Animal Testing

Alongside with the current popularity of dumping ice on one another’s heads, there have been all manner of criticisms of both the practice and the charities involved.

I’m not going to talk about the ice.

One of the more strident criticisms of the ALS Association – as highlighted by noted biologist Pamela Anderson out of Baywatch – is that they utilise Animal Experimentation in their research.

Yes, yes they do. Of course they do.

Because that’s how you research treatments that will eventually be used on humans.

Virtually every medical achievement in the past century [has been] reliant on the use of animals in some way
– The Royal Society, 2004

(and animal models are accurate; let’s just put that one to bed right now – if your opening gambit is “but humans and mice are completely different so what’s the point in testing” then you do not know enough about this subject to be commenting on it)

The chief (coherent) criticism seems to be “the trials often don’t result in a cure”. That’s true. Most medical experimentation doesn’t result in a cure. That’s what experimentation is. We have to eliminate things that don’t work in order to find the things that do.

And then we have to refine those treatments to find those that work without too many side-effects.

Doing that without an animal model sets researchers back indefinitely. We can’t computer model the complexity of treatment interactions in a living animal body; that would be inaccurate.

So at some point we have to test experimental treatments on living creatures.

Humans should not be the first thing we test on, because – as noted – the majority of these tests will be failures that kill or harm the recipient.

But pretending that such a failure means the experiment is meaningless shows a distinct lack of understanding about scientific advancement. It’s on experimental ‘failures’ that great advances are built.

It may be distasteful and unpleasant to use living creatures to help develop our medical advances – that’s why we in the West (and the UK in particular) have incredibly stringent rules about when and how animal testing is permitted.

But to cry foul and demand that it is prohibited? To deny a charity funding because they are developing treatments using what genuinely is the very best method research path available?

That’s naive and foolish.

There are humans walking around who are only alive today because of experiments performed on animals – diabetes, for example, was a terminal diagnosis as recently as as 90 years ago (when insulin was developed); Insulin treatments were developed after experiments on dogs. Such examples exist for almost every major illness or condition you can imagine – except perhaps the ones for which we don’t yet have a treatment.

To deny future breakthroughs of this nature because you think lab rats are cute is childish in the extreme.

And I’m not just talking about Motor Neurone Disease here; if you’re demanding we abandon medical testing on animals, then you’re saying they’ll be no cures or viable treatments in the foreseeable future for Cancer, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, Heart Disease, Stroke… any serious illness or disability you can imagine: if we haven’t developed a treatment for it yet, we won’t be.

No new vaccines. No new drugs. No new transplant procedures.

Is that a price you’re willing to pay?

Or rather, is that a price you’re willing to insist other people pay?

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