Veterinary comment on vivisection
Veterinary Review (UK). www.veterinaryreview.com.
Menache A. Animal experiments and the profession: more debate
Veterinary Review March 2005; Issue 101.
At a recent meeting hosted at RCVS headquarters, it was argued
that we as vets should be "more actively involved in explaining
the scientific rationale for animal experimentation and the
benefits in improving animal welfare". However, before we can
begin to engage with the public, it is only sensible that we
first sound out the different views of members within our own
profession on what is certainly a very controversial subject.
We as a profession are more acutely aware of the concept of
species differences than our medical colleagues. We all know
that paracetamol is toxic to cats, but how many of us are aware
of the fact that the chimpanzee (our closest living relative in
evolutionary terms) is essentially immune to HIV, hepatitis B
and common malaria - diseases which kill millions of people
worldwide every year? The following topic headings illustrate
the need for more debate and discussion within our own ranks,
before "going public":
. Can we justify making healthy animals ill for research
purposes, instead of studying already diseased animals?
. If it is methodologically unsound to extrapolate research
data from one animal species to another, and even from adult to
newborn within the same species, can we still justify
extrapolating animal data to human beings?
Hosting an open debate on these and related topics would
certainly make for lively and informative discussion, which
would help to educate all concerned.
Andre Menache, BSc(Hons) BVSc MRCVS FRSH, Animal Aid Scientific
Consultant, Bradford Street, Tonbridge TN9 1AW.
Knight A. Animal experiments: questioning dogma. Veterinary
Review May 2005;103:50.
Andrew Menache's call for an open debate on animal
experimentation is clearly warranted, if some members of the
profession are indeed calling for veterinarians to become "more
actively involved in explaining the scientific rationale for
animal experimentation" (Veterinary Review, March issue).
For decades it has been dogma that animal experiments have been
responsible for virtually every therapeutic advance from scalpel
blades to heart transplants. Recently, however, these claims
have begun to suffer the harsh glare of critical scrutiny.
In the British Medical Journal, Pound et al. (2004)
systematically reviewed the benefits of six animal trials aimed
at identifying the causes of diseases or at testing the safety
and efficacy of potential new therapies. Although to ensure
human safety animal trials ought to be conducted prior to human
clinical trials, they found that in two cases clinical trials
were conducted concurrently with animal trials, in three cases
clinical trials were conducted despite evidence of harm from
prior animal trials, and in the remaining case the outcome of
the animal study contradicted the findings of previous
investigators, who appeared to have cited only studies that
supported their prior views.
As a researcher who has spent the last year examining the human
predictivity of the animal model in toxicity testing, I can also
confirm that animals have very poor human specificity (and
hence, predictivity), when compared to emerging non-animal
alternatives such as quantitative structure-activity
relationship expert databases (QSARs, which predict biological
activity based on molecular structure), and modernized in vitro
It is a verifiable fact that animal experiments provide a very
poor return in safeguarding human health, given the millions of
animal lives, pounds and skilled personnel hours we invest in
them annually. Rather than uncritically repeating
pro-experimentation dogma, it is our responsibility to use our
privileged positions as animal welfare experts wisely, by
advocating measures such as preventative healthcare and
education, which provide far greater benefits for safeguarding
human and animal health than animal experimentation ever could.
Andrew Knight BSc., BVMS, MRCVS, President, Animal Consultants
c/o London Road Veterinary Hospital.
Norfolk PE30 5AQ
Pound P, Ebrahim S, Sandercock P, Bracken MB, Roberts I. Where
is the evidence that animal research benefits humans? Much
animal research into potential treatments for humans is wasted
because it is poorly conducted and not evaluated through
systematic reviews. BMJ 2004; 328:514-517.