Is it normally acceptable to experiment on non-human animals to develop products and medicines that benefit human beings?
New scientific research has cast grave doubt on the safety testing of hundreds of thousands of consumer products. Everyday products, from soft drinks to paints, contain numerous synthetic chemicals. Official assurances of the safety of these chemicals are based largely on animal experiments. But recent results from a consortium in America suggested such assurances may be worthless. The results challenge the longstanding scientific presumption holding that animal experiments are of direct relevance to humans. The research revealed that drugs developed using mice have had a 100% failure rate in almost 150 clinical trials on humans. This is not unusual considering the fact that “about 90% of all pharmaceuticals tested for safety in animals fail to reach the market”. The failure rates should not be a surprise. Over many years, in fact, genetic concordance has been questioned by a number of researchers, some of who have noted that mice were separated from humans by 120 million years of evolutionary change. Therefore its conclusion suggested researchers should expect that mouse, and probably other animal testing, is of little use in advancing the treatment of human illnesses. In other words, the public is probably being badly served by much of the money spent on medical research and the public is also likely being exposed to dangerous or ineffective pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, animal testing nearly prevented the approval of valuable drugs such as penicillin and subsequent antibiotics, but it did not prevent the thalidomide disaster of the 50s and 60s. If animals are not useful predictors of important disease responses in humans it is unlikely they are useful as test subjects for the safety of human beings. That is to say, lack of genetic concordance means, quote unquote, the synthetic chemicals that are found in industrial products,...
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