Is the future of research vegan?

Public health, medicine and vaccines are a hot topic, especially during this pandemic – still ongoing – as I write this post. Is there a vaccine for COVID-19, when, what and how? Science is ever evolving which is a wonderful thing. As long as there is enough funding researchers look for cures for HIV and cancer treatments. They look to better already existent medicine, try to minimize their side-effects and so on. To do this, to serve the public health of us humans, they sometimes use animals. I’ve written a few times about experiments were mice (they are so popular in that field) were served electric shocks, were observed, put on cocaine and all sorts of things. They do suffer. Animals suffer for the greater good. Ideally that is …

Researchers don’t put animals in those conditions for fun. There are guidelines in place since 1959 in the book ‘The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique[1]. The three Rs – that are still followed till this day – are described as such:

  1. replace animals with new technologies
  2. reduce the number of animals used in experiments
  3. refine lab protocols to minimize animal suffering

Some voices are now raising to tell us that those rules are no longer sufficient. What isn’t done today is to ask some very important questions before conducting an experiment with animals. There are no limits on the suffering and also no limits in how many animals can be used. Questions as ‘Is using an animal the last possible option?’ or ‘Is this research very much needed?’ aren’t being asked. The same voices plead that scientist would need to prove that animal testing is needed and that there isn’t another option available. This could benefit animals but could slow science down. What do you think, are extra regulations needed?

Smoking beagles (1967-1970). Research funded by the tobacco industry to prove that tobacco didn’t cause cancer. Source click here.

If we would agree on a more ethical approach with less suffering, can there be exceptions to those rules? Can we use animals with a clear conscience when we need them in case of  a pandemic? Can suffering of animals be compared with the possible benefit for humans?

If exceptions can be made, would animals benefit from a protocol of how they are treated when ‘off duty?’ Can the mice run around and so on.

This is a laboratory rat with a brain implant, that was used to record in vivo neuronal activity during a particular task (discrimination of different vibrations). On this picture scientist feeds the rat apple juice through a pipette. Source image click here.

I know that many make up is being tested on animals but that there are also brands who don’t do that. By educating yourself, you can ‘vote’ with your wallet. In regards to medication that is a whole other ballgame. Is believe that everything is first tested on animals (in a later stage on humans) and that there is no vegan medication out there.

It seems to me that we are ‘obsessed’ by using lab mice to conduct research. It has become a second nature. When I read up about how our memory works, I found out that mice are good for research but that the result aren’t easily transferred onto humans. Did we become overzealous here?

I know that I asked a lot of questions in this post, but I would like to end with one more: Is it possible that we all benefit from changes in science? Or is this not even a topic that you are concerned about? Over to you in the comments please.


Notes and references.

More info about the Beagle-experiments, click here. Warning, it is disturbing to read.

Grimm, D. (2020). Is it time to replace one of the cornerstones of animal research?

DeGrazia,  Beauchamp. (2019). Beyond the 3 Rs to a More Comprehensive Framework of Principles for Animal Research Ethics

[1] Russell W.M.S, Burch R. L., The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique.

Picture credits first picture click here.

19 thoughts on “Is the future of research vegan?

  1. It’s a tough question. Plant cells are structurally quite different from animals, and they’re not differentiated into the same types of cells that are seen in mammals, so I’m not sure if a vegan option would ever be feasible.

    It seems like testing products like makeup on animals is totally unnecessary. But for medical research, if the alternative to doing those kinds of studies on animals is to do them on people, I doubt many people would want that option. But it would be nice to see some really strict regulation on how animals are treated, particularly when they’re not in the midst of an experimental intervention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is what I meant by ‘vegan’, with as much concern as needed for the animals. Like how well are they treated when not on duty? I even found a study that established a correlation between burnout and emotional well-being of workers and how animals were treated.

      Testing make up on animals should be banned but as China demands that everything that passes there, is tested on animals, you ‘know’ that each brand that has a factory there or want to move into the Chinese market needs to approve of animal testing. For example; Nivea was vegan for a long time but not anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think we need to step back and ask the question of “for what should testing be allowed”. I bet we’d all come up with a pretty short list. And if you do allow testing in a particular area, surely the very first precondition is that any knowledge gained is transferrable to humans?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We should revise the areas maybe because we can build on information that is already at hand. I think we’re smart enough to draw conclusions and forecasts.
      I think times are ever changing and some older methods of thinking should evolve too.
      While it is true that research on animals isn’t always easily transferable to humans, it gives us a clue what to search for. But it seems unnecessary to me to breed and keep on selling them without any limitations.
      From the Wikipedia page: “The worldwide market for gene-altered mice is predicted to grow to $1.59 billion by 2022, growing at a rate of 7.5 percent per year”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not sure it can ever be totally vegan. While I don’t think using animal testing for things like make-up, I’m okay with it for science. The only other option is to use humans and I’m not sure how many people would volunteer for that.

    As I’ve said before, I’m not an animal lover personally, but I wouldn’t want to see them hurt/used for no good reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t know if vegan testing as in plant-based would be a feasible option, but perhaps we could consider the possibility of using lab-grown tissue for testing. That doesn’t have the ethical issues of using actual humans, though it wouldn’t perfectly replicate the conditions of a complete and live body. It also might be more accurate than using members of different species whose bodies may react to substances differently from ours. I mean, chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats, but may have health benefits for humans, so species differences could skew testing results.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It would be brilliant if we could replicate animals to enable this kind of testing without harming animals (sorry this is really badly worded). Though as a last resort I think especially regarding vaccines, it is important to continue testing on animals.

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