Smoke Inhalation Experiments
“There aren’t always alternatives to using animals
in research. The research you asked about, and specifically the
use of chickens, is critical in order to help enact and enforce
stronger clean indoor-air laws in communities throughout the country.
The ultimate outcome is the saving of human lives.”
Letter from the American Heart Association (Sanner).
For decades, researchers have forced birds and
many other animals to breathe in cigarette-filled chambers in attempts
to create human-like, smoking-related diseases. A 1994 article on
the use of animals in smoking experiments shows a mechanically restrained
rooster with cigarette smoke being pumped into his clamped-open
beak in an experiment to study the effect of gases found in smoke
on the chicken’s windpipe (McArdle 1994).
In a study published in Circulation,
the journal of the American Heart Association in 1994, two researchers
at the New York University Medical Center placed 30 young male chickens
in an inhalation chamber for six hours a day, five days a week for
16 weeks to see if arterial plaque in the abdomens of the chickens
exposed to the sidestream smoke of five cigarettes per day grew
faster than it did in control-group chickens. All of the birds were
then killed and their abdominal aortas were examined for plaque.
Researcher Arthur Penn said the experiment indicated that children
exposed to sidestream (secondhand) smoke may be vulnerable to eventual
heart disease (Penn and Snyder).
Turkey poults have been recommended as a more
cost-effective model than rodents for investigating therapeutic
drug-induced cardiomyopathy in tumor patients (Czarnecki 1986).
In other studies, chick models have been used to investigate kidney
disorders caused by known and suspected nephrotoxic agents such
as uranyl nitrate, a known nephrotoxin (a substance poisonous to
kidneys). In one study researchers destroyed 85 percent of the chick’s
kidney, administered the toxin, and observed and recorded the damage
(Harvey, R.B. et al. 1986).
Researchers cited in The Washington Times
in 1992 used gold fish and chickens to test their responses to amphetamines,
cocaine, and morphine. According to psychology professors Bow Tong
Lett and Virginia Grant at Newfoundland’s Memorial University, their
idea was “to study how the pleasure system of fish and birds would
be affected by drugs. Such studies have already been done with mammals,
particularly rats." Next they said they would try turtles (Birdbrains).
For decades, many high school science courses
have included a Biological Sciences Curriculum Studies (BSCS) project
on “The Behavior and Development of Chicks” inviting students to
“investigate the factors that control an animal’s response to hormones.”
In the experiment, groups of chicks are injected every other day
in their legs, wings, and thighs with the sex hormone, testosterone
propionate, and the ovarian follicle-stimulating hormone, chorionic
gonadotropin, while other groups of chicks are injected with sesame
oil and saline solution. (BSCS, Black Version, Investigation 28,
Behavior and Development of Chicks, pp. 232-236).
One Kansas school district used 140-150 chicks
each year in this experiment for 20 years. Surviving chicks were
said to be “humanely chloroformed” by the teacher. Though the experiment
has no relevance whatsoever to a chick’s actual biological experience,
the science coordinator insisted that “observations of the effect
of the steroids on development and behavior is cited by students
as important learning,” and while insisting that the chicks “don’t
suffer,” she praised the experiment for giving students a “hands-on
lesson on the terrible effects of steroid and drug abuse.” (United
Poultry Concerns succeeded in getting the school district, which
requested anonymity, to discontinue this project in 1999.)
Space Shuttle Experiments
In 1992, The Washington Post
reported that, “simulating the action of a mother hen,” astronauts
fertilized chickens’ eggs to prepare the eggs for space travel. When
the space shuttle Endeavour returned to earth the eggs would be opened
and the embryos examined for bone calcium loss and cartilage growth.
Researchers said they hoped the experiment would help to explain such
problems in humans as space flights get longer.
Gulf War Chemicals Tested on Chickens
“Because it was difficult to know just how much
insecticide or anti-nerve gas medicine individuals in the Gulf
War were exposed to, we tried a variety of combinations in the
Dr. Mohamed Abou-Donia
In a research project funded by H. Ross Perot,
Dr. Mohamed Abou-Donia, a professor of pharmacology and neurobiology
and deputy director of Duke University Medical Center’s Toxicology
Program, did a study in 1994-1995 designed to “mimic doses” of anti-nerve
gas pills and insecticides such as DEET used by soldiers during
the Gulf War. Over 100 chickens were exposed to a “variety of [unidentified]
doses of single chemicals—either the anti-nerve gas pill or commonly
used insecticides, such as DEET (Diethyltoluamide Metadelphene)—and
to combinations of the two.” Chickens exposed to combinations of
the chemicals “died or displayed nervous system effects such as
weakness, difficulty walking, ataxia and paralysis.” Perot said
“several government agencies and the Pentagon had been in contact
with him about the test results” (Death, Nerve Damage).
Chickens Used as Sentinels to Detect Viruses
For more than a decade chickens have been used
by the U.S. and Canadian governments to indicate the presence of
mosquitoes carrying infectious encephalitis and West Nile viruses.
Stationed in the United States and Canada, the chickens spend their
lives in wire cages and are blood-tested once a week to determine
whether they have the virus, although some scientists say the captive
chickens “are not the best detection system” (Brown 2002).
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