This is a hot button issue, but I'll give my 2 cents. Animal research is highly regulated, and even though there are species not covered under the animal welfare act, reputable organizations follow the "Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals" and are AAALAC certified (Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International). These guidelines are very strict, include rodents and birds, and require unannounced inspections. Pain and distress would ruin the results obtained during a study, so even if anyone thinks animal researchers are heartless (which they aren't) it doesn't make financial sense to have anything but healthy happy animals.
Do I wish that there was no need for animal research? Yes. But, these are required by regulatory agencies for approval of drugs, regristration or re-registration of pesticdes, etc., and at this time, the best method for having a reasonable measure of safety is animal testing. Just think of Thalidomide; better animal tests could have prevented thousands of fetal malformations in Europe and Canada. The FDA refused to approve this drug for use in the United States because of the poor design and conduct of animal studies.
This is one of the major reasons studies are subject to various good laboratory practices...to ensure good conduct and proper interpretation.
Anyhow, I could go on and on about this. I'm actually a convert from believing animal research was wrong for any reason to believing well planned, meaningful animal research makes us safer. I guess as I grew up and got more perspective on the world I don't see things as cut and dry as I did when younger.