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Frequently, people will wonder how the human life expectancy during the ancient Greek and Roman times was extremely short, about twenty to thirty-five years, and nowadays it is about eighty years old, nearly three times what it was since the beginning of documented human history. One of the key factors contributing to this statistic and the drastic jump in life expectancy is the extreme advancements in biomedicine and biomedical technology resulting from extensive research and experiments performed on multiple species of animals for thousands of years. Using animals for research and experiments has recently become a controversial topic. In the 'Animal Rights Advocacy' essay, we will analyze the arguments in support of animal protection, and we will also support raising awareness among scientists about animal experiments.
The Controversy Around Animal Experimental Practices
Experimental practices have been severely criticized by animal protection and animal rights groups, as well as people who have a strong moral connection and love for animals. Species of animals used for experimentation include: monkeys, cats, dogs, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, farm animals, birds, fish, and other non-human species. According to pro-test.org, “Living organisms are incredibly complex and scientists still only understand a very small fraction of the structures, chemicals, interactions and metabolic pathways in humans and animals. The only way for scientists to learn more about them is through organisms that possess these traits”. Since living organisms are so complex, it makes it very difficult to find alternatives for animal experimentation. This raises an extremely controversial question: should it be forbidden to use animals for research and experimental purposes? There are many benefits that come with experimenting on animals. According to the foundation for biomedical research, “If you’ve ever taken a medicine or had a medical procedure, you’ve benefited from animal testing and research”. They also say that not only humans benefit from studies done with animals, but other animals do as well. Although the research and experimentation done with animals for the advancements of biomedicine and biotechnology may seem inhumane to a lot of people, there are multiple significant benefits arising from what scientists and doctors have learned from their extensive research.
Benefits to Be Found: the Help in Treatment of Diseases
Alzheimer’s Disease is well known around the world, as it has affected so many people and their families. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and more than five million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s. There is no effective cure or treatment for the disease and research is extremely necessary. Thanks to the research done with monkeys and mice, progress towards the prevention and curing of Alzheimer’s has greatly increased. Due to multiple similarities shared between a healthy monkey brain and a healthy human brain, researchers are able to discover where human brains suffering from Alzheimer’s are failing to function correctly. Researchers were able to identify an early-onset mutation and a rare protective gene mutation as a driving factor of the disease through human experimentation that was then strengthened by mice models. This research is a huge leap towards the discovery of a drug to help slow or prevent the disease and its progression, and it would not be possible without the research conducted on monkeys and mice.
Cancer is another well-known disease that has some extremely scary statistics. Cancer deaths have been on the continuous decline in the United States since the 1990’s, however, there are still almost 1,660,000 new cancer cases and nearly 590,000 cancer deaths every year, and that only accounts for the United States. Cancer treatment has become more effective than ever, all thanks to the research done on dogs and mice. Dogs not only played a huge roll in developing treatment for humans with cancer but for dogs with cancer as well. Dogs have helped researchers discover many possible treatment methods for both humans and dogs because many of the genes involved in human cancer are found in that of dogs as well. Mice have proven to be a significant part of cancer research and treatment discoveries. According to fbsearch.org, “Chemotherapy was first developed by using modified mustard gas to reduce tumors in mice”. They also observed that “They [Mice] are even part of burgeoning research in the development of gene therapy to reduce tumor size in ovarian cancer, and a possible vaccination against the development of breast cancer”. Cancer is a terrible disease that affects so many people in the United States alone, without the research conducted on animals the statistics would be even scarier, and people would have almost no chance of surviving this awful disease.
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is not as widespread of a disease, however, it has no cure and before research people with CF would not live to see adulthood. It is a progressive disease, varying in symptoms and severity, that affects the lungs, liver, and pancreas which are all significant organs in the human body. Thanks to research and experiments done using mice, pigs, and ferrets, the median life span of patients suffering from CF has increased to forty years old. Biomedical researchers in Japan were able to genetically engineer mice that carry very similar symptoms found in humans with CF, which gives researchers the ability to better understand the disease and develop possible treatments for it. Pigs and ferrets proved to be better for CF research because they have a longer lifespan and closer CF gene expressions to humans. With all of the helpful research done on these animals, the life span of CF patients has increased drastically, and even better treatments for the disease could be discovered within the near future.
Surgical procedures are more advanced than they ever have been these days, which would have never been possible without the help of dogs, rodents, and farm animals. Procedures that are needed to save lives such as open-heart surgery, coronary artery bypass, valve replacement, and the repair of congenital heart defects, would never have been made possible without the research and experimentation conducted on these animals. With the help of research using dogs in the 1920s, researchers set forth to create a heart-lung machine, which is now called a cardiopulmonary bypass. This machine is able to imitate the functions of the heart and lungs, making open heart surgery an option for people and dogs with heart disease. Another significant thing that has benefited the advancements of surgery greatly is echocardiography. Echocardiography was first developed with calf hearts, and it makes it possible for doctors to safely investigate the functions of the heart. Due to the similarities between the aortas of dogs and humans, researchers are able to use the hearts of dogs as an effective model to create new and improved methods of surgery for the most common heart procedure, coronary artery bypass. Without the research and experimentation done on these animals, the nearly 40,000 babies born with congenital heart defects each year wouldn’t be able to live remotely close to the age they do today.
Animal Rights Advocacy: a Huge Number of Unnecessary Experimentations
Although there are multiple significant benefits to biomedicine and biomedical research through the experimentation conducted on animals, there are still areas of experimentation that seem unnecessary and rather inhumane. Research and experimentation conducted on animals for the benefit of science and the improvement of medical technology is fairly necessary, as it benefits both humans as well as animals. However, unfortunately many cosmetics companies use animals for the testing of their products, which has raised questions regarding whether it is humane to test products that only humans are able to use on animals. People are forced to ask themselves if the benefit to humans is really worth the harm done to the animals that go through testing for cosmetics. Animals were never used for the testing of human cosmetic products up until 1937, when a pharmaceutical company in the United States made a tragic mistake, and multiple women went blind after using a mascara called Lash Lure. The pharmaceutical company was trying to create a preparation of sulfanilamide called ‘Elixir Sulfanilamide’ using diethylene glycol as a solvent. However, unfortunately the chief pharmacist and chemist were unaware that diethylene glycol is extremely toxic to humans. They added raspberry flavoring to the drug, dissolved it in diethylene glycol, and the company then marketed the product, resulting in a mass poisoning killing over one hundred people. Public outcry as well as multiple similar catastrophes caused the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to be passed, which prohibited the marketing and sale of drugs and cosmetics before testing the effects of them on animals. Although this act eliminated the possibility of humans being affected negatively by these products, is it really fair to the animals that they have to suffer to ensure the safety of humans?
Another extremely unnecessary and inhumane form of experimentation is the genetic modification of animals. It almost seems as if scientists are testing their capabilities by creating Frankenstein’s out of animals. This is the most obvious form of inhumane research because there is really no benefit to creating different breeds of animals. Scientists should realize that animals have feelings too and that it is better to leave nature alone, rather than trying to create new forms of animals. Many scientists all over the world have used animals as a way to experiment and research for the benefit of science. However, there have been many cases where scientists seem to be testing their knowledge and capabilities by creating freaks of nature out of animals. This has proven to be the most unnecessary form of experimentation due to the very few benefits to science and medicine that have come out of performing these experiments on animals. Scientist are taking animal testing to a new extreme by creating genetically modified animals. In 1996, British scientists did something that only seemed possible in movies, when they created the first sheep clone named Dolly who was able to live until age six before dying of a lung infection. They were able to do this through a process called nuclear transfer, where the nucleus from an adult cell is transferred into an unfertilized premature egg whose nucleus has been removed.
Another example of animals being genetically modified with no benefit to biomedicine, was in 2002, when scientists at Caltech created glow-in-the-dark mice. They were able to do this by injecting single celled mice with a virus that contains a gene found in jellyfish that is responsible for green fluorescence, and since this discovery, scientists have created glow-in-the-dark fish, cats, and other animals.
Finally, the last unnecessary experiment conducted on animals that serves no purpose to the benefit of biomedicine that will be discussed, is recently, when South Korean scientists were able to genetically modify pigs, causing them to produce much more muscle. They were able to do this by using a gene editing technology known as TALEN, which allowed them to cut specific sequences of DNA, creating pigs that look like body-builders.
All of these examples of genetically modifying animals serve no purpose in the advancements of biomedicine to benefit humans and animals, therefore they are rather unnecessary. In order to have the best options for humans and animals when it comes to treatments and surgical procedures, testing and research to benefit these areas of science will always be necessary. Without the sacrifices made by some animals, some diseases that are no longer life threatening, would very likely still be killing millions to this day. It is truly incredible to think of what a substantial role that animals have played on the advancement of biomedicine for both humans and other animals. Although research and experimentation on animals has been used for significant medical discoveries, there are still many unethical experiments conducted on animals. It is important that researchers now make valiant efforts to find new methods to test cosmetic products, so that hopefully someday they can retire the use of animals to test these products that are only intended for use on humans. Scientists should also try to recognize the fact that animals are living creatures that have feelings too, so unnecessary experiments that have no real benefits to the advancement of treatments and medical procedures for humans and other animals should be evaluated before being carried out on living beings.
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