Stop The Insanity Alternatives To Animal Testing

Stop The Insanity: Alternatives To Animal Testing Essay, Research Paper

Stop The Insanity: Alternatives to Animal Testing

Every year, nearly 100 million animals die in research laboratories at the hands of curious scientists who perform outdated and inaccurate tests that prove no benefit to humans or animals.(Day 58) Before these animals die, they are routinely burned, scalded, poisoned, starved, given electric shocks, addicted to drugs, subjected to near freezing temperatures, dosed with radioactive elements, driven insane, and deliberately inflicted with diseases such as cancer, diabetes, oral infections, stomach ulcers, Syphilis, herpes, and AIDS.(McCoy 70-75) Their eyes are surgically removed; their brains and spinal cords damaged, and their bones broken.(McCoy 75-76) The use of anesthesia is not mandated by law, and as a result, is rarely administered.(McCoy 76) Despite all of this cruelty, animal experimentation has failed to provide any major breakthroughs this century in the treatment of cancer and heart disease — two of our biggest killers, though both these diseases remain largely preventable.(Goldberg et al. Animals and Alternatives 68) Alternatives to animal testing do exist and should be implemented throughout the scientific community.

In the latter half of this century the controversy of animal testing has grown significantly. It has been due, in large part, to the tension between researchers who view laboratory animals as essential to their work and individuals who oppose animal tests because the modern alternatives movement has evolved.(Day 11) The movement began quietly, in 1959, with the publication of The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique by British researchers Rex Burch and William Russell.(Balls et al. Three Rs 105) Burch and Russell advocated the “three Rs” of reduction, refinement and replacement.(Balls et al. Three Rs 105) In the 1980s and 1990s, their philosophy has enabled researchers and animal welfare advocates to come together with a common goal: to find scientifically valid alternatives to animal tests, following the principle that humane science is good science.(Burch and Russell 8) In more recent years, the term “alternative” has evolved as scientific advancements have been made in the fields of molecular and cellular biology.(Balls et al. Animals 210) Today there are many more alternatives to animal testing, many of them more efficient and accurate.(Festing 256-257)

The first of Burch and Russell’s “three Rs” is reduction. The term reduction alternative describes a method for obtaining comparable levels of information from the use of fewer animals in scientific procedures or for obtaining more information from a given number of animals so that, in the long run, fewer animals are needed to complete a given research project or test.(Burch and Russell 125) The greater the number of animals used, the greater the overall costs will be in terms of animal suffering. Therefore, the number of animals used should be the minimum that is consistent with the aims of the experiment. A large problem currently is poor experimental design used in biomedical research.(Salem 284) In some cases, the level of statistical expertise appears to be so low that investigators are unable to obtain appropriate statistical analysis of experimental results, which leads to the inefficient use of animals and scientific resources in research (Salem 284). A basic understanding of experimental design and statistics is necessary for all scientists. Biomedical research workers should have more detailed training in biometrics and statistics so that they can act as consultants to other investigators in their own institutes. Reduction can be achieved by improved experimental design, through consultation with statisticians and experimental design specialists.(Hendriksen and Koeter 99) This is also accomplished by careful consideration of animal disease status and genotype, appropriateness of strain or species and the quality of the animal husbandry, all to minimize experimental variation.(Salem 80)

The second “R”, according to Burch and Russell, is refinement. Refinement alternatives encompass those methods that alleviate or minimize potential pain and distress and enhance animal well-being.(Burch and Russell 139) Distress is an aversive state in which an animal is unable to adapt completely to stressors and, as a result, shows maladaptive behavior.(Burch and Russell 139) The stressors may induce physiological, psychological, or environmental stress. Pain results from potential or actual tissue damage, such as that caused by injury, surgery, or disease, which leads to distress(). Much potential pain and distress can be avoided or alleviated with the proper use of anesthetics, analgesics, and tranquilizers. This critical component of any comprehensive program of veterinary care provides for frequent observation of the animals by a trained veterinary staff to detect and relieve pain and distress. However, a substantial number of animals used in research and testing experience unrelieved pain and distress.(Reinhardt 56) At present, scientists do not have a convenient and standardized way of objectively assessing animal pain and distress.(Goldberg et al. World Congress 565) Rather, the assessment is generally based on subjective clinical signs of abnormal behavior and appearance.(Goldberg et al. World Congress 565) Although the implementation of refinement alternatives depends largely on the ability of scientists to observe and understand the behavior and needs of laboratory animals, many experimenters are as lacking in ethnological knowledge as they are in statistical training.(National Research Council 14) The best approach to pain and distress would be to assume that a procedure that inflicts pain and distress in humans, will inflict at least as much pain and distress in animals unless there is definitive evidence to the contrary. Very little research funding is available to support efforts to investigate and refine experimental techniques and scientific procedures.(Chengelis 430) Furthermore, there is no readily available up-to-date knowledge base on refinement. Techniques that are developed to refine a procedure are frequently not reported in the scientific literature or are established simply as standard operating procedures within an institution.(Gad and Kapis 203) To establish better practice and to advance the implementation of refinement alternatives, it is important to share such experience, data, and standard operating procedures. Sharing of data and theories is normally accomplished via the scientific literature, but there has been a marked lack of opportunity to discuss and provide information on refinement alternatives in the main biological journals.(Gad and Kapis 206) Consequently, scientists are not sufficiently aware of the concept of refinement alternatives and in general do not recognize the importance of refinement in their research. The concept of recognizing, minimizing, and eliminating pain and distress in laboratory animals should be included in training programs for all persons involved in the care and use of laboratory animals. Details of refinement and animal welfare considerations should routinely be included in scientific papers and publications.

Burch and Russell’s third and final “R” is replacement. Replacement alternatives encompass those methods that permit a given purpose to be achieved without conducting experiments or other scientific procedures on animals.(Burch and Russell 160) There is, however, a distinction between replacement in basic research and replacement in testing. In basic research, replacement methods evolve with new scientific discoveries and they are subjected to peer review processes both for funding and publication.(Salem 181) In testing for regulatory purposes, replacement tests must undergo formal validation in order to be accepted and for laws to be changed.(Salem 183) Burch and Russell distinguished between relative versus absolute replacement, when they defined relative replacement as the humane killing of a vertebrate animal to obtain organs, tissues or cells and absolute replacement as no animal use at all.(166)

A broad range of replacement alternative methods and approaches exists in today’s modern world. They include the improved storage, exchange, and use of information about previous animal experiments to avoid unnecessary repetition of animal procedures and the use of physical and chemical techniques and predictions based upon the physical and chemical properties in molecules.(Reinhardt 123) With the help of today’s supercomputers, scientists use of mathematical and computer models to predict the useful and/or adverse effects of chemicals.(Reinhardt 123) Yet another alternative is the use of organisms with limited sentience such as invertebrates, plants and microorganisms; life that doesn’t feel pain.(Reinhardt 125) The use of in vitro methods including subcellular fractions, tissue slices, cell suspensions, and perfused organs, has also grown in recent years. In many areas of the biomedical sciences, in vitro methods are increasingly used as the methods of choice in place of animal studies, not because they provide precisely the same information, but because they offer the best scientific approach.(Hendriksen and Koeter 74) Burch and Russell discussed the relative merits of fidelity and discrimination models, noting that high-fidelity models, as exemplified by the use of rodents and other laboratory mammals in toxicity testing, are used because, in their general physiological and pharmacological properties, they are similar to humans.(28) High discrimination models, on the other hand, “reproduce one particular property of the original, in which we happen to be interested.” (Burch and Russell 28) Burch and Russell warned of the high-fidelity fallacy and of the danger of expecting discrimination in particular circumstances >from models that show high fidelity in other, more general terms-a prediction illustrated by other more recent analyses of the differing molecular responses to certain chemicals by the rat, the mouse, and the human.(30) Burch and Russell pointed out that the fidelity of mammals as models for man is greatly overestimated; however, replacement alternatives methods must be based on good science, and extravagant claims that cannot be substantiated must be avoided.(30) The development and acceptance of replacement alternatives for both research and testing must be based on a sufficient understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanistic basis of what is being studied or measured i.e. on sound science. As in the past, the best animal to use for studying the effects of products on humans is, of course, a human. Human studies, with human volunteers, could be used for any experiment agreed to by the volunteer but is generally confined to cosmetic testing and epidemiological studies.(O’Neill 282)

The use of the term alternatives to encompass all of the Three Rs is now widely accepted in many countries, enshrined in legislation, and incorporated into the names of various centers throughout the world.(Golberg et al. World Congress 730) However, some scientists see its use as being driven by political and social forces rather than by scientific issues.(Balls et al. Animals and Alternatives 12) This is partly due to a lack of appreciation of the basis of the Three Rs concept as proposed by Burch and Russell(i.e. that scientific excellence and the greatest humanity in the use of laboratory animals are inextricably linked).(Balls et al. Animals and Alternatives 12) It also stems from a defensive attitude among some scientists, perhaps resulting from the campaigns of some antivivisection organizations and from insufficient dialogue among the scientific and animal protection communities.(Balls et al. Animals and Alternatives 14) Today, the question we face is whether there will be a revolution in thinking and practice, which is what is needed if the principles of humane experimental technique are to be brought fully and effectively into operation. Much has been achieved, but there is still considerable room for progress and improvement. The only acceptable animal experiment is one that uses the smallest number of animals and causes the least possible pain or distress, is consistent with the achievement of a justifiable scientific purpose, and is necessary because there is no other way of achieving that purpose. Any proposed experiment on animals should be subjected to prior and effective expert review by an ethics committee. Scientists should be better informed about the Three Rs concept and should be encouraged to see it as an opportunity for reaping benefits of every kind–scientific, economic, and humanitarian. Only in this way can the aspirations of all those who have worked for the good of both human and animal welfare be achieved at last.


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