Animal experimentation is carried out to test new products, drugs, treatments etc. that cannot be carried out ethically or safely in humans (FRAME 1). The five main reasons for using animals, according to the Fund for Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME), are:
To improve basic knowledge of biological systems and disease processes
To develop new diagnostic techniques
To develop new treatments and test them
To produce biological products such as vaccines, hormones etc.
To test product safety. Experimentation in animals has lead to such things as antibiotics, analgesics, vaccines which have enabled doctors to eliminate many diseases, and advances in medical technology, such as life-support machines.
A few specific examples from Chang (11) point to the great benefits to mankind of animal experimentation:
1885 - Pasteur develops a vaccine against rabies using rabbits and other animals
1891 - scientists drew blood from a horse to fight diphtheria, a severe respiratory disease which killed thousands in the late 1800s
1952 - Jonas Salk develops a vaccine for polio using monkeys, rats and mice
Along the way, animal rights organizations grew, following the founding of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), founded in 1866 (Chang 18). In 1951, Christine Stevens founded the Animal Welfare Institute to monitor the treatment of laboratory animals, and in 1966 the government passed the Animal Welfare Act. Going one step further, in 1981, Johns Hopkins University opened the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, which awards research grants to those who use methods other than animal experimentation in their research.
Animal activists argue strongly for using alternatives to animals in medical experimentation, but scientists argue equally strongly that there are cases in which alternatives simple do not exist (Chang 10). For instance, one scientist points ou...