Friday, May 20, 2005

Testing the limits

PETA just released a report documenting "animal cruelty -- including charges of punching and choking lab monkeys" at an animal-testing lab owned by Covance. They have a dedicated website here, and as usual, their reports make for sickening reading.
Most animal-testing advocates use the "cure for cancer" argument. Look at these misguided humans who couldn't care less for their own species, targeting these virtuous, shining scientists who might be working on the cure for Alzheimer's and the cure for cancer. But only a small portion of lab work that uses animals as test subjects is actually dedicated to cutting-edge medical research. The toxic effects of household chemicals and ordinary cosmetics are tested on animals--there's the infamous Dreze test, that involved pouring shampoo into the eyes of rabbits, skin tests that involved studying the burning and scarring effect of household chemicals on some unfortunate animal's naked skin. PETA has a cogent, India-specific argument against animal testing here.
The EU is trying to reduce animal-testing in an "unusual alliance" between animal rights groups and big industry.
The interesting thing is that the search for non-animal solutions to the testing problem is yielding several different options.
Wired reports:
"About 18 million animals are killed each year in medical research, according to the animal rights group In Defense of Animals. But complex computer models that simulate organs, biological systems and even entire organisms are beginning to take the place of test animals in the lab.
This month, the American Diabetes Association and biopharmaceutical company Entelos completed a virtual mouse that will be used to study cures for type 1 diabetes."
In this letter, Stephanie Stone makes the obvious point:
"Instead of killing animals, we can now test irritancy on egg membranes, produce vaccines from cell cultures and perform pregnancy tests using blood samples. As Gordon Baxter, confounder of Pharmagene Laboratories asks, 'If you have information on human genes, what's the point of going back to animals?'"


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