The Guinea Pigs of Healthcare

By Kelsi Taylor

Imagine yourself being chained down unable to move, you have no idea of what’s happening and you are unable to turn your neck to view anything around you. Suddenly, you feel your skin being pierced and a strange fluid injected into your bloodstream with its effects not even known to the people injecting it.

This is the process over 100 million animals suffer through each year in the US alone, due to animal testing (PETA.org). Animal experimentation is used across a broad range of industries including medicine, cosmetics, food, education and more.

The initial argument is obvious: morally it’s wrong and inhumane.

The animals are experiencing terrible conditions; living in crowded spaces and fed rations until they are injected or swabbed with dangerous materials. Even if animals survive the testing they are not spared and instead based on their health, they may be euthanised or used again for testing.

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The argument against animal testing goes so much deeper than whether the act is ethically or morally correct. The scientific method used within animal experimentations is neither accurate nor reliable due to several reasons, mainly concerned with how these experiments are conducted. These tests do not abide by the three main rules for a valid experiment; the tests must be species specific, must do no harm to healthy organisms and must be backed up by hard evidence specific to the conclusion of the experiment.

Firstly, it is not hard to figure out that animals are very different to people particularly rats and mice which are used within 85% of animal experiments. Rats and Mice share approximately 80% of their DNA with humans. Although this may seem like a lot, if we take into consideration that chimpanzees share 98.4% of their DNA with humans and yet within this, 1.6 %, there are 3 diseases that are deadly to humans which chimpanzees remain immune. Thus, there are countless possibilities of diseases and infections that rats and mice may be immune to that could kill humans. Therefore it is a very risky way of testing as a disease which may not even show symptoms within rats and mice could cause severe harm or even death when used on humans. As the U.S Drug and Food Administration details, “Currently, nine out of ten experimental drugs fail in clinical studies because we cannot accurately predict how they will behave in people based on laboratory and animal studies.”

As well as animals being very different to humans the conditions under which they are tested vary significantly to the actual conditions these products are intended for. For instance, during animal tests, the animals begin healthy and are made ill or injured by artificial means which is not what would happen in the real-life use of the drug. The only way to prove that a drug/treatment is effective on humans is by testing it on human cells and human tissues and providing the evidence of this being successful.

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Several pro-animal testing advocates may say that there are few alternative ways of testing products. However, thanks to the development of new technology we now have more ways to test products than ever before such as; testing on human cells, testing on human organ slices or computer simulations.

Using cloned cells or tissue from the human body is a much more accurate representation of how the human body would react to a certain drug or product and with today’s technology we can obtain almost every cell type within the human body to do testing on, giving us a clear overview of how each part of the body and each cell type would react to a specific product. By using organ slices such as parts of a kidney or liver we can see how groups of cells interact after being exposed to a certain product and by using computer simulations we can create a harm-free environment to view how a drug may affect the human body overall.

So next time you’re shopping for painkillers or some new foundation find out how that product came to be on the shelves and ask yourself whether 5 minutes of slight pain for you or having subtle bags under your eyes is worth the suffering and death of millions of animals.

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