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article imageOp-Ed: FDA approves plague treatment as animal testing ethics resurface

By Elizabeth Batt     Apr 30, 2012 in Environment
Seattle - It's been a busy week for animal-rights with a federal complaint against UW, the storming of a Beagle farm by Italian activists and the FDA approving the drug Levaquin for the treatment of plague, after it was tested on African green monkeys.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had approved the antibiotic Levaquin (generic: levofloxacin), to treat the deadly bacterial infection known as the plague. Although the disease is extremely rare (WHO reports 1,000 to 2,000 human cases annually), Yersinia pestis is considered a potential bioterrorism agent. As a result, the US government plans to stockpile Levaquin in the event of a plague outbreak, reported the Daily Mail last Friday.
Levaquin, made by Johnson & Johnson, allowed 94% of African green monkeys infected with the plague bacteria to recover said scientists. The drug was tested under the FDA's Animal Efficacy Rule, which allows findings from carefully controlled tests in animals to be applied to people.
The FDA added that human clinical testing would not be ethical or feasible. No surprise there. What human would willingly consent to being infected with a deadly bacteria? Scientists instead tested the drug on primates, an act that drives animal rights rights groups crazy.
Proof of that occurred last Saturday, when Italian activists stormed past police and entered Green Hill, a company located in Montichiari, Italy, that breeds and sells beagles for use in laboratory tests and vivisection. According to the group, Negotiation is Over, activists broke through Green Hill's gates and began opening cages, rescuing it said, at least 30 beagles in the process.
Italian police arrested thirteen people over the break in, and reclaimed around 7-8 beagles which they returned to the company. Another 20 beagles are still unaccounted for, but some of the dogs rescued said activists, had had their vocal chords removed.
Green Hill is owned by American company Marshall Farms Inc., a company that breeds dogs and ferrets for pets and scientific research. As the largest breeders in the US, Marshall BioResources says at its website, that their company:
"Provides purpose bred research animals and related services for biomedical research. Within our federally regulated and inspected facilities in Upstate New York we maintain breeding colonies of beagles, mongrel/hound dogs, ferrets, and Gottingen Minipigs. Marshall Beagles are also raised at locations in Italy and China."
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), says that "Every year animals are subjected to experiments so painful and damaging that no one would ever do them on humans." Yet the organization adds:
"We must weigh the benefits of the discoveries we hope to make from the research with the costs of making animals suffer."
According to US Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1,438,553 animals were used in research in 2002 including dogs, cats, sheep, hamsters, guinea pigs, and primates. This figure does not include rats and mice said the ASPCA, which account for around 90% of the animal species tested upon. When these figures are configured in, the society estimates that, "More than 15 million warm-blooded animals are used in research every year."
In 2002, 489,262 animals "were used in research that was either painful, distressful, or both," said the ASPCA. This number did include rats and mice. While most were given anesthesia of some type, added the society, 103,764 animals were made to feel pain, and were not given anything to reduce their pain and suffering. Many animals are also euthanized, once they are no longer needed.
The ASPCA's report however, suggests some things have improved for research animals because of measures instituted for higher standard of care, but this is not true in all cases. Last Friday, the Bellingham Herald reported that an animal rights group had lodged a federal complaint with the USDA against the University of Washington "citing multiple incidents in which animals were injured, escaped from their cages or were found dead."
As the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) prepares to investigate the university's primate center, one of the largest in the country housing more than 700 monkeys, macaques and baboons, the list of alleged offenses said the Bellingham Herald, reads like something out of a horror movie:
"Tips of fingers or toes of two primates were torn off, exposing bone. Two other animals suffered similar injuries to their tails, requiring amputation. One monkey was found dead in its cage soon after having lugs implanted in its skull for neuroscience experiments. Another monkey had to be euthanized after a probe was inadvertently stuck into its brain during surgery."
If a dog fears the master who is about to beat it, exhibiting both psychological terror and physical pain, how can any human being not find something inherently disturbing about the act of animal experimentation?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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