There is an ideological divide that separates those who believe that animals may be used for human purposes (food, research, work, clothing, product testing, sport, entertainment) and those that believe animals should not be used for any of these purposes, and must be regarded as equal to humans in every way. Within this overall debate there is further variation in opinion regarding the validity of each of the uses listed above. In the case of biomedical research, there is perhaps less opposition because many people understand that medical research is among the most important things society does and that it must occur in living systems to be properly validated.
Debates on animal use issues, especially regarding biomedical research, depend on accepting the premise that the potential for a greater good can supercede the needs of an individual animal. In the case of biomedical research, a strong argument can be made that the potential for health advancements for humans and animals is a greater good worth pursuing and that research animals can and should be used to accomplish that.
Without animal research, we wouldn’t have many of the lifesaving cures and treatments we do today. Medical progress has brought health, relief and hope where there was once only illness, pain and death. Animal-based research has played an important role in that progress. Our pets and farm animals also benefit. Additionally, entire species have been saved from extinction thanks to new research on reproductive techniques.
While scientists have developed a number of non-animal alternatives that are useful in certain types of research, in many cases—particularly in disease research and the development of new medicines— scientists need to mirror the complicated processes that occur in a living system. It is here that laboratory animals—over 95% of which are rats and mice—are most important.
The decision to use animals in a study is not one that scientists take lightly. Animal research is one of the most heavily regulated activities in the country. When researchers decide it’s necessary to use animals, they remain subject to a tremendous number of strict laws, regulations and careful oversight—all of which ensure the highest levels of humane animal care and ethical treatment of the animals in their studies.
Without animal research, critical, ongoing efforts to develop new cures and treatments would come to a complete halt. If we are to meet the human and veterinary health challenges that confront us, it’s essential that researchers continue using animals in their research. Watch the video about “Jake” to learn how research begun in mice led to a breakthrough in cancer care for pets and people.
(Originally posted at PetDocsOnCall.com in March, 2010)
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