It seems to be that people are terrified of the use of animals in laboratories.
The words “animal research” seem to conjure a series of morbid and distasteful images of rats with extra limbs or puppies drenched in blood and strapped to a chain. When seeing pictures like these on the internet, it’s not difficult to understand why so many people violently oppose to new drug research when non-human animals are used.
But in reality, animal research is far from barbaric.
If you walk into a lab, as I did last June, you will find that there are no crying animals, no mad scientists laughing at the animal’s torture, no rabbits who are missing half of their skin.
I got the chance to spend a week of work experience in a lab, part of a well respected university. As excited as I was for this experience, a small fraction of me was worried, because I had seen a lot of morbid images on my Facebook homepage, images which I had not asked to see. But when I saw the way animals were used, I was very positively surprised.
And because I know that one single experience is not representative of the use of animals across all laboratories, I was pushed to investigate more.
I decided to look into the situation in the UK as this is where I live, and hopefully where I will go on to study and carry out any experiments in the future.
First of all, I would like to point out that not anybody can work with animals. In the eve of my Biology and Chemistry investigations, it has become clear to me that working with animals is more of a pain than it is a joy. The UK government requires those wanting to use animals under laboratory conditions to have a license and to have passed a course in animal care. Countless restrictions have to be taken into account and the animals have to be treated with the utmost care, always keeping their welfare in mind.
As a researcher pointed out to me jokingly when I worked in their lab this past summer: “The animals here are treated a lot better than any of the researchers!”
These people know that it is not ideal to work on animals, and try as much as they can to find alternatives for works on animals, as it can be expensive and won’t always give the best results, but it is still very useful to work with non-human animals.
It seems that the general consensus in the scientific community is that animal research may not be ideal, but in a lot of cases, essential.
This is why, it is fundamental to carry it out as well as possible, always keeping in mind what is known as “The three Rs of animal research”:
Replacement: To try as far as possible to replace the use of animals with alternative techniques
Reduction: To always use the minimum possible number of animals to make a fair investigation.
Refinement: To find ways in which animal stress and suffering will be brought to a minimum.
These three principles were first described by W.M.S Russell and R.L Burch in their book: “The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique”
I am trying to keep this as short as possible, but it is proving extraordinarily difficult to do so, as there are many points of view. But the thing is, I’m not writing this post because I wish to convince others to take on my views on such a controversial topic.
What I do hope to transmit is an invitation to understand this issue further and to stop the spread of guilt-trapping facts. What I wish for, is an educated debate, a space free of morose pictures of suffering bunnies, an unbiased discussion free from violent opposition.
It is not uncommon to hear that researchers working with animals are sent threats, or that they fear the security of their lab. These people who are claiming to be in favour of ending cruelty and in favour of peace seem to be aggressively lashing out against those who disagree with them.
What sort of peace is that?
I hate to be tricked into feeling guilty about my beliefs, when in reality, I am only in favour of what to me, seems like the best conclusion.
I am in favour of using animal research solely when essential.
I am for giving the best treatment to animals.
I agree that we should find alternatives as much a possible.
And if I see one more picture of a tortured animal on Facebook, I swear… I won’t get angry, I will only carry on to inform people about responsible research instead of abusing them for having their own views.
I hope that those who violently oppose will learn to do the same.