There is not a person alive today who has not benefited from humane medical research involving animals. Were it not for this type of research, both the length and the quality of human life would be greatly reduced.
The continued use of animals—treating them with the dignity, gentleness, and respect to which they are entitled—is a matter of common sense. The American Academy of Neurology joins other medical groups and concerned citizens in supporting the continued use of animal studies in medical research.
Advancements Made Possible by Animal Research
Without critical animal research, progress would slow or advancements would halt in treatment options aimed at limiting human suffering for many neurologic disorders, including:
There are more than 700,000 strokes each year in the United States, making it the leading cause of serious long-term disability and third leading cause of death in the country. Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65, with the risk more than doubling each decade after the age of 55. We now have a way to reverse the disabling symptoms of stroke if a "clot-busting" medication is used within the first three hours of stroke onset. This important new treatment is available only because of studies that were first done in animals.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia among older people. This non-reversable brain disorder gradually robs the mind of its intellectual abilities, such as decision-making and language skills, and ability to recognize family and friends. While people can develop Alzheimer's disease in as early as their 30s, 40s, and 50s, more than 90 percent of Alzheimer's disease develops in people older than 65. Research in rats and monkeys gave us the first medication that can improve the quality of life in Alzheimer's patients.
Parkinson's disease is a disease that affects the area of the brain that controls muscle movement. Symptoms typically include trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; stiffness of the arms, legs, and trunk; slowness of movement; and poor balance and coordination. As these symptoms get worse, people with the disease may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. They may also have problems such as depression or trouble sleeping, chewing, swallowing, or speaking. Parkinson's disease usually affects people over the age of 50, but can start earlier, and is more common in men than in women. Chemical abnormalities identified in the human brain were identified from studies in rats, leading to the development of many new drugs to treat the disease.
We now know that many neurologic diseases occur because of abnormalities in genes. Mice that have genetic neurologic diseases similar to those in humans have helped us understand these diseases better and will help us develop better treatments or even cures.
Mental retardation and other developmental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia are conditions that affect the functioning of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. These disorders can impact intelligence and learning, behavior, speech and language, and movement. Animal studies have provided us with information about the problems in the brain that cause dysfunction and promise to provide better therapies for them.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells in the brain sometimes signal abnormally, causing strange sensations, emotions, behavior, and sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. After nearly 20 years without any new medications to treat epilepsy, we now have several medicines and surgical techniques that help control seizures in approximately 80 percent of those diagnosed with epilepsy. None of these new treatments would be approved for human use unless their safety had first been tested in animals.
Each year, tens of thousands of people, primarily young people, suffer severe brain and spinal cord damage in automobile accidents. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have also created an emerging epidemic of traumatic brain injury among combat veterans that is associated with cognitive dysfunction, post-traumatic epilepsy, headaches, and other motor and sensory neurologic complications. Severely damaged nerve cells cannot grow back, so little can be done to enhance recovery of function. Research with newly discovered "nerve growth factors" and other treatments in rats and mice is testing which solutions could eventually be used as therapies for these injured people.
Migraines are disabling headaches during which sufferers may be sensitive to light and sound and become nauseated. Migraine is three times more common in women than in men. Research on animals that have blood vessels similar to humans has led to new drugs to treat migraines.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that primarily affects young women between the ages of 20 and 40. The disease involves disabling flare-ups of brain and spinal cord symptoms. These may include visual problems, muscle weakness, sensory disturbances, and difficulty with coordination and balance. These symptoms may be severe enough to impair walking or even standing; in the worst cases, multiple sclerosis can produce partial or complete paralysis. Until recent years, there was no effective treatment. Because of work done in rats and mice, we now have several treatments for this disease.
Tumors of the nervous system are abnormal growths of tissue found inside the skull or the bony spinal column. These tumors can cause many symptoms, including headaches; nausea and vomiting; changes in one's ability to talk, hear, or see; problems with balance or walking; problems with thinking or memory; muscle jerking or twitching; and numbness or tingling in arms or legs. Although brain tumors are among the most resistant to treatment of all human cancers, several new drugs have recently become available to help brain tumor patients, and a substantial number of potentially helpful therapies are being developed in research laboratories. These advances are heavily dependent upon animal testing.
Facts About Animal Research
No Alternatives Can Replace All Animal Research
Opponents say computer models can always be used as substitutes. They are wrong. Animal research is the only way to obtain absolutely essential information. Humans build computers. No human knows enough to make a computer that can duplicate a living creature, its diseases, its response to medications, or the side effects that medications might cause. There are only two choices for gaining this information: test new medications on animals or on people.
Federal Law Assures Animal Protection
Federal law sets strict codes for the humane treatment of animals in research and requires that review groups be established to be sure the law is followed by every research center. Government inspectors make periodic unannounced visits to animal facilities.
Scientists Do Not Tolerate Animal Abuse
Treating animals humanely is not only the right thing to do, it is good science. Mistreatment distorts test results and ruins years of painstaking, costly research.
Your Pet is Not At Risk
About 90 percent of research animals are rats, mice, and other rodents. Less than one percent are dogs or cats, and approximately another one percent are primates. To put the issue in perspective, between 10 million and 16 million unwanted cats and dogs are put to death in pounds and shelters each year. Only about one percent of this total number is released for research. Most research animals are specifically bred for this purpose.
Everybody Benefits from Animal Research
If animal research were to stop, so would all progress in finding treatments and cures for human suffering caused by disease. If animal research had never been performed in the first place, we would have no vaccines, life-saving surgical procedures, or essential medications that we now take for granted. Our average life span is now about 50 years longer due to the many breakthroughs made possible by animal research.
Animals Benefit from Animal Research
Research begun for human medical purposes has produced advances in veterinary medicine. One example is the development of tranquilizers that have facilitated the treatment of all animals, including those living in the wild.
Violence Does a Disservice to the Dignity Owed Animals
Some animal rights extremists have engaged in burglary, vandalism, arson, and outright terrorism to drive scientists out of research. No matter where one stands on this subject, everyone must deplore such tactics. Further, some extremists have worked their way into traditional animal welfare groups and have used schools and other forums to represent a distorted, one-sided view of the issue. When such propagandists are encountered, they should be pressed to present all the facts.
Animals in Research Task Force Resources
- Americans for Medical Progress
- The American Physiological Society
- The National MS Society
- National Association for Biomedical Research
- Foundation for Biomedical Research