Staff editorial: Animal testing in classroom justified

Medical breakthroughs do not just come. They require time and testings, and sometimes a sacrifice.

When we first heard of the procedures used in BIOL 171, Experimental Physiology, we didn't like the image that came to mind. The visual generated by the combination of hammers and turtle heads is less than appealing.

We agree with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' concern for treating animals in a humane manner. No one — at least not the average person — enjoys killing animals. However, practicing techniques on and conducting experiments with animals are necessary for students to learn and for the advancement of science and medicine.

Many major medical steps in the past century have come from animal research: antibiotics, vaccines, treatments for asthma, insulin for diabetes and treatment for high blood pressure. These advances have improved the quality and duration of life for humans. Animal research has also improved the lives of other animals; the rabies shot and other vaccines were developed through animal testing.

Animal and animal tissue testing is used so that scientists and students can work with a medium comparable to the human body. Computer technology has limits, and cannot provide the same experience as testing in a true body system complete with working and complex organs, tissues and vessels.

While some have argued that using live turtles and frogs in an undergraduate setting is inappropriate, we disagree. At Marquette, we are fortunate to have an excellent science program, and are privileged to certain learning experiences. Marquette's cadaver lab is a prime example of a rare undergraduate opportunity. We believe every advanced experience that Marquette can offer will put students at a competitive advantage as they continue their education or move into the workforce.

BIOL 171 is an advanced course that requires departmental consent and can be used for graduate credit. This is a course that is taken by students who are looking to acquire expanded knowledge of biology, not students trying to meet their course requirements.

According to the Foundation for Biomedical Research, 99 percent of doctors believe that animal testing has contributed to the field of medicine, and 97 percent support its continuation. The disputed account of a turtle trying to walk and coughing up blood after it had been struck with a hammer sounds pretty horrible, but the instructor anesthetized the animal prior to the incident. If a mistake was made and one turtle suffered, that is unfortunate. As long as professors take steps to ensure that test animals are treated humanely, one mistake is no reason to get rid of a very valuable opportunity for students.