Over 100 million animals are used every year in the United States as models in biological and medical research to study human disease, injury, development, psychology, and anatomy and physiology. Animals often suffer greatly in these studies, as they are inflicted with diseases, traumas, and pain they would not normally experience in order to mimic human conditions.
An entire industry has been built around supplying animals for research that treats animals as tools rather than as thinking, feeling beings. Animals are purposely bred for research or bought from auctions, pounds, shelters, ‘free to good home’ ads, or other random sources. Kept in sterile environments with little attention or enrichment, treated roughly for not ‘cooperating,’ and transported under unacceptable conditions, the pain and distress that animals used in research experience actually starts long before they enter a laboratory.
Mice and Rats
Mice and rats bred for use in research are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act, yet they comprise nearly all of the animals used in modern research. The Animal Welfare Act, which sets minimal standards for the care, housing, sale, and transport of animals used in research, specifically excludes these animals, as well as birds bred for research and cold-blooded animals.
As a result, it is impossible to know how many mice and rats are used each year for research in the U.S., for what purposes, and the pain and/or distress experienced by these animals. It is estimated, however, that roughly 95 percent of the animals used in U.S. laboratories are mice and rats – some 100 million individuals.
Mice and rats are used in virtually every area of research, and the number of mice and rats used continues to grow with the field of genetic engineering. Sequencing of the mouse (mus musculus) genome was completed and published in 2002, and since then, scientists have been engaging in every possible genetic manipulation of these animals. A researcher, following the prevailing ‘what if we tried this’ attitude, can custom-order any mutant or genetically engineered strain of mouse desired from any of a number of suppliers. Thousands of animals’ lives are wasted to ‘create’ each strain, and suffering is often inherent in the mutations and genetic abnormalities before the experiments even begin.
Mice and rats are housed in shoebox-sized plastic containers that slide into vertical racks so that something that is not much bigger than a bookcase can house hundreds of mice. Without even the minimal protections afforded by the Animal Welfare Act, researchers can use mice and rats without considering alternatives to their use or minimizing pain and distress.
Guinea Pigs and Hamsters
Long associated with the pet trade as small companion animals, guinea pigs and hamsters are extensively used as laboratory animals. Over 200,000 guinea pigs and approximately 170,000 hamsters are used in research each year in the U.S. Of the animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act (i.e., not including mice, rats, and birds bred for use in research, fish, and other cold-blooded animals), only rabbits are used more.
Guinea pigs continue to be used in significant numbers for toxicity and safety tests, to investigate the effects of cigarette smoke, alcohol, and drugs, and to research spinal cord injury, tuberculosis, the auditory system, kidney function, osteoarthritis,...... nutrition, genetics, infectious diseases, and reproductive biology.
Hamsters are frequently used to study sensory systems such as taste and vision. They are also used as models for cardiopulmonary......, inflammatory, and neoplastic diseases; cardiomyopathy;...... estrogen-......induced carcinogenesis;...... drug and carcinogen metabolism; muscular dystrophy therapy; aging; asthma; pancreatic cancer; prion-type (mad cow) diseases; and various aspects of natural and artificial biorhythms.
Disturbingly, in 2006, 12 percent of guinea pigs (nearly 25,000 individuals) and 20 percent of hamsters (more than 33,000 individuals) were used in experiments that involved significant pain and distress that was not alleviated by either anesthetics or analgesics.
There are no available statistics on the use of birds for research in the U.S., as birds bred for research are currently excluded from coverage by the Animal Welfare Act. In the UK, however, birds are the third most commonly used animals after rodents and fish, with over 100,000 used each year (four percent of all animals used). More than 650,000 birds are used across the entire European Union annually. In the UK, the vast majority of birds used in research and testing are domestic fowl.
The largest single category of procedures in which birds are used in the European Union is fundamental research, aimed at discovering how animals function. Such research often involves surgery, trapping birds from the wild, and/or prolonged confinement in order to study phenomena such as migration and bird song.
Overall, however, most birds are used in the research and development, production, quality control, or safety testing of human and veterinary medical products, often in studies related to animal diseases. Much of the toxicity and safety testing involves lethal tests such as the LD50, or acute or subacute tests that involve high exposure to the test substance, causing significant suffering and distress.
Birds are further stressed as a result of the poor housing conditions in which they are maintained, which are too small and/or crowded for the birds to stretch their wings or perform a range of natural behaviors.
Since the early 1990s, fish have been increasingly used in biomedical research as models of human development and disease, in toxicity testing as subjects for measuring harmful effects of chemicals, and in aquaculture research to expand the farming of fish for food. It is not possible to determine the exact number of fish used in the U.S. because fish are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act. It is estimated, however, that roughly seven percent of all animals used in research are fish, meaning that some 3.5 -7 million fish are used annually in the U.S.
From the researcher’s point of view, fish provide simpler systems for the study of complex processes. Because fish are small, inexpensive, and relatively easy to house, they have become a ‘convenient’ test subject for many scientists. In addition, scientists are increasingly looking towards fish as an alternative to studies that more traditionally use mice and rats, thus, in theory, reducing animal costs by using a ‘phylogenetical......ly lower species.’
The zebrafish, in particular, has become ‘the fish of choice’ for a variety of investigations....... Since zebrafish embryos are transparent, develop outside of the mother, and grow rapidly (hatching in just three days), they are frequently used to study vertebrate development and physiology. Scientists are increasingly creating mutant zebrafish to identify genes that are essential for normal development.
Platyfish and swordtails, another kind of small fish, have been used as cancer models for more than 70 years. The Japanese medaka is one of the most commonly used fish models for carcinogenicity...... testing. Fish are also used in environmental toxicity testing to measure the effects of exposure to chemicals or pollution in the environment. Similarly, fish are also used as sentinels of environmental contamination.
While the use of fish is considered a refinement alternative to the use of mammals, the danger is, because fish are so small and cheap, and because we do not have a good intuitive sense of how they feel or suffer, we will consider them expendable, not value their lives, and use them in tremendous quantities. Indeed, as evidenced by the large-scale mutagenesis projects currently underway, this is already happening. Emphasis needs to be placed on the development of alternatives that completely replace the use of all animals.
More rabbits are used for research in the U.S. than any other covered species. In 1987, an all-time high of 554,385 rabbits were exploited for research and testing. Over the past two decades, rabbit use has gradually declined, with the latest reports indicating that over 200,000 rabbits are utilized annually.
Rabbits are widely used for experimentation...... and testing mainly due to practical rather than scientific considerations....... They are small and usually docile, easily restrained, cheap to maintain, and breed prodigiously.
Most people associate the use of rabbits in laboratories with toxicity testing for cosmetic, personal, and household products. The best known tests are the Draize eye and skin irritancy tests, which are extremely painful and cruel. While being experimented upon, rabbits are also often locked into full-body restraints to prevent them from touching eye or skin sores. These tests are not very reliable, and increasing attention is being paid to the development of alternatives to replace the use of rabbits for these categories of toxicity testing.
For medical products such as vaccines, drugs, and medical devices, rabbits are used to test pyrogenicity (the ability of the product to induce a fever). Additionally, because of their high rate of reproduction, rabbits are also used to test developmental/..........................embryotoxicity (the danger that a product will harm a pregnant female or developing fetus).
Rabbits are also used in basic and biomedical research, as models for diseases and disorders of the eyes, skin, heart, and immune system, as well as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and diabetes. Another common use of rabbits is in a painful procedure to produce polyclonal antibodies, which are widely used for a variety of research and diagnostic purposes.
In addition to the suffering caused by the experiments, the laboratory environment itself is also particularly noxious to rabbits, causing great stress, weakening their immune systems, and making them more prone to illness.
The numbers of nonhuman primates used in research has gradually increased in the last decade and significantly exceeds the numbers of nonhuman primates used when the USDA first began to record numbers of animals utilized in research. In 1973, the first year for which records were kept, 42,298 nonhuman primates were used, and in 2006, the latest year for which records are available, 62,315 were used. These figures do not take into account the nonhuman primates used for breeding. In addition, 47% of nonhuman primates, some 29,000 individuals, were subjected to painful and distressful experiments in 2006.
Primates are increasingly used in pharmaceutical and bioterrorism experiments, and researchers continue to promote the "development of a portfolio of non-human primate models for a variety of human diseases and conditions." For example, primates are used in experiments related to infectious disease (e.g., AIDS, malaria, TB, Lyme disease, Ebola), cardiovascular disease, diabetes, drug abuse, xenotransplanta......tion (cross-species transplants), toxicology, vaccinations, age-related research, gene therapy, neurosciences, and reproductive biology. Primates have rich emotional and social lives, however, and suffer greatly when confined in laboratory settings and used in scientific procedures.
Cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis), also known as crab-eating macaques, make up the majority of non-human primates imported for research. Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) are the second most imported primate species. Other highly-......imported species include common marmosets, squirrel monkeys, olive baboons, vervet monkeys (also known as grivet or African green monkeys), and night monkeys (also known as owl monkeys). Wild populations of primates all across the world are being devastated to supply the research community.
The chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) is the only nonhuman great ape species used in biomedical research. The majority of research involving chimpanzees is invasive, meaning that the projects involve infectious agents, drug testing, and/or surgery or biopsy. Because of their similarity to humans, chimpanzee research in particular raises serious ethical and scientific concerns, and there is growing public support in the U.S. for a ban on the use of chimpanzees in research.
There have been milestones along the way towards that goal. In May of 2007, after prodding from AAVS and other concerned organizations, the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Research Resources announced that it would permanently end the breeding of government-......owned chimpanzees. In December of that same year, the Chimp Haven is Home Act was signed into law, closing a loophole in the 1999 Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act and assuring permanent retirement in sanctuaries for chimpanzees who have been removed from federal laboratories.
Great Britain, New Zealand, The Netherlands, and Japan have already restricted or prohibited great ape research.
Humans have been using animals to produce food and fiber for thousands of years. Within the last few decades, however, increasing numbers of biomedical scientists are using domestic livestock as ‘models’ of human conditions. This has occurred partly to replace the use of animals such as cats, dogs, and primates, which is no longer widely supported by the general public.
Even more recently, an emphasis has been placed on the use of livestock for cloning and genetic engineering experiments, largely due to the fact that there is little oversight for such activities. In January 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that products from cloned cows, pigs, and goats can be sold as food without labels, and the FDA is in the process of approving drugs produced in the milk of transgenic animals for human use.
Animals used in agriculture-......related research have no effective protection under existing animals welfare laws. In contrast, domestic livestock (excluding chickens or birds bred for research) who are used as ‘human models’ in biomedical research and testing are covered by the Animal Welfare Act. They are, however, routinely subjected to a wide variety of experimental manipulations, including induced diseases, injuries, and behavioral pathologies.
Pigs- More than 57,000 pigs were used in research in 2006, the latest year for which data are available. The number of pigs used in regulated research activities has been declining over the years, but a significant percentage of pigs continues to be used in experiments that cause pain and/or distress. Nearly two-thirds, or 66 percent, of pigs used in 2006 were involved in such experiments.
Due to the pig’s large adult size, a variety of mini- and micro-pigs, who consume fewer resources and require less space, have been ‘created’ by laboratories through genetic manipulation and selective breeding.
Pigs are commonly used in experiments regarding cardiovascular systems, blood dynamics, nutritional deficiencies, alcoholism, drug abuse, general metabolic functions, digestive-......related disorders, respiratory diseases, diabetes, kidney and bladder diseases, organ-specific toxicity, dermatology, and neurological studies. Pigs are also used in painful burn studies, cystic fibrosis research, and xenotransplanta......tion experiments. The pig is such a popular animal model that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) invests over $100 million annually in swine-based research projects.
Cows- are used in projects on narcolepsy, reproductive physiology, and safety testing of recombinant vaccines. They are also used in infectious disease research, and in experiments related to cartilage damage. Cattle, particularly calves, continue to be used in heart experiments as well, even though the results do not translate reliably to humans.
Sheep- Over 3,700 sheep were used in research in 2006, with 72% experiencing pain and distress. Sheep, particularly females (ewes), are preferred because they are relatively easy to house, they are docile, and their larger bodies allow for ease in performing multiple experimental procedures on them. Sheep are considered the animal of choice for pregnancy-......related research, and are also used to study multiple sclerosis, medical device implants, burn injury, and smoke inhalation.
Goats- are not widely used in biomedical research in the U.S. They are, however, frequently used to produce polyclonal antibodies, which are widely used for a variety of research and diagnostic purposes. Goats are also used to study cartilage repair, respiratory physiology, medical diagnostic procedures, gene therapy, and the effects of anesthesia on brain activity. In addition, goats are increasingly subjected to genetic modifications to produce human drugs in their milk, blood, or urine (a process known as pharming).
Over 20,000 cats are used in research every year in the U.S. A significant proportion of these animals, nearly half, are used in experiments that cause pain and distress. Cat use has been declining gradually, but often they are being replaced with smaller, less protected species such as mice and rats.
Cats are frequently used in neurology research to study spinal cord injury, as well as problems related to vision, sleep, and hearing. They are also used to study Parkinson’s disease, cancer, genetic disorders, and other human conditions and ailments. Cats have been used so often that they are usually the species of choice because so much is known about their neurological functions. This type of research is extremely invasive, however, and almost always results in the euthanasia of the cats after they are subjected to grueling vivisection procedures.
In addition, cats are also commonly used in HIV and AIDS research due to a pair of AIDS-like feline viral diseases: feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficienc......y virus (FIV). However, there are numerous important differences between the feline and human diseases, making cats a problematic and unsuitable model for HIV/AIDS research.
The primary reason cats are used in such research has more to do with logistical and practical criteria. Cats are easy to handle, house, and subject to experimental manipulations, especially when compared to primates, the other species of choice for HIV/AIDS research. In addition, cats are readily available, as easy to purchase as inanimate laboratory supplies, and can even be found for sale on the internet. Many are still removed from pounds or shelters to be used in this lethal, scientifically unsound research.
Every day in the U.S., dogs just like those who share our homes and sleep in our beds are used in harmful and deadly experiments, treated as expendable ‘tools’ or ‘models’ in laboratories. In the U.S. alone, over 87,000 dogs were used for research in 2006, a sharp rise from previous years in which 65,000-70,000 dogs were used annually.
Many dogs are still obtained from shelters, animal control facilities, and/or other random sources, including ‘free to a good home’ ads, auctions, and greyhound racetracks. Many other dogs are bred either in laboratories (to be born either healthy or with a specific genetic deficit) or by private companies that sell strictly to laboratories.
Dogs are routinely used by medical schools and laboratories in heart and lung research, transplantation...... experiments, cancer research, microbiology, genetics, orthopedics, surgery, and veterinary medicine. Dogs are also commonly used in toxicity studies to test the safety of human drugs, food additives, industrial chemicals, and other products.
Puppies, or dogs under one year of age, are frequently used in these experiments. The most common dogs used in laboratories are beagles, but not because scientists view them as the best ‘models’ for humans. Rather, beagles are convenient to use because they are docile and small, allowing for more animals to be housed and cared for using less space and money.
Pain and Distress
The USDA breaks down the number of animals used by the category of pain and distress they experience during the experiments. No Pain, No Drugs (Category C) means that the animals experienced no or only momentary pain and distress. With Pain, With Drugs (Category D) means that the animals were used in experiments that did cause significant pain and distress, but received medication to relieve or treat the pain. With Pain, No Drugs (Category E) means that animals experienced unalleviated pain and distress as part of the experiment. Over 73,000 animals, seven percent of the total, experienced unalleviated pain and distress in 2006.
Posted By: One Voice