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Animal testing is often unjustified
Dear Dr. Spiegel, I hope you'll write something about animal experimentation. There are so many "animal lovers" who don't realize the kinds of testing still being done on monkeys, rats, cats and dogs. If you are interested in doing such an article, I'll be glad to do the research necessary for it. Sincerely, S.B., Wilmington
Dear S.B., Thank you for raising this issue and for the materials you sent me. You are right. There is still a great deal of animal experimentation that is being done in this country. Approximately 11 million animals are used each year in product testing, six million in medical research and five million in classrooms and educational demonstrations. These figures do not even include the huge numbers of rats, mice, birds, and farm animals that are used. The uses of these animals often involve pain, suffering and death. It is undeniable that animals experience pain. It is also certain that no one wants to see animals suffer needlessly. And so the basic question involved is: Are the benefits gained from animal experimentation justified given the suffering animals must experience to achieve these results? Very often the answer is no. There are many physiologic differences between different species of animals that make it very difficult to find good animal models of human diseases. There have been many drugs, such as DES and Reserpine, that have been tested as safe in animals which have proven harmful to humans. There are also many drugs that are safe and effective in humans which when tested in animals are harmful. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is toxic in cats and Penicillin will kill guinea pigs and hamsters. Regardless of the results of testing in animals, duplicate testing in humans is required to prove the safety and efficacy of medications and procedures in humans. This is so because much of the time what goes on in an animal may not necessarily be applicable to humans. Much of the testing of household products for toxicity in animals is senseless. The energy and money and animal life expended to prove that ingesting bleach is harmful could more effectively be put into child-safe packaging. Because of the pressures of consumers and animal rights groups, many companies have stopped the needless testing of household products on animals (an activity that the FDA does not even require). The National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) publishes a guide to choosing cruelty-free cosmetics and household products. It is called "Personal Care with Principle" and is available for $4.95 (call 1-800-888-NAVS or send check to NAVS, 53 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL, 60604). There are a number of valuable alternatives to the use of animals in research and in education. Classroom dissection can be replaced, if students prefer, with computer programs, 3-D illustrations and models. There are, however, many students whose scientific interests will best be served by the actual experience of dissection. Much medical research can be achieved through in vitro (test tube) techniques on human cells and tissues, mathematical modeling, biochemical analysis, and computer simulation. We have the means to greatly reduce animal suffering. Animals will continue to play an essential role in certain areas of research and education. However, where effective alternatives are available and can be developed, their usage should be promoted and encouraged. For a more detailed account of the problem and its solutions, call NAVS at the above number and ask for their publication "Expressions." The solution must begin with public awareness. We are all compassionate beings. All you really need to do is to imagine that your pet was taken into some research facility, held against his will, and brought out only to have noxious chemicals placed in his eyes or on his skin. It's not a pleasant thought, but it happens regularly. An image such as this is designed to serve a purpose. These animals suffer and only we can help them. But please remember, research does not equal cruelty. Research is important and often benign. It is necessary to gather information and insure the safety and efficacy of new products and treatments. The key point is that it often does not have to be done at the expense of animals. If you are interested, there is already a grass roots organization in place. Contact Delaware Action for Animals (302)234-1019.