From formulating new coronavirus’s drugs to testing dietary supplements, rats and monkeys play a critical role in developing new medical wonders. 95 percent of all lab animals are mice and rats, consistent with the inspiration for Biomedical Research (FBR).
Pioneering surgeons too have done experimental operations on animals before trying them out on human patients. The heart transplant must have first been done on monkeys or chimps. Baby monkeys and apes are kept in isolation to watch its effect on their personalities.
With gene-splicing, it’s now gone one level higher. We are growing human ears on the backs of rats and try to form pigs’ and sheep’s hearts suitable for human transplantation. With a touch of deft genetic tweaking we’re soon getting to be ready to replace all our defective and decrepit body parts — heart, kidney, lungs, even brains, etc., with those of specially-bred animals.
Now it’s obvious to have questions: if the drugs are meant for us, why should they be tested on animals at all? Why should they suffer the unspeakable horrors and pain that these tests entail? What about their lifestyle they also deserve freedom.
But do you know Laboratory animals didn’t always live such a barren lifestyle? Researchers began breeding rats for scientific experiments in the mid-1800s, and early cages allowed the rodents to burrow and run on wheels. But by the 1960s, to standardize care and limit variables, labs began to prioritize small, cheap, and sterile enclosures. There was little regard for the animals’ natural habits, as long as they were free of obvious pain and suffering. The goal, in essence, was to make furry test tubes.
Today, lab mice live in shoebox-size cages hundreds of thousands of times smaller than their natural ranges, and rats can’t forage or even stand upright. Both spend their days blasted by ventilation and bright fluorescent lighting that disrupts their day-night cycles. “We’re doing the precise opposite of what we should always be doing to form these animals happy,” Garner says. Lab animals tend to be obese, have weak immune systems, and develop cancer—all before scientists do any experiments on them.
There are numerous animals that are so almost like us, for straightforward testing: cockroaches, rats, dogs, pigs, monkeys (macaques and capuchins are favorites), and apes. Besides, it might be wonderful to crack the key to how cockroaches manage to survive a nuclear holocaust. Anyway, it’s impossible to just try a new formulation or medical procedure on a human being without first testing on animals — you could be sued for millions — even if the “guinea pigs” did comply with undergoing the trials.
But no animal model is perfect. “There’s going to be a need not just for one animal model, but multiple,” says David O’Connor, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Of course, sometimes things can go hideously wrong. An infected research animal can escape — and why not — and cause panic in the locality as we can see the same in COVID-19.
Everything has its merits and demerits but are we being selfish?
Science is progressing day by day, so as their experiments and competition to achieve something. In this era of corona everyone is trying to produce a vaccine for humankind but what about the animal kingdom?
“We owe it to these creatures to give them the best lives possible. They’re giving us the best they can. So we should be doing the best we can.” -Jennifer Lofgren, University of Michigan