While food production constitutes the main way that we humans abuse our fellow animals, as the film Earthlings (available for free view in a number of languages at www.earthlings.com) points out, we also impoverish the lives on non-human animals for other purposes, such as for entertainment. Another area of concern involves the use of non-human animals for medical testing.
Towards the goal of throwing some light on this topic, and not to raise divisions among vegetarians, ‘IVU Online News’ was fortunate to be able to interview Kathleen Conlee, Senior Director, Animal Research Issues at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
What is The HSUS?
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is the nation's largest animal protection organization—backed by 11 million Americans. Established in 1954, The HSUS seeks a humane and sustainable world for all animals—a world that will also benefit people.
The HSUS’s mission statement is “Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty.” We work to reduce suffering and to create meaningful social change for animals by advocating for sensible public policies, investigating cruelty and working to enforce existing laws, educating the public about animal issues, joining with corporations on behalf of animal-friendly policies, and conducting hands-on programs that make a more humane world. To learn about all of our programs helping animals, visit: www.humanesociety.org/issues
What is HSUS’s view on animal use in biomedical research and testing?
The HSUS advocates an end to the use of animals in research and testing that is harmful to the animals. We carry out our work on behalf of animals used and kept in laboratories primarily by promoting research methods that have the potential to replace or reduce animal use or refine animal use so that the animals experience less suffering or physical harm. Replacement, reduction, and refinement are known as the Three Rs or alternative methods. The Three Rs approach, rigorously applied, will benefit both animal welfare and biomedical progress.
Certain species, such as chimpanzees and other apes, cannot be kept humanely in laboratory caging and should not be used in harmful research given their highly evolved mental, emotional, and social features and their concomitant vulnerability to suffering from living in captivity in research settings. Consequently, we place high priority on these species being phased out of harmful research and being relocated to appropriate sanctuary facilities.
What are your current projects that aim at helping animals used in biomedical research and testing?
Here is a brief summary of some of our current projects:
Chimps Deserve Better is our campaign to phase out the invasive use of chimpanzees in biomedical research and testing and retire them to permanent sanctuary. One main component of this effort is federal legislation, known as the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (www.humanesociety.org/issues/chimpanzee_research)
Human Toxicology Project Consortium: The HSUS is a founding member of this consortium, which is working to move forward the National Research Council’s 2007 “Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy”- a vision of replacing animals for assessing the adverse effects of chemicals on humans (htpconsortium.wordpress.com)
Ending Animal Suffering in Experiments is an effort that seeks to end all suffering in animal research until the day when animals are no longer used. This includes a major effort to get universities to adopt their own policy prohibiting severe animal pain and distress (www.humanesociety.org/issues/pain_distress )
Pets in Experiments: Dogs and cats are collected from random sources, such as flea markets, auctions, shelters and other sources, by what are known as Class B dealers. These dogs and cats are then sold to animal research facilities. We are working to stop this source of animals for experimentation (www.humanesociety.org/issues/pets_experiments)
Cosmetic Testing: The HSUS is member of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC). The CCIC recruits cosmetic companies to adopt a strict cruelty-free standard, ensuring that no final products or ingredients are tested on animals, and we encourage consumers to choose these cruelty-free companies when shopping (www.humanesociety.org/issues/cosmetic_testing)
Our website has additional information about all of our current projects as well as what we are doing to move them forward www.humanesociety.org/about/departments/animals_research.html
What are three facts about animal testing that most people, including most vegetarians, do not know?
There are animal research institutions in almost every state (www.humanesociety.org/AnimalResearchMap) and your alma mater likely conducts animal research--there are more than 500 colleges and universities in the US that use animals. About forty percent of the National Institutes of Health’s budget funds animal research, equalling about $12 billion-therefore every taxpayer is a stakeholder in this issue.
The Animal Welfare Act, the main law that provides minimal protection to animals in laboratories, specifically excludes 95% of the animals used for research, namely purpose-bred mice and rats. As a result, we do not know the total number of animals used for research in the United States each year. Many people are also surprised to learn that dogs and cats are among the animals used in harmful research and testing. The United States is the only developed country that still uses chimpanzees in invasive research and testing.
What is xenotransplantation?
The transplantation of organs, tissues and cells from one species into another is known as “xenotransplantation” (XT)—including from nonhumans into humans. XT can involve raising genetically engineered animals and killing them for transplantation of their organs into another species. If this practice ever becomes a routine clinical procedure, tens of thousands of animals would likely suffer this fate.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recognizes that the current demand for transplantable organs exceeds the available supply, that organs from animals are being considered as a means to help bridge this gap, and that humans already raise and kill many species of animals for food. However, we are concerned that XT represents a short-sighted "fix" that not only exploits animals, but ultimately may prove dangerous to human health.
The HSUS believes that XT should not be pursued as a solution to the problem of organ failure and alternatives should, instead, be given a high priority.
What is your experience interacting with vegetarians about the issue of animal testing?
My experience is that people who become vegetarian largely for ethical (rather than health) reasons are often more familiar with the issue than the general public. But the majority of people, vegetarian or not, believe that we should be embracing innovation and moving toward a day when animals are no longer used -not only for the benefit of the animals, but for the benefit of people. We can certainly do better.
Some advocates of vegetarianism on the grounds of health have been involved in research using nonhuman animals or cite such research. Do you work with such people?
I once worked in a primate research facility that bred and used monkeys for research, and my experience there led me to The HSUS to advocate for these animals. Some animal research has led to medical treatments and methods that have helped humans and other animals—but we should be seeking better ways. It is also important to remember that results from non-human animals do not necessarily mean that the same results will occur in humans. For example, many drugs that have been successful in animal studies have not been successful in humans—and have sometimes caused harm in humans.
The HSUS believes that more funding should be devoted to alternatives in order to make such advancements without the use of animals, with fewer animals, or without causing pain and distress to animals. A true commitment to alternatives by the research community has, thus far, been inadequate.
Some people say that it’s impossible to avoid medicines and medical procedures that have been tested on animals. Is this true? What is your advice for someone who uses allopathic medicine and medical procedures but does not want to be linked with animal testing?
The US government’s Food and Drug Administration currently requires that all drugs labelled safe for human use be tested on animals first. Therefore, under current regulation, as long as someone uses FDA-approved medications, then they will be using products tested on animals.
While, as just mentioned, testing the safety and efficacy of drugs and certain other products is required by current practice by some regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the research community should be aggressively pursuing the development of alternatives and also working to get regulatory agencies to accept these alternatives. As one example, FDA required animal testing to test the safety of fluoride oral care products, but Tom's of Maine petitioned the agency to accept an alternative that didn't involve animal use. This petition was successful and Tom's of Maine uses non-animal alternatives to safety test these products. The result of such efforts would be better prediction of the effects of drugs and other products on humans.
Vegetarian and other animal welfare activists differ on many issues. How can we work together despite such differences?
The HSUS is a firm believer in dialogue and finding common ground with others to determine and work toward common goals that will benefit humans and animals alike. There’s no shortage of animal protection issues to work on—and every little bit that you do counts. For more on how you can help animals in laboratories, please visit The HSUS website at www.humanesociety.org/animalresearch
Do you have a joke that you can share with us?
I saw a cartoon that had two people in white lab coats and one said something along the lines of “Now that we can’t experiment on animals anymore, we’ll need new subjects who have a controlled diet and are healthy.” The second one said “What about vegans?”
The above is from the July Issue of IVU Onlins News for the full issue go to: www.ivu.org/news