Jerusalem Post article on anti-vivisection pioneer
1/26/02  http://www.jpost.com/
Gloria Deutsch
SLICE OF LIFE

Most people 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.

Not so 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 subject.

"You could 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."

After 25 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.

The 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.

According to 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.

With similar 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 Israel 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 consciousness.

The arrival 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.

"He is 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."

Together with Heimlich, the army was persuaded to stop using dogs in the training of battlefield paramedics, and the ruling became effective in 1992.

"It showed 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.

"I pointed out that preserved cadavers would do as well, and he answered that there was a problem getting bodies."

After the assassination the subject was dropped, but today dogs are no longer used if cadavers are available - another success for Menache and his group.

"It shows 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."

An even 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 Nuremberg 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."

There is 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.

"People care 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."

Menache, 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 progress.