First let me say that rabbits are one of the most commonly used animals in research and testing, second only to guinea pigs. Although their numbers have declined over the past two decades 205,482 rabbits were held in laboratories in 2012, more than any other species covered under the Animal Welfare Act.
Proponents of animal testing say that it has enabled the development of many life-saving treatments for both humans and animals, that there is no alternative method for researching a complete living organism, and that strict regulations prevent the mistreatment of animals in laboratories.
Opponents of animal testing say that it is cruel and inhumane to experiment on animals, that alternative methods available to researchers can replace animal testing, and that animals are so different from human beings that research on animals often yields irrelevant results.
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As models, scientists aim to produce artificially, a condition in an animal in a laboratory that may resemble the human equivalent of a medical disease or injury. Some feel this is inhumane and cruel whereas others feel a necessity. Rabbits in fact have made enormous contributions to understanding the cause, treatment and prevention of many complex diseases.
Areas of disease research include neurological, infectious, digestive, genetic, connective tissue, and chronic diseases. In these areas, animals are used as models of traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, congenital blindness, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s AIDS, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and so on.
For medical products such as vaccines, drugs, and medical devices, rabbits are used to test pyrogenicity. Additionally, because of their high rate of reproduction, rabbits are also used to test developmental or embryotoxicity. They are also used in basic and biomedical research, as models for diseases and disorders:
- The rabbit was the first animal model of cancer caused by a virus
- Rabbits are used to produce antibodies, used for research into infectious diseases and immunology
- Rabbits are used as models for cystic fibrosis and cholera
- Louis Pasteur used rabbits to develop his rabies vaccine
- Rabbits are important in the study of cardiovascular disease, particularly hypertension and atheroscierosis
- Rabbits are key for studies on cancer, glaucoma, ear infections, eye infections, diabetes and emphysema
- Surgical lasers were developed using rabbits
- Rabbits are used to research the influence of high cholesterol
On May 19, 2015, Last Chance for Animals’ filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against meat retailer D’Artagnan, Inc, for deceptive and unfair advertising practices. D’Artagnan is a “gourmet” company that sells rabbit meat packaged at the Pel-Freez Slaughterhouse promoting “animals are treated humanely” thus selling at a higher price tag. The undercover investigator worked in the “kill room” as a blood catcher, collecting rabbit blood in vials for medical research. The dead rabbits are sold for meat and sometimes under the “humanely raised” label – and their brains and blood are sold to biomedical companies. Instead of a swift death, many rabbits suffered barbaric treatment. Supermarkets like Gelson’s Harris Teeter, Bristol Farms and Whole Foods are listening having stopped carrying rabbit meat.
Some feel this goes from one extreme to the other. We need medical research…medical research in a humane way. One way to take a stand against unnecessary testing?
However, the use of animals in product testing is, ultimately, a consumer issue. Animal testing for cosmetic and household products will continue unless concerned citizens take action with their purchasing power. By making informed, humane choices, and encouraging others to do the same, individuals can push for an end to product testing and stop the needless suffering of countless animals each year.