Animal Testing Myths
There are numerous myths surrounding animal testing and the unfortunate result is that people may form opinions based on uneducated 'facts.' It's important to address some of the most common myths in hopes that people can make more informed decisions regarding animal testing.
Myth: The use of animals is pointless because animals are different from people.
In reality, mammals generally share the same basic organs as humans - such as a heart, lungs and liver. The functions are similar and overall, the similarities are more prominent than the differences. In some cases, the differences can even offer helpful information. An observation of mice could alert us to the same potential observation in humans, which may encourage the development of a valuable treatment. In addition, there are numerous medications used in veterinary medicine that are also used in humans. One example would be the drug Reconcile, which is an antidepressant developed for dogs. Prior to its approval, veterinarians prescribed the basic drug form approved for human use. The only difference with Reconcile is that it is flavoured to appease a dog's palate.
Myth: Laboratory animals experience horrific distress and suffering.
The vast majority of animal testing utilizes mild experiments that tend to comprise one injection, a blood sample or some alteration in the animal's diet. In cases where an animal may suffer from a high level of pain, anaesthetics or pain relievers are used. Sadly, the isolated cases where a researcher has behaved poorly and has failed to follow regulations and guidelines have received enormous media coverage, which falsely gives the impression that all researchers behave in this manner.
Myth: Side effects and distress experienced by animals are undetectable, which makes animal testing unreliable.
There is a mistaken belief that medications that are removed from the market due to side effects are done so because animal testing failed to identify the effects, thereby rendering the testing useless. The fact is that clinical trials entail final testing on humans. Some side effects are so rarely experienced - although they are serious enough to warrant withdrawal - that this final stage of the clinical trials process misses the detection of the side effect.
Myth: Researchers aren't concerned about animals or are indifferent to their care.
There is a mistaken idea that researchers do not care about the health, safety and care of animals but this is not the case. As with many people, researchers enjoy animals and do care about animal health and well-being. These same researchers who perform animal testing often have pets of their own and have no desire to see animals suffering or harmed. This approach relates to the focus on using alternative methods whenever possible.
Myth: The existence of alternative methods means that animals are unnecessary for testing.
Simply because researchers have established guidelines on using alternative methods does not imply that animal testing is unnecessary. The use of alternative methods exists to ensure that animal testing is only used if no other means are available. It also ensures that animal safety and well-being are considered at all times. Unfortunately, there is no alternative to an entire organism. Although cell cultures and similar methods are still useful, they do not demonstrate the same scientific importance and use as a whole organism provides.
Myth: The majority of animal testing is conducted for cosmetics development.
The truth is that very little animal testing is performed for cosmetics development relative to biomedical research and other uses for animal testing. In fact, approximately one tenth of a percent of all animal testing is for cosmetics purposes in the United Kingdom. It's also important to note that these 'cosmetics' include sunscreens and cleaning products for contact lenses, which are considered somewhat medically based. Those products we tend to assume constitute cosmetics such as lipstick and mascara are no longer tested on animals.
Unfortunately, there are many myths regarding animal testing and it is more likely than not that they will continue as new ones are spawned. Try to educate yourself on the facts and ensure that decisions are based on accurate information. People can sometimes manipulate the facts to support their cause, but this only does a disservice to the public and those who are involved in animal testing. Ultimately, an individual is entitled to choose to support or condemn animal testing but hopefully, that choice will be based on facts rather than myths.