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thrashingteeth
Dec 22, 2019

depressive hedonia
always tired
taco tuesday


I was a Licensed Animal Technician for 5 years and I left the profession for ethical reasons some time ago. I worked with rodents (mice and rats) in a cancer and a contract research org (CRO) in pharmacology.

Ask me anything about the job as I know it can be quite a secretive profession but I want to atleast make my experience worth something.

A little bit of background

While I am a utilitarian and support some use of animals in research I can't justify it all in our hellscape world and grew to that realisation over the course of my career. I have a masters in Animal Welfare Science and was a welfare specialist in my most recent role so I hopefully can field both ethical and practical questions surrounding animal research. Every country has it's own specific legal system for animals in research and where I gained my qualification is one of the strictest in the world- no cosmetic testing is permitted and every sentient species has a form of legal protection. I'm not saying this to somehow justify anything but I know compared to the research situation in the USA for example this is vastly different, I just want to make my situation clearer from the get go.

Is animal testing ethically sound? Lets find out.

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Dance Officer
May 4, 2017

It would be awesome if we could dance!


I've been kind of curious about the subject ever since visiting an animal lab back in high school, so I'll jump in.

How were the animals you cared for treated? How does it compare to, say, rodents kept as pets?

What procedures were used to give your animals cancer?

What did the research entail, on the practical level? Checking things like heart rate, general health etc. or were the animals killed?

On that subject, how were the animals killed?

thrashingteeth
Dec 22, 2019

depressive hedonia
always tired
taco tuesday


Dance Officer posted:


How were the animals you cared for treated? How does it compare to, say, rodents kept as pets?


Tbh I honestly canít fault how cared for the animals are, genuinely so much care is put into ensuring animals are as well as they can be both physically and mentally. Animals are always put in enriched cages so they can perform their natural behaviour (bedding, nesting material, tubes, homes, chewsticks) and housed in groups where possible. Obviously male mice are difficult as they have a tendency to fight and they have to be housed singly if they canít stop injuring their cage mates. There are also people who can veto studies if the risk to welfare is too high.

It is an anecdote but I was talking to another tech at a conference and they had commented that compared to the petshop they had worked in the welfare in labs is scores better. Iíve never met a cruel technician, theyíre always so empathetic and the end of a study can be a difficult time if you have to kill animals youíve spent weeks treating and handling. No one really thinks of them as pets or names them but they will talk to and handle them so they donít get stressed out, when we would check animals in the morning it was guaranteed someone would walk into the room and say ďgood morning ratsĒ and they would all run to the front of the cage to investigate.

I would walk into some of the rooms and techs would just be sitting giving animals a cuddle as well when there was downtime.

Dance Officer posted:


What procedures were used to give your animals cancer?


There are a few different ways depending on what kind of cancer you were looking to induce- injection of tamoxifen, radiation or grafting cancerous tissue into the animal were the routes most commonly used where I was. Animals would be induced with disease and the majority of the time given treatment to study the effect this has on the condition.

Dance Officer posted:


What did the research entail, on the practical level? Checking things like heart rate, general health etc. or were the animals killed?


Regardless of the study we would monitor general health- body weight, body condition and behaviour. With rats there is a huge focus on their mental wellbeing so additional monitoring was always set up to track how theyíre coping with procedures over the course of the study so we could make changes if possible to help them be less stressed out.
Depending on what youíre studying the readouts youíre looking for vary- some would require blood samples over the duration or if animals had tumours they would be measured multiple times a week. For infection and inflammation work we would also use a scoring system to monitor disease progression. While there are ways to put ex-lab animals up for adoption a lot of the time with rodents at the end of the study duration researchers need to analyze organs and how itís been affected by treatment so they are killed and dissected which is a shame.

Dance Officer posted:


On that subject, how were the animals killed?


Most commonly with rodents, itís cervical dislocation were you would dislocate the neck. While it can be done when animals are conscious (especially if youíre having to kill them in an emergency this is sometimes necessary) if it is the end of the study usually theyíd be under anaesthesia. I think itís the most effective and ethical way to kill if you have to but it never felt good. You can also put them down with chemicals like pentobarbital which is as quick but not normally as common.
In the cancer research facility, there was a CO2 chamber but every technician Iíve worked with or talked to absolutely hates using this and will only use it if there is literally no other option. The CRO didnít have one thankfully; itís just an awful way to kill anything but some utter melts use it because they donít like the feeling of cervical dislocation which I think is really lovely and selfish.


Hope I've covered what you asked!

Dance Officer
May 4, 2017

It would be awesome if we could dance!


Thanks for the response. I'd like to drill down into this bit some more because it raised a few questions.

thrashingteeth posted:

Most commonly with rodents, itís cervical dislocation were you would dislocate the neck. While it can be done when animals are conscious (especially if youíre having to kill them in an emergency this is sometimes necessary) if it is the end of the study usually theyíd be under anaesthesia. I think itís the most effective and ethical way to kill if you have to but it never felt good. You can also put them down with chemicals like pentobarbital which is as quick but not normally as common.
In the cancer research facility, there was a CO2 chamber but every technician Iíve worked with or talked to absolutely hates using this and will only use it if there is literally no other option. The CRO didnít have one thankfully; itís just an awful way to kill anything but some utter melts use it because they donít like the feeling of cervical dislocation which I think is really lovely and selfish.

How is the way to kill an animal decided? You mention neck dislocation, lethal injection, and the gas chamber; in what sort of circumstance would you decide to go for injection over, say, dislocation? And how much discretion does the handler have in this?

Also, can you explain a bit on when you'd kill an animal without anaesthetics? In what sort of emergency would you do this?

thrashingteeth
Dec 22, 2019

depressive hedonia
always tired
taco tuesday


Sorry for the delay!

Dance Officer posted:

Thanks for the response. I'd like to drill down into this bit some more because it raised a few questions.

How is the way to kill an animal decided? You mention neck dislocation, lethal injection, and the gas chamber; in what sort of circumstance would you decide to go for injection over, say, dislocation? And how much discretion does the handler have in this?


The technicians have the choice in how to kill an animal, but most will choose dislocation as it's the fastest most humane method for rodents. Injection as you have to restrain the animal to get access to the veins can be more stressful than say just removing an animal from it's cage and dislocating. The chemical we inject the animals with can additionally effect the samples we take, say if we're taking blood, and could render the sample useless for analysis and putting than animal through a study for nothing.

Dance Officer posted:


Also, can you explain a bit on when you'd kill an animal without anaesthetics? In what sort of emergency would you do this?


An emergency would constitute if an animal is in an intense or non-recoverable state of sickness or injury. You wouldn't want to wait around to get the anesthetic machine to work, the animal to go down and then terminate when you can just terminate there and then to put them out their misery ASAP.
Anesthetics aren't required to do a cervical dislocation as it is so quick it just depends if you need to take more samples at termination. It can be easier for both the animal and the technician for them to be under when this happens, particularly if you need to take blood prior to termination which requires restraint.
As with most animal handling it can be a trade off of "which action causes the least amount of stress"- rodents are quite robust and the stress they experience is not extremely intense or permanent particularly if you handle them prior so they have some positive associations with you. Anesthetics aren't stress free for animals from their perspective they are losing control of their body which is obviously quite a negative experience. Where I've worked we've used gaseous anesthesia most commonly which combines this feeling with a distinctive smell, which they gain very negative associations with from the first exposure.
We have to weigh up which would be better - no stress from anesthesia and stress from handling or stress from anesthesia but not handling. It all depends on the situation and samples you need at the end of a study.

Hope this answers what you were looking for!

Dance Officer
May 4, 2017

It would be awesome if we could dance!


Thanks, it did. Those questions were unpleasant to write, and the answers were hard to read through. I think I've got a decent idea of the lives of test animals now, though.

With that out of the way, I'd like to get to something you wrote in the OP, about not being able to accept it all. Could you expand on this for a bit? So far you've painted a picture of reasonable use of test animals, who seem to live pretty decent lives despite what's being done to them, and also meet a painless end.

Edit: I'm honestly surprised I'm the only one to respond to this thread. I thought there would be at least a few posts telling you're evil scum.

Dance Officer fucked around with this message at 11:15 on Jun 22, 2020

thrashingteeth
Dec 22, 2019

depressive hedonia
always tired
taco tuesday


Dance Officer posted:

With that out of the way, I'd like to get to something you wrote in the OP, about not being able to accept it all. Could you expand on this for a bit? So far you've painted a picture of reasonable use of test animals, who seem to live pretty decent lives despite what's being done to them, and also meet a painless end.
I am speaking from a very specific legal context, I do think laboratory animals in the UK can live a life worth living inspite of what's being done to them. I'm not saying this to cover my rear end, I think when it comes to other uses of animals (meat, dairy, eggs, companionship, security) being a laboratory animal in this context does not cause a particularly intense form of suffering moreso than the others over the course of an animal's life.

What I have a problem with is the ethical justification.

What started to make me really struggle with it was itís unethical to test on non-consenting humans- even if theyíre treated ďhumanelyĒ- why is it okay to do it to animals? . I'll outline some of the other problems i have with biomedical research down below but this thought constantly hounded me throughout my career which made the issues I had worse. It got more difficult to argue with the longer I stayed and I got to the point where every procedure I did gave me moral injury and I struggled to live with myself so I had to leave. There was no one moment that really made me struggle, it was an accumulation of my experiences working in that industry.
I can understand the utilitarian position that suffering can be justified if has more benefits than harms, so if one person has to be killed to save 50 people I would say that you could make that decision ethically sound. If you approach animal research in this way-which almost everyone does - biomedical research as it stands currently renders almost all of it ethically unjustifiable.
It's not a clear trade off for a clear benefit, while I don't think technicians do anything out of cruelty and generally the animals lives are okay most of the research ends up not producing results that are a benefit to people or animals.
A lot of studies fail and even if they succeed there is no guarantee that they will pass their first human clinical trials. So animals can suffer and then itís ultimately useless. A major problem I found which compounded my negative feelings is the fact that money is a main motivator in a lot of biomedical research. This means a lot of your work can involve working to create models of disease to sell to clients and running as many studies as possible- often on competing drugs for the same disease. You get the feeling that youíre not so much doing the work to ďadvance scienceĒ but to just line the CEOís pockets, I canít justify animals being used for that.
Lastly I find that while technicians do genuinely spend time learning the behavior/natural history of the animals they work with the people who devise the studies and assign the work often have no idea. There can be a very reductive view among researching scientists to animals, in particular to their emotional health which I have had a few actually scoff at or any changes to handling/husbandry/welfare which they often complain with change the results. One particular irritating problem is a perception among some scientists that rats are basically big mice when they are hugely complex and emotional animals, rivaling a lot of ďhigherĒ animals in their empathy and social behavior. I would be as reluctant to put a rat through a study as I would a dog or a pig but because they are commonly thought of as pests for some reason science goes out the window.



Dance Officer posted:

Edit: I'm honestly surprised I'm the only one to respond to this thread. I thought there would be at least a few posts telling you're evil scum.
Tbh I do that every day in the mirror anyway so I'm not missing out haha. Thanks for your questions though, I'm trying to be as candid as I can given how little technicians often talk about their jobs. I remember I had seen an article from an ex-abattoir worker that really made me want to at least do something like that for the industry I was in, so I hope it's somewhat illuminating.

Whitlam
Aug 2, 2014

Some goons overreact. Go figure.


thrashingteeth posted:

I can understand the utilitarian position that suffering can be justified if has more benefits than harms, so if one person has to be killed to save 50 people I would say that you could make that decision ethically sound. If you approach animal research in this way-which almost everyone does - biomedical research as it stands currently renders almost all of it ethically unjustifiable.
It's not a clear trade off for a clear benefit, while I don't think technicians do anything out of cruelty and generally the animals lives are okay most of the research ends up not producing results that are a benefit to people or animals.
A lot of studies fail and even if they succeed there is no guarantee that they will pass their first human clinical trials. So animals can suffer and then it’s ultimately useless.

From your perspective, is there anything that could be done to mitigate these issues, e.g. stricter testing requirements, alternatives to animal testing, or is the "ultimately useless" factor one you're inevitably going to run into if you're doing any animal testing at all? Interesting thread, thanks OP.

Dance Officer
May 4, 2017

It would be awesome if we could dance!


There's not much that can be done about the role of animal testing in drug development. You need to get an idea of what a safe dosage is, and that can only reasonably be done with humans or comparable animals.

thrashingteeth
Dec 22, 2019

depressive hedonia
always tired
taco tuesday


Whitlam posted:

From your perspective, is there anything that could be done to mitigate these issues, e.g. stricter testing requirements, alternatives to animal testing, or is the "ultimately useless" factor one you're inevitably going to run into if you're doing any animal testing at all? Interesting thread, thanks OP.

My honest suggestion is quite a big systemic change but I can't see any other way, I would remove the profit motive for biomedical research and abolish patents for both drugs and disease models. In the CRO we spent quite a lot of our time validating disease models, so basically inducing disease in animals which are comparable to that disease in humans. The ONLY reason so much of our time was spend doing this was to create an animal model which our company could sell to clients to run their studies on, no great scientific advancement as often these models exist with other companies (we wanted to be able to offer it too to stay competitive). So I'm basically putting an animal through disease, monitoring it and eventually killing/dissecting/analyzing it for what? So a company can add another model to it's portfolio. Nah mate it's hosed.

Patents for drugs can also create a similar problem where companies will be running studies to get a drug to market even if the treatment already exists- they just want to offer it too. This profit motive can also effect the successful drugs which pass their animal trials. Even IF the drug passes it's animal trials with us then passes it's human clinical trials it might not even benefit humanity because it costs too much for either people or hospitals to purchase. What's the point of animals suffering for "the greater human good" when people might not even get access to it because they can't afford it. I can't be a part of lining some CEO's pockets by doing all the technical work on these animals for a drug which might not even be widely available for the human good anyway.

Dance Officer posted:

There's not much that can be done about the role of animal testing in drug development. You need to get an idea of what a safe dosage is, and that can only reasonably be done with humans or comparable animals.

Yea to a certain extent I agree in some cases we still need to do animal testing, it's just it's not as full proof as people think and I don't believe everything needs to go through animal testing first.
A lot of my disagreements arise from the systemic issues of privatized biomedical research which really muddy the waters when it comes to the ethical justification.

jabby
Oct 27, 2010



Interesting read, thanks for posting. Sounds like, as with most everything else, the ultimate problem with animal testing is capitalism rather than anything inherent to the process.

Pain of Mind
Jul 10, 2004
You are receiving this broadcast as a dream...We are transmitting from the year one nine... nine nine ...You are receiving this broadcast in order t

I am adjacent to this space as a scientist, and not to supersede the OP, and no offense to the OP but I likely have quite a bit more experience in study design and things along that nature, along with more follow up in actually trying to turn the data into something meaningful to humans (over 15 years experience, not in CROs). I am also in the US if that changes things dramatically, if any questions are more focused on that perspective.

Do you think doing this work would be more tolerable if you were not in a CRO? I cannot imagine something more mind numbing that working in a CRO, where you are just doing work for other people with no real interest in the results, just being a set of hands. If you could design your own study, do the experiment, and then see how that leads to things further down the line would that have made it interesting enough for you to stay in the field, or do you think the ethical considerations would have still overcome any sort of scientific interest? Were there other biotech or pharma companies in the area you could have applied to, or was that CRO the only game in town, or did you just have no desire to work somewhere outside of the CRO?

Pain of Mind fucked around with this message at 18:37 on Jul 2, 2020

Incelshok Na
Jul 2, 2020


Do you have your murine tickler certification?

If so, what does this certification entail?

People in the mouse house won't tell me.

thrashingteeth
Dec 22, 2019

depressive hedonia
always tired
taco tuesday


Pain of Mind posted:

I am adjacent to this space as a scientist, and not to supersede the OP, and no offense to the OP but I likely have quite a bit more experience in study design and things along that nature, along with more follow up in actually trying to turn the data into something meaningful to humans (over 15 years experience, not in CROs). I am also in the US if that changes things dramatically, if any questions are more focused on that perspective.


Nah man it would be good to have someone from a different perspective in this thread! I'm all for it, like I said my working experience is very specific to the UK and to working as a technician so the wider in the industry the better imo. I don't know for other species but from my understanding (if we're staying on rodents) I do think the US would offer a quite different environment which would be interesting to hear. What field are you in if you want to say out of curiosity and do you do a lot of technical work as part of your studies?


Pain of Mind posted:


Do you think doing this work would be more tolerable if you were not in a CRO? I cannot imagine something more mind numbing that working in a CRO, where you are just doing work for other people with no real interest in the results, just being a set of hands. If you could design your own study, do the experiment, and then see how that leads to things further down the line would that have made it interesting enough for you to stay in the field, or do you think the ethical considerations would have still overcome any sort of scientific interest? Were there other biotech or pharma companies in the area you could have applied to, or was that CRO the only game in town, or did you just have no desire to work somewhere outside of the CRO?


The cancer research department wasn't a CRO but I do think you're right in that the CRO environment really intensified the issues I was having with the industry. My experience with a it however seems a bit different, while we didn't come up with the proposal we were basically given individual control of the writing, planning, procedural work, data collection and analysis of client studies. I have seen useful results in both the CRO and in the university like cancer unit (including being part of the development of a novel treatment for pancreatic cancer which went on to pass it's first human trials), so I've never felt like just a set of hands or separate from the biomedical research. In addition I will say animal technician is a full profession not just a stepping stone to science (though it can be for some people) and if you're into animal behavior or welfare can be enough to keep you in the field. I've been to animal research conferences where people present papers/seminars/workshops on behavior/welfare research and technical refinements. I'm really into that and I still had to leave, I just can't do it. For me even if I get a drug to it's human trials and it is available to everyone for free, my coworkers and I still have to live with the fact that the technical work we had done on those rats, for example, emotionally scarred them and we have to be able to live with that, it's why the bioethics is so important to me.

Towards the end of my time there and into my masters I ended up seeing that my position on the moral status of animals is not inline with using them in biomedical research as it stands.

You can justify animals research in two ways-
1) animals have no moral value
2) animals as a group have moral value but our moral duty is to "them" as a concept not any to individual

Where I'm leaning is-
3) animals have moral value as individuals

All can be logically justified so I'm not saying any ethical position is inherently good or bad it's just depending on what you think it affects how you should act towards and view animals. For number 3) if you view animals as individuals the wider issues of the industry can make it ethically difficult.

Incelshok Na posted:

Do you have your murine tickler certification?

If so, what does this certification entail?

People in the mouse house won't tell me.


Basically it's a refinement to rat welfare which can help them de-stress and not develop intense aversion to handling. It's really fun and cute would recommend doing this on a rat, 10/10.

I've linked a general page about it and an online course if you're interested!
https://nc3rs.org.uk/rat-tickling
http://storage.googleapis.com/ecourses/Rat%20Tickling%20Certification/story_html5.html

thrashingteeth fucked around with this message at 13:16 on Jul 3, 2020

jabby
Oct 27, 2010



The one thing I don't really understand about your moral position is that you take issue with "useless" research, and the examples you gave are studies that fail, drugs that go on to fail at human trials or researching two different drugs for the same disease.

But all those things seem kinda necessary? If you knew which studies would succeed, you wouldn't need to do the studies. The studies that fail aren't useless, they worked perfectly. They advanced the science by showing us what doesn't work. And competing drugs often end up being used as combined treatments, or worst case they drive each other's price down. It's very rare for a disease to be totally cured with only one treatment.

For the record I totally get your annoyance with companies developing their own proprietary disease models when one already exists. Unless one ends up being better than the other, that does seem pointless. But the other stuff seems like objecting to how science fundamentally works?

None of this is a criticism by the way, everyone's morals are equally valid. Just curious how you came to the position.

jabby fucked around with this message at 22:43 on Jul 3, 2020

Pain of Mind
Jul 10, 2004
You are receiving this broadcast as a dream...We are transmitting from the year one nine... nine nine ...You are receiving this broadcast in order t

thrashingteeth posted:

Nah man it would be good to have someone from a different perspective in this thread! I'm all for it, like I said my working experience is very specific to the UK and to working as a technician so the wider in the industry the better imo. I don't know for other species but from my understanding (if we're staying on rodents) I do think the US would offer a quite different environment which would be interesting to hear. What field are you in if you want to say out of curiosity and do you do a lot of technical work as part of your studies?

Basically it's a refinement to rat welfare which can help them de-stress and not develop intense aversion to handling. It's really fun and cute would recommend doing this on a rat, 10/10.

I've linked a general page about it and an online course if you're interested!
https://nc3rs.org.uk/rat-tickling
http://storage.googleapis.com/ecourses/Rat%20Tickling%20Certification/story_html5.html

I have been doing pre-clinical drug development and discovery, mostly in cancer, but some basic biology, metabolic disease, and auto-immune models as well. I would say about half of the work I do involves animals, while the other half would be other cell or plate based experiments. 99.9% of my animal work is with mice, 0.1% with rats, which tended to be the rare rat PK or tox experiment. I have never worked with any other species, anything bigger gets outsourced. With the recent focus on immuno-oncology, the usefulness of many animal models is getting tested. You start to get into real differences between the function of genes between species, where immuno-oncology agonists like GITR or 4-1BB work great in mice, and don't do much in humans, due to poor homology between species you often need a completely separate drug for mice than what goes into humans, which is more proof of concept based because if it is a completely different molecule, or the fact that some immune pathways are not evolutionary conserved at all and the only species that is relevant is human. I have seen drugs going into clinical trials with no relevant toxicity species, because even monkeys do not have the gene. Obviously you still need to generate a ton of data for the FDA using human cells and tissue panels and such, but any tox study would only measure if there were any off-target effects. A significant amount of my work is just trying to generate proof of concept models for new targets where

I did not mean to make it sound like CROs don't generate good data, just that it is not their own data, which at least for me would get old fairly fast.

Dogatron
Jun 23, 2020


The nicest story I ever heard about animal research was told to me by a transplant surgeon in the UK. Back in the 80s he worked in Winsconsin researching organ preservation fluid. Part of that research involved transplanting livers in dogs. I'm not sure if they would of got away with that nowadays but it was ethical back then. He performed quite a few dog liver transplants and the research was successful. The preservation fluid UW ( University of Winsconsin ) is still used today.

At the end of the research he was meant to euthanise all of the dogs but there was one dog he just could not bring himself to kill. So he took it home and it became a pet. He even brought it back to the UK, where it lived to be 10 years old and remained a Good Dog all its life. He did say that the dogs first visit to the vets ended up in quite an interesting conversation being had.

Edit- I've just thought about all the dog liver donors and their certain death and does one act of sympathy because one dog is cute make up for it? Even transplanting organs in the healthy and rich part of the world seems a bit wrong when half a million children die from diarrhea every year.

Dogatron fucked around with this message at 23:40 on Feb 18, 2021

BattyKiara
Mar 17, 2009


Did you ever work on psychological research on animals? Is that still a thing?

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E4C85D38
Feb 7, 2010

Doesn't that thing only
hold six rounds...?


Is Teklad the standard research diet over there too or is it something different?

Also, wait, you said CO2, what the gently caress? wouldn't an inert gas like nitrogen be the asphyxiant of choice?

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