Veterinary comment on vivisection

Veterinary Review (UK).
Menache A. Animal experiments and the profession: more debate needed.
Veterinary Review March 2005; Issue 101.

Dear Sir,
    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.
    Yours faithfully,
    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.
    Dear Sir,
    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 assays.
    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.
    Yours faithfully,
    Andrew Knight BSc., BVMS, MRCVS, President, Animal Consultants International,
    c/o London Road Veterinary Hospital.
    25 London Road,
    King's Lynn,
    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.