Research Animals

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Date: 2010
From: Animal Rights(2009 ed.)
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
Series: Information Plus Reference Series
Document Type: Topic overview
Length: 10,483 words
Content Level: (Level 4)
Lexile Measure: 1210L

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Research animals are animals that humans use solely for scientific research; medical and veterinary investigations and training; in the testing of drugs, cosmetics, and other consumer products; and in educational programs. It is not known how many animals are used in research, testing, and medical and veterinary training programs in the United States, but the number is certainly in the millions. Sharon Oosthoek notes in "How the 'Mouse Man' Changed Medical Research" (New Scientist), no. 2692, January 28, 2009) that approximately 25 million mice are used in the world's research laboratories annually. Some estimates put this figure much higher. The Scientific American (August 4, 2004) estimates that as many as 100 million animals per year (mostly mice and rats) may be used in the United States. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (2009, http://www.stopanimaltests.com/vivisectionactionpack.asp) puts this number at around 115 million. Millions more research animals may be kept as classroom pets or teaching aids to educate children in schools.

Living animals used as specimens to test drugs and products, practice medical and surgical procedures, and investigate diseases and bodily systems are called laboratory animals. Laboratory animals often die from these procedures or are euthanized by researchers after they are no longer needed. The plight of laboratory animals has been a major issue for animal rights advocates since the 1970s.

Increasingly, the use of dead animals to teach dissection skills to children is coming under fire. Dissection is a procedure in which an organism is cut apart for scientific examination. If the organism is alive at the time, the procedure is called vivisection. However, the term vivisection has come to be used to refer to all invasive research and testing performed on live animals for scientific purposes.

Live animals are used in modern medical research because some of their bodily systems mimic those of humans. This makes them useful test subjects for drugs, vaccines, and other products intended for humans. They are also useful training tools for doctors, surgeons, and veterinarians, who need to practice medical procedures, such as inserting a catheter, administering anesthesia, or performing operations.

People who support the use of animals in research are passionate in their belief that the benefits to people far outweigh the consequences to animals. They point out the important medical and veterinary advances that have resulted. On the contrary, animal rights activists uniformly condemn this use. The most extreme activists have broken into laboratories, released animals, and physically harassed the researchers involved. Animal welfarists work to minimize the pain these animals experience during testing and to improve their living conditions.

The Gallup Organization includes a question about laboratory animals in the morality poll it conducts each year. (See Table 5.1: Click here for the media record of Public opinion on the morality of medical testing on animals, 2001-08 .) The latest poll conducted in May 2008 showed that 56% of respondents found "medical testing on animals" to be morally acceptable, whereas 38% found it morally wrong. Another 3% said the morality depends on the situation. These numbers show significant change from those obtained in 2001, when 65% stated testing on animals was morally acceptable and only 26% stated it was morally wrong. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents opposed banning all medical research on laboratory animals, whereas 35% of respondents supported a ban. (See Figure 5.1: Click here for the media record of Public support for banning all medical research on laboratory animals, May 2008 .) Gallup pollsters also found that 59% of respondents opposed banning all product testing on laboratory animals. (See Figure 5.2: Click here for the media record of Public support for banning all product testing on laboratory animals, May 2008 .) Thirty-nine percent supported such a ban.

Science and Engineering Indicators is a report published by the National Science Foundation (NSF) every two years. Each report includes polls and questionnaires conducted on public understanding and attitudes about various topics related to science and engineering. The 2002 report (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind02/pdfstart.htm) is the most recent of the reports to include public opinion polls on the use of animals in scientific research. NSF pollsters assessed public opinion on the use of mice versus the use of dogs and chimpanzees in medical research that causes pain and injury to the animals but produces new information on human health problems. The results indicate that in 2001, 68% of respondents approved of the use of mice in such a manner, whereas only 44% approved of the use of dogs and chimpanzees. This finding is not surprising, as people typically have more charitable feelings toward dogs and chimpanzees than they do toward mice.

Many people react emotionally to the thought of animals in distress. Scientists and researchers—those who work with the animals directly—use clinical terms to describe their work. They refer to laboratory animals as animal models and speak of them as specimens. Antivivisection groups gain support for their views by publicizing the gruesome details of experiments. Photographs of restrained animals with bolts through their brains or sores on their bodies can disturb the public, regardless of how scientifically justified the experiments may be.

History

Vivisection on animals and humans dates back to at least the ancient Greeks and Romans. By the Middle Ages moral and religious concerns prohibited most vivisection on humans. There was little debate about the morality of using animals for these purposes. The seventeenth-century French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) and his followers believed that animals were unthinking and unfeeling machines. In the next century the British philosopher and political scientist Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) summarized his very different thoughts on the subject in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789): "The question is not, Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?" (See Figure 5.3: Click here for the media record of Jeremy Bentham .)

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries philosophers debated the moral issues involved in animal vivisection. According to historians, the poor and working-class people of the time opposed animal vivisection because they associated it with the dissection of human corpses. The unclaimed bodies of poor people and criminals were often turned over to medical colleges for dissection. There were also well-publicized cases of grave robbing and body snatching to supply researchers with human corpses. These events horrified the common people and made them suspicious of scientists and doctors engaged in medical research.

The modern antivivisection movement began in the nineteenth century. In Animals' Rights, Considered in Relation to Social Progress (1894), the humanitarian Henry S. Salt (1851-1939) writes that "the practice of vivisection is revolting to the human conscience, even among the ordinary members of a not over-sensitive society." This was only 76 years after the publication of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818), a story by Mary Shelley (1797-1851) about a scientist who creates a mutant human from spare parts. The anthropologist Susan Sperling states in Animal Liberators: Research and Morality (1988) her belief that the antivivisectionists of the nineteenth century and the twenty-first century share a common fear: scientific manipulation of living beings.

The nineteenth century also witnessed organized efforts from animal welfare organizations to achieve legislation against animal cruelty in the United Kingdom and the United States. The Cruelty to Animals Act was passed in Britain in 1849 and amended in 1876 to restrict the use of animals in research. In 1875 the Society for the Protection of Animals Liable to Vivisection was founded by Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904). It was later called the Victorian Street Society. In 1898 Cobbe founded the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, an organization that is still active.

Vivisection was also fought by welfarists in the United States. In 1871 Harvard University founded one of the first vivisection laboratories in the country, despite opposition from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Various antivivisection groups were founded, including the American Anti-Vivisection Society in 1883 and the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) in 1895. The new antivivisection groups tried, unsuccessfully, to outlaw the practice of vivisection. Legislation was passed during the 1890s that outlawed repetition of painful animal experiments for the purpose of teaching or demonstrating well-known and accepted facts.

First Half of the Twentieth Century

In December 1903 the American writer Mark Twain (1835-1910) published the short story "A Dog's Tale" in Harper's Magazine. The story was written to protest cruelty to animals and their use in research. It is told from the viewpoint of a dog that lives with the family of a scientist. The dog saves the family's baby from a nursery fire but later sees her own puppy blinded and killed during an experiment performed by the scientist to impress his friends. Even though some critics condemned the work as overly sentimental, animal welfarists of the time were pleased that it brought public attention to the issue of animal experimentation.

In 1906 Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act (PFDA). The original act did not require any type of testing to ensure that a product was safe or effective. This would change after some tragic events occurred. According to Susan E. Wilson-Sanders of the University of Arizona, in "Mrs. Brown's Sad Story: A History of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act" (October 1, 2008, http://www.uac.arizona.edu/VSC443/Alternmethod/Fdapap03.htm), many Americans were injured, sickened, or even killed by unsafe potions, "snake oils," and patent medicines sold by entrepreneurs during the early decades of the twentieth century. Some of these products contained incredibly toxic substances, such as dinitrophenol, a compound used to make explosives.

During the 1920s and 1930s hair dyes containing an aniline compound called paraphenylenediamine became popular. Even though it was well known that aniline compounds were harmful to the eyes, a cosmetics company still chose to introduce a brand of mascara called Lash-Lure that contained these chemicals. Doctors reported thousands of eye injuries caused by the product, and even a few deaths after patients suffered serious infections. Many states banned the use of aniline dyes in personal-care products. Wilson-Sanders reports that Lash-Lure contained 25 to 30 times more aniline than the amount commonly used in hair dyes.

Wilson-Sanders mentions several other popular cosmetic products of the time that caused injury, such as Anti-Mole, Berry's Freckle Ointment, Bleachodent (a teeth whitener), Dr. Dennis's Compound, Koremlu cream, and Dewsberry Hair Tonic. These products contained high concentrations of acids or other toxic chemicals. Whisker dyes marketed to men contained dangerous levels of silver or lead acetate. A popular depilatory (hair removal cream) contained rat poison.

According to Wilson-Sanders, doctors lobbied Congress throughout the 1930s to crack down on dangerous drugs and personal products sold to Americans, but they were opposed by powerful marketing groups. In 1937 nearly 100 people (mostly children) died after drinking a product called Elixir of Sulfanilamide that contained sulfa drugs dissolved in diethylene glycol (antifreeze). The public was outraged and pressured Congress to strengthen the original PFDA and include cosmetics. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act (FDCA) was passed in 1938. It contained a requirement for animal testing.

Wilson-Sanders notes that the first tests were conducted on rats and could last less than one month. The testing requirements were gradually amended to include different species and to last for longer time periods. By 1957 drug testing had to be performed on rats or dogs for up to six months. By the 1980s testing was required to last 12 to 18 months. Testing on pregnant animals was instituted in the 1960s following the thalidomide tragedy. Thalidomide is a drug that was widely prescribed in Canada and Europe during the late 1950s to treat nausea in pregnant women. More than 10,000 babies with birth defects resulted. The drug had been extensively tested on animals, but it had not been tested on pregnant animals. New guidelines for testing the effects of drugs on animal reproduction and fetus development were incorporated into the FDCA.

Second Half of the Twentieth Century

Historians note that the antivivisection movement subsided with the advent of World War I (1914-1918) and did not resurge until the 1960s. One of the driving forces behind the movement's rebirth was the story of Pepper, a Dalmatian who disappeared from her family's backyard in Pennsylvania in July 1965. The family tracked the dog to an animal dealer in New York, but he refused to return the dog. The family enlisted the help of the Animal Welfare Institute, the Pennsylvania State Police, and Representative Joseph Resnick (1924-1969; D-NY), but they were too late. Pepper had been sold to a hospital in New York City that conducted an experiment on her and euthanized her.

The story was widely publicized and led to public outrage. Bills were introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate calling for animal dealers and laboratories to be licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and be required to meet certain humane standards of care. The bills were opposed by strong lobbying groups and were in danger of failing, until a story ran in the February 4, 1966, issue of Life magazine.

"Concentration Camps for Dogs" was the story of a police raid on a dog dealer's facility in Maryland. The story included horrific photographs of abused dogs kept in filthy cages until they could be sold to research laboratories. According to the article, the dogs were to be sold at auction for $0.30 per pound. Letters flooded politicians' offices and editorials appeared in major newspapers around the country calling for federal legislation.

A few months later Congress passed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966. It called for the licensing of animal dealers and the regulation of laboratory animals. The original act applied to dogs, cats, primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits. In 1970 the act was renamed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and amended to cover several other warm-blooded animals. A year later the USDA decided to exclude rats, mice, and birds from coverage under the act, arguing that the department did not have the staff needed to regulate the huge numbers of such animals involved. It also noted that most of these small animals were used at research institutions that had other oversight protections in place to regulate their use.

The publication of Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals (1975) by the Australian philosopher Peter Singer (1946-) brought more coverage to the use of animals in scientific research. The book includes disturbing photographs and descriptions of animals being subjected to all sorts of painful procedures for questionable purposes. Singer argues that the pain and suffering inflicted on the animals is too high a moral price to pay for scientific research.

In 1976 the animal activist Henry Spira (1927-1998) led a campaign protesting the American Museum of Natural History's research on the effects of castration and mutilation on cats' sexual behavior. The campaign was hailed as a success by activists after the museum halted the research a year later. Spira then turned his attention to the testing of cosmetics on animals, particularly the Draize eye test, in which chemicals are put into the eyes of restrained animals.

Spira formed a coalition of animal welfare and antivivisection groups to educate the public about animal testing of cosmetics. In full-page advertisements in major newspapers, Spira accused major cosmetics companies of being cruel to animals. Public response was immediate. Several companies, including Revlon and Avon, announced their intention to cease animal testing and find new alternatives. In 1981 the Cosmetics, Toiletries, and Fragrance Association funded the founding of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) at Johns Hopkins University. By the end of the 1980s Revlon and Avon had ceased animal testing.

In 1985 Congress amended the AWA to require that researchers minimize animal pain and distress whenever possible through the use of anesthesia, analgesics (painkillers), and humane euthanasia. New requirements were added regarding the physical and psychological well-being of dogs and primates used in research work. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s animal welfare groups petitioned and sued the USDA to add mice, rats, and birds to the animals covered under the AWA but were unsuccessful. In 1990 AWA coverage was extended to horses and other farm animals.

Scientists engaged in animal research watched with concern as animal welfare and antivivisection groups launched aggressive publicity campaigns against them. In 1979 the National Association for Biomedical Research (2009, http://www.nabr.org/AboutNABR/tabid/373/Default.aspx) was founded with the mission of "advocating for sound public policy that recognizes the vital role that animals play in biomedical research." In 1981 the Foundation for Biomedical Research and the Michigan Society for Medical Research (MISMR) were founded with similar goals. These organizations work to counter claims by animal rights activists that animal research and testing are cruel practices with little to no scientific value.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Silver Spring Monkey Case.

In 1981 a little-known organization called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) gained national prominence through an exposé on paralysis experiments that were being conducted on monkeys at the Institute of Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, Maryland. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by the psychologist Edward Taub (1931-). It involved depriving monkeys of sensory input into their spinal cords to give them denervated arms, or arms in which the nerves were not active. The monkeys gnawed and licked their arms, producing wounds. Taub hired Alex Pacheco (1958-) to work as a laboratory assistant. He was not aware that Pacheco had cofounded PETA the year before. Pacheco secretly photographed the monkeys, then reported the lab to authorities. A subsequent raid led to the filing of animal cruelty charges against Taub.

The incident came to be known as the Silver Spring Monkey Case. Even though the charges against Taub were eventually dropped, the publicity made PETA famous. The monkeys were confiscated, and Congress forced the NIH to cease the research. This was viewed as a major triumph by people involved in antivivisection and the growing animal rights movement.

Animal Enterprise Protection Act.

During the late 1970s and 1980s animal research institutions and animal industries experienced an increasing number of violent acts committed by animal rights extremists. Activists broke into laboratories and fur farms to "liberate" animals and damage buildings and equipment. Some of these activists claimed to be part of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), an emerging movement that embraced radical and illegal actions on behalf of animals. The rise of the ALF is described in the 1993 report Report to Congress on the Extent and Effects of Domestic and International Terrorism on Animal Enterprises (http://www.furcommission.com/resource/perspect2.htm) by the U.S. Department of Justice. The report notes that even though PETA disavowed taking part in violent activities, the group publicized them on its Web site and praised the activists for their actions on behalf of animals.

Rising concern among research scientists and animal industries about animal activist violence led to passage in 1992 of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. The law prohibits "causing physical disruption to the functioning of an animal enterprise." Three types of animal enterprises are defined:

  • Commercial or academic enterprises using animals to produce food or fiber or for agriculture, research, or testing
  • Zoos, aquariums, circuses, rodeos, and other legal sporting events
  • Fairs and similar events designed to advance agricultural arts and sciences

Offenses that can be charged under the act include using the mail to cause physical disruption at animal enterprises and stealing, damaging, or causing the loss of property used by animal enterprises. Property includes animals and records.

Huntingdon Life Sciences Becomes a Target.

PETA continued to use infiltration to secretly obtain photographs and videotapes, which were then publicized to make the public aware of the realities of animal research. In 1996 and 1997 the group conducted an eight-month undercover investigation at a Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) facility in New Jersey. The HLS is a major target of antivivisection groups because it is one of the largest contract companies conducting animal research. A PETA member began working at the HLS and secretly collected documents, photographs, and videotapes that PETA used to file a formal complaint against the HLS with the USDA. PETA also released some of the material to the media.

The HLS countersued PETA, claiming that the materials were obtained by illegal means and that PETA had violated the Economic Espionage Act and the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. In December 1997 a mutual settlement was reached in which PETA agreed to turn over all records taken from the HLS and cease trying to infiltrate HLS property for five years, and the HLS agreed to drop its lawsuit against PETA.

In 1999 Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), a new animal rights group, began using radical and violent means against HLS headquarters in the United Kingdom. Cars were firebombed and company executives were assaulted outside their homes. Several activists were arrested and jailed for violent crimes.

SHAC began targeting companies providing the HLS with services, funding, and equipment. Banks, brokerage houses, and investment companies with ties to the HLS were picketed and flooded with threatening letters, faxes, and e-mails. Employees were harassed and sometimes assaulted. Their homes were vandalized. The intimidation tactics were effective, as many companies decided to sever their business ties with the HLS. By 2002 no commercial bank in the United Kingdom would loan money to the company. According to Alan Cowell, in "Scene Shifts in Fight against British Testing Lab" (New York Times, January 22, 2002), the company's stock dropped in value from $3 per share in 1993 to $0.06 a share in 2002, even though the company was making a modest profit.

In 2002 the company moved its stock market listing to the United States. Cowell reports that the HLS was taken over "on paper" by Life Sciences Research, a company set up by the HLS and incorporated in Maryland. This arrangement allows the HLS to take advantage of U.S. privacy laws that protect the identity of certain investors. An American arm of SHAC known as SHAC USA was formed to lead an intimidation campaign against the HLS and companies that do business with it. In May 2004 SHAC USA and seven individuals associated with it were indicted in New Jersey under federal charges for violating the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, stalking, and conspiracy to commit terrorism. The case went to trial in February 2006, and the organization and six of the individuals were found guilty. They were sentenced to various prison terms ranging up to six years. SHAC USA officially ceased to exist; however, animal activists developed a new Web site (http://www.shac7.com) that publicizes the case and seeks to raise money and moral support for the imprisoned individuals. The Web site summarizes the details of the case and continues to accuse the HLS of abusing animals. As of April 2009, two of the activists had been released from prison.

In "Animal Welfare" (2009, http://www.huntingdon.com/index.php?currentNumber=3&currentIsExpanded=0), the HLS defends its practices, stating that it is "committed to providing the highest levels of animal husbandry and welfare." It also notes that in 2003 it was accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) and is one of only a few contract research organizations in the world to be accredited. The AAALAC is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 1965 by scientists and veterinarians engaged in animal research. The AAALAC (2009, http://www.aaalac.org/accreditation/benefits.cfm) notes that accreditation "demonstrates a willingness to go above and beyond the minimums required by law. It tells the public that the institution is committed to the responsible care and use of animals in science."

Mainstream antivivisection and welfarist groups condemn the violent tactics used by radical activists and instead wage public relations and political campaigns against the use of research animals.

Federal Legislation and Oversight

Facilities that use certain species of live laboratory animals for research purposes must abide by laws and policies governing their use. Even though there are a few state laws that also apply, most of the applicable legislation and oversight is provided by federal agencies. Table 5.2: Click here for the media record of Acronyms and common terms associated with laboratory animal oversight lists acronyms, laws, and regulations related to federal oversight of laboratory animal usage.

Animal Welfare Act

Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations are enforced by the Animal Care unit of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The regulations govern the housing and care of the animals and include licensing, registration, veterinary, and record-keeping requirements. Covered facilities must register with the USDA.

The AWA does not apply to cold-blooded animals, rats, mice, or birds. According to the law, these animals do not fall under the definition of animal. This condition was made permanent in May 2002 as part of new federal legislation. The AWA does cover dogs, cats, rabbits, primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, marine mammals, and "other warm-blooded animals."

Under the AWA each research facility must have an attending veterinarian who is required to provide adequate veterinary care to the facility's animals. The law defines adequate veterinary care as "what is currently the accepted professional practice or treatment for that particular circumstance or condition." Each research facility must have an institutional officer who is responsible for legally committing the facility to meet AWA requirements. This officer or the chief executive officer of the facility must appoint an institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) to assess the research facility's animal program, buildings, and procedures. The IACUC must include at least three members (a chairperson, a veterinarian, and a person not affiliated with the institute) to represent "general community interests." IACUC members have to be qualified based on their experience and expertise.

The IACUC is responsible for reviewing a research facility's animal use program and inspecting the facilities in which animals are housed and studied. These evaluations must be done at least once every six months. Written reports are required and must be made available to APHIS and to any federal agencies that provide funding to the facility. The IACUC is also responsible for investigating any complaints lodged against the facility regarding the care and use of the animals. This includes complaints from the general public. The IACUC has the power to approve or disapprove proposed animal care and use activities and to ask for modifications in these activities. It can also suspend particular animal activities if it believes they are not being conducted in accordance with its wishes.

Under the AWA proposed animal activities must meet certain criteria. Some of the major requirements include:

  • Procedures must "avoid or minimize discomfort, distress, and pain to the animals."
  • Researchers must consider alternative procedures that will not cause more than momentary or slight pain and provide reasons in cases where alternatives cannot be used.
  • Researchers must provide written assurance that the activities "do not unnecessarily duplicate previous experiments."

Any procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress require that pain-relieving drugs be administered, "unless withholding such drugs is scientifically justified." Animals cannot be administered paralyzing drugs unless they are also given anesthesia. Those that experience severe or chronic pain or distress that cannot be relieved are required to be painlessly euthanized as soon as possible, unless researchers seek and receive an exemption from the IACUC.

APHIS publishes an annual report on its animal welfare activities. The most recent report as of mid-2009, Animal Care Annual Report of Activities: Fiscal Year 2007 (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_welfare/content/printable_version/2007_AC_Report.pdf), was published in September 2008 and includes data through fiscal year (FY) 2007. According to APHIS, in FY 2007 there were 1,088 registered research facilities in the United States. (See Table 5.3: Click here for the media record of Research facilities registered under the Animal Welfare Act, fiscal years 2002-07 .) This number has varied little since FY 2002, when 1,087 research facilities were registered with the USDA. In "Electronic Freedom of Information Act Reports" (January 9, 2009, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/efoia/index.shtml), APHIS maintains lists of federal and nonfederal research institutions and Veteran's Administration hospitals required to comply with AWA regulations and standards. The lists include the names and addresses of the facilities, which are mostly colleges and universities, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and biotechnology laboratories.

All research facilities are required to comply with AWA regulations and standards. Federal facilities are not required to register with the USDA and are not subject to USDA inspections, though they are required to comply with USDA standards for animal care established under the AWA and must submit annual reports to the USDA regarding their use of regulated laboratory animals. The AWA requires that nonfederal research facilities receive at least one inspection per year to determine compliance with the law.

All registered research facilities must submit annual reports to the USDA listing the number and species of animals used in research, testing, and experimentation and indicating whether pain-relieving drugs were administered. If the drugs were not administered for procedures that caused pain or distress, the report must explain why their use would have interfered with the research or experiment.

Health Research Extension Act

In 1985 the Health Research Extension Act (HREA) was passed. This act requires that facilities conducting animal research, training, and testing activities that receive funding from the Public Health Service (PHS) follow an animal welfare policy called the Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHSP). The PHS includes government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the NIH. The NIH is the main public source of funding for biomedical research in the United States.

The animal research facilities that fall under the HREA must follow the recommendations given in the PHS's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (1996) regarding housing, cleanliness, husbandry, veterinary care, and use of measures to alleviate pain and distress. The standards are similar to those found in the AWA, but the HREA applies to all vertebrates, including mice, rats, and birds.

The HREA requires facilities to file annual reports that describe their animal care and use programs and how they comply with the AWA and the PHSP. The PHSP is administered by the NIH Office for Protection from Research Risks. Research facilities that receive funding from the NIH must have at least five people on their IACUC. The NIH also reviews planned animal studies to ensure that animal models are appropriate and that no more animals than necessary are used.

In 2008 the NIH's Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR; November 17, 2008, http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/projectview.aspx?key=48959) began an update of Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals to reflect new technologies and scientific literature on laboratory animal care. The updated edition will be published in January 2010.

Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

Another major piece of federal legislation that affects laboratory animals is the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 (FDCA), which has been amended several times. The FDCA defines drugs as:

  • Articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals; and
  • Articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals

Drugs must receive FDA approval before they can be sold in the United States. Even though the FDA does not specify the tests that must be done, the agency does not allow human testing to occur if animal safety testing is considered inadequate or incomplete.

Cosmetics are defined as articles other than soap that are applied to the human body for "cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance." Soaps are specifically excluded from the regulatory definition of cosmetics and so do not fall under the FDCA.

Cosmetic products and their ingredients (except for color additives) are not subject to premarket FDA approval. However, it is illegal to distribute cosmetics that contain substances that could harm consumers under normal use. Even though animal testing is not required by the law, it is recommended by the FDA to ensure product safety. Cosmetic products that are not adequately tested for safety must have a warning statement on their front label reading "WARNING—The safety of this product has not been determined."

Some consumer products are considered both a drug and a cosmetic under the law, such as dandruff shampoos, fluoride-containing toothpastes, combination antiperspirants/deodorants, and makeup products or moisturizers that contain sunscreens. These products are subject to provisions of the laws that apply to both drugs and cosmetics.

Other Federal Legislation

The Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act was passed in 1960. The Consumer Product Safety Commission administers the law as it applies to household products. This law affects animals because household products (such as cleaners) that contain hazardous chemicals must warn consumers about their potential hazards. A hazardous substance is defined as one that is toxic, corrosive, flammable, or combustible; that is extremely irritating or sensitizing; or that generates pressure through heat, decomposition, or other means. Toxicity tests are required to determine these conditions.

Other laws governing chemicals that must be tested for toxicity include the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act of 1947 and the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. Both of these laws are administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Animals are commonly used to test the products regulated by all of this legislation.

In 2000 the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act was passed, calling for the creation of a national sanctuary system for chimpanzees no longer needed in research programs conducted or supported by federal agencies. In 2002 the NIH awarded a contract to Chimp Haven Inc. to establish and operate a sanctuary under the CHIMP Act in Shreveport, Louisiana. Construction began in 2003, and the facility was dedicated in 2004. Most chimpanzees involved in federal research programs were bred or captured from the wild to be used in hepatitis and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) research. The HSUS estimates in "Chimps Deserve Better" (February 9, 2009, http://www.hsus.org/animals_in_research/chimps_deserve_better/) that approximately 1,000 chimpanzees were being held at 10 research facilities around the country in 2009. Table 5.4: Click here for the media record of North American chimp laboratories and self-described sanctuaries, 2009 lists the research facilities and the self-described chimp sanctuaries known to the HSUS.

The CHIMP Act is extremely controversial because it allows the animals to be recalled for research purposes if there is a "public health need." Because the act does not call for permanent retirement of chimpanzees, many animal activist groups have called for its repeal.

Laboratory Animals and Their Uses

Determining the number of animals used for research in the United States is extremely difficult, because rats, mice, birds, and cold-blooded animals are not regulated by the AWA and do not have to be counted. It is widely agreed that rats and mice make up a huge majority of research animals.

There were just over 1 million AWA-registered animals used in live research during FY 2007. (See Table 5.5: Click here for the media record of Animals used at USDA-registered research facilities, fiscal year 2007 .) California laboratories used the most regulated animals (124,155), followed by New York (92,107), Pennsylvania (72,713), Massachusetts (68,136), Iowa (62,792), and Texas (55,623). Together, these six states accounted for 46% of all regulated research animals.

In Animal Care Annual Report of Activities, APHIS provides a breakdown of regulated research animals by species in FY 2007. Rabbits made up the largest number (23%, or 236,511), followed by guinea pigs (20%, or 207,257), hamsters (17%, or 172,498), farm animals (11%, or 109,961), dogs (7%, or 72,037), primates (7%, or 69,990), and cats (2%, or 22,687). (See Figure 5.4: Click here for the media record of Animals used in research, by species, fiscal year 2007 .) In addition, 13% (136,509) were miscellaneous animals. Overall, rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters accounted for 60% of the total, whereas dogs, cats, and nonhuman primates constituted 16% of all regulated animals. These latter species are the ones that arouse the most public concern in the research animal debate.

The total number of regulated research animals used annually between FYs 1973 and 2007 is shown in Table 5.6: Click here for the media record of Number of animals used in research, by species, fiscal years 1973-2007 and Figure 5.5: Click here for the media record of Number of animals used in research, fiscal years 1973-2007 . The number ranged between approximately 1.5 million and 2.2 million per year from FY 1973 to FY 1994 and then began to decline. It reached a low of 1,012,713 animals in FY 2006.

Biomedical Research

The vast majority of research animals are used in biomedical research. Biomedicine is a medical discipline based on principles of the natural sciences, particularly biology and biochemistry.

The NIH maintains the Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP; http://www.crisp.cit.nih.gov/), which is a database of biomedical research projects that have received funding from federal agencies dating back to 1972. The CRISP database can be searched to find information about the use of animals in federally funded research projects at universities, hospitals, and other research institutions. Information supplied about each project includes the name of the principal investigator, the name and address of the research institution, the starting and ending dates of the project, the federal agency providing funding, and a description of the project.

Drug Testing.

According to the FDA, in "The Beginnings: Laboratory and Animal Studies" (January 30, 2006, http://www.fda.gov/fdac/special/testtubetopatient/studies.html), drug companies typically test new drugs on at least two different animal species to see if they are affected differently. Animal testing is performed to determine specific characteristics, such as:

  • How much of the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream
  • Any toxic side effects
  • Appropriate dosage levels
  • How the drug is metabolized (broken down) by the body
  • How quickly the drug is excreted from the body

The results from animal tests tell researchers if and how new drugs should then be tested on humans.

Product Testing

Millions of research animals are used to test products intended for industrial and consumer markets in the United States. Product safety testing exposes animals to chemicals to determine factors such as eye and skin irritancy. Common product safety tests conducted with animals include:

  • Acute toxicity tests determine the immediate effects of chemical exposure. The LD-50 test is an example. In this test animals are exposed to chemicals through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact to determine the concentration necessary to kill 50% of the test group within a specific time period.
  • Skin and eye irritancy tests determine the effects on skin and eyes of chemical exposure. One example is the Draize eye test. Rabbits are commonly used because they cannot blink and wash out the chemicals.
  • Subchronic and chronic toxicity tests determine the effects of long-term chemical exposure.
  • Genetic toxicity tests determine the effects of chemical exposure on reproductive organs.
  • Birth defects tests determine the effects of chemical exposure on offspring.
  • Cancer potential tests determine the potential of chemical exposures for causing cancer.

Consumer Products.

Some companies selling consumer products, such as cosmetics and household cleaners, advertise that they do not conduct animal testing on their products or that their products are "cruelty-free." In some cases this statement may be somewhat misleading. For example, according to CAAT (September 14, 2007, http://altweb.jhsph.edu/faqs.htm#13), such claims can mean various things, including:

  • Animal testing has not been performed on the products and/or their ingredients in the previous five years.
  • Animal testing was performed on the products and/or ingredients by another company (e.g., a supplier).
  • Nonanimal testing was performed on finished products made from ingredients already known to be safe because of previous animal testing.

CAAT points out that the vast majority of cosmetic ingredients used by the industry have been tested on animals at some point in time, or are known to be safe based on decades of use. It notes that smaller cosmetics companies tend to produce final products made from purchased ingredients, rather than from ingredients developed in-house. Larger companies that develop new ingredients for cosmetics must use animal testing or viable alternatives to prove that the ingredients are safe for consumer use.

In Personal Care for People Who Care (2007), the National Anti-Vivisection Society lists hundreds of companies that produce personal care (e.g., bath products, deodorants, and antiperspirants), household (e.g., bathroom and kitchen cleaners and furniture polishes), pet care, and cosmetic products and tells whether they do or do not test their products on animals.

In addition, the book identifies companies that do not use any animal-derived ingredients in their products. Other animal rights organizations, such as PETA, maintain similar types of lists. Some provide a seal that compliant companies can use to mark their products for easy identification by shoppers.

In February 2003 the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament approved the Seventh Amendment of Council Directive 76/768/EEC (the Cosmetics Directive). In "The Cosmetics Directive's Ban on Animals in Testing" (2009, http://www.colipa.eu/the-cosmetics-directives-ban-on-animals-in-testing.html), Colipa, a trade association for the European cosmetic, toiletry, and perfumery industries, indicates that a ban on the testing of cosmetic ingredients on animals in Europe went into effect in March 2009. In addition, a ban on the sale and import of new cosmetics tested on animals using specific tests also went into effect in March 2009. A final ban on the sale and import of cosmetics tested on animals using any test will go into effect in March 2013.

Dissection

Dead animals used for dissection in schools are believed to make up a small portion of all research animals. The HSUS states in the press release "Back to School Shouldn't Mean Back to Dissection Says the HSUS" (September 23, 2004, http://www.hsus.org/press_and_publications/press_releases/back_to_school_shouldnt_mean_back_to_dissection_says_the_hsus.html) that an estimated 6 million animals—mostly frogs, pig fetuses, and cats—are dissected by U.S. schoolchildren each year. Dissection has been considered a staple of biology classes since the 1960s, when the NSF urged schools to implement a more hands-on science curriculum.

The first legal challenge against school dissection lodged by a student occurred in California in 1987. A high school student sued her school for not allowing her to perform an alternative to dissection. California and Florida became the first states to allow students to opt out of dissection in the mid- to late 1980s. In "Dissection Laws" (February 4, 2009, http://www.hsus.org/animals_in_research/animals_in_education/dissection_laws.html), the HSUS notes that other states have since followed suit with choice-in-dissection laws or policies: Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.

By the early twenty-first century many students were expressing ethical and moral concerns about the practice of dissection in the classroom. Some school districts now offer students alternatives, such as computer models. The National Science Teachers Association defends dissection as a valuable learning tool for children, but urges teachers to be flexible in offering alternatives.

Surgical/Medical Training and Behavior Research

It is estimated that the use of laboratory animals for surgical/medical training and behavior research makes up only a small part of the number of research animals used. However, this category is one that is particularly criticized by antivivisection groups. In the past, surgeons training to operate on humans and animals almost always practiced on live animals. Many of these surgeries are terminal surgeries, meaning that the animals are not allowed to regain consciousness. The animals are euthanized while they are under the effects of anesthesia.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) reports in "Alternatives to Animal Labs in Medical Schools" (January 30, 2007, http://www.pcrm.org/resch/anexp/alertliveanimallabs.html) that more than 90% of all U.S. medical schools have eliminated live animal labs to train medical students. Many veterinary schools are limiting the number of terminal surgeries required of their students. Some veterinary schools conduct dissection labs. According to the PCRM, many schools now use animal cadavers donated by people whose pets or livestock have died of natural causes or have been humanely euthanized because of illness or injury.

Sources of Research Animals

Research animals are obtained by laboratories from animal breeders and brokers licensed by the USDA. These licenses fall into two types:

  • Class A—breeders who sell animals that they have bred and raised on their own premises and who buy animals only to replenish their breeding stock
  • Class B—breeders, dealers, brokers, and operators of auction sales that purchase and/or resell live or dead animals, often obtained from city or county animal shelters

Breeders who sell fewer than 25 dogs and/or cats per year that were born and raised on their own premises, for research, teaching, or testing purposes, are exempt.

APHIS reports in "Electronic Freedom of Information Act Reports" that in January 2009 there were 4,228 Class A breeders and 1,067 Class B breeders/dealers/brokers in the United States. Note that not all these licensees sell animals to research laboratories. Some sell animals to pet stores and other animal enterprises.

Lab animal suppliers advertise their animals in the Lab Animal Buyer's Guide (http://guide.labanimal.com/guide/index.html/). It lists more than 500 companies and over 800 products and services. Animals available include frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, cats, dogs, ferrets, chickens, ducks, cattle, goats, sheep, swine, rabbits, nonhuman primates (monkeys, chimpanzees, etc.), birds, fish, opossums, woodchucks, exotic animals, invertebrates, and a wide assortment of rodents.

Purpose-Bred Animals

The vast majority of laboratory research animals are purpose-bred, meaning that they are born and raised under controlled conditions and may be genetically manipulated. Purpose-breeding of laboratory animals is becoming more and more common as researchers demand animals with particular genetic makeups. For example, researchers investigating narcolepsy use dogs bred to be born with the condition. Charles River Laboratories in Wilmington, Massachusetts, is a leading breeder and supplier of purpose-bred animals.

Random-Source Animals

Live animals for research can also be purchased from random sources. For example, dogs and cats obtained from animal shelters are considered random-source animals. Researchers acquire these animals from dealers with USDA Class B licenses or directly from shelters. Class B dealers can acquire random-source dogs and cats for resale, but only from the following sources:

  • Other USDA licensed dealers
  • State-, county-, or city-owned and operated animal pounds or shelters
  • Humane groups and contract pounds organized as legal entities under the laws of their state
  • People who have bred and raised the animals on their own premises

Class B dealers are prohibited from obtaining dogs and cats from private individuals who did not breed and raise the animal on their own premises.

The rules that Class B dealers must follow when acquiring animals are primarily intended to prevent them from selling pets to research facilities. USDA regulations also require Class B dealers to hold live dogs and cats for specific time periods before reselling them, and the dealers have to keep records, including physical information about each animal (age, color, sex, species, and breed) and the names and addresses of the seller and buyer of each animal. (See Table 5.7: Click here for the media record of Holding periods required for dogs and cats held by USDA-licensed "B" dealers .) This gives pet owners a chance to track down lost pets that were sold to Class B dealers by animal shelters. Random-source dealers are listed in the Lab Animal Buyer's Guide. Some animal protection groups also maintain lists of Class B dealers they believe sell random-source dogs and cats to laboratories.

Random-source animals are used in research where genetic diversity is important. According to the MISMR, in "The Use of Pound Animals in Biomedical Research" (2009, http://www.mismr.org/educational/pound.html), random-source animals are primarily used in biomedical research on cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, lung disorders, orthopedics, birth defects, hearing loss, and blindness. Dogs are the subject of choice for heart and kidney disease research. Cats are frequently used in research devoted to the central nervous system, strokes, and disorders of the brain, eyes, and ears. The MISMR (2009, http://www.mismr.org/about/) notes that use of these animals in research benefits not only human medicine but also veterinary medicine.

Random-source dogs and cats are far less expensive than those that are purpose-bred. The MISMR reports in "Use of Pound Animals in Biomedical Research" that in 2006 the cost of a shelter dog or cat was $60 to $200, compared to $422 to $580 for a purpose-bred one. It also claims that less than 2% of the 10 million animals that reside in shelters each year are used for medical research. The organization claims that these animals would be euthanized in the shelters anyway because of the pet overpopulation problem.

Animal welfare organizations disagree, however, noting that neither municipal animal shelters nor Class B dealers all follow the regulations. They may fail to keep animals for the assigned period or do not keep detailed records of the animals they sell. Despite regulations of the industry, lost family pets may become the subjects of experiments when they are not held for the entire waiting period. In addition, there has been much controversy over Class B dealers, some of whom have been known to steal pets from homes and yards. Welfarists and animal rights activists often criticize the NIH for funding research projects that use shelter dogs and cats. The NIH leaves source decisions to individual research institutions. Even though some people are pushing for legislation to outlaw the use of shelter animals in medical research, the MISMR argues that this would drive up the cost of research and the costs to local communities that must house and euthanize unwanted animals. Those involved in the animal welfare and rights movement respond with evidence that more and more animal shelters are adopting a "no-kill" policy—meaning they will euthanize only in cases of severe illness or temperament problems but not because of overpopulation—so shelter animals will not necessarily be euthanized and may instead be adopted.

Class B Dealer Busted by the USDA.

In August 2003 federal authorities raided Martin Creek Kennels in Williford, Arkansas, and confiscated more than 100 dogs and one cat. The facility had a USDA Class B license to purchase and resell animals. The raid resulted from an undercover videotape obtained by the animal protection group Last Chance for Animals. The videotape documented many cases of abuse and neglect at the facility and several incidences of dogs being shot to death and thrown into mass graves. Brenda Shoss reports in "Pet Theft Thugs: They're Real. They're Nearby" (March 2005, http://www.animalsvoice.com/edits/editorial/features/compani/shoss_pet_thefts.html) that the kennel purchased stolen pets from bunchers (people who steal pets, pick up strays, and take in dogs and cats given away for free and sell them to Class B dealers). The kennel bought stolen pets for $5 to $30 per animal and sold them using falsified paperwork to research laboratories for $150 to $700 per dog and $50 to $200 per cat.

Shoss notes that the kennel had been in business for 16 years, and during that time it sold thousands of animals to research laboratories. In February 2005 C. C. Baird, the owner of the kennel, and his family were fined $262,700 by the USDA and had their Class B licenses revoked permanently. In 2006 HBO produced a documentary using footage from the Last Chance for Animals videotape called Dealing Dogs. The case also highlighted legislation proposed by the U.S. senator Daniel Akaka (1924-; D-HI), beginning in 1999, called the Pet Safety and Protection Act that would amend the Animal Welfare Act to make it illegal for research facilities to purchase dogs and cats from Class B dealers. The bill (also known as "Buck's Bill" for one of the dogs rescued from the Martin Creek Kennels who later died due to conditions at the kennel) was supported in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Michael Doyle (1953-; D-PA), and Steve Israel (1958-; D-NY) and approved in the House and Senate Farm Bills in 2007, but it was later removed from the 2008 version of the Farm Bill. It is expected that the bill will be reintroduced to the 111th Congress in 2009.

Because of cases such as this, those in the animal rights and welfare community, as well as veterinarians, frequently warn against placing "free to good home" advertisements, fearing that the animals offered will end up in the hands of bunchers or Class B dealers.

Reduction, Refinement, and Replacement

In 1959 William Russell (1925-2006) and Rex Burch (1926-1996) published Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, which advocated three principles for the animal research industry: reduction, refinement, and replacement. Russell and Burch called these principles "the three R's for the removal of inhumanity" in the scientific community.

The book was largely ignored until the 1980s, when public protest against the use of animals in laboratory testing became more widespread. Scientists and animal welfare organizations then embraced the three Rs as scientifically reasonable and humane goals for the industry. The three Rs, however, are guiding principles, not legal requirements.

The three Rs are defined as follows:

  • Reduction is a goal to reduce the number of animals used in research overall by reducing the number required for individual experiments or areas of study without sacrificing the statistical validity of the results. In other words, researchers are urged to use statistics to determine the minimum number of animals that can be used in an experiment and still provide valid data. Another goal is to reduce the number of procedures that require whole animals. For example, tissues from an animal used in one experiment could be used in other experiments in place of live whole animals.
  • Refinement is a goal to refine experimental and care practices to reduce animal suffering and distress and encourage well-being. Such practices include the use of painkillers during and after experiments, the use of humane euthanasia techniques, and improvements in animals' living environments.
  • Replacement is a goal to replace live laboratory animals with suitable alternatives (e.g., computer simulations) and to replace higher animal species with lower species.

Search for Alternatives to Animal Tests

In 1993 the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act was passed, requiring the formation of an agency to oversee validation of alternatives to toxicological animal testing. The result was the Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) and the National Toxicology Program Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM).

The ICCVAM is responsible for establishing validation criteria and for encouraging government agencies that regulate toxicity testing to accept validated methods. The NICEATM facilitates information sharing among all the parties involved.

Table 5.8: Click here for the media record of Summary of alternative test methods evaluated by ICCVAM as of November 2008 lists the alternative test methods that have been submitted to the ICCVAM for review and evaluation as of November 2008. Three of the tests are considered particularly promising: the local lymph node assay (LLNA), Corrositex, and in vitro pyrogenicity. The LLNA is a mouse-based test for determining if new chemicals cause allergic contact dermatitis (skin reactions). The traditional test for this condition used guinea pigs. The LLNA is reported to use fewer animals and cause much less pain and distress than the traditional test. It is also much faster. According to the ICCVAM, in 1999 the LLNA was accepted by regulatory agencies as an alternative to guinea pig testing for contact dermatitis. The use of LLNA for other testing applications is under review.

Corrositex is an in vitro (outside a living organism) test in which synthetic skin is used to test chemical irritancy. In vitro tests are commonly conducted in test tubes. The traditional test for skin irritancy relied on rabbits and could take several weeks. The new one takes just a few minutes or hours. Corrositex was accepted by U.S. agencies in 2000. Other in vitro skin corrosion tests could be used to satisfy other types of corrosivity testing required by various agencies. The new tests would replace the current testing protocol in which corrosive substances are placed on the skin of living animals (usually rabbits) for specific lengths of time. The extent of tissue damage in the animals is assessed after the exposure time to determine the corrosivity of the chemicals.

Pyrogenicity is the ability to cause fever or inflammation. Drugs intended for human use are tested for pyrogenicity, typically in rabbits. In vitro pyrogenicity tests are conducted on human cells in test tubes. In "In Vitro Pyrogen Test Methods" (April 21, 2009, http://iccvam.niehs.nih.gov/methods/pyrogen/pyrogen.htm), the ICCVAM recommends the new test methods as an alternative to rabbit testing for certain types of drugs.

Pain and Distress

One of the goals of refinement is to relieve animal pain and distress. APHIS tracks the occurrence of pain and distress in regulated animals based on reports by research institutions. In FY 2007, 54% of the regulated animals experienced no pain or distress, 38% experienced pain or distress but were administered drugs for relief, and 8% suffered pain and distress but were not given drugs for relief. (See Figure 5.6: Click here for the media record of Pain and/or distress circumstances for animals used in research, fiscal year 2007 .) Hamsters and guinea pigs were the species most involved in experiments in which pain and distress were not relieved. (See Table 5.9: Click here for the media record of Animals that suffered pain and were not administered drugs at USDA-registered research facilities, fiscal year 2007 .) Nearly 62,000 of them fell into this category during FY 2007. In addition, just over 3,500 dogs, cats, and primates also suffered pain and distress that was not relieved.

Animal welfare groups express doubts about the validity of APHIS pain and distress numbers, saying that these numbers are greatly underreported by research institutions. In 1998 the HSUS launched a Pain and Distress Initiative to focus attention on issues involved in assessing and relieving pain in laboratory animals. The HSUS publishes the quarterly newsletter Pain and Distress Report to publicize these issues. The goal of the initiative is to eliminate pain and distress in research animals by 2020.

The HSUS (June 2008, http://www.hsus.org/animals_in_research/pain_distress/pain_distress_campaign/) acknowledges that animal rights advocates want to eliminate animal testing, not reform it. It states, "The HSUS would like to see the day when animals are no longer used in harmful research; however, we believe the most urgent public priority is eliminating pain and distress among laboratory animals."

Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering is the scientific manipulation of genetic material. Animals have been the subject of genetic engineering research and experiments for several decades. Transgenic animals are animals that carry a foreign gene that has been deliberately inserted through genetic engineering. They are widely used in biomedical research and pharmaceutical development. Most of these animals are farm animals. Raising these transgenic animals for the cultivation of pharmaceutical products is known as pharming. For example, scientists have pharmed transgenic sheep and goats that produce foreign proteins in their milk. Production of these proteins could have enormous medical and industrial benefits for humans. As of April 2009, pharmed substances were still in the development stage and had not yet been commercialized.

Another growing area of genetic engineering is xenotransplantation. The term xeno comes from the Greek word xenos, meaning "foreign" or "strange." In xenotransplantation organs from animals are transplanted into humans. Research continues on the genetic engineering of pigs so that they can grow organs that will not be rejected by human bodies. Scientists believe that harvesting organs from transgenic pigs could one day solve the human organ shortage that at present exists, saving millions of human lives. The technology is almost to the point of making this possible. Some people consider this to be medical progress, whereas others see it as another injustice perpetrated against animals for the sake of humans, noting that there would not be an organ shortage if more people were willing to become organ donors.

Cloning is a form of genetic manipulation in which a later-born genetic twin can be produced. In July 1996 the first mammal cloned from adult cells was born, a product of research at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland. Dolly was cloned from an udder cell taken from a six-year-old sheep. She was a fairly healthy clone and produced six lambs of her own. Before she was euthanized by lethal injection on February 14, 2003, Dolly had been suffering from lung cancer and arthritis. An autopsy (postmortem examination) of Dolly revealed that, other than her cancer and arthritis, she was anatomically like other sheep. (See Figure 5.7: Click here for the media record of Dolly, the first cloned mammal .) Between 1996 and 2009 other animals were cloned, including sheep, mice, cows, a gaur (an endangered Asian ox), goats, pigs, rabbits, dogs, and cats. Not all the animals have survived, and some have been born with compromised immunity and genetic disorders. Cloning is still new technology, and the success rate is low.

A Gallup poll conducted in May 2008 found that 33% of those asked believed that cloning of animals was morally acceptable. (See Table 5.10: Click here for the media record of Public opinion on the morality of cloning animals, 2001-08 .) Another 61% felt that animal cloning was morally wrong. These values have changed little since the question was first included in a Gallup poll in 2001. The Gallup Organization reports in Cloning (2007, http://www.gallup.com/poll/6028/Cloning.aspx) that in 2002, 38% of respondents favored the cloning of endangered species to keep them from becoming extinct. Only 15% favored the cloning of pets. Therefore, public support does not seem to be fully behind animal cloning, even though the practice proceeds in the laboratory.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|EJ3020780105