Animal Experimentation

Animal experimentation is a big part of medical progress. Opponents of animal testing point out the amount of animals used and the different types of animals used but if you look at it, it’s all for a good reason. Animal experimenters don’t do this just to do it. It’s for a purpose. There are thousands upon thousands of medical situations that couldn’t have been done without animal experimenting. Animal suffering is pointed out but for the most part animals go without feeling any pain. Animal experimentation has helped advance us so much medically that no matter what extent of suffering you find or what type of alternatives you find, it will never fully disappear.

Animal experimentation is not a recent event. It‘s been around for thousands of years. “The earliest references to animal testing are found in the writings of the Greeks in the third and fourth centuries BC, with Aristotle (384-322 BC) and Erasistratus (304-258 BC) among the first to perform experiments on living animals” (Wikipedia, 14 Oct. 2006 ¶4). Erasistratus was a student at Aristotle’s school in Athens. It was there that he got the name “The Father Of Physiology” due to the work he did on the studies of the circulatory system and the nervous system on animals (Paul and Paul, 2001 p 24). Another person of great influence with the history of animal experimentation is Galen of Pergamum. During his time it was illegal for anyone to dissect a human therefore he had to move to animals for his learning and observations. “He put pigs, sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, bears, mice, monkeys, and even an elephant all under his knife; in doing so, he ‘put animal research on the map, not only for his contemporaries but also for the next fifteen centuries.’” (Paul and Paul, 2001 p 25).

There are numerous types of experiments that were performed after animal testing was first discovered. After Galen, there were many other highly intelligent and important people who followed him in his ways of working on animals for medical purposes. One being William Harvey (1578-1657). His “discovery that blood circulates through the body, a discovery that has been called ‘the greatest physiological advance of the seventeenth century, and perhaps of all time,’ was based almost exclusively on animal experiments” (Paul and Paul, 2001 p 25). An English clergyman named Stephen Hales “used only a mare to develop techniques for measuring blood pressure and the capacity of the heart. He did this by inserting a long glass tube into one of the horse’s arteries and, with each heartbeat, measuring the rise and fall of the blood in the tube” (Paul and Paul, 2001 p 25-6).

By performing experiments on animals during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there were many important medical benefits formed. In 1798 William Jenner worked with two deadly diseases, cowpox and horsepox. In doing this he was able to develop the smallpox vaccination which is incredibly important to human health today. “Louis Pasteur turned his attention to the diseases of humans and the higher animals, and to the elaboration of preventative vaccines. Together with his brilliant students Èmilie Roux, Charles Chamberland, and Louis Thuillier, he launched a series of experiments that resulted first in a vaccine for chicken cholera ? an economically damaging disease” (Paul and Paul, 2001 p 26-7). From there he was also able to make a vaccination for anthrax which was tested on sheep, goats, and cows. Another vaccination formed by Pasteur which was tested on animals was the rabies vaccination, another extremely important benefit to humans.

Later on throughout the years we have had humans experience some painful, depressing, and fatal medical situations which have in most cases been helped to become less extreme with the help of animal testing. Some of the more important medical areas being helped by using animals is cancer, AIDS, and psychological issues. In some cases animal experimentation is the only logical way to find cures or vaccinations for these diseases or problems in human health. When it’s looked at that way, it needs to be decided which is more important, human health or the well-being of animals.

Although cancer isn‘t the main reason for animal testing, it‘s become one of the most helped by animal testing. “It is of interest to see how important animal models have been in obtaining these [cancer treating] results…” (Garattini and Van Bekkum, 1990 p 133). About 12% of animal experimentation is done involving cancer research (Baumans, 2004 Figure 2). In order to test anticancer agents liver microsomes are needed. Therefore if you were to use in vitro testing, using cells instead of an actual body of an animal, you wouldn’t be able to have that due to the fact of not having a real, living animal. “Major advances in cancer chemotherapy have come from the use of drugs in combination and from the use of optimum does schedules for each anticancer agent…” (Garattini and Van Bekkum, 1990 p 136). “Because of the larger number of variables involved the tumor bearing animal is the only possible model to study complicated drug combinations and dose schedules” (ibid). Tumor bearing animals are most helpful in ranking doses by how effective they are. You could do this by in vitro but on the contrary if the experiment becomes too difficult it wouldn’t work as well as using a live animal.

The whole AIDS experiment on animals started with scientists wanted to know what exactly caused A IDS. Wanting to know that led them to use many different species including chimpanzees. These animals were inoculated with blood from AIDS patients. These experiments weren’t much help and kind of seemed a waste of time due to the fact of getting no usable result. The scientists then did numerous experiments in the laboratory to figure out that a retrovirus, HIV, was the cause of AIDS. They then inoculated different species, including rabbits and chimpanzees, to see what would be the outcome. “Of the nonhuman primates only chimpanzees and gibbon apes could be infected with HIV in such a way that the virus could reisolated from the inoculated animals and that antibodies were produced against HIV proteins” (Garattini and Van Bekkum, 1990 p 153). The chimps were then observed for 4-6 years and nothing seemed to be wrong therefore “it seemed warranted to state that chimpanzees are relatively resistant to the pathogenic action of HIV” (Garattini and Van Bekkum, 1990 p 154). “Although animal experiments have not contributed to the discovery of HIV nor to the solution of the AIDS problem, there is a great need for animal models for some burning questions in AIDS research” (Garattini and Van Bekkum, 1990 p 154). Some of these questions being “What is the cause of the T helper cell depletion in AIDS patients? What is the cause of presenile dementia in HIV-infected individuals? Do microbial factors have an influence on the development of AIDS?” (Garattini and Van Bekkum, 1990 p 154-5).

Animal experimentation has really helped finding solutions when it comes to having problems in the brain. A drug was discovered called Chlorpormazine. It was supposed to be used for allergy disorders but became looked at more closely when it caused “unusual sedative action on animals” (Garattini and Van Bekkum, 1990 p 52). Scientists did a few trials with this drug and found it to have “remarkable effects on the human mind” (Garattini and Van Bekkum, 1990 p 51). Tests led scientists to discover that the cause of these effects was dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in this situation. Animal experimentation has also helped us advance in finding help for Parkinson’s disease. “When treated with large doses of these drugs [antipsychotic agents] the animals become immobile and could be placed and remained in the most awkward positions” (Garattini and Van Bekkum, 1990 p 51). About a month later it was discovered that a shot of DOPA could prevent this immobility from occurring. Knowing this then led to scientists seeing that the cause of Parkinson’s disease was caused by lack of dopamine. From there a treatment was formed, L-DOPA. Animal experimentation also helps with understanding the oxygen intake and metabolic activity of different parts of the brain. There are certain techniques that can be done to see how the brain replies to different stimuli. “To develop these imaging techniques animal experiments are necessary. For example, radioactive precursors or ligands for receptor studies have to be tried out in animals before they can be used on man.” (Garattini and Van Bekkum, 1990 p 52).

Most opponents of animal experimentation point out how much that animals are suffering. In most cases they are quite over exaggerators. “Many claim that animals are tortured, and another frequent complaint is that animal research is all about profits. But it is hard to see how anyone would make a profit from torturing animals, or why medical research charities, who are trying to find curs for debilitating illnesses like cancer or AIDS, would spend their money torturing animals” (Festing, 2005 ¶ 9). Over half of the animals feel little to no pain at all. “According to the 2000 USDA Annual Report, 63% of animals experienced slight or momentary pain, such as an injection. 29% of the research procedures employed anesthesia and postoperative painkillers. In 7% of the procedures, neither anesthesia nor pain medication could be used, as they would have interfered with research results” (The Foundation of Biomedical Research, 2003 ¶ 3). “In many countries its mandatory by national law to grade the level of discomfort for animals in experiments in minor, moderate, and severe” (Baumans, 2004 ¶ 3).

The welfare of animals included in these experiments is important to scientists even thought most opponents of animal testing would disagree. “One argument is that consideration of pain and suffering for animals should be legally equivalent to the considerations for humans” (Wikipedia, 14 Oct. 2006 ¶ 3). For the most part animals are treated reasonably well. Small animals are kept in plastic boxes that are either clear or white, slightly bigger animals are kept in containers about twice the size of a shoebox, and the large animals are kept in wire cages. The cages need to be in livable conditions, clean, and warm. They also need to have veterinary care available.

There are a variety of different animals used in animal testing. Examples being invertebrates, rodents, rabbits, dogs, non-human primates, and cats. The invertebrates used usually consist of fruit flies and nematodes. “These animals offer scientists a number of advantages over vertebrates, including their short life cycle and the ease with which large numbers can be studied” (Wikipedia, 14 Oct. 2006 ¶11). They, also, tend to be cheaper than any other animal used in experimentation. The most common species of rodents is mice. They are the most popular “because of their availability, size, low cost, east of handling, and fast reproduction rate” (Wikipedia, 14 Oct. 2006 ¶13). Mice are known to be the best model of inherited human disease and share 99% of their genes with humans. Albino rabbits are used to check eye irritancy tests since they tend to have less flow of tears and lack of eye pigment. Another test rabbits are used in are for skin irritancy test. The main type of dog used is beagles due to the fact of them being gentle and their friendliness. They are used in toxicity tests, dental experiments, and surgeries. Non-human primates include baboons, macaques, marmosets, and chimpanzees. These animals are mostly used in research for “HIV, neurology, behavior, cognition, reproduction, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, malaria, respiratory viruses, infectious disease, genetics, xenotransplantation, drug abuse, and also in vaccine and drug testing” (Wikipedia, 14 Oct. 2006 ¶24).

There are many animal rights activists that would say there are numerous amounts of alternatives for animal experimentation. Two examples being the “3 R approach” and using in vitro situations instead of in vivo. The “3 R’s” stand for refinement, reduction, and replacement. Refinement refers to lowering animal suffering and/or death and to increase animal welfare for the ones still used in experimentation. Reduction refers to decreasing “the number of animals used and the number of experiments performed to obtain or confirm a particular result” (Paul and Paul, 2001 p 198). Replacement refers to using non-animal experiments instead of animal ones if you can achieve the same result. The problem with refinement is that it would cost too much money whereas reduction could save money, although, in some cases it may be necessary to use more animals to get an accurate figure to make vaccines or help curing diseases. Some of the non-animal experimental methods would be using in vitro studies. In vitro is using animals models or cells of animals instead of using the entire animal body. “Others say that they [in vitro cell culture techniques] are unlikely to ever provide enough information about the complex interactions of living systems” (Wikipedia, 14 Oct. 2006 ¶79).

Animal experimentation is a must when it comes to medical advancements. It doesn’t seem fair for people to say animal experimentation is wrong because if you think about it, if animal experimentation is wrong should we all become vegetarians? We slaughter cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys to make food for ourselves but that’s OK? Therefore any opponent to animal experimentation that isn’t a vegetarian shouldn’t have the right to speak about animals testing as being wrong if they’re willing to kill animals for themselves. Using cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys for food is necessary for most people in the same context that using mice, rabbits, dogs, and monkeys to help cure diseases is necessary.

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Festing S. 2005. The animal research debate. The Political Quarterly. 76.4: 568. http:// (15 Oct. 2006).

Garattini S, Van Bekkum DW, editors. The importance of animal experimentation for
safety and biomedical research. Boston (MA): Kluwer Academic Publishers; 1990.

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Quick facts about animal research. The Foundation of Biomedical Research. http://www. (14 Oct. 2006)

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