By A. G. Moore 10/31/2013
I love beagles. It seems research laboratories love beagles, too. The fondness that laboratories have for beagles came to my attention a few days ago when I read of a beagle rescue operation in Brazil. A few days after that I came across a picture of beagles suffering the effects of experimentation in yet another laboratory. While no reasonable person argues that inflicting pain on animals is a good thing, many people argue that it is necessary. This last argument–based on the belief that animal experimentation supports advances in human medicine–has little basis in fact. In recent years, objective analysis of animal models in research has increasingly shown that these experiments contribute little to human welfare and indeed, may actually delay important breakthroughs in medical research.
For example, in 2006 the US FDA issued a statement about the use of animals in laboratories (FDA Issues Advice to Make Earliest Stages Of Clinical Drug Development More Efficient ): “Currently”, the FDA declared, “nine out of ten experimental drugs fail in clinical studies because we cannot accurately predict how they will behave in people based on laboratory and animal studies”. In 2007, Andrew Knight of Animal Consultants International, carried out a review of the SCOPUS database, which is a reference tool in public and academic libraries all over the world.
Mr. Knight’s analysis of research findings echoed the conclusion of the FDA in its dismissal of animal experimentation utility. In his summary, Mr. Knight explains that there is little predictive relationship between results obtained from studies on animals and their application in human models. In Mr. Knight’s words: “The poor human clinical and toxicological utility of most animal models …. in conjunction with their generally substantial animal welfare and economic costs, justify a ban on animal experiments…”
The FDA and the Knight report are part of a growing chorus of criticism that surrounds continued experimentation on animals. Though some of the criticism is motivated by concern for animal welfare, most of it merely reflects an interest in efficacy. The fact that use of animal models tends to slow the introduction of new medicines and procedures in the marketplace is put forward in the FDA report cited above. The report states: “The recommendations announced today will help more researchers conduct earlier, more-informed studies of promising treatments so patients have more rapid access to safer and more effective drugs”.
Another analysis debunking the theory that animal experimentation is predictive of human outcome was put forward by Steven M. Paul, Executive Vice President of Science and Technology and President of Lilly Research Laboratories. Paul was the lead author of an article that described the poor predictive relationship between animal models and human outcomes. Paul’s company, Lilly, tests on animals, so his assessment of this kind of experimentation is likely to be a clear-eyed viewed of its efficacy. Paul states that Phase I and Phase II human trials often fail because these trials are based on animal models. Paul states: “The higher failure rates in these areas are in part due to the relatively unprecedented nature of the drug targets and the lack of animal models with strong capacity to predict human efficacy”.
If it is true that animal models are not effective–may even be obstructive–in advancing human research, then why the huge animal research industry? And huge it is. Although I have not been able to come up with accurate figures on the dollar value of this industry, various sources place that value in the billions. The financial importance of this industry to specific interests is reflected in the lobbying activities of industry representatives. According to opensecrets.org, pharmaceutical and health products organizations (PhRMA), for example, lobbied in the U.S. to the tune of $172,297,754 in 2013. In 2012, the same organizations’ lobbying efforts were valued at $236,400,389. In the mission statement published on its website, PhRMA admits that its members use animals in clinical trials. The statement partly reads:”..scientists conduct laboratory and animal studies to determine whether a compound is suitable for human testing“.
While there seems to be a disconnect between the dawning reality that animal models do not advance human welfare and animal testing, the industry presses on with its archaic methodology. Not only does it press on, but it presses the rest of us, through large PR campaigns, to go along with its program. The influence of the bio tech industry and those ancillary interests that support animal experimentation (such as breeders and habitat providers) was evident to an almost absurd degree when the Helms Amendment was added to the Animal Welfare Act. In this amendment, the research industry pushed through a provision which defined several warm-blooded species as not animal. Since these species were not animals laboratories did not have to observe provisions of the AWA in caring for and handling them.
I love beagles, and all kinds of animals, but even if I didn’t I think I would have a moral obligation to prevent suffering whenever possible. Most of us wouldn’t pull the wings off flies. And yet many of us don’t protest when this same kind of activity is carried on in research labs. We don’t speak up because we’re told the abuse is necessary in order to discover new medicines that will advance human welfare. But what if that isn’t true? What if science can show that animal experimentation is not only ineffective but counterproductive?
What then of the fly, and of us, who stand by while this creature is tortured for no good reason at all?
Leave My Beagle Alone Resources:
I came across a website yesterday called For Life on Earth; the site became a starting point for today’s blog. FLOE uses science, not emotion, in its argument against animal testing–I find this approach persuasive. The statement by Steven Paul of Lilly Research was derived from the FLOE website.
Leave my Beagle Alone–but not at home! The following site tells all about beagles and why it’s actually cruel to leave your beagle home alone:
Beagle Rescue, Victoria, inc.
Even if you don’t have a beagle, this is a really fun site to read