You’ve got a cold? Write a will.

Do you think people who don’t agree with animal testing should be allowed to take paracetamol?

I have asked so many people this question in the last month and no-one has given me a straight answer. I asked some meat-eaters and they all grunted, shrugged and limbo-ed under the question; I asked a vegan and she grunted, shrugged and promptly stepped around the limbo pole; and then I asked myself, to which I replied by grunting, shrugging to no-one in particular and despairing at the awful metaphors I come up with.

I’d never thought about it until I heard someone give a presentation about animal testing. Not from an animals-are-people-too, burn-the-zoos perspective, but from a scientific perspective.

I’m sure all of you have heard the horrible facts about the living conditions of animals in laboratories. I’m sure most of you have read the news about PETA’s regular stunts. I’m even sure some of you have seen Legally Blonde II.

And as much as those facts horrify me, as much as I admire PETA’s passion, and as much as I love Legally Blonde, I still think animal testing is necessary sometimes.

Don’t shoot me, don’t shoot me, don’t shoot me.

I say sometimes with honesty. Testing cosmetics on animals is cruel, unnecessary and barbaric. But testing medicines, treatments and new medical equipment is completely justified. Without animal testing, billions of people would have died from malaria, 235 million people would currently be struggling to breath on a day-to-day basis because of asthma, and every single cancer patient that has survived purely because of medical treatment, would be dead.

Granted, a vaccination for malaria may have been created eventually, but countless lives would have been expended during the failed clinical trials. The majority of the 235 million people living with asthma will never be hospitalised because of asthma attacks but many of them will, and they wouldn’t survive without the medicines we have today. And perhaps some of those cancer patients could have fought it off eventually, or found a homeopathic cure, but without chemotherapy, radiotherapy and all the other scary sounding therapies, the cancer survival rate would be down by ten fold, maybe more.

That means, in less number-y terms, the ‘one child dies of malaria every minute’ advert would be a whole lot scarier; I probably wouldn’t be alive, and if I was, I would be hospitalised all my life (being treated with what medicines I don’t know); and cancer would be an even bigger threat than it already is.

Without animal research, the human population wouldn’t have survived the epidemic of the common cold

I googled about some animal research alternatives and there are some, but they are impractical and very, very time consuming. For example, you can synthesise skin cells in a petri dish and test on them but then you can’t know how the treatment affects bodily functions. Kinda pointless, seeing as the reason most drugs never reach the drugstore is not because they don’t work, but because they do extra stuff that you don’t really want happening.

So, after that fact (and perhaps emotion) overload, let’s do a U-turn back to the beginning of this post. I chose paracetamol because I can almost guarantee that all of you have used it at least once, and most of you on a regular basis. But I could have asked:

Do you think people who don’t agree with animal testing should be allowed to take paracetamol, receive any hospital treatment, or even give their pets medicine?*

*You never really think about the benefit of animal testing on animals, but animals need painkillers (large animals during child birth), insulin for diabetes and vaccines for diseases too.

Why should people who are so vehemently against something, reap all the benefits from it?

At the end of the day, you can’t tell someone they’re ‘not allowed’ to take medicine, or that they can’t have an x-ray for their broken leg, but I just want people to really think about the implications of living in an animal-testing free society. We wouldn’t have hospitals (what’s the point without the treatments?), and if we did have some sort of care centre, we’d all be in it.

But then again, technically humans are parasites on Earth, stripping it of life and resources. And if we all die at some point, why not sooner rather than later?

As you can tell, the internal debates in my head are endless.

hey! i'm an 21 year old medical student (currently intercalating in anthropology) living it up in east london! i spend my spare time playing dixie chicks on guitar (badly), attempting to do yoga and turning it up at my church.

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