Can we do without animals for biomedical experimentation? Answering unambiguously yes or no risks leading us astray. To understand why, we must start from the fact that the theme of animal experimentation is very complex and multifaceted. It is impossible to answer yes, because the process that leads to the placing on the market of a drug or the distribution of a vaccine is strictly regulated internationally and requires animal testing as a mandatory step, before testing for humans and for the experimental phase. Clinical (i.e. human tests).
This is clearly for safety reasons and to verify that the candidate chemical molecule does not cause side effects in patients. The rationale is very simple and is to avoid the repetition of cases such as the one that occurred between the late 1950s and early 1960s with the marketing of thalidomide, a drug which later proved to have a high teratogenic effect.
On the other hand, since 2013 in Europe there has been a ban on testing cosmetics on animals. This was made possible by the fact that alternative methods have been developed and validated that allow to evaluate various parameters such as eye irritation, phototoxicity and skin sensitivity, guaranteeing the same results as the animal model. Here, in this case, we can therefore answer yes to the question we asked ourselves at the beginning.
In general, progress has been made in reducing and optimizing the use of laboratory animals. But it is undeniable that the topic continues to arouse heated debate. “We need to dispel the myth of the opposition researchers against animal rights activists. The debate between those in favor of the animal model and supporters of alternative methods is within the scientific community itself “, says Michela Kuan, biologist and head of the Research Area without animals for the Lav (Anti Vivisection League), an association that fights in defense of rights some animals.
We must never lose sight of the two fundamental elements of the question: animal welfare and the importance of doing research. Two concepts that are, indeed must be reconcilable. So it is not a question of taking a stand for one or the other side, but it is a question of understanding what are the aspects on which our country can improve and why, after all, we are all working together for a future where perhaps animal experimentation it will no longer be needed.