Humans have “used” animals not only as a source of food but also for companionship, recreation and transport for ages. According to (CULABBR, 1988), scientific research has used a wide range of animal usage in labs, such as guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice, fish, birds, cats, dogs and primates. The research conducted on animals covers the fields of screening drugs for possible toxic effects, producing diagnostic or therapeutic products such as antibiotics and evaluating the effects of surgery or other medical procedures.
According to 2003- published research in Alternatives to Animal Experimentation, around 2.13 million animals were used in Germany in 2001. The year 2011 saw the use of 3.71 million animals in the UK (www.rspca.org.uk). Experiments use the tissues or organs or the entire animal. This often requires that the animals are killed (scientifically called euthanized) using prescribed methods. Those animals that survive clinical testing are euthanized at the end of the timelines to prevent distress! Researchers, Doke and Dhawale reported in the Saudi pharmaceutical journal: SPJ in 2015 that death is the outcome in animal usage in labs for LD50 experiments. Additionally, wild animals such as birds and monkeys too sometimes are used in research that dictates that these animals are housed away from their natural surroundings and instincts.
There have been extensive debates concerning the death along with the anguish and pain suffered by animals during experiments. As animals are too living beings, their use for such experimentation causes anguish that brings in ethical issues in their usage. There are several laws and acts passed for lowering the pain inflicted on animals during experiments and also prevent their unethical uses. For example, scientific experiments should follow the guidelines prescribed by the NIH (National Institute of Health), CPCSEA (Committee for Purpose of Control and Supervision on Experiments on Animal) and ICH (International Conference on Harmonization of technical requirements for registration of pharmaceuticals for human use). Centres that use animals require the formation of Institutional animal care and use committees (IACUC) that lay down guidelines to be followed.
Apart from the ethical angle, the use of animals requires the high cost of breeding the animals and housing them. Additionally, skilled technicians are needed and the time involved is also high according to researchers Arora and team (2011).
Research has brought in the concept of the 3 “R”- Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement with Responsibility as the 4th “R” that was added later.
In order to achieve these 4 “R”s, the Draize eye irritancy test uses live rabbits having chemicals dropped in their eyes to test for potential toxic effects; in vitro primary corneal cultures emerge as a suitable alternative. Not only are the results faster and in sync with what is seen in vivo given that primary cultures mimic the tissues from which they are established but also less time-consuming. Added advantages include lower costs and increased flexibility in terms of changing the variables when cultures are used.
Research is aimed at improving the quality of life however, not at the cost of harming other organisms. Thus, primary cultures emerge as suitable alternatives to conduct precise and ethical research.
CULABBR : Committee on use of laboratory animals in biomedical and behavioral research, national research council and institute of medicine, 1988. Use of laboratory animals in biomedical and behavioral research. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.
Rusche, B. (2003) The 3 Rs and animal welfare-conflict or the way forward. Alternatives to Animal Experimentation, 20:63–76.
Doke, S. K., & Dhawale, S. C. (2015). Alternatives to animal testing: A review. Saudi pharmaceutical journal : SPJ: the official publication of the Saudi Pharmaceutical Society, 23(3), 223–229.
Arora, T., Mehta, A. K., Joshi, V., Mehta, K. D., Rathor, N., Mediratta, P. K., & Sharma, K. K. (2011). Substitute of Animals in Drug Research: An Approach Towards Fulfillment of 4R’s. Indian journal of pharmaceutical sciences, 73(1), 1–6.