In 2014, Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine made a huge stride in working to cure HIV. Students were able to remove the HIV virus from infected cells.
Researchers used the same gene-editing technology to eliminate HIV in rats and mice in 2016.
The Lewis Katz School of Medicine, as well as Temple’s psychology and biology departments, conduct tests on different animal species, like rats, mice, cats, dogs and even farm animals.
But to make research more ethical and accurate, Temple should stop animal testing in laboratories across the university. We can conduct these tests more precisely by computer simulation. And given that animals are living beings and capable of feeling pain, such testing is unethical.
For years, animals have been used for medical research and testing for other industries, like cosmetics. Rodents are the most commonly used animal for testing in America, according to the National Association for Biomedical Research.
With its current policy, Temple outlines specific guidelines for daily care for animals, usage during studies and — if necessary — appropriate means for euthanization.
I think most students would be determined to save larger animals, like dogs, if they were the typical face of testing, but we should be compassionate for all animals.
“You have a young student at the undergrad level and they have to dissect first… and go on and do experimental surgeries. And at each step they’re becoming more and more desensitized to the pain they’re inflicting on other living beings,” said Alka Chandna, the chief of laboratory case management for the laboratory investigations department at PETA, an animal rights organization.
You might think the suffering of these animals at least yields accurate results, but it usually doesn’t. And there’s a more trustworthy alternative.
Computer simulations of experimental procedures offer more reliable results than tests on rats and mice, according to the New York Times. One of the many examples of how this technique can expand the possibilities of research are the “human organs-on-chips” that the Wyss Institute at Harvard University created. This invention can simulate how the body will function in response to new drugs and other environmental factors — without causing harm to any living being.
It’s time the university adopts a more principled policy like this, ending cruelty to living creatures.
The National Institute of Health reported that “95 percent of all drugs that are shown to be safe and effective in animal tests fail in human trials because they don’t work or are dangerous.”
The use of rats and mice is so popular in laboratory studies because they’re so readily available, according to CNN Health. This leads to inbred rodents, meaning the similarities between human and rodent DNA shrinks and even less accurate results are produced.
“That’s another whole ethical issue,” said Carolyn Bresnahan, a junior public health and Spanish major. “I’m sure that [scientists] are creating a bunch of [animals] so they can use them every day for testing.”
Misguided research doesn’t offer many benefits for humans.
And if the inaccuracies reported aren’t enough to put an end to such experimentation, the ethical issues raised should be.
This cruelty toward animals resonates with students, especially those who don’t eat meat for moral reasons. Using animals in labs could discourage them from pursuing certain majors. Despite being passionate about biological studies, Chandna chose not to pursue a biology major because of unethical animal testing policies in undergraduate departments.
“The legacy of animal experimenters is that animals don’t feel pain, they don’t suffer and they don’t matter,” Chandna said. “It’s for [our] own psychological well being, to believe that animals don’t matter.”
According to a 2017 Gallup Poll, 44 percent of Americans oppose animal testing. This number nearly doubled since 2001. And with increased awareness of virtual alternatives, I expect that number to keep growing.
It’s quickly forgotten that animals feel pain and don’t enjoy being harmed by chemicals, toxins or shocks in testing facilities. We’ve reached so many breakthroughs in technology that it’s time to stop using animals for our own curiosity.
“In the ‘always-on-the-move, always-improving’ kind of age, you would think [Temple] would be looking into something else,” Bresnahan said.
With more accurate and ethical practices available, Temple should be eager to adapt. With consideration for animals and students, this outdated policy can be and should be removed.