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Letters to the Editor: How much do we need animal medical research? Readers debate

Three beagles are seen playing in a grassy backyard.
About 4,000 beagles were rescued from a breeding and research plant in Virginia. Three of them are seen playing in a Valley Village backyard.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
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To the editor: Implicit in Robin Abcarian’s thoughtful column, “The seizure of thousands of mistreated beagles sparks unsettling questions about animal research,” is how slowly change seems to come to the research industry, either because of government hesitancy to modify outdated laws, or because a large portion of the industry itself won’t budge.

I wonder how much the lucrative nature of testing on animals comes into it, or the capacity to endure inflicting suffering on other beings. How many people could stomach dripping toxic chemicals into a rabbit’s eyes?

Researchers like to point out the success of their efforts, but they often run the same tests for many years with little or no results. And medications that enter the market are loaded with a long list of side effects.

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Non-animal means of testing have yielded results that have proven themselves to be more effective when applied to humans, as well as more uniform, and less expensive than animal testing. Organs-on-chips, for example, can test down to the cellular level and can predict how drugs impact multiple organ systems, with great accuracy.

Jacqueline Raven, New York

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To the editor: With the recent closure of a breeding facility in Virginia, there is a lot of discussion about research in dogs. So let’s talk about that.

First, there are two entirely separate issues — the decision to close an individual facility that raises dogs, and the continued need for health research in various animals, including canines. We should not treat them as the same issue.

Second, while nearly every American loves animals, we must not forget that if studies in dogs were to end today, there would be significant unintended consequences. The development of new veterinary treatments for dogs logically requires canine studies.

On top of that, certain diseases impact both dogs and humans alike. As a result, data gathered from limited but important studies in canines help us combat these health problems in both species.

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Finally, dogs and other animals play a critical role in ensuring the medications we take and give to our loved ones are safe. At this point in time, we need both animal studies and non-animal studies to undertake this monumentally important task.

In short, this is a very complex and important issue, literally a matter of life and death. These discussions must consider the very real and serious impacts on both human patients and animals.

Paula Clifford, Washington

The writer is executive director of the biomedical research advocacy group Americans for Medical Progress.

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To the editor: Thanks to Abcarian for bringing attention to the controversial issue of animal research. One thing that was overlooked is the federal law, the Animal Welfare Act, which regulates the treatment of a variety of animals, including those used for research.

What most people don’t know is that this law specifically excludes rats, mice and birds used for research in its definition of the term “animal.” In other words, the animals who make up the largest portion of research subjects are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act.

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This has been going on for decades despite extensive studies showing the sentience of rats, mice and birds. It’s obvious to most people that these are indeed animals, and therefore they deserve to be protected no differently than any other living, sentient being.

Valerie Belt, Pacific Palisades

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