Types of Research

Biomedical researchers attempt to answer basic questions about human biology and apply those findings to improve human health. Typically, they rely on animal ‘models,’ but with limited success. Often, researchers attempt to induce into nonhuman animals virtually any conceivable human disease, many of which do not naturally occur in the species being used.

Scientists use genetic engineering (i.e., inserting, deleting, or otherwise altering the function of genes) or physical, chemical, and/or biological means to cause conditions or symptoms in animals that they hope will approximate human disease. Researchers try to use these animals, or so-called ‘models,’ to learn about the dynamics of diseases, lifestyle or environmental effects on the disease, or treatment methods, and hope that the findings will relate in some way to people. Because the onset of the disease is intentional and researchers want to understand its process, the animals are not usually treated as human patients would be. Their pain and distress is often part of study protocols.

The fields of psychologymilitary, and space research tend to be particularly cruel for the animals involved. Researchers use animals because they can manipulate and experiment with animals in ways that are not acceptable in humans. However, animals are not ‘little people,’ and they suffer greatly in these studies, both physically and psychologically. Genetic engineering further aggravates the situation, consuming an excessive amount of animal life and promoting the view that animals are little more than ‘tools’ or ‘commodities’ that can be manipulated at will.

The goal of answering fundamental questions about basic biology, disease, and injury is a noble one. However, although clinical studies remain a central focus of human medical research, and the use of alternatives is increasing, there is still an over-reliance on questionable animal ‘models'. Scientific advances, and an open mind, will allow researchers to end their outdated reliance on animals while providing results that are more applicable to humans and less ethically challenging.


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