Animal testing has been around since human curiosity in biology, psychology, and medicine began. Though, just because something has been around for a while, doesn’t mean that there is not a better way. As time has gone on, humans have started to understand animals better, both structurally and emotionally. They have come to realize that animals feel emotions just like us and that they need somebody to speak for them. In recent years animals have taken on the roles of pets and people have become extremely concerned about their welfare. We no longer see animals as a tool or resource, they have become part of families and can be seen as equal to humans. With laws being passed, alternative models to animals being discovered, and the fight for animal welfare, animal testing is becoming less necessary. Animal experimentation has become a very controversial issue not only in the United States but around the world.
To crackdown on animal testing, laws have been passed and revised to aid the animals used in studies. Measures are being taken to ensure the welfare of these creatures are improving, along with minimizing the use of animals for research purposes (Hajar). This will not only benefit the animal’s welfare but will help with the search to acquire more accurate results with alternative methods that better represent the human body. Animal testing has been used constantly throughout history, starting clear back to the time of Aristotle. Testing and experimentation on these creatures gave humans advancements in medicine, surgical procedures, and the understanding of biology (Hajar). Though, we have reached an era where animals are looked at differently and have shown to have their own personalities. Many people have developed the idea of “belief in animal mind” (Dignon), where they consider that all animals are “self-aware” and have the same emotions that people feel. In August 1966, the Animal Welfare Act was passed and then revised in the 1970s to better accommodate the well-being of animals. It states:
“…an effort to demonstrate America’s humanity to lesser creatures while maintaining and promoting the national enlightenment in medicine for the care of all mankind.... (“Animal Welfare Act”).”
The bill expanded declaring that animals should be issued basic comforts such as satisfactory housing, water, food, sanitation, ventilation, and veterinary care. In the 1970s is when the animal-rights movement began, challenging the idea that humans dominated animals and that all animals had individual rights (Crettaz Von Roten). Many animal rights groups had come up with different methods to oppose animal experimentation, some even used more extreme methods than others. It even came to the point where animal-rights activists destroyed laboratories that continued animal experimentation up until the end of the 20th century (Crettaz Von Roten). However, the laws did not stop there and they then provided the push for alternative models.
Shortly, a ban would be put on cosmetics companies because the use of animals to test their products was unnecessary. During the 1980s many of the protests were against the largest cosmetic companies in the country like Revlon and Avon. After the resilient protests and media attention, animal testing for cosmetics became banned. Many of these companies quickly took on strong anti-animal testing policies. When 1993 rolled around, Section 1301 of the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act introduced the “3Rs”, which stood for replacement, refinement, and reduction. Replacement pushed for finding alternative testing procedures wherever possible. Refinement was dedicated to reducing pain/suffering and improving the welfare of the creatures. Finally, the reduction was designated to decrease the number of animals used in testing (Dignon).
When it comes to the steps required to study animals, they are very different from the necessary steps for studies done with humans. For a clinical study to be done on human subjects, many stages have to be approved by a committee. These stages ensure that the study will produce a meaningful result and that the risk-to-benefit ratio is satisfactory. Therefore, when it comes to testing on animals, companies and research facilities should have to pass the same stages that are run-pass a committee (Musch). Even though these laws are doing their best to help protect the welfare of animals, many times corporations and research facilities can find loopholes. In reality, these laws do not always benefit the animals and will only cause slight improvements (Dignon). Although legislation is not the only thing that is helping stop this type of testing, the push for alternatives models is what the future holds.
Testing on animals may never be stopped fully, but finding as many alternatives as possible will help reduce that amount of experimentation on creatures that cannot fight for themselves. On March 11, 2013, Europe banned all testing on animals for cosmetic purposes (Hajar). After the ban, alternative models became the number one priority and the results proved exceptional. Many non-animal models replicate human tissue and are providing a suitable replacement for cosmetic industries. Though, seeing how pharmaceutical companies are another major enterprise where animal testing is done, these non-animal models could benefit them as well. Today, pharmaceutical companies do not abide by the animal testing ban, though it is perceived to be a possibility shortly (Dolgin). With advancements made on the alternative models, the pharmaceutical companies should have plenty of opportunities to find other ways of testing than on live animals. Since humans are the consumers of the products being produced by these corporations, creating a human tissue model is what they seek.
Luckily, scientists have been successful in producing models that replicate human tissue. The first attempt of reconstructing human skin for dermatological research was made in 1981 with In-Vivo Skin, since then research has been used to build on the In-Vivo Skin for further development (Dellambra). Not only would alternatives that replicate the human body be better for animals, but they would also give more accurate results before products or research are released to the public. When using animals for testing, their structure, physiology, and molecular build are different than humans. This can cause errors in experiments, because something may be safe for the animal being tested on, but could cause harm to humans when given to the public population (Dellambra). When rats and mice are used to test the safety of drugs in humans, the results are only correct about 43% of the time (Dolgin). Many animals do not even get diseases that people contract, including Heart Disease, HIV, Schizophrenia, etc. If animals cannot provide accurate results because humans are not structurally built the same, then it's best to find alternatives. Nonetheless, alternative ways do not just have to be reconstructions of the human body, experiments can even be done using mechanistic data and mathematical models. This can modernize the approach at which scientists determine human toxicity rather than testing on animals, which will most often result in their death (“Alternatives in Animal Testing”). Alternative models are the future and more facilities will be incorporating them as additional laws become passed.
With the help of laws and regulations on animal testing, science is progressing in finding alternatives ways to test and research its products. No one knows for sure if animal testing will be done away with in the future, nonetheless much can be done to reduce the number of animals in experimentation. Let’s not forget the animals that are still being tested should be given basic rights to ensure they are adequately comfortable and pain-free. With new legislation being passed and scientific discoveries being made, it will not be long until better options are available that can give more accurate results as to what the outcome of a certain product will be. Animals may seem like they are beneath humans, but doesn’t that just show why we need to step up and be their voice?
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