I followed this YouTube link, the Foundation for Biomedical Research disspelling myths about animals in laboratories: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKlFK3QOAdA
At 0.18 in this video: “In fact, some people say they’re [ US animal welfare laws ] are more rigorous than the regulations covering experiments with people.” The printed version has “children” instead of “people,” an even wilder misstatement. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this nonsense.
What makes “some people” think this? Because the animal laws require inspecting subjects’ cages twice a year? Because scientists must consider use of pain medicines when inducing cancer or fractures or sepsis or infections or heart disease? Because a committee must assure that undergraduate students know how to properly conduct brain surgery on their subjects?
To the extent that animal subjects protections are more rigorous than human subjects protections, that might reflect the things scientists can get approval to do to animals, and that we in animal research have no equivalent of informed consent that lets people opt out of experiments.
Suppose an experiment required some sort of brain surgery to study cancer. Let’s compare animal research and human research.
A human researcher starts with patients who already have cancer and are in need of treatment. In the animal lab, the first step is to cause cancer, which may require brain surgery. Difference #1: non scientist can get permission to inject brain cancer cells into human subjects. They can’t even get permission to ask human subjects to consent to this. So, far, human subjects protections are looking more rigorous.
And if we do need brain surgery, for example, to try removing a tumor or injecting a drug to kill the cancer cells? Specialist MD board-certified hospital-employed brain surgeons, anesthesiologists, ICU docs and nurses will perform the procedures and aftercare. In the animal lab, those roles may be performed by students or technicians without medical or veterinary degrees. and so an animal ethics oversight committee will (or should) scrutinize their skills rather than assume they know what they’re doing. Maybe that’s a way in which animal protections are more rigorous?
After student surgeries to cause cancer in animals, the animals go back to their cages for the rest of the project. Human patients may spend some time in the ICU, then go home rather than to a cage. Animal ethics committees then will do a cage inspection twice a year, and if the animals are a species covered by the United States’ Animal Welfare Act, a government vet will see them once a year. So is oversight of how we cage our research subjects more rigorous for animals? I don’t see a human subjects committee approving a scientist to cage her human subjects, and in fact, prisoners in jails are considered vulnerable subjects hwo get extra protections.
Pain management? For the human volunteers, decisions about pain management are decisions about what is the best for this patient, balancing side effects and addiction potential against what makes a post-surgical patient experience less pain. For animals, the scientist must consider using pain medicines and must consult with a veterinarian, but can sometimes get approval not to treat the pain, if that might affect the data he’ll get from the experiment. If an animal committee pushes with more rigor to get details on pain management, it’s because pain management with animals remains optional, whereas it’s automatically the standard of care for human patients and subjects.
There are lots of compelling arguments in favor of animal research, and reasons to promote its acceptance in the public. This justification, however, rings hollow.