(NaturalNews) The number of animals used in laboratory experiments has increased to nearly 115 million worldwide, according to a recent report in the journal Alternatives to Laboratory Animals. The U.S. leads the way, using 17 million animals last year, while the U.K. used only 3 million. Yet the U.K. appears to be in the forefront of protests against what is seen as a barbaric practice that ultimately can bring no real benefit to mankind.
Animals used in lab research are viewed as commodities
Animal experimentation is a scandal that has been hidden from the American public according to the group Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), an organization that has not been particularly successful in creating outrage in the U.S. This is an outcome that is difficult to understand in light of American's devotion to their pets.
SAEN believes Americans have been led to believe that the animals used in experiments are well treated and the procedures performed on them are thoroughly regulated and governed by federal law. But nothing could be further from the truth. More than 90% of the animals used in experimentation are excluded from protection under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the only federal law that governs animal experimentation. Rats, mice, birds, have no safeguards whatsoever.
The AWA places no real restrictions on what can be done to an animal during an experiment. The result of this lack of oversight is that animals are routinely subjected to addictive drugs, electric shock, food and water deprivation, isolation, burning, blinding, radiation, and surgery. Many are confined in devices that render them completely motionless while their body cavities are left open for extended periods of time following surgery in a process known as vivisection. Animals are routinely injected with caustic substances designed to give them heart failure, cancer, stoke, diabetes and other catastrophic diseases. They are given heavy metal toxicity and their genes are manipulated and destroyed. Yet the scientists conducting the experiments have only to say that a specific procedure is necessary for their experiments, and it is allowed. Animal protection is tossed out the window to insure that experiments proceed no matter what the cost to animals.
In 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics listed a total of 1,136,841 primates, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and other farm animals as species being subjected to experimental procedures. However, these figures may be way too low because laboratories are not required to report their experimental totals.
Then there are the rats, mice and birds not covered by the AWA which comprise the majority of animals used in experiments but are not counted in the statistics. The statistics also do not cover the number of animals that are caged in laboratories but are being held for conditioning or breeding. While the USDA reports the use of over 52,000 primates in experiments, another 43,000 are imprisoned in breeding colonies.
Lab animals experience psychological trauma similar to that of tortured prisoners
A World Science report claims that all animals used in experiments show measurable levels of stress in response to routine laboratory procedures that include blood drawing and use of stomach tubes. Even simple contact with laboratory workers is frightening for animals because that contact has been associated with terrifying experiences.
U.K. scientist Jonathan Balcombe conducted an extensive review of the scientific literature involving animals used in experiments. He reported that the blood stream of a lab animal is flooded with stress-response hormones, resulting in racing pulse and a blood pressure spike just from being picked up and briefly held by a lab researcher. These symptoms can persist for an hour following each event. The immune response of the animal during that time and for an extended time afterward is compromised. One clue that the stress of lab animals is fear motivated is that animals try to avoid most lab procedures by whatever means they have.
Balcombe believes that frightened animals do not produce sound scientific findings because their fear leads to distorted experimental results. "Research on tumor development, immune function, endocrine and cardiovascular disorders, neoplasms, developmental defects, and psychological phenomena are particularly vulnerable to data being contaminated by animals' stress effects." he said.
U.K. laws recognizes that animals suffer much like humans
UK law recognizes that animals used in research are capable of experiencing pain, distress, suffering and lasting harm. They are unable to give their consent to be participants in research. The fact that animals are used to study pain, depression, anxiety, and to test pain-killing drugs for human use shows that animals are capable of suffering in much the same ways as humans. There is also pervasive evidence that mammals and birds have thoughts, intention, and memories. Scientists recognize that even mice and rats have memories and have used these animals extensively in experiments involving the actions of different substances and techniques on memory. When memory is present, animals can be harmed by confinement, frustration, fear, and isolation, to say nothing of loss of life. Ulcers, immune suppression, abnormal behavior, and brain dysfunction provide further evidence that animals commonly used in labs suffer pain and distress.
The Dr. Hadwen Trust is a U.K. organization that funds and promotes exclusively non-animal research techniques to replace animal experiments. It is opposed to animal experiments for ethical and scientific reasons. It recognizes that some people believe animals do not have duties or responsibilities in the way humans do, and are therefore not deserving of the same protections. However, the stance of the Trust is that some humans may have no responsibilities or duties, such as babies, the mentally ill, or the very infirm, and they are traditionally not striped of their rights in this way. Such individuals are usually considered more deserving of protection, not less, and this protection should be extended to animals.
Animal studies often produce results that may not apply to humans
The scientific objections of the Trust to experimentation using animals are based on the differences between species, which can make results from one type of animal inapplicable to another. Some variations are known and may be taken into account, but others are as yet undiscovered, often making results from animal experiments seriously misleading. In medical research, animals are used to model various illnesses and diseases. Symptoms are artificially induced but without replicating the underlying causes.
The Trust claims that animal experiments frequently raise patients' hopes of imminent cures that fail to work when applied to humans. It offers the example of stokes induced in monkeys and rats by blocking an artery to the brain, causing brain damage. These studies have resulted in the production of numerous stroke drugs that are able to protect animals, but none of them have yet been effective in humans.
There are many other examples of misleading animal research results. Dogs are widely used for research into heart disease, despite numerous differences between dog and human hearts, blood vessels and circulation. High blood pressure in obese patients is associated with high insulin levels in the blood, yet in dogs, high insulin levels actually lower blood pressure. In a 2004 report in New Scientist, it was revealed how research on multiple sclerosis used misleading animal models, potentially delaying progress against the disease by many years.
Figures from the USDA have revealed that 92% of new drugs that pass preclinical tests, including tests on animals, fail to reach the market because of safety or efficacy failures.
Nine independent researchers conducted reviews of six medical treatments by comparing human data with predictions from animal experiments involving more than 7,100 animals. In 75% of the cases, the quality of the animal research was heavily criticized and in half the studies, the animal results failed to correctly predict the human outcome.
There are several alternatives to animal experiments
Animal experiments are being replaced by a range of alternative methods frequently proving cheaper, quicker and more effective. Cell culture makes it possible to obtain human cells and tissues from biopsies, post-mortems, placentas, or waste from surgery. These cells can be grown in laboratories and used in many fields. They are already routinely used in toxicity testing, drug development and to diagnose disease. Technological advances are resulting in improved methods for analysis. Non animal methods of rapidly analyzing DNA samples from humans have been developed and are being used to understand the biochemistry and genetics underlying various diseases. Infectious microbes can now be identified without animal testing. Tests with microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, yeasts and algae are being used as early indicators of chemicals that may be harmful. Products previously obtained from animals, such as insulin and monoclonal antibodies can now be obtained from bacteria.
Studying the effects of lifestyle, diet, and occupation in human populations has already revealed much useful information about cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and birth defects. One of the best ways to conduct human studies is by studying the whole human being, through images, longitudinal studies, and evidence based outcomes.
New legislation reveals support for non-animal methods
Agencies from Europe, Japan, the U.S. and Canada have recently agreed to co-operate on improvement of the scientific validation, evaluation, and availability of non-animal testing methods. This agreement formalizes the way the agencies have been working together and should speed up the adoption of alternative testing methods globally.
The British Government has launched public consultation on a proposal to update animal experiment laws, but the Dr. Hadwen Trust is urging the government to do more to take into account the public's call for change for animals in laboratories. First published as a draft in 2008, the proposals call for responsible limits on animal use including curbs on scientists' freedom to use monkeys in experiments with no clear human benefits, together with support for cutting edge non animal research.
In the U.S., animal research remains big business
In the U.S., many different government agencies fund animal experiments, including NASA, Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and Department of Agriculture. However, the National Institutes of Health is probably the largest funding source. They have supported many thousands of projects involving experiments on monkeys, rats, mice, dogs, hamsters, guinea pigs, and cats. Use of these kinds of animals increased 25% from 1997 to 2002, and cost U.S. taxpayers more than $10 billion annually.
According to SAEN, the NIH pays for the same experiment to be done repeatedly and all comers are welcome without regard to whether their experiments are worthwhile. Hundreds of institutions and thousands of individuals make money from these experiments. The federal government underwrites this industry while it squanders billions of dollars, kills tens of millions of animals, and is essentially unregulated.
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.