Medicines, household products, food, and basically everything involved in the life of an average person has to under go a form of testing before it islegal to be placed on a shelf and if available to the public. The same tests are performed on every medical procedure that is introduced to surgeons. Since the only way to directly mimic the human body is to use it itself, scientists were forced to find the closest and best alternative. That is where animals were introduced to the medical profession.
Experimentation on animals date back to as early as 500 BC, making this form of medical validation one of the oldest known to humans. It is not only one of the oldest but one of the most informative. Scientists use animals in medical research to study how the body works and how to diagnose, cure, and prevent disease. Researchers also use animals for tests to try to protect the public from dangerous chemicals, (Day, 13) such as those included in detergents, bleach, and other household products. When live animals are used in experimentation, this practice is called vivisection. Animals are used in many instances because their bodies often react in a similar way to that of a humans. Although animals have been used in medical research for numerous years it was not until the early 1920s that it became more prominent.
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It was at this point that the introduction of using live, un-anesthetized, animals to study toxic effects on an increasing array of drugs, pesticides and food additives was introduced. After this great advance in medical research the results of using animals grew with leaps and bounds. In 1970 this process peaked with the use of millions of animals. Since then, according to the USDAs Animals Welfare Enforcement, 1,267,828 animals were used for medical purposes in 1998, which is more than a 50 percent decrease since 1970. Although this is a drastic drop in animals used there have been many medical advances; virtually every medical break through this century has come about as the result of research with animals.
(Office of Technology) Of the many animals used for experiments, about 90 percent of the animals used are rats, mice and other rodents. Animals such as these are used for two reasons, one because they are readily available upon request, and two because they are cheap which helps aid the large cost of animals experimentation. Although it has been proven, that in many cases, rats and mice are not an accurate subject to test medicines on; their popularity has only grown larger. Mechanize (a travel sickness drug) caused severe deformities in rats, but not in humans, whereas Thalidomide (a sedative drug) caused no reaction in rats but cause deformities in humans. This is only one of the many cases where mice and rats have been found as faulty test subjects. With the wide range of animals that are available, the tests the are used on them are even vaster.
The tests are broken down into many different categories, which allows scientists to zero in on certain areas of testing and to specify results. The largest and most useful area of testing is called Toxicity Testing. In toxicity tests, animals are generally exposed to chemicals in ways that are meant to mimic human exposure, by ingestion, inhalation, skin contact and contact with the eyes.
The type of animals used in this field include rodents, dogs, cats, fish, birds (chickens, hens, pigeons) rabbits, frogs, pigs, sheep, and primates. Toxicity testing is aimed at providing information, which can be used to attempt to protect society and the environment against the harmful effects of chemicals. (Boyd, 184) Eye irritancy tests, the largest and most controversial area in toxcity testing, began in 1920. It was introduced because soldiers were exposed to mustard gas in World War I, their eyes began to burn and some lost sight. To understand what the effects of the mustard gas more clearly scientist used rabbits as their test subjects.
They would force they eyes of the rabbit open and let mustard gas fester for days, they would then compare their findings to the effects on humans. After this first introduction to the benefits of