ANIMAL RIGHTS– The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in England in 1824 to promote humane treatment of work animals, such as cattle and horses, and of household pets. Within a few decades similar organizations existed throughout Europe. An American society was founded in New York in 1866. Then after, these organizations were protesting the use of animals in laboratory experiments and the use of vivisection for teaching. Until the mid-1970s the focus on humane treatment of animals continued. After that period, animal rights activists enlarged their priorities, considerably.
It is estimated that 70 million animals are used in research every year in the United States alone. The trained psychologist must reflect carefully on the limitations of making comparisons of animal and human behavior. Without analyses, animal studies may lead to faulty conclusions of animal and human behavior. A mental illness in a rat is different from that in a human. Just as researchers would rule out harmful experimentation on human subjects, they should stop experimentation that causes animal suffering.
The American Psychological Association has established guidelines concerning the use of animals in psychological research. But for many animal protection activists, the APA guidelines are not enough. The misuse of research animals occurs despite organizational guidelines and protective legislation. Psychological researchers unnecessarily repeat many experiments on animals and that there is little evidence that any human benefits come from this work. Also, Psychologists and others involved in animal research make few efforts to find alternative means of gathering data.
Why should we experiment on animals with products that are not important in medical research!? Pharmaceutical and other industrial labs will use animals to screen drugs, cosmetics, and other substances before selling them. Any new product or ingredient is usually tested on rats, mice, guinea pigs, dogs, or rabbits. The questionable substance may be applied to a small area of the animal’s skin to determine the development of allergic responses after some applications. In the Draize test, which was developed in the 1940’s, a substance is dropped into rabbits’ eyes to check eye damage and how long it takes to recover. Rabbits are used because their eyes produce no tears, because blinking will wash away an irritant. This test has been used by cosmetics firms to test the eye irritability of shampoos and other products.
Some psychologists believe that since psychology is the science of behavior, animal behavior is just as interesting and important as human behavior. But many experiments, like systematic brain surgery, for example, cannot be performed on human beings and must be done on animals if anything at all is to be learned. Animal behavior is simpler than human behavior.
I believe that animal testing is wrong and should not be used unless the researcher can strongly prove that his/her evidence from the questionable experiment will help out in IMPORTANT research. If the researcher is found experimenting on animals, they should loose their licenses, fined, and thrown in jail! If their evidence would be helpful, and safe, then they can do their research. Another alternative is to ask humans to do the experiment. Many people wouldn’t mind it.
Not surprisingly, however, humans don’t want to be guinea pigs and scientists have in the past had little choice but to use animals. If you want to develop drugs to treat human diseases, then the ideal subjects are, naturally enough, humans. No other animal shares all our biochemistry so we can never be sure that a drug that works on animals will work on us. That’s why it’s good news that more experiments can now be done using human tissue kept in culture rather than live animals. The opening of Europe’s first human tissue bank, together with this week’s announcement that a new company will test drugs without using any animals are welcome signs of the times.
Unfortunately, the use of laboratory animals will not end soon. Human tissues are mainly being used to help basic research. Most laboratory animals are used in toxicology tests and it will be a long while before we can be sure that tests using human tissue are as (or more) reliable. It will be even longer before the whole testing principle can be replaced.
Nevertheless, the first steps have been taken towards a kinder world. To help it along, you could carry a donor card. It’s a grim thought, but bits of you could be very useful should you meet a sticky end.
“Animal Experimentation.” Compton’s Living Encyclopedia. Compton’s Learning Company, 1996.Online. America Online. (7 June 1996).
“Animal Rights.” American Home and High School Encyclopedia. L.A.K. publishing, 1991 ed. vol. 10 pp. 1389-1390.