Today is World Day for Animals in Labs and we are posting this article in recognition.
By S.B. Julian
Almost five million animals are trapped, maimed and experimented on in various Canadian research labs every year. Cats, dogs, white rats, monkeys, rabbits – the same cute beasts we fawn over and delight in on the Internet — endure agonizing and terrifying procedures in high security labs behind closed doors. No online videos are broadcast from there.
April 24th, the World Day For Animals in Labs, is the day when we turn our thoughts to this issue. According to the Canadian Council On Animal Care (https://ccac.ca/Documents/AUD/2019-Animal-Data-Report.pdf), 4,562,522 animals were experimented on in Canada in 2019. In 2018 there were 3,832,817, so the numbers are going in the wrong direction.
The Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society has described how mice are treated in experiments studying Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Guess how they test for PTSD? (Trauma is trauma). One has to wonder whether experimenters experience emotional trauma while burning, freezing, half-drowning and terrorizing helpless mice. First, experimenters have to put away all fellow-feeling with creatures who experience pain and fear exactly as they do themselves. They must close down imagination and their own human endowment of empathy for “the other”.
As for the policy makers in charge of university and government research labs (such as the National Research Council, the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Industry, and the Canadian Institution of Health Research): how do they justify turning their collective face away from suffering? Does the MP in whose riding looms a high-security installation filled with cages, implements and toxic pharmaceuticals ever think about what goes on in there? Do constituents ever ask these representatives how they feel about hosting torture chambers in our cities?
Some will argue that valuable research into disease is being done in these places, but according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, over 90% of drugs which seemed to show promise in animals have failed in human subjects.
Employment for researchers and profit for corporations is certainly being provided, but the public interest is better served when the health care dollar is spent on direct services to patients, rather than on developing yet more versions of drugs which are at best but dangerous two-edged swords.
In the present frightening moment of spreading corona-viruses people are eager to see vaccines developed. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency reveals that Canada has in the past five years approved the import of about 2,500 non-human primates annually from the U.S. for research purposes. Now we have added about 1200 macaque monkeys from East Asia, jungle creatures, primates like us, who will be brought here to suffer extreme infection and overdose against the infection, and then die. And still no one knows how effective our vaccines have been or could be against a fast-evolving virus enjoying a population of over seven billion hosts. Medical research is better at infecting animals and giving them strokes, tumours and PTSD, than at eradicating viruses. In fact, no disease has yet been cured by animal testing.
What are the alternatives? Human tissue, stem cell, in-vitro and post-mortem studies, computer modelling and tissue scanning (MRI, PET, ultrasound) are more scientifically useful techniques. According the the Animal Defence and Anti-vivisection Society, Hebrew University in Israel has created a chip containing human tissue with microscopic sensors which precisely monitor the response of the human body to specific drug treatments. “The Israeli team is believed to be the first to successfully create a new treatment using a chip’s capabilities in order to completely eliminate animal testing”. (https://adavsociety.org/israelis-create-cancer-drug-without-animal-tests-by-using-human-simulating-chip/)
Here in Canada, biomedical experimenter Charu Chandrasekera looked into the eyes of the lab animals she was studying and imagined herself in their place. Vowing to do research differently, she founded the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods at the University of Windsor.
What can the ordinary citizen do to help scientists like Dr. Chandrasekera move research beyond the animal torture stage? We can ask our MPs and the administrators of research agencies why they allow cruel and ineffectual practices to continue. We may not be experts in scientific research, but we are (or could be if we think about it for a moment) experts in compassion and empathy. We can visualize ourselves in a cramped wire cage, away from fresh air and daylight, while a monster looms over us with a syringe or a pain-inflicting tool, ignoring our squeals of pain and fear. How hard is that to imagine?
It doesn’t take long to write a message to an MP or a government research agency or Ministry. We may be told that the Canadian Council On Animal Care oversees the welfare of lab animals – but it does not. The CCAC is made up of representatives from pharmaceutical, agricultural and other industries and its function is to advance their interests, not those of animals.
On the World Day For Animals in Labs we are asked to educate ourselves about the virulent reservoir of cruelty to animals which exists in the international network of experimental laboratories. We are asked to communicate with political representatives in our own country. In a democracy, politicians respond to what the electorate cares about. Why does the Canadian electorate not speak loudly on this issue? For almost five million animals in Canada alone, we are the only hope.
For ways you can also donate to the eradication of disease, see the list at: https://www.humanecharities.ca/. Many familiar aggressively-fundraising disease charities put your money directly into cruel outdated research with a success rate of minimal to zero, research which supports an entrenched commercial laboratory industry. Humane Charities Canada lists well-known organizations through which you can contribute to “cures without cruelty”.
For additional information, go to: https://www.forhumanescience.org/ (based in Vancouver),
https://www.uwindsor.ca/ccaam/ (Alternatives to Animal Methods), and