Thursday, June 6, 2013

Animals in Science

Whether used for observation, testing, or dissections, animals are used to help in many fields of science.  In the science of toxicology, the scientists who help determine the limits for safe use of materials experiment on animals so that they can provide better preliminary guidelines in humans.  “In the absence of human data, research with experimental animals is the most reliable means of detecting important toxic properties of chemical substances and for estimating risks to human and environmental health.” (SOT Animals in Research Public Policy Statement).
Many times, finding out how chemicals will affect an organism cannot be done without experimenting on a living thing because there are so many different systems in a body that can be affected.  Testing on animals first ensures that products and drugs are safe for humans when we use or consume them.  When scientists want to see how different doses of drugs affect an organism, they will test them on animals to see thier tolerance to them.  Instead of first testing something on humans, which could potentially cause bad reactions and unforeseen complications, they test them on animals.
Though animals are not humans, they are still a part of God’s creation and should be taken care of respected.  Because of this, laws are in place to regulate how scientists can use animals in testing and observation.  Unfortunately, sometimes animals are properly taken care of.  It is estimated that “About 20 million animals are experimented on and killed annually, three-fourths for medical purposes and the rest to test various products. An estimated eight million are used in painful experiments. Reports show that at least 10 percent of these animals do not receive painkillers.” (a study by Santa Clara university)
Part of our role as caretakers for animals is not to cause them pain.  Though views may differ on whether animals have souls or the same value as humans, we do know that animals are capable of suffering just as humans are.  We should not cause animals pain.  In fact, we should be protect them whenever possible.  Some people argue that because animals do not have the ability to reason, they are less.  This is untrue, unless those same people would also argue that mentally insane people are not worthy of love and respect because they are unable to reason the same way that we do.
In Europe, great apes have not been used in practice for scientific testing for years, though they are quite regularly in the United States.  One reason they are used in America is to develop a vaccine for Hepatitis C, which, in addition to humans, only chimpanzees are affected by.  In Europe, procedures are also classified mild, medium, or severe based on the amount of pain and distress they cause an animal, and only mild procedures can be allowed without the okay from the government.
The Animal Welfare Act is the only law in the United States that covers using animals in science.  It only covers certain animals and the base of minimal standards for housing, feeding, handling, veterinary care, and for some species like chimpanzees, their psychological well-being.  The USDA is charged with enforcing these regulation.
Schools and other institutions should follow all of the guidelines given to them through the government, but they should also make sure that they implement their own guidelines to make sure that they are not hurting the animals.  They should make sure that they anesthetize animals and use the proper procedures when testing.  Even when using just the bodies of animals, such as for dissections, people ought to do all that they can to make sure that they are respecting the animal.
I agree with many of the regulations that are in place to control how animals can be tested, but I also believe that there should be more in place to protect animals.  Animals are a great way to test things before people try them, but they should not be needlessly subjected to pain.  There should be clear goals in mind when experimenting with animals, goals that will benefit people directly, instead of just experimenting to see what will happen, especially if the experiment involves pain.
Not allowing any animals to be used in scientific experimentation would be detrimental to humans and advancements in general, but it should be controlled.  The hard questions come into play when one tries to think about what value animals have when compared to humans.  Humans and animals are both a part of God’s creation, but humans are specifically made in the image of God.  Humans make choices for good and evil and have eternal souls.  I think that humans first have an obligation to care for humans above animals, but not to neglect or harm animals.
For example, if scientists came up with a new treatment to eradicate cancer cells in an organism, but were unsure of the side effects that could happen when introduced into humans, they would first experiment on animals that had cancer.  Though the animals may have to deal with unforeseen complications, it is better for that to happen to the animals than to start experimenting on children with cancer.  In this we see that we inherently place higher value on humans than on animals.  Though, I think that all due research and precautions should be taken to avoid causing harm to any animals.
I agree with using animals in highschool and college education because I think that it does provide an amazing opportunity for kids to gain hands on knowledge of anatomy and biology.  When euthanized and treated humanely, dissecting a cat, frog, or fetal pig does not cause much pain or suffering to the animal being studied.  I think that dissecting animals in biology and anatomy has given me a more complete set of information when it comes to both the anatomy of the animal I was studying, and of the human anatomy.
The hardest thing for me to overcome when dealing with the cats was the fact that it was a cat.  I have a cat myself that I love, and it’s hard to think of an animal that is capable of having a distinct ‘personality’ as the body you are dissecting on the table.  After I got over my initial uneasiness, I forced myself to do so, I found that dissecting was terribly interesting.  One of the things that intrigued me the most was the muscle structure.  When dissecting fetal pigs my freshman year, the muscles were thin and not very defined at all, so it was very hard to identify the different muscles.
In the cat, the muscles were very defined, and it was very interesting to be able to separate and identify each of the different muscles.  Obviously, cats being quadrupeds, the muscles of the cat were differently placed than the muscles in humans.  Earlier in the year, I focused a lot on the human shoulder, making a model and writing a few papers on it.  When we were identifying the shoulder muscles in the cat, I found that I could easily locate things like the infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and deltoid, even though they were in slightly different places than on the human body.
I think that dissecting the cat definitely gave me insight on what the human body is actually made of.  It’s easy to look at textbooks and think that the muscles, organs, and tissues of organisms are clean and clearly defined, but they are much more nitty gritty when you really get down to it.  For example, when I cut apart the kidney, I was so surprised that every nephron I had diagramed was invisible to the human eye.  Something that was so small and seemingly uninteresting was also incredibly important to the function of the cat’s body.  I definitely marvelled at the glory of God when I was studying his creation.


  1. Oh man, dissecting that cat was so disgusting. And I agree with you, we should take care of Gods creation but human beings are definitely more valuable than any an animal.

    1. Yeah. But I think that I made you do more of the work so we could use my wonderful handwriting for the labels :)