Recently, a research team led by professor Park Kyung Mee from the South Korean Chungbuk National University’s College of Veterinary Medicine published a paper on PLOS ONE — a scientific journal.
The paper, titled “Custom-Made Artificial Eyes Using 3D Printing For Dogs: A Preliminary Study”, included information on exactly that: 3D-printed artificial eyes for dogs.
When the paper was published, however, Park Kyung Mee’s team faced massive international criticism for failing to meet “internationally accepted standards of animal research ethics“.
For one, the team is reported to have used two beagles — both only two years old at the time — with their perfectly healthy eyes removed-and-replaced with the artificial for the research.
And because the paper kept emphasizing the benefits of having “cosmetically excellent” artificial eyes, it immediately raised questions about the real “scientific and/or clinical justification” for carrying out the research.
Dog owners who cannot accept that their companion animals will look different following surgery need to be educated with respect to the intrinsic worth of animals, and encouraged to reflect on the appropriateness of their attitudes and beliefs. Subjecting laboratory animals to painful and distressing procedures, to evaluate unnecessary prosthetics, is not the solution.
Plus, the paper’s evident failure to provide detailed reports on how the beagles were treated for post-operative pain triggered even more concerns.
There can be no justification for such studies if their sole motivation is to pander to the cosmetic desires of the owner for their pet.
The beagles are said to have been euthanized since, causing animal rights activists to become equally frustrated with the “uselessness” of the research.
Please file complaints: Chungbuk National University removes and replaces two beagles’ eyes with artificial ones.
— @donghaemul, an animal rights organization in Korea
In response to the criticism, professor Park Kyung Mee told the Korean press Hankook Ilbo that there is nothing wrong with the team’s research as it had been intended for far more than fulfilling “cosmetic desires“.
The existing procedures for putting silicone prosthetic eye in dogs are known to have caused infections. This study confirmed that 3D-printed prosthetic eyes are less irritating. In the future, this artificial eye could benefit humans as well.
— Professor Park Kyung Mee
She did add, however, that she “[realized] how the recent day society’s response to researches using animals has greatly changed” and so she will be “thinking more in depth about ethical side of [her] future researches“.
PLOS ONE is now “reassessing the article and following up on the above issues in accordance with Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidance“.
To find out more about beagles being used for researches in Korea, watch Animal Farm‘s 2020 coverage on “Lab Beagles” here: