A for Animals...or Adolf?

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As first graders, we are usually approached by some adult sticking video cameras in our faces asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. Normally they would expect “a firefighter” or “princess” or something cute and redundant like that.

Well, when they stuck that camera in my face, I laid it on thick. I said loud and proud, “When I grow up, I want to be an ASPCA officer”. Usually, I would get an odd stare. The adult would be confused about the long acronym until I clarify, “The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” (even though, at that time, I could not understand all the words, I knew it had something to do with helping little animals).

Now, I have pets of my own- an old yellow lab, a little guinea pig I got from a shelter and a few fish- nothing out of the ordinary. However, I still believe that 9 year-old Katie who could have run Animal Planet channel 24 with her eyes closed never quite left me.

So when Frankie Trull, president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research, argues in a 2007 debate concerning animals in biomedical research, “There’s a reason for animal research, even though sometimes it’s very very hard to take- but it’s also hard to see human suffering. It’s heart-wrenching. Humans are the ultimate animal model, but we go last” I am given no choice but to entirely disagree with everything he stands for.

Animal Testing and the cruelty we inflict upon them serves no purpose when analyzing it’s accuracy, speed and especially when provided with alternative methods allowing the animals to be excluded from the process entirely.

I believe it would be beneficial to start with where the idea to end Animal testing began. Besides, in order to solve a problem, we must begin at it’s roots. Our president of the FBR, Frankie Trull, informs us that, “By Law in the US, under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, a company can’t submit an application for a drug or device without animal testing. The reason for that was Hitler. Hitler was a big animal rights guy; Goebbels bragged in a 1993 speech about what an animal-loving society Germany was, and that’s why they do research on humans rather than animals”.

Thanks for that history lesson.

Unfortunately, animal testing is not as silly as Frankie Trull comparing animal rights activists to Adolf Hitler. In fact, according to the official PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)website, “Animals are forced to ingest, inhale- or are injected with- toxic substances such as gasoline components or mercury. Animals used in these tests suffer extreme pain before they are killed, dissected, and thrown away.” The pain we are causing these animals is beneath humane. The idea that as a dominant species we are given a divine right to subject innocent animals to painful treatment has become too easy for us to accept. Slate publishing reveals in a November 2011 article, The species most targeted by Animal Testing remains mice and rats- all the while still, a large variety of animals (recorded by the thousands) are still subject to Animal testing. (see chart)

Yet, we justify our actions. We claim- much like in a June 2008 TIME article by Laura Blue- that “The basic reason for animal trials is to determine two issues before any new compound is introduced into a human: safety and efficacy”. However, what we fail to recognize is we are too concerned for our own safety against the medication and product that we create and, in turn, push the animal’s safety out of focus.

So concerned, that we become blinded- blinded from the fact that these animals are living, breathing, and can feel pain like a human, they remain vastly different- underneath us and subject to experiment. Yet we are also blind on the other end- enough to ignore the difference between human and animal systems and the wide error within these experiments.

For instance, consider chocolate. Humans love chocolate. I love chocolate. My mother loves chocolate. I love it so much that one Easter, my parents bought me a king-sized Hershey bar. That same Easter, our clueless puppy found my basket before me and chomped down half of the 2.6 oz bar. If I had eaten half of this bar in that amount of time, I may have gotten a stomach ache for an hour or so and go on with my life. But a little too much of this candy is poison to a dog. Needless to say, we spent that Easter in the vet’s office.

Even so, TIME writer Laura Blue still insists, “You need to know how it would affect all the organs. That really is the whole purpose of using a complex biological system known as an animal”. I do not disagree that we test our products on a complex biological system. I disagree with our choice in complex biological systems. With the scientific knowledge we have today, we can go as far as to successfully clone animals through cell replication.

Now, I am not about to babble on about using cloned animals for testing purposes- but our ability to extract these cells is key. Scientist VaxDesign's groundbreaking Modular IMmune In vitro Construct (MIMIC) system concludes that through extracting cells, we can create “a working, dime-sized human immune system for testing the safety and effectiveness of HIV/AIDS vaccines”. Without having to rely on animal testing, we are saving thousands of animals from harmful tests. By using human cells-ones not connected with a mind, that cannot feel pain- our results are specific to the human system. We end up diminishing pain and gaining more accurate results, while still maintaining safety towards human-kind by testing products.

Furthermore, PETA describes how, “Instead of cutting into and damaging the brains of rats, cats, and monkeys, progressive researchers who are interested in studying the human brain are using advanced human-based brain-imaging and -recording techniques such as MRI, fMRI, EEG,PET, and CT.” We will virtually be able to watch the accurate side effects specific to the human body that animals cannot show us and proves especially helpful when examining the specific effects on one organ. Even from an experimenter’s standpoint, we are allowed to dissect this virtual body without being forced to kill the animal. Normally, killing the animal would mean ending the entire process and providing no more data on that test.

As for now, the Animal Welfare Act, signed into law in 1966 states that, “The Secretary shall promulgate standards to govern the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of animals by dealers, research facilities, and exhibitors”. Since this law, the cruelty in animal testing has significantly dropped, installing guidelines for the well being of the animal. However, when we must approach an experiment “with the appropriate use of anesthetic, analgesic, tranquilizing drugs, or euthanasia.” as the Animal Welfare Act states, you cannot argue there is no suffering for the animal.

For a live test to come to a point where the creature’s life must be ended for it’s well-being, we are killing the animal we forced to be there. No one applauds the person who starves their dog only to put them down claiming its “for their well-being”. We can no longer push the reality of animal testing to tomorrow.

Returning to everybody’s favorite Biomedical Foundation president, Frankie Trill, he warmly concludes, “We feel strongly that animal research needs to be very carefully and forcefully regulated, because a strong regulatory framework provides public confidence in the enterprise.” Normally, I would go off in a tangent about how truly shallow he is, being so wrapped up in his business that animal testing is some sort of “please the customer” game. Maybe how his narrow-mindedness is the cause of thousands of deaths that solely become a statistic on a scientist’s chart when there are countless, more accurate alternatives science is providing us. But to recite this entire adventure would be excessive. For now- and with every drop of sarcasm in my body- all I have to say to Frankie Trull is:

Whatever lets you sleep at night.





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