7th August is Jeans for Genes Day. It’s one of those feelgood days where people can raise awareness and funds for vital medical research – and have fun at the same time.
Jeans for Genes Day is in support of the Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI), and who wouldn’t want to support an organisation that saves children?
Unfortunately however, there is a dark side.
Many kind donors are not aware that their financial contributions to medical research charities might actually be funding animal experiments. This is not something that charities often publicise, so I contacted CMRI to find out what their position was. Their response was as follows:
Thanks for your email. The majority of our research does not use animals, and we do not do ‘animal testing’ as it’s known in the media, but we do some studies with mice and rats to understand how genetic diseases and birth defects occur and how to treat or prevent them. Unfortunately, at this point in time it is impossible to understand these diseases without working with an animal, but we do try to do as much work as possible using human cells in culture or other methods. We can’t hope to find cures and save children’s lives without some animal studies, so I hope you will support Jeans for Genes and our vital research.
Medical research can, of course, progress to save human lives without experimenting on animals. Rats and mice are not good models on which to base human medicine due to the vast number of differences in our genetics, anatomy and metabolism. For these reasons they are poorly predictive of human outcomes and many scientific papers, systematic reviews and meta analyses support this position. There are however many emerging technologies such as organ-on-a-chip, microdosing and non-invasive imaging techniques which not only eliminate animal suffering, but also provide data that is directly applicable to the species it is purported to save - humans.
CMRI’s justifications for using animals are all too familiar. Almost every institution that uses animals in research suggest that they are only used when absolutely necessary and that they adhere to strict guidelines and a code of practice. The guidelines and policies that govern animal use in research are far from strict. The National Health and Medical Research Council, Animal Research Review Panel and Agriculture Department have little control in the research as it is all considered and approved by the Animal Ethics Committee - a body which has a vested interest in allowing the research to go ahead. It is therefore self-regulated, non-transparent and hidden from public scrutiny. They do not protect animals from suffering and they don’t address the fact that animal experiments are not good at predicting human outcomes.
Neither I, nor HRA, have any right to tell you who or who not to donate to, but please be aware that your generosity may well be inadvertently funding cruel animal experiments. You may prefer to redirect your donation to a health charity that does not conduct or fund animal experiments. You can find a listing of these at www.humanecharities.org.au.
Alternatively, if you do choose to participate in and/or donate to Jeans for Genes Day, please specify that you want your donation to go toward research that does not involve animals.