Debate over the use of non-human primates (NHPs) for medical research; dates back to the 17th century, when William Harvey discovered the element of blood circulation. Later in the 18th century, it continued through Alexander Pope’s publication against this process. This prompted a further research into quantitative approaches of measuring biological operations within the medical and biological sciences (The Weatherall Report, 2006). Currently, different parties demonstrate divided opinion concerning the animal use in studies with some stating it is totally unjustifiable condemning the subject while others feel that it is acceptable as long as there are regulations to minimize suffering to the concerned animals. Amid this growing controversy and tension, some critical questions are raised: Does using NHPs help? Is it acceptable? My take on this is that indeed, the use of NHPs in medical experiments is necessary because it has played a pivotal role in human medical advancement.
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NHPs have helped scientist reach overriding conclusion on various experiments, a fact that promote their continued use for various medical purposes (Murnaghan, 2011). There is certainly no problem if researchers carefully regulate the process to reduce animal suffering and in the end ease human agony through helpful discoveries. On the other hand, human development and modernity bases on knowledge obtained from research and the use of NHPs is one way of achieving this end.
The number of NHPs used in the medical experiments is a clear indicator of how useful they are in medical research. For instance the European Union alone use about 12 million animals for scientific research, among them about 10, 000 are NHPs, mostly apes and monkeys. Every year, researchers use more than 100, 000 primates for biomedical animal, testing with over half the experiment performed in the USA, a tenth in Europe and the remainder in Japan, and the rest of the world (Murnaghan, 2011). Such experiments have led to significant findings in medicine and biology. Presently, scientists use primates for experiments in cases with no apposite alternative species or methods.
Scientists only use NHPs for humans’ own good and safety, to test pharmaceutical devices and products. Additionally, they are indispensable in fundamental in biology and development of medical devices and products. It is crucial to point out that almost all the animals used for these experiments are born and bred in captivity for this sole reason and in most cases, they are brought up for several generations. Preparing them for this purpose justifies their use.
As already mentioned, major medical milestones have been achieved with the aid of NHPs. In the early 1900s, scientists discovered treatment for pellagra and constituents of blood and plasma while in 1920s, research discovered the ability to diagnose and treat typhoid fever. In recent days, particularly 2000s there has been the development of the monkey model to study how malaria affects pregnant women and their offspring (Martin & Weinbauer, 2011). The list is endless, and it is only fair that those criticizing the move reconsider their stand to start supporting it. Scientists have struggled to get treatment and vaccine for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) since its discovery, and for the first time after well many years, there is a smile on their face. HIV treatment and possible vaccines are being tested and developed by use of a model referred to as rhesus monkeys. It such treatment was discovered, it would bring joy and happiness to millions of HIV/AIDS patients across the world and all praises heaped on “the monkey business”.
Everyone agrees that primates are the only animals whose biological and neurological characteristics and complexity match humans’. For this reason, they are particularly beneficial for many tests such as brain research (Martin & Weinbauer, 2011). For instance, the baboon’s similarity to humans is almost 89% and due to its relatively large body size, it can offer ample tissue and fluid samples for the required experiments. Its ability in studies is unmatched, and for than three decades running, it has served as the best experimental model. Some of the remarkable discoveries include “the laboratory model for coronary heart and chronic lung diseases” (The Weatherall Report, 2006 p. 34).
Even though, animal rights activists are against using NHPs for medical purposes, one should note that some tests backfire and if they are done directly to humans, it could bring devastating implications. Animals should be used for such experiments because of their inability to think and make thoughtful decisions. Most importantly, humans are more superior to other primates and their decision to use them (primates) to save lives is justifiable. NHPs still remain the best alternatives for medical research (The Weatherall Report, 2006).
To sum up the whole discussion, I support the use of NHPs in biological and medical research due to the tremendous contributions they have made. Important developments in the medical world can be attributed to researches using animals to develop drugs and vaccines. Currently, more 100, 000 primates are used for medical experimentation yearly. While considerable controversies surround this undertaking, it necessary to point out that the biological characteristics of NHPs is almost similar to humans’. Scientists regulate the procedure to minimize the pain endured by animals and most importantly, they are bred in captivity. The use of NHPs for such reasons should continue; however, in case of any suitable alternative it should be adopted. There is a need to accelerate research in to other ways such as cell and molecular biology and the advancement of noninvasive strategies in health and disease. Any breakthrough will progressively reduce the necessity of NHPs in medical research.
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