Heart disease, stroke, many cancers, asthma, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, cataracts, and many more are what the World Health Organisation calls non-communicable diseases (NCDs) or non-contagious diseases. NCDs may be chronic diseases of long duration and slow progression, or they may result in more rapid death such as some types of sudden stroke.
According to the World Economic Forum/Harvard School of Public Health, the NCDs are responsible for 63% of all deaths and are currently the world’s main killer. Eighty percent of these deaths now occur in low- and middle-income countries. Over the next 20 years, NCDs will cost more than 22.68 trillion EUR, representing 48% of global GDP in 2010. The WHO European action plan 2012 – 2016 and the OECD both stress the importance of gathering research evidence in the battle against NCDs.
As far as cancer is concerned, for example, Cancer Research UK stated, in 2011: “Thanks to decades of research, survival from cancer has doubled in the last 40 years”. But this progress simply wouldn’t have been possible without animal research. At Cancer Research UK, research using animals is an unavoidable part of our efforts to beat cancer. For a start, it’s a legal requirement in this country that all new drugs (not just cancer drugs) are tested in animals before they’re given to patients, to make sure that they’re safe to use. In April 2012 the organisation Animal Aid has called for Cancer Research UK and other medical research charities to stop funding animal research. In a perfect world, animal research wouldn’t be necessary. But cancer kills more than 400 people every day in the UK, and all our work is aimed at reducing this death toll.”
However, in marking World Laboratory Animal Day on 28 April, animal activists in Hyderabad, India, called for an end to using laboratory animals and suggested moving towards computer-based alternatives. Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Anjani Kumar, director of the animal welfare division in the ministry of environment and forests said: “Though it is far-fetched, there is a hope that in the near future super-computers and DNA-based models could replicate the human body’s functions virtually to enable drug trials.”
When asked whether the animal activists will force the government to ban the use of animals in laboratories, Mahesh Agarwal, secretary for a city-based animal rights organization said: “I do not see any new technology replacing the use of animals in the laboratories. So, until such ways emerge, it would seem futile if we press for a ban on the method, which will seriously impact new drug discovery. What we can say is handle animals with care and less cruelty.”