Animal testing - what’s the real value?
Animal testing is a hot topic. It has been popularly used in medical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics testing. There is wide spread support of and disdain for animal testing for obvious reasons - many medical cures have stemmed from this, saving thousands of lives, but equally many animals, such as rats and monkeys, have undergone torturous experiences which people say are senseless, selfish and unethical.
So what is the real value of animal testing, specifically in the realm of understanding human development?
A part of the Dynamic Youth Project at Utrecht University they are working in an interdisciplinary model. For the first time, social scientists, chemists, biologists, speech and language professional for instance, are working together to examine and explore the way that rats develop. One of the hopes is that in understanding more about the behavioral changes in rats, by manipulating and environments, may give us an insight into the synaptic changes that are occurring in the brain. Equally brain function in rats can be monitored more ethically than with humans in scientific labs - factors and conditions can be better manipulated and controlled so that we can study isolated behaviors to try to find a link between the two.
If you were to try to monitor children in the same way there would be many more issues: negative impact on the child’s development, ethical and moral issues and so on. Also, it is not possible to observe children in their ‘natural’ environment a this is a complex set of scenarios and experiences unique to that individual. As a result, the findings could not be applied universally to all children in the shared cultural group.
However, we must be cautious when applying studies on rats to humans. It is exactly the unique and complex scenarios that make human development so fascinating and difficult to understanding. Hence why scientists, theorists, educators and so on, continue to investigate this area of science. For instance, just because in rats we can see an imbalance in the prefrontal cortex when the rat is deprived of social interaction does not mean it would be the same in humans. Despite this, the theory that there is a connection between the hidden synaptic processes and changes and evidence changes in behavior is important. And possibly transferable.
So perhaps there is a place for non-invasive studies and investigative work with animals.
Personally i do not support the testing of animal where the animals is caused unnecessary harm, pain or torture. I am aware that this makes me a hypocrite as I am certain that I have benefitted from using animal tested medicines in the past and have historically used cosmetics that were tested on animals, before I understood the implications. I believe the use of a multi-disciplinary approach is best and will enable teams to make interesting inferences about their findings and hopefully more rapid progress.
I am still struggling to accept the use of social testing such as depriving an animal of social connections and removing infant animals from their parents to test for development problems and attachment issues. This is something that I will need to continue to think hard about. Whereas I appreciate and value the findings, in supporting the healthier development of humans, it makes me wary as it feels as though in acknowledging the value of this work is taking the attitude that humans are a greater race than animals. And that because we are a greater species, it gives us the right to make animals suffer.
What is the real value of animal testing after all?
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