• Question: do you use animals in your work?

    Asked by caitlink0406 to Amy, Drew, Julia, Kimberley, Sara on 13 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by emccullagh784, ryanmccabe, bradleyfox911, mccro123, markk98, rmcaneney950, emilyjordan.
    • Photo: Drew Rae

      Drew Rae answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      I don’t myself, unless you count people. I do experiments on people, but it’s things like asking them to solve problems, or watching them work.

    • Photo: Julia Griffen

      Julia Griffen answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      Hi CairlinK,
      I don’t use animals in my work. I do use bacteria though, a tiny single celled micro-organism to do my chemistry for me.

      Animals are used in science though. Mainly in testing drugs and chemicals or medicines that are going to be used in/on humans.
      Testing on animals is controversial, many people don’t like the idea and want to see it banned.
      However animal testing is very strictly monitored and controlled and animals are treated very well, fed, watered and have excellent living conditions.
      The animal testing stage of a drug is at the towards the very end of the testing process and wont be tested on animals unless it is necessary to do so. Animal testing occurs before the ‘clinical trials’ and drugs are tested on selected volunteers. By testing on animals scientists can look for any side effects of the medicine that could not be observed in cell samples in the lab.

      What would happen if we didn’t have animal testing? Animal testing exists to make the clinical trials and testing on humans as safe as possible. We want safe medicines with no nasty side effects!
      I’m not sure if there is an alternative.

      What do you all think about animal testing?

    • Photo: Amy MacQueen

      Amy MacQueen answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      Hi guys!

      This is a really good question – and one that is highly emotive for a lot of people. I do use animals in my work because to work out the immune system you need to have that…the whole system. Its not something that you can just look at in a test tube as that doesn’t have the whole system there.

      Imagine you were from a country that didn’t have any supermarkets and you had never seen one before. You knew it was important for your survival to be able to buy food but you didn’t speak English and you didn’t understand about money – so you wanted to findout how Tesco’s worked…like where you could find the fruit, where the sweets were, when the cakes got reduced on a Friday and how much things cost. Then there would be other things about the system you would want to discover if you wanted to work there like how many cleaners it had, who worked on the checkouts and how many breaks they got, how much people got paid, which people were friendly and nice to work with, who the security guards were and what time the shop open and closed.

      How would you find out this stuff? Well a lot of your learning about Tesco you could do from the outside – like learning English so you would understand the signs once you got in, looking at how money worked in other places, researching other shops and talking to people who already knew about Tesco – this is like what Immunologists (scientists who study the immune system) do to work out how certain cells of the immune system might work without using animals.

      But to actually find out how Tesco worked as a system you would need to go in and look at what was going on. You would have to work out how it worked from the inside – who was where and when and what they were doing. This is why immunologists then have to use animals – to find out how this system works as a whole to protect us from disease.

      I hope that went some way to making some sort of sense. Basically for a lot of things we don’t need to use animals and we should only ever use animals if we NEED to. When we do use animals we should realise that we are responsible for them and we should always take great care of them.

      I don’t use animals a lot – as scientists we try to do as much as possible “on the bench” without using real animals, but sometimes we have to.

      Some people are very angry about using animals in science and think it shouldn’t be allowed – that is a fair point and it is perfectly acceptable to feel that way!…as long as you are consistent with it and have thought about what medicines you take, what soaps you use, what make-up you wear and what food you eat.

      But, until we can find a better way, we will need to use animals to help produce drugs to save people’s lives.

      I’m sorry this answer is so long – please post a comment if you’d like to chat about it some more. Its a really important topic to discuss!

      Hope you’re having a great day,


    • Photo: Kimberley Bryon

      Kimberley Bryon answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      It depends on whether you count nematode worms as animals. Currently the Scientific animal procedures act, 1986 doesn’t cover these worms. This act was designed to protect the animals involved rather than the scientists that work on them and to ensure that animals are only used when absolutely necessary.

      One of the main reasons that I choose to work on worms is that I am not comfortable personally using mice, I get too attached. Nematode worms are one of the simplest organisms with a nervous system and they allow me to answer a lot of questions without needing to use other animals. However, sometimes in science you really do need to use animals to answer questions like what happens when the heart is damaged or whether a vaccine for a disease will work.

      It is a subject that a lot of scientists find very difficult to talk about as although we know that we are trying to help the human population it is still very difficult to not feel emotion for the animals involved.

      If scientists didn’t use animals we wouldn’t have the drugs we have or the ability to organ transplants or vaccines against different diseases.

    • Photo: Sara Imari Walker

      Sara Imari Walker answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      Wow! These are great descriptions about the use of animals in science. I personally don’t use any animals for my work – mostly I do lots of fun math so I don’t run up against the ethical issue of using animals. However I think Amy has provided a great description of why animals are used in science. Nice job!