Should animals be used in research?
In 2004 the journalist Friedrich Mülln secretly filmed what was happening in the largest primate research centre in Europe, located in Münster, Germany.
The centre is owned by Covance, a multinational company dedicated to the development of medicines and services for animal testing.
The images showed how the staff moved the monkeys roughly, shouted at them and made them dance to thunderous pop music, as well as keeping them isolated in tiny cages without any natural light or care.
Primatologist Jane Goodall described their conditions as horrendous: "A monkey alone in a cage, unable to do anything, will go mad with boredom and sadness.”
Is it legal to use animals in scientific research?
It is legal, and animal testing has been the key to the progress of medicine thus far.
Louis Pasteur would not have been able to prove the controversial germ theory in 1881 if he had not inoculated 50 sheep with anthrax and vaccinated only half of the flock.
The isolation of insulin in dogs, in 1922, revolutionized the treatment of diabetes.
For the development of the polio vaccine 100,000 monkeys died - for every one killed, 65 doses were obtained.
More recently, the toxicity and effectiveness of AIDS drugs have been tested in Macaques, as have the mechanisms of transmission of the disease from infected pregnant mothers to their fetuses, which have been used to determine antiviral treatment for women in the state.
Where is the limit?
Do you accept the "anything goes" attitude on the pretext of scientific progress? In the 1970s, University of Wisconsin-Madison psychologist Harry Harlow used rhesus macaque babies to induce clinical depression. For six weeks he left them in a vertical cage with slippery walls, which Harlow himself called the "hole of despair", as within a few days the poor little macaques huddled quietly in a corner. When released, they showed social maladjustment and violent behaviour; most never recovered.
To what extent does the end justify the means?
Tests of this style were conducted extensively between 1940 and 1960, especially at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta (USA). The crudeness of their studies of deprivation is obvious. For example, they kept newborn chimpanzees in total darkness for three years and others were given hand and foot restraints for two years. Was it so cruel to demonstrate something as obvious as that if a social animal is deprived of companionship, pathological behaviour will occur?
In 2003, CNN reported on the experiments of Columbia University neurosurgeon E. Sander Connolly, who simulated brain attacks in baboons by removing their eyeballs in order to clamp an artery in their brains. He then applied a neuroprotective drug to them and kept them alive for several days in a terrifying state. Connolly justified this barbarism, because "he could get relevant results". This is the scientific version of "the end justifies the means".
Another example is that of the cardiologist from Columbia University and television showman Mehmet Oz. He is a defender of peculiar pseudo-medical practices such as the so-called energy therapies, which defend the existence of vital energy that animates living beings. On one occasion he kept a dog for 29 days with its chest open and underwent radiofrequency ablation, which consists of removing part of the heart's electrical conduction system - a technique used to treat arrhythmias. After suffering paralysis and severe pain in his hind legs and while urinating, he was euthanized, as recorded, the day after Oz noted that the dog was "lively, attentive and responsive. The organization PETA (People for Ethics in the Treatment of Animals) talks on its website about the "dogs tormented in Dr Oz's cruel experiments.
Toxicological studies are the most vicious. After the tragedy of 1937, when a sulfanilamide elixir made from diethylene glycol killed 105 people in the United States, the U.S. Congress passed laws involving safety testing on animals before the drugs could be put into circulation.
Cada año se experimenta con 100 millones de vertebrados
What is untenable is that the cosmetics industry experiments on animals and condemns them to death because of our pure narcissism. That is why on 11 March 2009 the European Union banned tests of this kind for the manufacture of beauty products, aimed at determining the damage of their ingredients to the eyes and skin, and their overall toxicity. The products are normally subjected to the Draize test, which is performed on rabbits. To these, the cosmetic is applied to a depilated area. This area is obtained by repeatedly sticking an adhesive tape, which is stretched several times until layers of the skin are removed. Then it is covered with plastic and the effects are observed. They are also applied to the eyes during several days and damages to the eye tissue are as follows -inflammation of the iris, ulceration, bleeding, blindness- while the rabbit is immobilized in a cage with its head out and its eyelids open with some clips. Many break their neck trying to escape.
In truth, it is absurd to use specimens of this species as a model to study eye damage in humans, because their physiology is totally different from ours. The only reason is that rabbits are cheap, with big eyes and easy to handle. In 1986, three researchers from Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati compared the eye injuries caused by accidental exposure to 14 household products in 281 people with the results of Draize tests in their research entitled Cutaneous and ocular toxicology. The result: the severity of the rabbit's eye response to a toxin is not useful in predicting its effects on our eyeballs.
Each year, 100 million vertebrates are tested.