Animals In Research
Moral concerns about animal research have been debated for centuries but approximately 100 million animals are still used in government and private research labs in the United States every year.
Billions of dollars are spent annually on these tests, though some are not required by law and many do not provide useful information. The experiment most commonly used on animals (“Lethal Dose 50”) has been continually challenged since its development in 1927 as both unreliable and uninformative. According to the Food and Drug Administration, 92 percent of drugs that pass animal trials prove ineffective or harmful to humans in clinical trials. Of the remaining percentage that is approved, half are relabeled because of side effects not revealed in animal testing.
In a 2009 New York Times article, a leading cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins University, referenced the unreliability of animal tests when discussing a new cancer treatment that had shown positive effects in mice and monkeys. He said, “Unfortunately our track record shows that far less than one percent of our promising approaches actually make the grade in patients.”
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only federal statue regulating the treatment of animals in research. The AWA requires only the most basic life-sustaining conditions. It allows animals to be burned, electrocuted, isolated, irradiated, poisoned, starved and brain-damaged. The AWA does not cover mice or rats – who represent 90 percent of animals used in research. It also does not cover birds, “farm” animals used for agricultural research, amphibians, reptiles, fish or invertebrates.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is responsible for enforcing the AWA. Oversight of these federal regulations is minimal. A 2010 investigation by an animal protection organization of Professional Laboratory and Research Services, Inc. in North Carolina resulted in the closure of the lab and the rescue of its 200-plus animals. Though federal inspections reported no recent violations, evidence revealed animals living in their own excrement, being violently handled by lab employees and being sedated with expired, ineffective drugs while having teeth pulled.
The vast majority of animals in research are born in captivity, although some are born wild, obtained in auctions or bought from animal shelters. These animals live their entire lives in small cages and are repeatedly sickened or injured for weeks, months or years. The vast majority is killed during or after an experiment, never having been able live as nature intended.