While (almost) everyone abhors the idea that animals, including primates, are harmed and killed in cruel and invasive experiments, the bottom line almost always seems to be that while there are humans suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, HIV etc. “these awful experiments must unfortunately continue”.
The question of whether humans are more important than animals is subjective (some may argue for example that rapists, murderers and paedophiles should be used instead), but importantly, most of all, it’s irrelevant.
The people who are suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, HIV etc. are precisely the reason we should NOT be experimenting on animals. It is grossly unfair to these people – people who are depending on medical research to save their lives – to waste valuable and precious time and resources on studying the wrong species.
To use some references from the Victorian Medical Research Strategy currently under review:
- Page 17 of the discussion paper recognises the challenges of “PhD students and scientists confronted by issues related to career progression, security and remuneration.” Often they resort to animal use simply in order to obtain funding and to enable publication of their work.
- Page 19 of the discussion paper states that “Australia punches far above its weight by producing 3 per cent of global research publications with only 0.3 per cent of the world’s population. However, compared with international standards, Australia has a poor record of commercial translation…”
Consider too, Australia’s rate of animal use in research. We are the fourth highest user of animals in pure numbers behind only China, Japan and the United States, which makes us number one in terms of usage per capita.
According to the latest statistics, Australia uses over 6.7 million animals each year. A high rate of global research publication has little value when the subject matter is based on animal experiments and is therefore unlikely to translate to genuine medical progress (the United States Federal Drug Administration’s own statistics show that more than 90% of drugs ‘successfully’ tested in animals fail when translated to humans in clinical trials). And academic recognition is no excuse for subjecting sentient animals to cruel and invasive procedures.
In fact if you look at the US FDA statistics another way, how many cures could have been overlooked that didn’t work in animals in the first place?
The bottom line is that there are far too many intricate differences between humans and animals – differences including gene expression and protein function – that render animals inappropriate models for human research. If we are ever to find genuine cures for cancer and other ailments, (and find them quickly) we must focus on species-specific research – not antiquated methods that are more often than not, erroneously extrapolated from a species that differs from us anatomically, genetically and metabolically.
There are so many species specific methods of testing now, including microdosing, microfluidic chips, computer modelling and non-invasive imaging techniques of human patients. So, let’s stop taunting the sick and invalid members of our population with the promise of cures derived from animal experiments. Let’s instead, provide them with real hope through more efficient and more relevant methods of research – methods that will translate into genuine medical progress and result in better health outcomes for society.
Regardless of who you consider more important – humans or animals – animal experimentation is a waste of precious resources and needs to end now – for the sake of the humans who continue to suffer.