Scientists use animals in scientific research when there is no alternative way to conduct the study. Many people have questions about animal ethics and the ethical treatment of animals during research, and that is why there are laws regulating the use of animals in research. In the UK, the law stipulates that it is illegal to use an animal in scientific research when there is an alternative. As such, all animal research is regulated and monitored by the home office. The law also stipulates all veterinary medicines be safely tested in animals.
The control of animal research
Before a research institution such as a university undertakes animal research, they must get a license whereby their application is judged by a team of scientists and an ethics committee before approval. The involved scientists have to prove that the research’s expected benefits will surpass the harm caused on the animal during the study.
Scientists use animals in scientific research to understand the human body more and how it functions. The use of animals in scientific studies remains valuable in discovering, diagnosing, and treating diseases in humans and animals. Here are some of the main reasons scientists use animals in research.
To understand biology more.
To fight diseases in both humans and animals, scientists must study and understand very complex biological processes. The larger part of human and animal biology works similarly in vital functions such as breathing, digestion, sight, hearing, reproduction, movement, etc. That means scientists can study how human bodies work through studying animal tissue slices that would be impossible (and unethical) to acquire from human volunteers. The study of biology helps scientists discover what happens when the body parts do not function well.
Animals are used as models in disease studies.
Humans and mammals share about 96% of their genes and have the same vital organs such as the liver, heart, kidney, brain, etc. The animals may appear different from human beings, but the biology largely similar. That is why scientists use animals as models to study and understand diseases. The common animals used in scientific research into human diseases are mice, but other animals are also used. For instance, just like humans, rabbits suffer from congenital disabilities such as Spina Bifida and conditions such as atherosclerosis. Dogs may also suffer from hemophilia, cataracts, diabetes, and cancer. Therefore, animals help scientists understand diseases and which medicines are safe and likely to treat them.
To create and test potential forms of treatment.
Many potential treatments work in theory, so testing in living organisms is necessary to ensure they are effective in practice. For this reason, it is critical to do clinical testing and conduct trials in animals before applying them to humans. The data from animals helps scientists determine the treatment’s effectiveness, especially when it comes to studying vaccines and their potential side effects.
For the safety of human beings, animals, and the environment
Newly developed medicines require testing and clinical trials to determine the benefits and potential side effects on the whole organism. New medicine is first tested in vitro using tissue slices and isolated organs. However, legally and ethically, it must be tested in a suitable animal model before human clinical trials can occur.
New medicines’ clinical trials to test efficacy and side effects can only be conducted on humans after safely passing animal safety tests.