From over-the-counter medicine to the shampoo we use, it’s easy to forget how relatively easy our lives have become with the many commodities available to us today. What we do not often consider is how these privileges came to be. What we do not think about is the prevalence of animal testing behind many necessary medicines and products.
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While controversial, the age-old practice of using animals for scientific and commercial testing has no doubt made many invaluable contributions to our society. Animal testing is nowhere near being a new practice. The first recorded incidents of it date back to Early Greek societies in which Aristotle was known to perform experiments on animals to gain a deeper understanding of anatomy and physiology in humans. Today, animal testing aids in biomedical research and in the production of new products. It is so prevalent that, in the U.S alone, it is estimated that around 26 million animals are used annually for these practices. Among these animals are guinea pigs, mice, rabbits, monkeys and dogs. Many medical advancements have been made with the aid of animal testing. Among these are the discoveries of treatments and/or cures for serious illnesses, such as the 1955 development of the Polio vaccine.
Additionally, essential everyday products such as prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and many foods on the market have been made available for safe consumption through trials of animal testing. The list of things that benefit our lives that come as a result of animal testing is long and should not be ignored. Of course, animal research inevitably subjects the animals in question to tests that yield varying physical and psychological results. While some of these tests can be invasive and harmful, strict regulations and laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act of 1966, are set in place to protect research animals from unreasonable mistreatment and to minimize the amount of suffering they go through. The Humane Society International along with other anti-animal research groups argue that alternative methods, such as computer modeling, micro-dosing, and In vitro testing (tests done in dishes and tubes) exist.
While these are possible alternatives, they cannot completely replace animal research. These methods, most of which involve testing on test tube cells and tissue cultures, cannot simulate a whole body with working organs and nervous and circulatory systems. It would be unrealistic and irresponsible to assume that results from cell and tissue culture samples would be anywhere close to predicting results in the intended human consumers. It is also important to note that, while animal research may be the more expensive practice, it is by law only performed because there are no other reliable methods. The alternatives listed above are not meant to completely replace animal research but could reduce and refine the existing aspects of the tests. In this day and age, animal research seems obsolete. With today’s technology, such research should be a thing of the past. New advancements in medical research and development are steadily becoming more available and offer promising alternatives to the practice. However, it must be recognized that real change takes time and care, especially when it concerns the well-being of a society.
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