I hate to say I told ya so, but…wait, who am I kidding, I’m THRILLED to say I told ya so in this case.
Today on Slate, Daniel Engber posted a very long and very well researched article about animal testing, in particular about testing on mice – which account for 4/5 of all animals used in laboratory experiments and testing worldwide. The basic question his article poses to readers is whether or not it is wise to use one (non-human) animal for virtually all testing purposes.
The answer is no, by the way.
I’m going to completely skip over the idiot from the lede who oh so brilliantly noticed one day that the mice we’re testing on are so engineered and alien from their natural living conditions that it probably has a negative effect on testing results because it still hasn’t occurred to him that maybe it’s a bad idea in general to test medical techniques and medicines for humans on anything other than humans. Dude from the next example though, “the government’s top researcher on tuberculosis,” Clifton E. Barry, is catching on:
…No drug can be tested in man until it’s been shown to work in mice, and no drug is tested in mice until it’s been shown to have a reasonable effect in the (Petri) dish. “The bad part of that,” says Barry, “is that no part of it is predictive:” A new compound that succeeds in the dish might flunk out in the mouse, and something that can cure tuberculosis in a mouse could wash out in people…”mice are mice, and people are people. If we look to the mouse to model every aspect of the disease for man, and to model cures, we’re just wasting our time.”
To reinforce the point, the author goes on to note that the only drug we have that works against TB in humans was discovered 40 years ago, when the system for testing wasn’t as rigid. The drug would never make it to the market today because it does nothing in the dish and has only a weak effect in mice, and yet the effect in humans is profound.
The fact that nothing gets to humans today without first passing the mouse test, says Barry, “has cost us a new generation in medicines.”
Good to know.
Also good to know: despite the fact that most researchers today are fully aware of this fact, the vast majority continue to test on mice. Why is that?
The mouse is small, it’s cheap, it’s docile, and it’s amenable to the most advanced tools of genetic engineering…(and also) it’s what we’ve always done.
THIS is the answer that scientists give. Read it again. And then go jump off a cliff because these are supposed to be the smartest among us.
The most astounding and frustrating thing about this article is that scientists, researchers and the author suggest that the solution to the “mouse problem” is simply the use of other (and possibly, more varied) non-human animals in clinical testing environments. Even the TB guy directly quoted above has come to this conclusion.
You seriously don’t see that it’s not about the friggin mouse? It’s so clear that the problem with testing on non-human animals is that they’re not human that I just can’t wrap my head around the possibility that this isn’t also obvious to everyone involved. I don’t buy it. This is about money and close-minded “tradition,” period – and it shames us all. Not just the people in the labs or the NIH or the CEO’s at big pharma, all of us, for turning a blind eye to an industry based on atrocity.
You know, it’s really not my style to be pushy and preachy. I’m far more the “lead by example” type. I’ve gotta say though, this article really makes me want to step it up a notch. I think imma get loud.