W. Trevan. These tests were used to verify the potency of digitalis extracts, diphtheria antitoxin, and insulin and were used to determine proper dosages of certain drugs to obtain specified results for certain illnesses (Protest 1-2). The LD50 test method is composed of a group of animals that are given the same substance, the number of times administered is not specified, and are observed until 50 percent of the animals in the test group have died. Observing the test animals till death occurred was to determine lethal doses of the substances. The substance is administered in a number of ways. The test group is either force-fed or placed in a gas chamber to test products for inhalation safety, or the substance is applied to the epidermis (Protest 1). The testing can potentially cause paralysis, severe distress together with convulsions, shock, and blood loss through the nostrils, mouth or anus. Within 5 years of the invention of the LD50 tests, the tests received major criticism on ethical and scientific grounds (Protest 2). Despite the major criticism, tests continued because of the straightforwardness of the tests and the solid numbers that were quickly observed. The straightforwardness of the tests comes from the idea if the test animal(s) is dead, don’t use the product, and if the test animal(s) is alive it is safe to use.
The other primary animal test method to determine safety is the Draize test, named after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientist John Draize (Protest 3). During the early 1940’s, the FDA assigned Draize and other scientists to develop a testing method to determine skin and eye irritancy; a rabbit or species of rodent was usually used (Protest 2). During the eye irritancy test, a substance was placed into the eye of the test animal and observation was done for up to seven days (Protest 2-3). Observers looked for signs of opacity, ulceration, redness, swelling, hemorrhage, and discharge in differing intervals (Protest 2). Just as the LD50 test received major criticism, so did the Draize test. Just like the LD50 test, the Draize test continued because of the straightforwardness of its procedures and its ability to produce raw numbers quickly (Protest 3). A major company that used both tests was Revlon, which stopped in 1990 because of animal rights campaigns (Protest 3). Today, the Draize and LD 50 tests are diminishing due to the use of the in vitro test method known as Eytex. Eytex measures eye and skin irritancy using a vegetable protein from jack beans (Animal Testing 1). Although some companies may still use the Draize and LD 50 tests, they are now becoming the minority.
Players and Positions
The issue of new product testing seems to be only two-sided. People either support product testing on living things or oppose it. Either way, each player has a solid reason for his/her position.
Scientists and physicians are where most people look for solid numbers, for example if the test group lived or died, and factual information. Most researchers and scientists publicly speak out against tests or experiments done on animals stating their position by saying they are “outdated studies” (Drug 1). The tests are considered outdated because they have been used since the 17th century (All 1). In addition scientists speak out against these tests because of the inaccuracy of the results when compared to humans. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) believe that, “Human reactions to drugs cannot be predicted by tests on animals because different species (and even individuals within the same species) react differently to drugs. Britain’s health department estimates that only one in four toxic side affects that occur in animals can actually occur in humans,” (Drug 1). Even though the species used for the experiments are very similar to humans, the results can still vary greatly (Animal 2). For example, penicillin would not be available today if it had been tested on guinea pigs, a common test animal, because penicillin kills guinea pigs (Drug 1). Another example is morphine. Morphine would not be available if it had been tested on cats, goats, or horses because although it is a depressant to humans, to such animals it is a stimulant (Drug 1). Difficulties occur when trying to relate data gained from animal tests to human beings, and these difficulties have caused multiple problems over the years (Animal 2).
Animal rights activists and groups, such as PETA, support most scientists and physicians and share their position, but activists add a new dimension to the issue. Activists believe that product testing on animals should stop, not just due to inaccuracy of results but also because of the raw cruelty. With such test methods as the Lethal Dose 50 (LD 50) and Draize irritancy test that involve substances forcefully placed on.
A professional organization called American for Medical Progress Educational Foundation (AMPEF) has documented evidence supporting the testing of new medicinal products and procedures on animals and how beneficial and vital it has been to the human race. An example benefit would be polio. If it had not been for the tests done on animals with the polio vaccine, polio would still kill or cripple thousands of unvaccinated humans this year and years to come (Without 1). In addition, millions of American’s diabetics who need insulin would not have insulin, and would be dead without the tests performed on animals to come up with insulin for diabetics (Without 1). Similarly without the testing of chemotherapy on animals, 70 percent of the children that suffer from lymphocytic leukemia would die (Without 1).
Over a million people who live in this nation would go blind in at least one eye because successful cataract surgery would not exist (Animal 1). Rehabilitation techniques would not be available for thousands who suffer disability from strokes or head and spinal cord injuries. Bone marrow and corneal transplants would not have been developed if not for the tests done on animals. Progresses in cardiology such as, coronary blood flow, coronary bypass methods and high blood pressure medication are another result of animal tests. The use of AZT to prevent HIV transmission from mother to newborn is another example of a medical advancement from animal testing. Such vaccines for smallpox, tetanus, diphtheria, polio, measles, lyme disease, hepatitis B and chicken pox have been available because of tests preformed on animals (Without 1). Over 80 medicines originally developed for humans after being tested ended up being used to treat animals instead of humans, medicines including anesthetics, painkillers, and animal tranquilizers, which means animal testing can benefit both animals and humans (Animal Research 1).
Other medications, procedures, or medical breakthroughs that resulted on tests done on animals and ended up being regularly used for treatment are skin grafts for wounds, organ or tissue transplantation methods, treatment for parasites, orthopedic surgeries, and for all pet-lovers the prevention of heartworms (Without 1). Millions of farm animals and pets are now safe from anthrax, distemper, canine parvorvirus, feline leukemia, and rabies thanks to researching on animals. With benefits for both for the animals and the humans, AMPEF makes a strong statement for the testing of products on animals.
Another activist that would like animal testing to continue is the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) (NABR 1). They believe, “Virtually every major medical adcance of the last century has depended upon research with animal,” (NABR 1). An impressive figure, in favor of their argument, is that 70% of American’s supports the necessary use of animals is research (NABR 1). Another figure put out by the United Sates Department of Agriculture (USDA), stated that 1,267,828 animals are used in biomedical research in 1997 (NABR 2). These animals include cats, dogs, non-human primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, and other animals (NABR 2).
One of the major concerns animal rights activist groups have with testing on animals is the pain that is endured during testing. However, research done by the USDA proves that 92 percent of the tests done was not painful to the animals involved (NABR 2). Also, in over 50 percent of the cases involving animal testing, the animals were not subjected to any painful procedures (NABR 2).
Solutions and Resolutions
The scientists, researchers, and activists see only one way to solve the problem that they have with product testing on living things; it is to end product testing as soon as possible. But professional organizations like Americans for Medical Progress Educational Program (AMPEF) do not see why these tests must be stopped because of the benefits humans and some animals receive.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the John Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) have developed many solutions to the issue of product testing and have developed a program for students called CAATalyst (CAATalyst 1). CAATalyst was developed to teach students and their teachers about concepts to alternatives of animal testing.
CAAT has worked with scientists for over two decades to find new test methods to replace the use of animals for laboratory experiments, to reduce the quantity of animals tested, and to refine indispensable tests to stop pain and distress on both humans and animals (Untitled 1).
CAAT supports companies or scientists trying to change their ways by supplying grants for scientists developing methods that do not include animals, workshops that talk about alternative test methods, and books, newsletters, and other publications (Untitled 1).
CAAT defines alternative tests by, “The three R’s – reduction, refinement, and replacement,” (CAATalyst 1). A reduction alternative is a test that uses fewer animals (CAATalyst 1). A refinement alternative is a test that improves the well-being of animals being used for testing (CAATalyst 1). A replacement alternative is a test that uses an in-vitro or computer method instead of a whole animal (CAATalyst 2).” By law, companies must test some of their products on animals to insure the safety of consumers. A group of companies, in response to the concerns of people, donated one million dollars to fund a center dedicated to in- vitro, or literally meaning “in glass”, and other alternative test methods rather than testing on animals to insure safety of thousands of animals (CAATalyst 2).
A 2000 animal rights activist newsletter called “All for Animals” listed some alternatives to animal tests. Much of the tests involve the in-vitro test method which actually means “in glass” (Animal Testing 1). The in-vitro test contradicts the in-vivo test methods, which actually means “whole animal” (Animal Testing 1). In-vitro tests have prospered because of the progress in tissue culture techniques and many other analytical methods (Animal Testing 1).
Such tests are the Eytex, Skintex, EpiPack, neutral red bioassay, testskin, TOPKAT, Ames test, and the Agarose diffusion method (Animal Testing 1). The Eytex test is a test that measures eye irritancy by means of a protein alteration system; it has replaced the Draize eye irritancy test in some laboratories (Animal Testing 1). The Skintex test is a test that uses pumpkin rind to imitate the reaction of the human skin to a foreign substance (Animal Testing 1). The Skintex and Eytex tests methods can accurately test and measure up to 5,000 substances (Animal Testing 1). The EpiPack test method uses cloned human skin tissue to measure the potential harmfulness of a substance. Cloning is a relatively new procedure, which makes cloned human tissue difficult to find. The TOPKAT test uses computer software which measures toxicity, mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, and teratonogenicity (Animal Testing 1). The effectiveness of such alternatives is not yet known, but such big companies as Avon and Estee Lauder use these alternative test methods (Animal Testing 1).
Those that are in favor of animal testing have only one solution; that is to continue with current practices without interference from activist groups or protestors. Such groups as AMPEF and NABR continue to lay bare the advances made possible by animal testing.
The history of new product testing has deep roots on both sides of the issue. Philosophers began arguing over the moral issue of testing on animals in the 17th century, and the actually animal testing dates as far back as anyone can remember (All 1). But with tests as gruesome as the LD 50 and Draize irritancy the opposition’s argument is understandable (All 1). Although the LD 50 and Draize tests were after the times of the arguing philosophers such as Bentham and Descartes, I’m sure test methods were not less gruesome even further back in time for the philosophers’ generations. Although the tests improved as far as the welfare for the animals is concerned, the amount of criticizism did not lessen. Instead more and more animal rights activist groups grew rapidly around the world, making product testing the issue it is today.
Such groups as PETA, ASPCA, All For Animals, and several Anti-Vivisection Societies around the world speak against companies that have tested on animals for many years. Those groups oppose testing on animals because of the raw cruelty of it; and I concur; there is nothing classy about watching a rabbit’s eyes hemorrhage (Eye 1). However, major progress in the field of medicine, including diagnoses, medications, and treatments for diseases such as polio, measles, and smallpox have been developed as a result of animal testing. These diseases are among many known to have killed millions of people. Today we have vaccines that have nearly wiped out these diseases and other dreadful diseases because of animal testing (Without 1). The alternatives to product testing on animals seem to be more update usage in-vitro methods and computer software rather than just dropping some substance into or onto a living, breathing creature (Animal Testing 1).
As the researcher of this project,I find myself supporting the testing of new products on animals, simply because of the medical advances that have resulted from these tests (Without 1). Testing using computer software may give results on a new product more efficiently than testing on animals, but by saving a few animals we may have killed millions of humans. In testing on a computer that cannot react like a living creature, we may miss the opportunity to develop a cure for cancer, HIV, or AIDS. Although my point may be exaggerated with the cure for cancer, HIV, and AIDS, such major medical breakthroughs have occurred because of the tests done on animals (Without 1). I do not enjoy hearing or researching about killing and torturing animals, but I will not stand in the way of medical advancements for the human race. We have cloned a sheep, although this is not the only option to make up for the ones killed in order to save millions upon millions of human lives.
Currently, there is no definite solution to the issue of new product testing. Companies continue to test on animals. Due to the major advances, without animal testing these would not be possible (NABR 1). However, animal rights activist groups such as PETA and newsletters such as “All for Animals” will not stop with their protests until animal testing is completely obliterated.
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