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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Testing on Live Animals: Debate at SB

    The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) states that more than 85 percent of American medical schools have discontinued using live animals in their laboratories. Stony Brook University’s Health Sciences Center (HSC) and the School of Medicine are not part of that 85 percent.

    PCRM, which is made up of both doctors and laypeople devoted to compassionate and effective medical practices and research, lists the HSC and the School of Medicine as one of 14 medical schools in the United States that use live animals to educate their students about basic human physiology, pharmacology or surgery concepts.

    Comparatively, PCRM lists 111 U.S. medical schools whose curriculum does not include live animal laboratories.

    Thomas Zimmerman, the director of the Division of Laboratory Animal Resources at SB, described the bulk of the University’s current experiments with live animals as being basic research projects to help understand how humans and other organisms function.

    Animals used in medical laboratories at SB are primarily rats and mice, Zimmerman said in a telephone interview. The school also houses frogs, pigeons, turkeys, snakes, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and rabbits for research purposes.

    ‘My job is to make sure the animals are treated humanely,’ said Zimmerman. He added that ‘We offer training so that students are properly instructed before they do any experiments with animals.’

    Yet, according to PCRM, it is not necessary for students to have their training on live animals to become successful physicians.

    In a telephone interview, Jorge Velasco, the Director of Laboratory Animal Facilities at the State University of New York at Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said that ‘We don’t need to use live animals to train our students anymore.’ Additionally, Velasco said, ‘We encourage the use of computer simulations, tissue cultures and other techniques instead.’

    The American Anti-Vivisection Society lists various resources, such as mathematical models, computer simulations and human cell and tissue cultures as alternatives to using live animals in research experiments.

    While SB does use technological alternatives to live testing, the University has not abolished the use of live animals for medical student research as its fellow SUNY schools have. Zimmerman explained that by using the University’s new equipment, students can use the same animal more than once in experiments, before it is euthanized. ‘We have dramatically decreased the number of animals needed in research,’ Zimmerman said.

    Matthew Rammelkamp, a SB alumnus who voices his concerns for animal rights in the SB community, said he objects to having live animal laboratories available to medical students. ‘You are training students before they enter the medical field that animals are a commodity,’ he said.

    Yet, Zimmerman said that the University rarely meets opposition on the issue of live animal laboratories. ‘I think a lot of people here, since they are in the science field, understand that it is a necessary thing to do to advance science,’ he said.

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