Monday, January 18, 2010

Animal Suffering for Human Benefit. A paper i wrote for class in 2003.

Thirty-three. The number of animals that die each second in laboratories worldwide. For these poor critters, death is sweet relief, a blissful and welcomed ending to a life filled with anguish, fear, and pain. After all, what is death when one has already endured all the unspeakable horrors of living as a laboratory test subject?

Animals have little rights, nor do they have the ability to defend themselves from the inhumane, cruel, and downright repugnant laboratory tests which they are forced to endure. Considered by humans as a ‘lesser’ species, scientific experiments are conducted on animals to provide insight into health and diseases and to test the effects of products such as cosmetics, cleaning solvents, drugs, and even firearms.

The question is who decided that animal lives are expendable, and what gives humans the right to inflict pain on God’s creatures? Melissa, a volunteer at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) says that violators of animal rights are just plain arrogant and ignorant. “Many people think that just because animals can’t talk, they can’t feel pain, anxiety, sadness… They are sentient beings just like you and me. Did you know that a pig has a brain capacity of a four year old human child? Can you imagine eating your four year old brother? We do not have the right to abuse them or use them for any or our own selfish purposes.”

Unfortunately, the abuse continues and shows almost no sign of stopping although numerous non-animal based techniques have been developed. Animal testing is officially called ‘vivisection’ and this word literally means ‘cutting alive’. The word vivisection finds its roots in the early days of medicine when scientific experiments included the dissection of living, breathing animals without painkillers or anesthetics of any kind in order to ensure the accuracy of the tests. Not much has changed since then.

Today, animals used in product testing have nail polish, toilet bowl cleaner and all kinds of other chemicals shoved down their throats, rubbed in their eyes, and onto their bare, shaved skin. They are shot, gassed, blown up, turned into drug addicts, burned, infected with HIV, cancer, and other diseases, and mutilated, all in the name of science.

The two most infamous tests are the Lethal Dose (LD) -50 test, wherein a large group of animals are given more and more of a product until fifty percent of them are dead and the Draize Eye and Skin Irritancy test where products are poured directly into animals’ eyes and onto their abraded skin to determine toxicity levels.

In an article entitled ‘Spare a Thought Tomorrow on our Cruelty to Animals’, S.M. Mohd. Idris, president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia wrote: “Animals have little rights. It is the cowardice and tyranny of which they are victims which make their suffering so especially touching. There is something so very dreadful, so satanic in tormenting those who have never harmed us, and who cannot defend themselves, who are utterly in our power.”

There are a countless number of reasons why animal testing is so unethical. Aside from the obvious, animals and humans are so different that animal test results are often irrelevant. So can the use of animals in scientific experiments ever be justified? “No,” says Melissa of the SPCA, “and it never will be. In most cases the reaction from animals and humans are totally different.”

At least fifty drugs on the market cause cancer in laboratory animals. This is allowed because it is admitted that animal tests are not relevant. When asked if they agreed that animal experimentation can be misleading because of anatomical and physiological differences between humans and animals, eighty-eight percent of doctors agreed.

Many drugs that pass animal tests but are actually harmful to humans are on the market. Studies show that eighty-eight percent of stillbirths and sixty-one percent of birth defects are caused by drugs passed as being safe in animal tests. Many life-saving drugs would have been banned if animal tests were heeded. Some drugs that fail animal tests but save human lives are aspirin, digitalis (a heart drug), cancer treatments, insulin, and penicillin. Who knows how many other revolutionary, life-saving drugs have been shelved because of misleading animal tests?

During George Bush’s recent visit to Thailand, ten mice were selected to test samples of food which the American president would eat. The mice will be given samples of the food and then observed to see if they die or suffer any adverse effects. Ten little mice held the life of the world’s most powerful man in their furry, little, paws.

What’s rather ironic is that the officials who arranged those animal tests failed to realize that animal tests are often unreliable and inaccurate due to psychological, physiological, metabolic, and anatomic differences between humans and non-human animals. According to animal tests, lemon juice is a deadly poison, but arsenic, hemlock and botulin are perfectly safe. If an attempt on Bush’s life involved arsenic poisoning, Thai officials would be hard-pressed to explain why their mice failed to save the President’s life.

More than 450 non-animal based techniques have already been developed to replace animal testing. Among them are in-vitro (test tube) research, autopsies and cadaver research, genetic research, and most commonly, human tissue, cell, and organ cultures in containers with the drug to be tested in order to observe how it will act within the human body.

Studies show that alternatives to animal testing are not inferior methods. In fact, they are more cost-efficient and reliable than animal tests. So why do scientists continue to conduct animal research if it is misleading and unreliable?

One word. Money. They say money makes the world go round. In this case, money brings nothing but more and more mindless suffering. The disturbing truth of the matter is that the animal research infrastructure currently in place is very powerful and it is difficult to change research practices so entrenched in animal research for so long.

Several industries such as pharmaceutical companies, research universities, hospitals, animal breeders, and equipment manufacturers profit from animal testing. Animal testing is a multi billion dollar industry. Advocates of it are not going to give up a billion dollar money-making machine to save animal lives. Greed clouds judgment and animals continue to die.

In Malaysia the general population remains unaware and unconcerned about animal rights. “The level of awareness is very low. The animal rights movement here in Malaysia is virtually non-existent. Yes, there are concerned animal lovers that are mainly interested in only companion animals which are dogs and cats and even then, Malaysians do not know how to treat their companion animals judging by the cruelty cases that we get. We are not into living a compassionate life. We still support companies that test on animals and buy illegal animal products such as ivory,” says Melissa.

Unfortunately, the apathy towards animal rights comes from much deeper than the general population. Education on the proper treatment of animals is very limited. The ‘ignorance is bliss’ mentality is evident even in so-called animal rights organizations in Malaysia. When asked if anything was being done about animal testing in Malaysia, a representative of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Malaysia declared, “We don’t really deal with animal testing”.

Further investigation revealed that the Malaysian National Animal Welfare Foundation (MNAWF) deals only with teaching people how to take care of their dogs and cats. It’s a start but it’s going to take much more than that to save animal lives in Malaysia and in the world.

It doesn’t take much for people do their part. First, buy cruelty-free products and boycott companies that still conduct tests on animals. In order to be more involved, contact organizations that fight for animal rights. According to Melissa a lot can be done to encourage Malaysians to care about animal rights. “Education and awareness. We as Malaysians should learn to be less selfish and self-centered and start caring.”

In Malaysia the following cruelty-free brands are easy to find:

Aramis, Aveda, Avon, Bobbi Brown, The Body Shop, Chanel, Clarins, Clinique,
Crabtree & Evelyn, Dermalogica, Donna Karan Beauty Company (DKNY), Estee
Lauder, Eucerin, Paul Mitchell, La Mer, La Prairie, M.A.C.
Cosmetics, Murad, The Natural Source, Neutrogena, Nivea, Nu Skin, O.P.I.,
Origins, John Paul Mitchell Systems, Revlon, Staedtler, Stila Cosmetics, Ted
Baker Fragrance, Tommy Hilfiger, Urban Decay, The Wella
Corporation (Sebastian), Alberto Culver VO5, St. Ives, Simple, Stuf., Himalaya, Fruit of the Earth, Joico, Benefit, Freeman, and many many others..

There are lots more animal friendly brands, easy to find with just a little bit of effort and research.

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