Dr Julia Baines, science policy adviser for PETA UK, spoke out against animal testing in a panel discussion at Imperial College London, a university widely known for its use of animals in research. The jam-packed event, titled “Animal Testing: Vital or Unnecessary?”, was organised by Imperial College’s Animal Protection & Education Society and included speakers from a pro–animal testing organisation, a non-animal medical research charity and a representative from Imperial College’s Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body.
In her address, Dr Baines explained the horror that animals face in laboratories:
Each year, more than 4 million animals – including dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and monkeys – are killed in UK laboratories for curiosity-driven experimentation, medical training and chemical and drug testing. Imagine waking up to find yourself paralysed due to your spinal cord being crushed and holes have been drilled into your head with electrodes now implanted into your brain. What do you think it would feel like to be locked in a gas chamber and forced to inhale toxic fumes that burn your eyes and scold your airways and lungs. How would you feel if you were strapped down in a restraint device for hours on end, denied food and water and had your skin burned off? All of this and more goes on in UK laboratories every day.
She also discussed the available alternatives to animal testing:
Many studies have shown that animal tests fail to predict reactions in humans accurately, and they sometimes get it right less than 25 per cent of the time. So in some cases, you’d be better off flipping a coin. … Sophisticated computer models can now predict drug effects in humans far more accurately than animal experiments. Human clinical and epidemiological studies, cadavers, and in vitro tests are more reliable, more precise, less expensive, and more humane than animal tests. Creative scientists have developed, from human brain cells, a model “microbrain” with which to study tumours, as well as artificial skin and bone marrow. We can now test skin irritancy and corrosion on protein membranes, produce vaccines from human tissues, and perform pregnancy tests using urine samples instead of killing rabbits.
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