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Myths & Facts about Animal Research

Myths:

Facts:

Myth:

Lab animals suffer great pain and distress.

Fact:

In 1992, according to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, 94% of research is not painful to the animals involved. In the majority of cases (58%), animals are not exposed to or involved in any painful procedures.

In about 36% of cases, animals receive anesthesia or pain-relieving drugs during procedures that could involve some pain or distress. In about 6% of research projects, anesthetics or analgesics are not used because they would interfere with the results of the research or testing.

In fact, many of the procedures involving pain are designed to better understand how we can treat people and animals who suffer from severe pain.

Myth:

Most animals used in research are cats, dogs, and monkeys.

Fact:

Practically all research animals are rodents – mice and rats – bred for this purpose. Dogs, cats and non-human primates together account for less than one per cent of the total and their number has been declining for over 20 years.

Since 1979, the number of dogs needed in animal research has declined by 66 percent and the number of cats needed has declined by 69 percent. Primate use, representing 0.3 percent, has remained relatively constant – in the 50,000 per year range – for the past decade.

Myth:

Other research methods and computer models can replace animals in research.

Fact:

Scientists are always searching for improvements in their research tools and methods because, among reasons of humaneness, it is vital to their success. This search has led to the development of many non-animal techniques that can facilitate answering parts of physiological questions, and are, as such, adjunct technologies. Unfortunately, these adjunct technologies cannot come close to matching the great complexity of living systems, such as the brain.

These methodologies, though useful and important for reducing the number of animals used, are limited in their applications. For example, a new drug developed in cell culture may be effective in treating a neurological disease, but could also cause liver damage. If it were not tested on animals, thousands of people could be harmed be this toxic side effect before it was discovered.

Myth:

There are no laws or regulations to protect lab animals.

Fact:

A federal law, the Animal Welfare Act, sets standards for the care and treatment of laboratory animals, including housing, feeding, cleanliness, ventilation, and veterinary care.

Myth:

Scientists can do whatever they want to animals.

Fact:

All experimentation involving animals must be approved inadvance by an animal care and use committee, consisting of at least one non-scientist and a veterinarian. These committees will not approve proposals unless both the scientific merit and ethical treatment of animals are demonstrated.

In addition, animal care facilities must be federally licensed and are subject to surprise inspections to ensure that high standards are being maintained at all times.

Myth:

Money spent on animal research is only dealing with cures, and prevention is a better approach.

Fact:

Animal research has played a vital role in prevention studies. For example, most of what we know about the causes of heart diseases came about as a result of studies using dogs.

Myth:

Lost and stolen pets are sold to laboratories.

Fact:

Despite frequent, unsubstantiated accusations to the contrary, there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that millions of dogs and cats are taken from homes and shelters and sold to laboratories.

In fact, scientists neither need nor want to do research on pets.

According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one of several government agencies overseeing the use of animals in medical research, 69,516 dogs and 25,560 cats were involved in biomedical research in 2000. The vast majority of these animals were bred specifically for research. The remainder was acquired directly from the "death row" of animal pounds or purchased from one of about 20 USDA-licensed and regulated dealers. In quarterly “trace back” audits of these dealers, the USDA found no evidence of theft.

The Foundation for Biomedical Research recommends that all companion animals wear collars and identification tags at all times. Tags, implanted microchips and even tattoos can help to re-unite a lost cat or dog with its family.

 

Sources:
"Myths & Facts", from the Focus on Animal Contributions to Science (FACTS) web site.

"Fact vs. Myth", Foundation for Biomedical Research - 2003

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