In a move that took courage, the University of British Columbia recently released data on animal research. The numbers on the site, “The Role of Animals in Research,” are staggering. Each of the bold headings below is a statistic from the UBC SITE.
Animals involved in UBC research in 2010: 211,764
That number is a small percentage of the total used in testing, representing only one university. During that same year, another 3.7 million scientific experiments were carried out on animals in Great Britain.
I give UBC credit for courage because they would have known how appalling that number would be for people concerned about animal welfare. In explaining why animal research is essential, they state:
Medical milestones such as antibiotics, anesthetics, heart valve replacements and vaccines to prevent rabies in companion animals have all involved animal research. Since 1901, almost every Nobel Prize in Medicine has been awarded for innovations dependent on data from animal models. Also, new medicines and treatment must be evaluated in a living organism before being given to humans, according to federal government requirements.
At UBC, animal research is a privilege to be used only when no alternative is possible. It’s true that non-animal techniques, such as cell cultures and computer simulations, are important. However, these methods cannot yet mirror the complicated and sometimes unpredictable processes of a living system.
UBC has adopted “the 3Rs principles of animal use.” That means they try to Reduce the number of animals used in testing by Refining their procedures and Replacing live creatures with non-animal methods wherever possible.
Frog photo from Muhammad Mahdi Karim via Wikimedia Commons; Rescued lab rats photo from SMercury98 via Flickr Creative Commons; Lizard eye photo from Clicksy via Flickr Creative Commons; Monkey photo from Alex Pacheco of PETA (1981) via Wikimedia Commons
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