Facts & Myths About Animal Research

Fact vs. Myth

MYTH: Using animals for medical research is not necessary.

FACT: Animal research has saved lives, extended our life expectancy, and improved the quality of our lives by giving doctors the means to develop ways to prevent, treat, and cure disease. Virtually every major medical advance in this century has been dependent upon animal research and it remains critical to unlocking the cure for many diseases still claiming the lives of millions, including AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s, sickle cell anemia, and multiple sclerosis.

MYTH: The use of animals for research purposes is inhumane.

FACT: Human beings, unlike animals, have free will and the ability to reason. These characteristics are central to another key trait which is moral awareness. Our moral awareness demands that we seek the cures for diseases and solutions to our medical mysteries. Out of our moral awareness also comes the idea of animal welfare, which dictates that humans have a responsibility to treat animals humanely and compassionately. This is a responsibility which researchers take very seriously.

MYTH: Much of the research done with animals is not necessary.

FACT: Because of economic pressures there are limited funds available for studying the wide range of human health problems. Funding agencies must restrict support to research that leads to a greater under-standing of the human body, and the cause, cure, and prevention of disease. This helps to reduce the waste of research resources and minimize the possibility that laboratory animals will be used for trivial purposes.

MYTH: There are alternative research methods that can replace the use of animals.

FACT: Scientists have developed many valuable non-animal research models which are useful in some types of research. These models are often used to supplement work with live animals. These methods, however, cannot completely mirror the complicated processes that occur in the living animal and for that reason cannot be used in the vast majority of research.

MYTH: Too many animals are used for research.

FACT: It is not economically practical to over use animals for research purposes because they are expensive to acquire and care for. As medical advances are made, some areas of study may decrease or totally eliminate animal use. However, as new avenues of research are pursued, there may also be an increased need for the use of animals in certain areas.

MYTH: Product safety testing on animals is not necessary.

FACT: To protect consumers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires extensive safety testing of all cosmetic, toiletry, and fragance products, prior to their marketing in this country. Manufacturing must substantiate the safety not only of finished products, but also of every ingredient the products contain. The only way to obtain this information is through testing on animals. Some companies have promoted cosmetic products as “non-animal tested.” Generally, this means that the company has purchased a product formulation from a supplier who has previously conducted safety testing on animals, or the ingredients have already been tested in standard formulations. Therefore, while the final distributor can accurately state that it did not test its products on animals, the safety of those products was determined on the basis of earlier animal testing.

MYTH: The animals primarily used in research are dogs and cats.

FACT: Approximately 90 percent of animals used in research are rats, mice, and other rodents, due to their short life span, ease of breeding, and similarity to human biology. Dogs and cats, as well as monkeys and other nonhuman primates, represent less than one percent of all research animals. They are, however, an important one percent. Dogs are essential for studying the cardiovascular system; cats are vital to certain studies of vision, hearing, and brain function; and nonhuman primates are valuable in the areas of atherosclerosis, reproductive problems, and certain diseases of the brain like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

MYTH: Laboratory animals suffer great pain and distress.

FACT: Most biomedical research does not result in pain or significant distress to the animals. In 58 percent of all animal research, the animals are not subjected to any pain. In 35 percent of animal research, the animals may have some pain or discomfort and are given pain-killing medication or anesthetics. In the remaining 7 percent of experiments, the animals experience pain, usually because the experiment is studying pain or because anesthesia would interfere with the test results.

MYTH: The humane treatment of laboratory animals is not regulated.

FACT: The Animal Welfare Act is a federal law that sets forth stringent stand-ards for all aspects of experimentation and care involving laboratory animals. In addition, the U.S. Public Health Service requires adherence to its Animal Welfare Policy by all institutions receiving research grants from the National Institutes of Health. Under the terms of this policy, institutions must follow the detailed recommendations on animal care and treatment contained in a book entitled Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratoy Animals. The policy also mandates that each research facility have an institution animal care and use committee, including an outside member of the public and a veterinarian, which is charged with overseeing the treatment of the animals.The department of Agriculture also makes surprise inspections of all reaerch facilities at least once a year.

MYTH: Researchers are indifferent to the well-being of their animal subjects.

FACT: Scientists have chosen their profession to try and end disease and suffering – not cause it. Humane animal care is a basic necessity in medical research, not only for ethical reasons, but because scientists cannot obtain valid results from mis-treated animals. In the rare cases where actual abuses have occurred, the Public Health Service has taken a variety of corrective actions.

MYTH: The “rights” of animals are protected by animal rights groups.

FACT: The animal rights movement claims that animals and human beings have the same fundamental rights and that it is wrong to use animals in any kind of testing. Some animal rights activists have resorted to hate and scare campaigns, laboratory break-ins, theft, vandalism, and the destruction of equipment and data. Death threats have been issued, medical researchers attacked, and millions of dollars in damage done to our nation’s research facilities. These acts often halt or delay critical research in life-threatening diseases and increase the cost of medical research. This in turn discourages researchers from continuing or even beginning their work. Not only is this detrimental to the health of humans, it also affects research to aid in the well-being of animals.

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