Jerusalem Post article on anti-vivisection pioneer
SLICE OF LIFE
feel that animal experimentation is cruel and wrong, but when confronted with
choosing "your child or your dog" the same people are at a loss for a
convincing argument against it.
Belgian-born veterinarian Andre Menache who, as president of the international
London-based Doctors and Lawyers for Responsible Medicine, wages a constant war
from his Kfar Saba home to show that, scientifically, vivisection and the use
of animals in experiments in general is useless and even counter-productive.
As a young
medical student in South Africa
in the 1970s, he debated the late great Christiaan Barnard on television on the
say it was an unbalanced program. They were doing a documentary on animal
experiments and interviewed five professors of medicine, all in favor,
including Barnard, who had done a lot in the course of his work. The only
scientific argument against was given by myself, as I was a recent recruit to
the Association against Painful Experiments in Animals." On an emotional level
most people are uncomfortable with the thought of animal experimentation.
"It's a gut
feeling, but I was always stymied when confronted with the cliché of having to
choose between a child and a dog," says Menache. "It motivated me to go and
look for scientific arguments rather than the moral and ethical objections that
were the only ones heard then."
years of research, Menache and his organization have found a lot of the
answers. They base their opposition to animal experiments and animal-to-human
transplants on well-argued scientific principles, particularly species'
differences and the dangers of animal organs, complete with bacteria and
viruses, being transplanted into humans.
organization's Web site (http: / www.dlrm.org) gives convincing answers to the
most frequently asked questions, such as whether penicillin and the polio
vaccine benefited from animal experimentation. "Not at all!" they proclaim,
maintaining it slowed down and sidetracked the development of these drugs.
Menache and his fellow scientists, Alexander Fleming observed penicillin
killing bacteria in a Petri dish in 1929. He gave it to bacteria-infected
rabbits, but it was ineffective. (We now know, apparently, that rabbits rapidly
excrete penicillin in their urine so it doesn't work for them.)
Disappointed, Fleming set the drug aside for a decade, as the rabbits had
"proved" it was useless, and only used it again years later in desperation on a
patient near death, achieving a "miracle" cure. The rest is history, and
Fleming attributed his discovery to serendipity.
reasoning, Menache attacks the development of the polio vaccine and insulin as
having been hindered rather than helped by animal experimentation. He also has
ready answers to questions on drug safety without animals, alternatives to
animals, and medical training without animals.
As a young
vet back in 1983, Menache founded the Israeli Anti-vivisection Society and was
its first chairman for more than five years. He began to read widely and was
greatly influenced by Hans Ruersch's Slaughter of the Innocents, which started
him on his search for scientific answers.
A visit to
15 years ago by famed Italian pathologist Pietro Croce, one of the fathers of
the scientific movement against animal experimentation, gave him the boost he
needed to begin his campaign, and gradually his ideas are seeping into local
of Henry Heimlich - he of the maneuver - in 1990 gave Menache just the right
publicity he needed for his cause. Heimlich is famous for his medical
inventions, including a one-way valve for chest injuries used in the IDF.
credited with having saved more lives than any other American," says Menache.
"He's vehemently opposed to animal experiments, and spoke on the subject at a
congress which I co-organized. Through him, I was able to make contact with the
chief medical officer of the IDF."
with Heimlich, the army was persuaded to stop using dogs in the training of
battlefield paramedics, and the ruling became effective in 1992.
us that even an institution like the IDF would listen to us," says Menache.
Encouraged, he began a correspondence with Yitzhak Rabin, then defense
minister, on the use of dogs in the training of military doctors in advanced
trauma life support.
out that preserved cadavers would do as well, and he answered that there was a
problem getting bodies."
assassination the subject was dropped, but today dogs are no longer used if
cadavers are available - another success for Menache and his group.
that if you put your mind to the problem and provide viable alternatives, you
can do away with the use of animals altogether," he says. "Also it proves you
can take on a sacred cow like the IDF and get it to change its training methods
if you really want to."
greater achievement was the amendment to a clause in the Helsinki Declaration
of 1964 to the effect that before human experimentation could be done, it had
to be done on animals.
"In 1999, at
an international congress in Italy,
I proposed the amendment, which had been originally inspired by the
trials, to regulate human experimentation, and it was unanimously adopted. The
World Medical Association met a year later and accepted a part of that amendment
by agreeing that those who don't want to do animal experiments don't have to.
It was a big jump for us," he says, "and one of our greatest achievements."
more animal-welfare awareness here than one might suspect and far more than in
many other countries. A third of the population is pet-owning and Menache cites
many incidents which show how much Israelis care about animals.
enough to make five or six phone calls until they reach me to tell me a horse
has been left in the sun for hours," he says, in his capacity as founder of the
Israel Horse Protection Society. "Recently two military doctors refused to take
part in animal experiments in the army, even though it affected their promotion
prospects. Human/alligator wrestling matches at Hamat Gader were made illegal.
Abandoned dogs are not unique to Israel
and, in fact, we are one of only three countries in the world that has banned
vivisection in schools."
married to Sue, an English teacher and English-Speaking Residents' Association
volunteer, is naturally raising his three children to think like him, and Fifi,
their elderly mixed-breed dog is a treasured family member. Religiously
traditional, Menache realizes that stopping animal experimentation is a
public-relations battle based not on being sentimental about animals but
showing that it is counter-productive. Nevertheless, he says he could never
accept that God would make the torture of animals the only way to medical