Writing and Rhetoric
13 December 2000
One of the most touchy aspects of our relationship with animals is the use of animals in laboratory sciences. Some manufactures of cosmetics and household products still conduct painful and useless tests on live animals, even though no law requires them not to. Some people, called anti-vivisectionists, are at one extreme in their concern. They want an abolition of all experiments on live animals. At the other extreme there are those who say that it is quite all right for us to do whatever we like to animals. They say that God gave us such a right, since it is written in the bible (Genesis 1:26) that man has dominion over all creatures. If these tests give some educational value, adds to scientific knowledge, or can help improve human health, they argue that it is worth killing animals or subjecting them to painful experiments. I believe that the unnecessary testing of animals is inhumane and unethical when alternative methods
The anti-vivisectionists say we should not allow experiments on animals and the animal utilitarians, or vivisectionists, claim that we can do anything to animals if it is for the ultimate good of humanity. Perhaps they are both wrong. Much can be learned from treating animals that are already sick or injured in testing new life-saving drugs and surgical techniques. Animals, as well as people benefit from new discoveries. But is it right to take perfectly healthy animals and harm them to find cures for human illnesses, many of which we bring on ourselves by poisoning the environment, eating the wrong kinds of foods, and by not adopting a healthy active life-style?
Do people have the right to do what ever they like to perfectly healthy animals? Do we have the right to continue doing experiments over and over again in a needless repetition and a waste of animals if no new information is going to be gained? Animals suffer unnecessarily and their lives are pointlessly wasted. If the issue were simple, animal experimentation might never have become so controversial.
Each year in the United States an estimated 20-70
million animals-from cats, dogs and primates, to rabbits, rats and mice-suffer and die in the name of research. Animal tests for the safety of cosmetics, household products and chemicals are the least justifiable. Animals have doses of shampoo, hair spray, and deodorant dripped into their eyes or applied to bare skin in attempts to measure eye and skin irritancy levels. Other are force-fed massive quantities of toxic materials such as bleach or soap, in a hit-and-miss attempt to measure levels of toxicity. Since 1938, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required that each ingredient in a cosmetic be "adequately substantiated for safety" prior to being made available to the consumer. However, neither the FDA nor the Consumer Product Safety Commission ( a regulatory agency that oversees product safety, consumer complaints, etc.) requires firms to conduct animal testing of any cosmetic product. Cosmetic companies use animal tests to insure themselves against possible consumer lawsuits. If sued for liability, they can protect themselves by arguing that the cosmetic was "adequately tested for safety" with tests standard in the cosmetic industry. How placing a piece of lipstick in the eye of a rabbit to determine if it is safe
for the consumer, boggles my mind. If someone placed a piece of lipstick in my eye, I do believe it would irritate my eye also. How in the name of God does this test prove it is safe for the consumer? I don't believe lipstick is gong to be used in the eye area, unless you are an illiterate that can’t read directions.
The Draize Eye-Irritancy Test was designed to assess a substance's potential harmfulness to human eyes based on its effects on rabbits' eyes. This test was developed in the early 1940s by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This test is typically performed on six rabbits per substance tested. Technicians restrain each rabbit and place a measured amount of the test substance in the lower lid of one eye. Usually no anesthetics are given. the rabbits eyes are than examined at different intervals. If severe injury has resulted, the rabbits may be observed for signs of recovery for as long as twenty-one days. Technicians record signs of damage, such as redness and swelling of the conjunctiva (the sac covering the eyeball), inflammation of the iris, and clouding of the cornea. Using a standardized scoring scheme, the degrees of damage to the conjunctivia, iris, and cornea are compared to graded
levels of irritations. Scores for each of these parameters are than totaled. Based on the total Draize score and the symptoms' duration, the test chemical is classified by the degree of irritation it causes: none, mild, moderate, or severe. At best, the Draize test yields a crude measure of a substance's irritancy; it is not designed to yield information about possible treatments or antidotes. the Draize is inhumane. Substances such as oven cleaners and paint removers cause obvious pain and suffering. Also, because animal and humans differ in medically important ways, results from the Draize test do not necessarily apply to humans. Rabbit eyes differ significantly from human eyes: rabbits possess a nictitating membrane (a third eyelid) and have a slower blink reflex, a less effective tearing mechanism and a thinner cornea than humans. These differences make rabbit eyes more sensitive than human eyes
to some chemicals and less sensitive to others. The test is unreliable. Several laboratories may perform the test on the same chemicals and report different results. Manufactures argue that they conduct the Draize test to protect the public from unsafe products. Since 1986
legislation has been introduced in several states to limit or ban the Draize test for particular products (especially cosmetics), but no bill has yet passed.
Another test I like to address is the Lethal Dose 50 Percent (L50) test. This test is a procedure that exposed animals to a particular chemical in order to yield an estimate of how poisonous that chemical would be to human beings. Substances tested can include drugs, cosmetics, household products, industrial chemicals, pesticides and the individual ingredients of any of these products. The test procedure requires between 60 to 100 animals to determine what constitutes a lethal dose of a particular substance. The test spans a time period from two weeks to sever years, depending on the amount of toxic chemicals in the product being tested. The animals are observed daily. Since chemicals are bitter-tasting and have an unpleasant smell, animals refuse to swallow them. The animals are then forced to swallow the substances in the form of capsules or pellets. they are also force-fed liquid chemicals by stomach tube, or through a hole cut in the animal's throat. Some animals die from the sheer bulk of the dosage administered or from the severe burns they
receive in the throat and stomach from the chemicals used in products such as laundry bleach and detergents and cologne. There are variations to this test which include forcing the animal to breathe the substance or applying the substance to the shaved skin of the animal or injecting the substance into the body, usually the abdomen. The animals are not provided with painkillers because they may affect the test outcome. Millions of rats, rabbits, mice and guinea pigs have been used in these tests, which purportedly assure the safety of cosmetics and household products. Many animals are still suffering in these useless tests right now. These tests are crude, cruel, and unreliable. Animals injured in acute toxicity and eye irritancy tests are never treated. If the animals do not die from the effects of the experiments itself, they are either killed or used for an autopsy, or, if they are not badly injured, recycled and used for additional tests.
Since the animals are not treated, these tests provide little useful knowledge for the treatment of humans who are exposed to the harmful substances. Dr. Gil Langley, a scientific neuro-chemist, states that: "Results (of animal tests) vary dramatically from laboratory to
laboratory, between strains, sex, age, and species of animals, and extrapolation to humans in questionable."1 Animal tests have failed to provide the clear definition between harmful and harmless products that they were originally intended to provide. Therefore, regardless of animal testing, the consumer always becomes the so-called "guinea pig" for any new product.
Alternatives to animal tests are available on todays market. Many companies are working in fierce competition and dozens of alternative are being developed. Newer and more sophisticated tests are gradually replacing the Draize test. These alternatives most often use test-tube, or "in-vitro, " methods based on the idea that what happens in the body's individual cells reflects what happens in intact organs such as the eye. Human cells can be used in such studies. In addition to in-vitro methods, other potential alternatives to the Draize test include tests that use computer programs, microorganisms and other organisms that can't experience pain, and chemical methods to analyze untested substances. Some of the new tools for assessing eye irritancy are: Neutral Red Assay- Irritants impair healthy cells' ability to take up neutral red dye.
This test measures the degree of impairment, yielding an index of irritancy. Agarose Diffusion-Tiny paper discs are coated with a test chemical and placed on a layer of gelatin. The chemical diffuses through the gelatin and reaches an under layer of healthy cells. A ring of dead cells around the discs indicates irritation. Eytex- In this test kit, a specially formulated chemical mixture turns cloudy when exposed to irritants, mimicking the response of the cornea. Microtox- This test kit contains a bacterium that can emit light. Substances that inhibit this process are irritants. Topkat-A computer program estimates eye irritancy by comparing untested chemicals to similar chemicals of know irritancy. Most of these alternatives are being developed or improved at high-technology companies. Eytex at In Vitro International, Neutral Red Uptake Assay at Clonetics, Microtox at Microbies, and Topkat at Health Designs.
Technical advances to eliminate LD50 testing are also available. More Sophisticated methods, such as in vitro techniques, are the beginning of the move in the right direction. In contrast to in vitro methods which use the whole animal, in vitro methods use only the cells or
tissue of animals or humans.
Animal cells can often be made to grow and divide indefinitely, thus sparing animals lives. When human cells are used ( they are commonly obtained from tissue routinely discarded after surgery), in vitro techniques are completely humane. Tests using human cells are more scientifically relevant than those procedures using whole animals or animal cells or tissue. Other approaches are also being developed, there are computer programs that estimate the LD50 score of an untested substance by comparing its chemical and structural properties to those of similar substances of know toxicity. Companies can also employ the simple method of selective formulation to avoid D50 testing while more sophisticated alternatives are being developed. Companies employing selective formulation use ingredients with safety profiles that have already been established and thereby avoid the need for any new testing.
Clearly, animal testing is almost a thing of the past. But, until every animal is free from commercial testing, we have no time to rest on our laurels. Many companies still say that animal tests are the most likely to hold up in court if a human is injured by a cosmetic or
household product and, for that reason, they will struggle to hold on to animal-based research. We need to continue to to find new and improved alternatives so that we may preserve the lives and dignity of animals, but can also ensure the consumer of product safety. Many manufactures such as Avon, Revlon, and Estee Lauder have ceased animal tests. the fact that companies are supporting alternatives and reduce animal usage is a good sign but the fight is clearly not over.
This project has educated me to be a more caring consumer and I will use buying power to pressure companies into banning animal testing within the commercial market. I have learned to write to companies that still test products on animals and let them know that I would not be buying their products and urge them to choose alternative instead. We must remember unseen they suffer, unheard they cry, in agony they linger, in loneliness they die. You can make a difference, you can be their voice.
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