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Animal Experimentation

Ryan McGuire

There is ample evidence to show that animal research has been vital for medical advances in the past. For example, it has helped provide antibiotics and vaccines, insulin for diabetes, treatments for leukemia, local and general anaesthetics, and has made possible advances in medical technology such as blood transfusion, kidney dialysis, and the heart lung machine.

There are two main reasons as to why animal research needs to continue. First, despite great advances in science and technology, animals still cannot be replaced completely by non-animal methods. Secondly, despite great advances in medicine, there are still all too many serious conditions that we cannot cure or treat adequately. Animal research is indispensable, but it is important to realize that it provides just part of the picture. Whenever possible, the picture is also built up using non-animal methods such as computer modeling, cell culture, and studies of patients and populations.

Animal research is used in several different areas of biomedical research and product safety testing. Majority of animal testing is used for developing new treatments for diseases, or ways of preventing diseases, and fundamental biological and medical research. A small percentage of the animals are bred for medical research, while the smallest amounts are used for developing new methods for diagnosis and safety testing. The overall trend in animal experiments is downward due to higher standards of animal welfare, scientific advances, and stricter controls.

From a scientific perspective, there are several reasons as to why working with animals in research is necessary. First, scientists need to test medical treatments for efficacy and test new drugs for safety or toxicity before beginning human testing. For instance, small animals, usually rats, are used to determine the possible side-effects of new drugs including infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, liver damage and cancer-causing potential. After such animal tests have proven the safety of new drugs, patients asked to participate in further studies can be assured that they may fare better, and will do no worse than if they were given standard treatment or no treatment. Also, new surgical techniques first must be carefully developed and tested in living, breathing, whole organ systems with pulmonary and circulatory systems much like ours. Computer models, cell cultures, or artificial substances cannot simulate flesh, muscle, blood, bones or organs working together in a living system. Furthermore, the doctors who perform today's delicate cardiac, ear, eye, pulmonary and brain surgeries must develop the necessary skills before patient's lives can be entrusted to their care. Finally, it is impossible to explore, explain, or predict the course of many diseases or the effects of many treatments without observing and testing the entire living system. Humans are complex living systems with interrelated nervous systems, blood and brain chemistry, gland and organ secretions, and immunological responses. Cell and tissues cultures, often suggested as alternatives to using animals have been used for many years, but these are only isolated tests and isolated tests will yield only isolated results, which may bear little or no relation to a whole living system. Scientists do not yet know enough about living systems or diseases, nor does the technology exist, to replicate one on a computer. Any future true computer model will have to be based on the information gained from today's animal studies.

The history of the benefits of animal research is marked by dramatic breakthroughs. Without animal research, doctors would have no chemotherapy to save the 70% of children who now survive acute lymphocytic leukemia. Also, without animal research, 60 million Americans would risk death from heart attack, stoke or kidney failure from lack of medication to control their high blood pressure, and polio would kill or cripple thousands of unvaccinated children and adults this year (Statistics from Scientific Procedures on Living Animals, 1997). Thus from a scientific perspective, working with animals in research is vital to continued medical progress.

Alternatives to Animal Research

The Three R's


This term refers to the modification of any procedures done to an animal in a laboratory from the time it is born until it is dead. These modifications should minimize any pain or distress that would otherwise be suffered by the animal, and "enhance its well-being." The issue of animal welfare is not only important from and ethical standpoint, it is also a matter of good science.


This simply means doing anything that will reduce the number of animals being used in research. This approach is concerned with using less animals but obtaining the same amount of information. Some strategies include using more of every animal and avoiding redundant experiments.


"Any experimental system which does not entail the use of a whole, living animal is considered to be a replacement alternative." These systems include: information based research, computer- based systems, physico- chemical techniques, utilizing lower organisms and embryos, human studies, and cell tissue and organ culture.

Other Non- Animal Methods


Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of disease in defined populations. Undoubtedly, if you can understand disease mechanisms and their functions in a population, you can remove the factors which propagate it.

Patient studies

Closely monitoring human patients is the single most useful tool available to researchers. Observation combined with advanced, modern, non- invasive techniques have revolutionized clinical investigation.

Autopsies and Biopsies

Autopsies are not performed as often as they once were. Autopsies used to be the most important tool for the advancement of medical knowledge. These are major tools which are often overlooked.

Post- Marketing Surveillance

Computer technology has revolutionized the capabilities of database information. It is now easier to effectively use marketing information to accurately document harmful and beneficial side effects of pharmaceuticals.

Government Involvement in Animal Research

Federal Law

The Animal Welfare Act standardizes the care and treatment of laboratory animals (except for rats and mice bred specifically for research purposes.) Facilities wishing to conduct animal research must register with the United States Department of Agriculture. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will conduct unannounced inspections of any laboratory. The Animal Welfare Act also requires that painkillers be used in any experiments that will potentially cause physical pain to the animal.

The AWA also requires that each institution create an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. This committee is responsible for making sure that the institution is complying with federal law.

Federal Funding

Anyone who wishes to receive funding from the U.S. Public Health Service must adhere to strict regulations. They must prove that they have an animal care committee (usually the same as the IACUC). They must also file annual Animal Welfare Assurances with the National Institutes of Health. This includes: documentation of institutional commitment, description of the animal care and use program, and implementation procedures.

"Publish or Perish"

Even though you must publish to survive in the research world, there are very few if any useless experiments. It is so difficult to get funding for animal research that only the best projects are even considered.

These groups all have web pages that can be easily reached for more information on medical experimentation on animals and animal rights in general:

AAVS (American Anti-Vivisection Society)

ALF (Animal Liberation Front)

CAAT (Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing)

FOA (Friends of Animals)

FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments)

IDA (In Defense of Animals)

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

UPC (United Poultry Concerns)

A good resource site is the Animal Rights Resource Site

See the book Personal Care for People Who Care for more information on how to find alternatives for animal-tested products.

Animal Testing

Ryan Krebs
23 April 1998

As biomedical research progresses at an exponential rate, it does so at the cost of millions of animals each year. While this statement may seem dismal for those of us who grew up idolizing our household pets or Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, to those of us who work in and around medicine, this statement provides an optomistic foundation so that the medical delimmas of today will soon be the common cures of tomorrow.

While persuing a Biology degree at the University of Kentucky, I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work in the department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the university's medical center as a research assistant. This experince has taught me first hand not only the importance of biomedical research, but also the imperative enforcement of the rules and regulations regarding animal care. My position has also granted me direct access to laboratory animals, their facilities, as well as contact with the supervisors of the Division of Laboratory Research at the University of Kentucky.

After discussing specific animal protocols and the rules and regulations governing them with both my mentor, John D. Porter, PhD., and the head veternarian of the Division of Laboratory Animal Research , Kenneth Dickey, DVM., I was baffled by the numerous organizations and publications the biomedical research popuation is subjected too, the most prominant of these organizations being the USDA, NIH, IACUC, and AAALAC. The National Institute of Health(NIH) publishes what most biomedical researchers consider the "Bible" for animal care. Otherwise known by its title, Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, this publication is so specific that it actually provides the recommended floor area(in.2) and height(in.) for all laboratory animals based on their weight(g). Other guidelines such as decible level, ventilation, and temperature are also just as tightly regulated and outlined in this book. Some may argue that scientists may aviod some, if not many, of these restrictions in the intrests of time. On the contrary, the majority of scientists have very limited money in which to perform their research, so it is without question that the best interests of their research is to conform to every single laboratory regulation because a surprise visit from any of the aforementioned organizations can cost them plenty.

While one would think that there are defined procedures that stipulate which killing procedures are "illegal" or "inhumaine," the fact is, no such restrictions exist. In other words, as long as the proposed killing procedure is justified by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee who believe that the procedure is necessary for the proposed research, the protocol may continue. The most common forms of death for laboratory animals are all euthanasia tactics. These include CO2 exphixiation, administration of barbiturates, and inhalation of nonexplosive anesthetics. There are, however, rare exceptions where animal decapitation occurs without the aid of any sedation of pain killing chemicals, but those procedures are very hard to get approved and the research must provide the scientific community with very pertinant information.

In the course researching this topic, as well as working in a laboratory on a daily basis, the initial question: "Is too much needless experimentation done on animals in medical research?" can be answered in one simple reply. "No." Animal research is a very controlled profession both for the integrity of the research that is being performed as well as for the protection of the animals that are being used. Due to the sensativity surrounding animal testing, the lack of funding is a huge factor for most medical researchers. For this very reason, the animals not only receive very good care, but if two doctors are doing research on the same disease and are studying how it effects different parts of the body, they will each take a turn at disecting the portion of the animal that pertains to their study.

Animal testing is impeative to the health and longevity of both man and animal. Without animal testing viruses such as polio would cripple thousands of people a year, diabetics would be dead, and our favorite household pets would have no comfort in going to the vet. Animal activits can stand high on their soapboxes and condemn the practices of animal testing, but in actuality, I wonder how many of them actually skiped their polio vaccinations as a child.

I. Number of Animals and Employees

A. Roughly 6-8 thousand animals are kept on campus for research purposes(~100 of these are monkeys) - overhead

B. These animals are kept in four main areas on campus(Biological Sciences Building, Kastle Hall, Agriculture Building, and the Medical Center)

C. 4 veterinarians & 35 general care employees care for these animals

II. Restrictions and Requirements for Proper Animal Care

A. Regulations provided by numerous organizations(USDA, IACUC, AAALAC are among the most prominent)

B. The care givers, vets, as well as the doctors performing the research are held liable for any violations of the regulations established by the aforementioned organizations

C. These regulations include everything from normal sanitation procedures to noise decibel levels - overhead

III. Protocols and Killing Procedures

A. There are no procedures that are set in stone as "illegal" or "inhumane"

B. Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee

1) Group members - overhead

C. Most Common Method of Death

1) Euthanasia(which includes CO2, barbiturates[sedatives], and nonexplosive inhalant anesthetics)

D. Conservation

IV. The Controversy???

A. The pain controversy - overhead

B. Poor care controversy

C. Excess testing controversy

V. If the animal rights people had won in the beginning . . .

A. What would have happened if animal testing had never been practiced?


B. How would this effect animals? - overhead