animal testing protest, animal research protest
Reed Saxon/AP
Demonstrators against animal research march during protests on both sides of the heated
debate over animal research at the University of California, Los Angeles, Wednesday, April
22, 2009.

Putting a New Face on Animal Testing

November 06, 2009 06:00 PM
by Colleen Brondou
Studies show Americans’ support for animal research has declined significantly. In response, biomedical researchers have launched a national campaign to defend and promote animal testing.

Researchers Launch “Research Saves” Campaign

Billboards, TV commercials, Web sites, Twitter and Facebook—the Foundation for Biomedical Research is using all of these mediums to spread the message that animal “Research Saves.” Jim Spencer, writing for the Star Tribune, explains that “a serious drop” in Americans’ support for medical and scientific animal testing has spurred the foundation to invest more than $1 million in a campaign to defend the importance of animal research.

According to campaign organizers, support for animal testing in the United States dropped from 70 percent in 2000 to 54 percent in 2008. A July Pew Foundation poll revealed that just 52 percent of Americans support the research; that number is expected to drop below 50 percent in 2010, “and could lead to legislative and regulatory research restrictions that … would have huge implications on public policy and human health,” Spencer writes.

“We need a celebrity spokesperson, but can’t find one,” Dick Bianco, associate professor of surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a member of the campaign, told the Star Tribune. “If we could get a celebrity, that would change everything.” 

Opinion & Analysis: Is animal testing worth it?

Supporters of animal research point out that many medical treatments wouldn’t exist without animal testing.

“One of the problems we have nationally is that people don’t see the connection between science and biomedical research and progress,” Mayo Clinic research dean Dr. Michael Joyner told the Star Tribune. “Things like heart valves and statins wouldn’t be here without animal research.”

But animal rights activists see animal research as cruel and unethical. “I’d rather see [animals] euthanized than go to a research facility,” Charlotte Cozzetto, president of the Minnesota Animal Rights Coalition, told the Tribune.

Other opponents of animal testing claim it is misleading. In an opinion piece for BusinessWeek’s The Debate Room, Dr. John J. Pippin of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine asserts that millions of dollars have been spent to test drugs that “had severe and even lethal effects in people after demonstrating safety in animal tests.” Pippin argues that “the dismal performance of the animal research paradigm prove[s] that we must use more accurate, human-based research methods if we wish to succeed against human diseases.”

Related Topic: Animal testing in the UK

In 2005, testing on monkeys became a contested issue in the U.K. when a study showed that monkeys can use their brains to remotely control external devices. In 2008, the European Commission determined that an absolute ban on nonhuman primate testing would be counterproductive.

The debate made headlines again in 2009 when five marmosets were created with a gene from a jellyfish, making them glow green under UV light. The purpose of the study was to examine how gene modification can be used to treat human diseases. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, however, condemned the research.

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