Genesis and the use of animals in research

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:26)

There are a lot of animal lovers out there, and I happen to be one of them. And the question frequently arises, “do we have to use animals in research?” As with many things in life, the answer depends on what you mean by “have to.”

God’s values are embedded in us (whether or not we choose to believe in Him), and one manifestation of this truth is the universally uncontested moral that humans are to treat animals well. Accordingly, there is a lot of governmental regulation around the use of animals. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) was signed into law by the Federal government in 1966. Interestingly, research mice and rats were excluded from the list of regulated animals. Animal-rights advocates protested, and 19 years later, the Health Research Extension Act was passed, which essentially included research mice and rats under the AWA, with a little catch. The new law only applies to institutions receiving governmental funds (which happens to be almost every major research institution). But if an instititution, that uses mice in research, does not receive any governmental funding, then it is not required to follow the Health Research Extension Act. Daniel 2:28, Inc. does not receive Federal funds and does work with mice.

At Daniel 2:28, we do agree with governmental regulation of mice used in research, and we comply with many of the Federal requirements to the best of our ability. Because the requirements were intended for large institutions, some aspects cannot even be applied to a small entity like Daniel 2:28, Inc.

We strongly believe in the three Rs (one major tenet in the policy that governs how animals are to be used in research): replacement, refinement, and reduction. Replacement – can the use of animals be avoided altogether? If not, can the simplest or least complex animal be used? Refinement – if animals must be used, then do everything possible to minimize or avoid suffering and seek the well-being of the animal through proper care and husbandry. Reduction – if animals must be used, obtain the sought after information with as few animals as possible.

At Daniel 2:28, we have cancer cells growing in a dish, and we can do experiments on the cancer cells. We have machines to analyze the genetics of the cancer cells. Animals can be totally avoided in these areas of research.

What is impossible to study without the use of animals is how do cancer cells spread to other parts of the body. How do cancer cells interact with the immune system? One can mix immune cells and cancer cells in a dish and see how they interact, but the entire immune system of an animal cannot be represented by a few immune cells in a dish. If one is to understand how one complex entity (e.g., a cancer) interacts with a complex organ system (e.g., the immune system), then unfortunately “yes,” we do have to use animals in research.

I would add a fourth R. Respect – respecting and honoring these amazing creatures for their sacrifice and contribution to the advancement of the medical sciences.

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