So far, reading Rigor Mortis by Richard Harris has changed my P.O.V, on many topics. On this particular chapter it changed how I viewed animal testing. I knew that in some cases, animals are mistreated during experiments. However, it makes me feel safer when trying out something new, knowing that it has been tested before being given to a human.
I learned that is not always the case. Harris, provided a devastating example where researchers at NIH tested a potential drug. They tested the drug on multiple animals and determined it to be safe. Yet when tested on humans, 5 people in that trial perished. Here is another example. “A wave of enthusiasm followed the discovery of a weight-controlling hormone, leptin, in mice…So scientists eagerly looked for this same effect on people, but leptin supplements rarely helped. There is no miracle pill to treat people who are overweight.” (pg 73) In this chapter, Harris mentions that one of the main reasons this is happening is because in some cases animals are poor stand-ins for humans. Also, there is not enough diversity in the animals being tested. “Imagine that I was testing a new drug….I tested it purely in thirty-five -year-old white woman all in one small town in Wisconsin with identical husbands, identical homes, identical diets which I formulate, identical thermostats that I’ve set, and identical IQs. That would be instantly recognized as a terrible experiment, but that’s exactly how we do mouse work.” (pg 81) It surprised me that experiments were being executed in this way. This made me think about the living conditions of the mice. As Lanna A, mentions in her blog post, Mishaps with mice, mice are forced to live in cramped places without the ability to move around. It saddens me that innocent animals are being forced to live in horrible environments.
As I continued reading, I learned that the sex of the person who handles mice can also make a dramatic difference. “‘Mice are so afraid of males that it actually induces analgesia,’ a pain-numbing reaction that screws up all sorts of studies, Garner said. Even a man’s sweaty T-shirt in the same room can trigger this response.”(pg 80) This interested me, so I decided to do some research.
I read the following article called, Lab mice become stressed and timid around men- but not around women. It explained why such thing was occurring. “The mechanism for the behavior change is likely due to scent chemicals, called pheromones, produced by male mammals. It’s an adaptive trait that lets a rodent know when a solitary male may be nearby who’s hunting or defending his territory. And indeed, these chemical signals are often used in the animal world to mark out territory.” In my opinion, mice producing analgesia while coming in contact with a male is fascinating.
In conclusion, I believe that animal testing is neither good or bad. It is the way experiments are performed that determine that.