As an animal artist, one of my on-going projects is the depiction of several of the animal species bred for and stuck in research labs. My working title for this series is 'A Cruel Master –Science and Animals'.
Click on the animal image to see the larger drawing and accompanying essay.
More animals coming soon: HORSE - RAT - CHIMP - MOUSE etc.
SOME FACTS AND THOUGHTS ABOUT ANIMAL TESTING
Around the world, at any given moment, there are tens of millions of animals of many different species living in laboratory captivity and enduring a range of experimental procedures, often involving scientist-inflicted pain, severe emotional duress and/or death. While it's not possible to get a precise head count, the huge and growing profitability of this type of animal usage is not in dispute. Breeding animals for lab work, designing testing methods using animals, and developing products dependent on animal-derived data is big business. And cancer product Research & Development is a significant piece of that animal money pie.
Various individuals, groups and commercial interests argue back and forth about the justifications for animal testing. Questions of ethics, definitions of torture, scientific assessments of the necessity and value of animal-derived research data, opinions about whether or not animals have souls or are as 'important' as we are, revelations of the economic scope and political clout of animal testing-connected industries – all of these concerns and many more crowd the table, remaining as important as they are unresolved, while the millions of affected animals live out their industrial fates hidden away from consumers' view. How often do you think about any of this when you go shopping or fill a prescription?
I was aware of the nature of this problem before I was diagnosed with cancer, long before I was plunged headlong into the operations of this particular industry whose FDA-approval processes operate on the backs of experimental animals, and before I looked deeper into it all while researching and writing Cancer For The Rest Of Us (I discuss this topic in Chapter Two, The Cancer Industry). And since these eye-opening experiences, after having suffered myself on some of the incredibly harsh and toxic animal-tested drugs, and after studying the workings of this industry, and after discovering that there are several superior non-animal medical research methodologies and more being developed, I have drawn some conclusions.
1) Better research and more effective medicine will be produced by expanding the use of good non-animal test methodologies and phasing out the old animal-based models. Animal subjects that are 'like us' aren't enough like us to provide correlations consistently strong enough to justify basing human drug and product development on animal-derived data.
2) The only truly logical justification for keeping these millions of animals in their lab cages and breeding even more of them, is financial and commercial. We each have to evaluate whether those money concerns trump the ethics and compassion problems that are inseparable from the animal testing question. And if we do justify animal testing because it's profitable, then let's be clear that we do this at the expense of the quality of medical research, in order to make a buck. Let's be honest about the true extent of the costs of doing science business this way.
3) We humans can help ourselves by learning about the problems inherent in data produced from animal testing, and by supporting groups that develop superior non-animal test methods and work with research institutions and regulatory bodies to standardize these tests and get them implemented in cage-less labs. (see below)
4) There's a better way to go, in which both animals and humans are the winners. Taking animal experimentation out of the big research picture just makes more sense for human health and well-being, independent of whether or not a particular individual cares about the ethics or compassion angles of the whole animal testing issue.
5) Breeders, scientists and other workers whose employment is tied to lab animal use are well aware of the growing public opposition to animal testing, and they are tailoring their PR messages accordingly. Those of us trying to learn and decide where we stand on this issue need to be able to hear when it's really the money talking, and not be naively idealistic about 'what science says' as though 'science' is unwaveringly objective. All, or very nearly all, science is commercial science at this point in history. If there are still exceptions to this unfortunate rule anywhere, they are not in the medical fields.
We relatively free human beings can all play with our happy pets, pop our Paxils, wash our children's hair, and give them peanut butter snacks without giving the millions of anonymous caged creatures stuck in related product testing a moment's thought – and this is exactly what the vast majority of us do, for an entire lifetime. The animal testing and medical industries consistently declare the unquestionable value and necessity of animal testing for human benefit, and to some it may seem like there's really no issue there at all. If such sources are our only go-to places for sensible thoughts on the subject, we may just simply conclude that while it's too bad about the animals, it's necessary for science and safety, so that's just that.
I'm on the side of us all thinking further, and more critically, than that. If you are interested in learning about how animal experimentation is an impediment to the development of medical science, then you will be interested in the work of NAVS and PCRM. These are two important groups actively engaged in educating the public on this issue and working to improve industrial science and medicine by promoting better alternatives.
The National Anti-Vivisection Society, NAVS, is a venerable organization operating under this guiding principle: advancing science without harming animals. Their Frequently Asked Questions page has excellent information - www.navs.org
The Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine, PCRM, is another important group involved in the work of linking compassion with sound science. Several reports covering specifics on animal testing in medicine are linked from this page - http://www.idausa.org/campaigns/responsible-research/humane-research/
PETA, People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals, lists some successful alternative animal-free test methods on this page - http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-experimentation/alternatives-animal-testing/. Science is taking on this issue, and making real progress.
Since CANCER FOR THE REST OF US deals with medical reality, I have focused here on animal testing in medical research. But many other industries rely heavily on animal testing too, such as cosmetics and food and cleaning products. We all buy a lot of stuff, and more of us could be voting against animal testing tactically with our dollars by using some of the popular guides to cruelty-free products and shopping – it's easy. For example: