Countries that ban animal testing will just end up importing medicines from those that don’t, according to Trinity scientist Tomás Ryan.
This weekend, Switzerland will vote on whether to become the first country to completely ban animal testing.
The proposal is not expected to pass with polls suggesting they are supported by just over one-quarter of the vote.
Reuters reports that more than 550,000 animals died in laboratory tests in Switzerland in 2020.
Citing Swiss Government figures, the agency said 400,000 mice and rats, nearly 4,600 dogs, 1,500 cats and 1,600 horses died in the experiments.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Laura Broxson Spokesperson for Ireland's National Animal Rights Association and Tomás Ryan Associate Professor in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin debated the proposals.
“I think this is a little bit silly frankly,” said Professor Ryan.
“Animal research is absolutely essential to medical research currently. In the future, and by the future I mean 20 to 50 years, we will move away from it.
“When science advances, it won’t be necessary to do experiments on animals anymore but right now, there is simply no way of understanding how to treat things like brain disease, like diabetes without these types of invasive experiments.”
Ms Broxson said the arguments in favour of animal testing ‘just don’t make sense’ – insisting there are alternative methods available.
“You can’t really predict how a drug is going to react in a human by testing it on a mouse or a rat or even a monkey,” she said.
“That is why, when animal tests are passed, it moves on to human trials. It doesn’t just jump to sales, doctors and hospitals, it goes through a series of human trials.
“So, if animal testing proved things were 100% safe to use, why would we still need volunteer human studies. It just doesn’t make sense and there are alternatives available.”
Professor Ryan said the COVID vaccines that were developed in the past two years would not have been possible without animal research.
“We need animal research both for the science that led to us understanding how to make the vaccines and in parts of the vaccine production process also in many cases,” he said.
The Swiss proposals would ban testing on both animal humans – while also banning the importation of any new medicine developed using the tests.
Professor Ryan said countries that ban testing will have no choice but to import.
“I have to point out that, this is so essential for science to move forward at present that if it doesn’t happen in Switzerland or it stops happening in any other European country, it will just move abroad.
“If Europe was to go in this direction - which I don’t believe it will - all of those scientists will simply to move to countries like the US and Canada and we will import the medicines from those countries because that is what we do.”
Ms Broxson said most of the ingredients used in COVID vaccines “were all tested decades ago”.
“The likes of Pfizer and Moderna, during the development of COVID vaccines, simultaneously, while testing on animals, conducted Phase One trials on humans. That is what made the speed of development over the last year possible.
“If these trials were run concurrently at the same time, then it is possible to test new drugs safely without using animals.”
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