Say “no” to animal experimentation

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is part of the coalition group comprising the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) and the SPCA. We refer to the meeting of the four Malaysian ministries over the proposed building of an animal-testing laboratory in Malacca.

SAM is of the view that before opting for more such facilities, there is a need to hasten amendments to the Animal Act 1953 (Revision 2006), an archaic law unbefitting to modern society. The Act needs to be tabled first even before the enforcement of rules and standards on use of animals in experimentation through the Act could be considered.

Another area of fundamental importance is enforcement, because any measure to improve animal welfare can only be effective if they are properly implemented and enforced. Currently the lack of official action to situation involving cases of animal abuse is an indication of the lack of enthusiasm by those charged with the enforcement of animal welfare. As such, could there be effective monitoring of lab animals by the ministry concerned?

SAM believes that the government, industry and academia should promote initiatives that lead to greater application of the 3Rs – replacing animals with humane alternatives, reducing animal use and refining husbandry and procedures to reduce suffering and improve welfare throughout the animals’ lives. The necessity of, and justification for, animal use must be much more critically assessed on a case-by-case basis, with a view to replacing animals in experiments with humane alternatives.

There is no doubt that animals can experience pain and/or distress in experiments and that this can be substantial. In addition, suffering may be caused by the way animals are bred, transported, housed and handled. This makes animal use a matter of serious concern. All the more reason for the development of humane alternatives to be speeded up.

The key question in science is not whether something can be done, but should it be done.

Why are animals used? How much do they suffer? These are important questions asked by public and animal welfare-related groups. There is no one answer to either of these questions, because experiments are carried out for many different purposes.

The species and number of animals involved, the level and nature of suffering caused, and the potential to employ alternative approaches which do not use living animals all vary depending on the type of research.

In every case, we believe it is essential to look critically at the following questions:

  •  Why is the experiment considered important, what are the expected benefits and how will the results be used?
  •  Why is it considered necessary to use animals?
  •  Why can’t alternative methods be used?
  •  What species and numbers of animals are involved?
  •  How much will the animals suffer, and in what ways?
  •  What will be done to avoid or minimise suffering?
  •  How will the animals be housed and cared for?
  •  What happens to the animals at the end of the experiment?

What lab researchers are actually doing is imprisoning, mutilating and is not just cruel, it’s wrong. Moreover, a great deal of animal experimentation has been misleading and resulted in either withholding of drugs, sometimes for years, that were subsequently found to be highly beneficial to humans, or to the release and use of drugs that, though harmless to animals, have actually contributed to human suffering and death.

In view of the fact that all animals are capable of feeling pain and suffering, SAM believes that animal experiments should be done away with.

Letter to the editor by SAM, 6 September 2010