The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments
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Few ethical issues create as much controversy as invasive experiments on animals. Some scientists claim they are essential for combating major human disease, or detecting human toxins. Others claim the contrary, backed by thousands of patients harmed by pharmaceuticals developed using animal tests. Some claim all experiments are conducted humanely, to high scientific standards. Yet, a wealth of studies have recently revealed that laboratory animals suffer significant stress, which may distort experimental results.
-Where, then, does the truth lie?
-How useful are such experiments in advancing human healthcare?
-How much do animals suffer as a result?
-And do students really need to dissect or experiment on animals?
-What are the effects on their attitudes towards them? Bioethicist and veterinarian Andrew Knight presents more than a decade of ground-breaking scientific research, analysis and experience to provide evidence-based answers to a key question: is animal experimentation ethically justifiable?
have even claimed that medical progress would be ‘severely maimed by prohibition or severe curtailing of animal experiments’, and that ‘catastrophic consequences would ensue’ (Osswald 1992). However, such claims are hotly contested (e.g. Greek & Greek 2002a), and the right of humans to experiment on animals has also been strongly challenged philosophically (e.g. Singer 1990, La Follette & Shanks 1994). Moreover, a growing body of empirical evidence casts doubt on the scientific utility of animals
equivalently life-threatening stage (Balmain & Harris 2000). Some 50 per cent of all chemicals tested for carcinogenicity in mice or rats are positive in at least one experiment, with carcinogenesis predisposition even higher in some commonly used strains (Gold et al. 1998, Gold & Zeiger 2000). Holliday (1996) suggested that the high rodent carcinogenesis predisposition in comparison to humans might be due to less efficient DNA repair, poorer control of genetic stability, and/or altered control
statistics (USDA 2005). However, independent calculations reveal that these species jointly make up well over 90 per cent of the US total (Taylor et al. 2008). Many countries fail to record or publish animal use statistics at all, and of those that do, most record only live animal use, excluding the substantial number of animals killed prior to procedures such as the harvesting of organs or other tissues for scientific purposes. Despite such limitations, it remains clear that many millions of
laboratory animal use (Chapter 2). Application of the most accurate statistical methods revealed that, worldwide in 2005, at least 126.9 million nonhuman vertebrates were subjected to fundamental or medically applied biomedical research, toxicity testing, or educational use; were killed for the provision of experimental tissues or as surplus to requirements; or were used to maintain established GM strains (Knight 2008a, Taylor et al. 2008). Although this total represents the most accurate recent,
may alterations in certain neuroanatomical parameters and even cognitive capacities (Balcombe et al. 2004, Balcombe 2006, Baldwin & Bekoff 2007; see also Chapter 4). Some of these effects are also likely to be sequelae of other stressors such as invasive procedures and transportation. Unsurprisingly, the chronic stress experienced by most laboratory animals may result in immunocompromisation, and subsequently increased susceptibility to a range of pathologies. As well as creating significant