From: -V I N - [mailto:email@example.com]
August 24, 2006
Help put the record straight
Blair vows 'robust' action against animal rights extremists
British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Saturday promised "robust" action
against extremists targeting companies using animals for medical research.
Blair vowed the crackdown on anti-vivisectionists in a progress report on
government action to deal with the problem, launched on a trip to California
to promote British industry, particularly the biotechnology sector.
"Hundreds of millions of people in the UK and around the world today are
alive and healthy because of the pioneering work of our scientists and
researchers," Blair said in the three-page document.
"Many millions more will be spared an early death or a life of pain because
of the research now under way. They deserve our support. And they should get
Use the information below to compose a letter to send in to your local
newspaper or to the national press - or use the sample. You can find the
address of your local newspaper and nationals here:
Animal experiments continue because of a myth that is perpetuated: - that
the experiments are for the benefit of humans. They can't be because animals
are too different from us to make the results of any value at all.
One of the most ill-informed and high-profile perpetuator of the myth is
Tony Blair, who regularly mutters something incoherent on the subject. Feel
free to use some or all of the sample letter below or write your own.
How disappointing that Tony Blair avoids discussing animal-based experiments
in favour of throwing insults and making statements about 'animal rights
extremists'. A growing body of medical opinion opposes animal testing - for
The reality is that there aren't animal models of the diseases which affect
humans. Take the main killers. Heart disease is caused by a high fat diet -
but only in humans. Attempts to reproduce this in all major laboratory
species - and even in bears, pelicans and other unlikely candidates - have
all failed. There remains no model for human heart disease.
Similarly smoking and lung cancer (a link which has cost millions of human
lives) doesn't replicate with animals. In recent decades tobacco executives
were claiming cigarettes were safe, based on animal studies. Animal tests
served only to waste resources, mislead scientists and delay the health
education - delays which cost countless patients their lives.
The same is true of so many other illnesses - leukaemia, cystic fibrosis,
AIDS, polio, asthma - humans suffer from human illnesses, no animals do.
To add to the confusion, animals don't react in the same way to drugs as we
do. Medical experts have explained how the inability of animals to predict
drug reactions means that good effective drugs have been delayed, and some
may have been missed altogether due to the use of animal tests. Over 90% of
drugs which do pass animal tests fail as soon as they're given to humans.
Perhaps more damaging is the reality of dangerous drugs passing animal
tests, then going on to kill or injure humans. Vioxx was found to be safe in
rodents, dogs and monkeys, and based on this, the manufacturer suggested it
may protect the heart. It caused 133,000 heart attacks and killed thousands
of human patients. Just another in a long list of killer drugs which are
safe in other species.
Meanwhile, technology, study of human patients, and innovative, responsible
science has made real progress in the treatment of human science. This is
where the hope for future development lies, not with the proven failed
methodology of the animal lab.
The following article should be of some help in constructing a counter
argument to Blair's open support for the vivisection industry. It would be
very helpful if you could then send your arguments to the press, details at
A critical look at animal experimentation
by Murry J. Cohen, M.D., Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D., Rhoda Ruttenberg, M.D.
and Alix Fano, M.A.
Increasing numbers of scientists and clinicians are challenging animal
experimentation on scientific grounds. Considerable evidence demonstrates
that animal experimentation is inefficient and unreliable, while newly
developed methodologies are more valid and less expensive than animal
Historical Impact of Animal Experimentation
Proponents of vivisection (tests, experiments, and "educational" exercises
involving harm to animals) claim that it has played a crucial role in
virtually all medical advances. However, several medical historians argue
that key discoveries in such areas as heart disease, cancer, immunology,
anaesthesia, and psychiatry were in fact achieved through clinical research,
observation of patients, and human autopsy.
Human data have historically been interpreted in light of laboratory data
derived from nonhuman animals. This has resulted in unfortunate medical
consequences. For instance, by 1963 prospective and retrospective studies of
human patients had already shown a strong correlation between cigarette
smoking and lung cancer. In contrast, almost all experimental efforts to
produce lung cancer in animals had failed. As a result, Clarence Little, a
leading cancer animal researcher, wrote, "The failure of many investigators
to induce experimental cancers, except in a handful of cases, during fifty
years of trying, casts serious doubt on the validity of the cigarette-lung
cancer theory." Because the human and animal data failed to agree, this
researcher and others distrusted the more reliable human data. As a result,
health warnings were delayed for years, while thousands of people died of
By the early 1940s, human clinical investigation strongly indicated that
asbestos caused cancer. However, animal studies repeatedly failed to
demonstrate this, and proper workplace precautions were not instituted in
the U.S. until decades later. Similarly, human population studies have shown
a clear risk from exposure to low-level ionizing radiation from diagnostic
X-rays and nuclear wastes, but contradictory animal studies have stalled
proper warnings and regulations. Likewise, while the connection between
alcohol consumption and cirrhosis is indisputable in humans, repeated
efforts to produce cirrhosis by excessive alcohol ingestion have failed in
all nonhuman animals except baboons, and even baboon data are inconsistent.
Many other important medical advances have been delayed because of
misleading information derived from animal "models." The animal model of
polio, for example, resulted in a misunderstanding of the mechanism of
infection. Studies on monkeys falsely indicated that polio virus infects
only the nervous system. This erroneous assumption resulted in misdirected
preventive measures and delayed the development of tissue culture
methodologies critical to the discovery of a vaccine.
While monkey cell cultures were later used for vaccine production, it was
research with human cell culture that first showed that polio virus could be
cultivated on non-neural tissue. Similarly, development of surgery to
replace clogged arteries with the patient's own veins was impeded by dog
experiments which falsely indicated that veins could not be used. Likewise,
kidney transplants, quickly rejected in healthy dogs, were accepted for a
much longer time in human patients. We now know that kidney failure
suppresses the immune system, which increases tolerance of foreign tissues.
Nevertheless, the public continues to endorse vivisection, primarily because
many people believe that animal experimentation has been vital for most
medical advances. However, few question whether such research has been
necessary or even, on balance, helpful in medical progress.
Contemporary Animal Experimentation
A. Selective Diseases
In 1971 the National Cancer Act initiated a "War on Cancer" that many
sponsors predicted would cure cancer by 1976. Instead, this multibillion
dollar research program has proven to be a failure, and the age-adjusted
total cancer mortality rate has been steadily climbing for decades.
In order to encourage continued support for cancer research - now exceeding
two billion dollars annually - researchers and administrators have misled
the public. In 1987, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) found that the
statistics of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) "artificially inflate the
amount of 'true' progress," concluding that even simple five-year survival
statistics were misused. For one thing, the NCI termed five-year survival a
"cure" even if the patient died of the cancer after the five-year period.
Also, by ignoring well-known statistical biases, the NCI falsely suggested
advances had been made in the therapy of certain cancers. Commenting on the
research program's discouraging results, epidemiologist John Bailar III has
stated, "The more promising areas are in cancer prevention."
Why hasn't progress against cancer been commensurate with the effort (and
money) invested? One explanation is the unwarranted preoccupation with
animal research. Crucial genetic, molecular, and immunologic differences
between humans and other animals have prevented animal models from serving
as effective means by which to seek a cancer cure. Cancer researcher Jerome
Leavitt has explained that human cancer "may have critical mechanical
differences which may in turn require different, uniquely human approaches
to cancer eradication."
Despite extensive use, animal models have not contributed significantly to
AIDS research. While monkeys, rabbits, and mice born with severe combined
immunodeficiency can be infected with HIV, none develops the human AIDS
syndrome. Of over 100 chimpanzees infected with HIV over a ten year period,
only two have become sick. Even AIDS researchers acknowledge that
chimpanzees, as members of an endangered species who rarely develop an
AIDS-like syndrome, are unlikely to prove useful as animal models for
understanding the mechanism of infection or means of treatment. Other
virus-induced immunodeficiency syndromes in non-human animals have been
touted as valuable models of AIDS, but they differ markedly from AIDS in
viral structure, disease symptoms, and disease progression. Animal
researcher Michael Wyand, discussing anti-AIDS therapy, has acknowledged:
Candidate antivirals have been screened using in vitro systems and those
with acceptable safety profiles have gone directly into humans with little
supportive efficacy data in any in vivo [animal] system. The reasons for
this are complex but certainly include...the persistent view held by many
that there is no predictive animal model for HIV infection in humans.
AIDS researcher Dani Bolognesi has concurred, "No animal models faithfully
reproduce...HIV-1 infection and disease in humans, and the studies of
experimental vaccines in animal models...have yielded disparate results."
Human clinical investigation has isolated the AIDS virus (HIV), defined the
disease's natural course, and identified risk factors. In vitro (cell and
tissue culture) research using human white blood cells has identified both
the efficacy and toxicity of anti-AIDS medicines, including AZT, 3TC, and
protease inhibitors. Federal law, however, still mandates unnecessary animal
3. Degenerative Neurological Diseases
A recent review of four prevalent degenerative neurological diseases -
Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou
Gehrig's disease), and Huntington's chorea - revealed that animal models
have contributed little, if anything, to our understanding or treatment of
these conditions. Vivisection is unlikely to illuminate the causes of these
diseases, since induced pathologic findings in animal "models" differ
fundamentally from those in analogous human diseases.
For example, a leading rat "model" of Alzheimer's disease is produced by
creating a surgical lesion in the rat's brain. Unlike Alzheimer's patients,
these rats exhibit loss of appetite and motor incoordination. Also, the rats
do not develop amyloid neural tangles, which are characteristic of
Alzheimer's disease. Similarly, an animal "model" of Huntington's chorea
that uses a neurotoxin to kill certain brain cells fails to reproduce any of
the three classical symptoms of this disease: involuntary movements,
psychological disturbances, and dementia.
4. Psychiatry and Psychology
Animal "models" of psychology, traditionally employing painful stimuli to
study behaviour, have been strongly criticized in part because human
psychological problems reflect familial, social, and cultural factors that
cannot be modelled in nonhumans. Indeed, most psychologists disapprove of
psychological vivisection that causes animal suffering.
Harry Harlow's "maternal deprivation" experiments involved separating infant
monkeys from their mothers at birth and rearing them in total isolation or
with "surrogate" mothers made of wire and cloth. Their terror and subsequent
psychopathology, Harlow claimed, demonstrated the importance of maternal
contact. However, this had been shown conclusively in human studies. Despite
its conceptual shallowness, numerous maternal deprivation studies continue,
claiming relevance to human developmental psychology, psychopathology, and
even immune and hormone function.
Animal models of alcohol and other drug addiction are similarly
ill-conceived, failing to reflect crucial social, hereditary and spiritual
factors. Pharmacologist Vincent Dole has acknowledged, "Some 60 years of
offering alcohol to animals has produced no fundamental insights into the
causes of this self-destructive behaviour or even a convincing analogue of
"Experimental psychology" continues to rely on painful research on animals,
despite clinical psychologists' disregard for the animal research
literature. A review of two clinical psychology journals revealed that only
33 of 4,425 citations ( 0.75%) referred to animal-research studies.
5. Genetic Diseases
Scientists have located the genetic defects of many inherited diseases,
including cystic fibrosis and familial breast cancer. Trying to "model"
these diseases in animals, researchers widely use animals - mostly mice -
with spontaneous or laboratory-induced genetic defects. However, genetic
diseases reflect interactions between the defective gene and other genes and
the environment. Consequently, nearly all such models have failed to
reproduce the essential features of the analogous human conditions. For
example, transgenic mice carrying the same defective gene as people with
cystic fibrosis do not show the pancreatic blockages or lung infections that
plague humans with the disease, because mice and humans have different
B. Toxicity Testing
Numerous standard animal toxicity tests have been widely criticized by
clinicians and toxicologists. The lethal dose 50 (LD50), which determines
how much of a drug, chemical, or household product is needed to kill 50
percent of a group of test animals, requires 60 to 100 animals (usually rats
and mice), most of whom endure great suffering. Because of difficulties
extrapolating the results to humans, the test is highly unreliable. Also,
since such variables as an animal's age, sex, weight, and strain can have a
substantial effect on the results, laboratories often obtain widely
disparate data with the same test substances. In vitro tests could
potentially completely replace the LD50.
The Draize eye irritancy test, in which unanaesthetized rabbits have
irritant substances applied to their eyes, yield results that are inherently
unreliable in predicting human toxicity. Humans and rabbits differ in the
structure of their eyelids and corneas as well as their abilities to produce
tears. Indeed, when comparing rabbit to human data on duration of eye
inflammation after exposure to 14 household products, they differed by a
factor of 18 to 250. A battery of in vitro tests would be less expensive and
likely more accurate than the Draize test.
Animal tests for cancer-causing substances, generally involving rodents, are
also notoriously unreliable. Science editor Philip Abelson has asked, "Are
humans to be regarded as behaving biochemically like huge, obese, inbred,
cancer-prone rodents?" Of course, humans are not. Of 19 known human oral
carcinogens, only 7 caused cancer in nonhuman animals using the standard NCI
protocol. Even different rodent species produce conflicting results. When
Lester Lave et al. compared rat and mouse carcinogenicity for 214 chemicals,
they found a correlation of only 70 percent. (Chance alone would yield a 50
percent correlation.) An international study demonstrated that in vitro
tests are more sensitive and more accurate than animal tests.
C. Educational Exercise
Animal laboratories are not necessary for teaching biologic and medical
material, and studies have demonstrated repeatedly their lack of pedagogic
superiority. Diagrams, pictures, computer simulations, and interactive
videos can replace animal exercises to supplement lectures and reading
material. During surgical training, medical students and residents properly
begin to learn procedures by observing human operations because of the
human's unique anatomical features. To perfect manual skills - such as
cutting and suturing - surgical training has traditionally relied on
carefully monitored work with human patients. When this is not practical,
creative use of human tissues can be an alternative. For example, students
can practice microsurgery with human placental tissue. Similarly surgeons
can learn new procedures with virtual reality computer systems.
Scientific Limitations of Animal Models
Animal studies can neither confirm nor refute hypotheses about human
physiology or pathology; human clinical investigation is the only way such
hypotheses can be tested. At best, animal experiments can suggest new
hypotheses that might be relevant to humans. But, there are countless other,
often superior, ways to derive new hypotheses.
How valuable is vivisection? The Medical Research Modernization Committee's
review of ten randomly chosen animal models of human diseases did not reveal
any important contributions to human health. Although the artificially
induced conditions in animals were given names analogous to the human
diseases they were intended to simulate, they differed substantially from
their human "counterparts" in both cause and clinical course. Also, the
study found that treatments effective in animals tended to have poor
efficacy or excessive side-effects in human patients. Indeed, when MRMC
physicians evaluate specific animal-research projects, they consistently
find them of little, if any, relevance to the understanding or treatment of
MRMC's reviews have revealed that, because animal models differ from human
diseases, researchers tend to investigate those aspects of the animal's
condition that resemble features of the human disease, generally ignoring or
discounting fundamental anatomical, physiological, and pathological
differences. Because most disease processes have system-wide effects and
involve many interacting factors, focussing on only one aspect of a disease
belies the actual complexity of biological organisms.
In contrast to human clinical investigation, vivisection involves
manipulations of artificially induced conditions. Furthermore, the highly
unnatural laboratory environment invariably stresses the animals, and stress
affects the entire organism by altering pulse, blood pressure, hormone
levels, immunological activities, and myriad other functions. Indeed, many
laboratory "discoveries" reflect mere laboratory artifact. For example,
artifact from unnatural induced strokes in animals has repeatedly misled
researchers. In the 1980s researchers reported 25 compounds that reduce
ischemic-stroke damage in nonhuman animals, but none proved effective in
Animal tests frequently mislead. Milrinone increased survival of rats with
artificially induced heart failure, but humans taking this drug experienced
a 30% increase in mortality. Fialuridine appeared safe in animal tests, but
it caused liver failure in 7 of 15 humans taking the drug, five of whom died
and two required liver transplantation. Animal studies failed to predict
dangerous heart valve abnormalities in humans induced by the diet drugs
fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine. The General Accounting Office reviewed 198
of 209 drugs marketed from 1976 to 1985 and found that 52% had "serious
post-approval risks" not predicted by animal tests.
In animal tests of saccharin's carcinogenicity, the weight-adjusted daily
saccharin dose given to rats was equivalent to a human's consuming about
1,100 cans of saccharin-containing soda. Such massive dosing itself can
result in cancers, irrespective of a compound's actual carcinogenicity at
typical human exposure levels. Extrapolating such data to humans is further
complicated by the observation that saccharin-induced bladder cancers
occurred only in male rats. It was later found that male rats possess a
protein in greater quantity than female rats (and lacking in humans) that
interacted with saccharin to form irritating crystals in the male rats'
bladders that caused cancer. The fact that some rats developed cancers did
not (and cannot) clarify whether or not saccharin causes cancer in humans.
Scientists recognize that, just within humans, gender, ethnicity, age, and
health status can profoundly influence drug effects. Obviously,
extrapolating data between species is much more hazardous than within
species. Consequently, animal studies are reliable at only the crudest
levels - such as the ability of strong acids to damage eyes. However, such
effects can be assessed easily with in vitro systems. For more subtle
effects, animal models are unreliable.
Animal Research Risks
In addition to squandering scarce resources and providing misleading
results, vivisection poses real risks to humans. The mindset that scientific
knowledge justifies (and may require) harming innocent individuals endangers
all who are vulnerable. Even after Nazi and Japanese experiments on
prisoners horrified the world, American researchers denied African-American
men syphilis treatment in order to assess the disease's natural progression,
injected cancer cells into nursing home patients, subjected unwitting
patients to dangerous radiation experiments, and, despite no chance of
success, transplanted nonhuman primate and porcine hearts into children,
chronically ill, and impoverished people. Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton
argues that this "science at any cost" mentality may have provided medical
justification for the Holocaust.
Furthermore, through animal research, humans have been exposed to a wide
variety of deadly nonhuman primate viruses. About 16 laboratory workers have
been killed by the Marburg virus and other monkey viruses, and there have
been two outbreaks of Ebola in American monkey colonies. Polio vaccines
grown on monkey kidney cells exposed millions of Americans to simian virus,
which causes human cells in vitro to undergo malignant transformation and
has been found in several human cancers. Ignoring the obvious public health
hazards, researchers recently transplanted baboon bone marrow cells into an
The experiment was unsuccessful; moreover, a large number of baboon viruses,
which the patient could spread to other people, may have accompanied the
bone marrow. Indeed, vivisection may have started the AIDS epidemic. HIV-1,
the principal AIDS virus, is unlike any virus found in nature, and there is
considerable evidence that its most likely source is either through polio
vaccine production using monkey tissues or manufacture in American
laboratories, where HIV-like viruses were being produced by cancer and
biological weapons researchers in the early 1970s.
Failing to learn from the AIDS epidemic, many policy makers and industrial
interests support animal-to-human organ transplants (from pigs and primates)
known as xenotransplants. These have failed in the past, and are likely to
continue to fail, because of tissue rejection, the impossibility of testing
animal tissues for unknown pathogens, and the prohibitive expense.
Relatedly, the growing field of genetic engineering includes adding genetic
material to animals' cells to change the animals' growth patterns or induce
the animals to produce human proteins in their milk, blood or urine. This
poses serious human risks, such as exposure to pathogens (viruses, prions
[such as those responsible for mad cow disease], and other microorganisms)
or development of malignancies, allergic reactions, or
antibiotic-resistance. These concerns may explain the European Union's ban
on recombinant bovine growth hormone.
Importance of Clinical Research
Typically, medical discovery begins with a clinical observation, which
animal researchers then try to mimic with artificially induced animal
conditions. These researchers tend to highlight animal data that accord with
the previous clinical finding, while discounting or ignoring conflicting
animal data (which are usually voluminous). Although animal research
advocates routinely take credit for discoveries that actually occurred in a
clinical context, many clinicians have recognized the primary role of
human-based clinical research. Reviewing the history of hepatitis, physician
Paul Beeson concluded:
Progress in the understanding and management of human disease must begin,
and end, with studies of man...Hepatitis, although an almost 'pure' example
of progress by the study of man, is by no means unusual; in fact, it is more
nearly the rule. To cite other examples: appendicitis, rheumatic fever,
typhoid fever, ulcerative colitis and hyperparathyroidism.
Similarly, key discoveries in immunology , anaesthesiology, first aid,
alcoholism and psychopharmacology were based primarily on human clinical
research and investigation. Furthermore, clinical research is the only means
by which effective public health education and prevention programs can be
developed and evaluated.
In science, there are always many ways to address a given question.
Vivisection is generally less efficient and reliable than many non-animal
methods, which include:
1. Epidemiology (Population Studies)
Medical research has always sought to identify the underlying causes of
human disease in order to develop effective preventive and therapeutic
measures. In contrast to artificial animal model conditions that generally
differ in causes and mechanisms from human conditions, human population
studies have been very fruitful. For example, the identification of risk
factors for heart disease, so important for prevention techniques, derive
from epidemiologic study. Epidemiology's potential is illustrated by the
growing field of molecular epidemiology. Researchers can analyse cellular
and molecular characteristics of those suffering from cancer or birth
defects, thereby elucidating the mechanisms and causes of DNA damage and
yielding effective prevention and treatment approaches.
2. Patient Studies
The main source of medical knowledge has always been the direct study of
human disease by closely monitoring human patients. For example,
cardiologist Dean Ornish has demonstrated that a low-fat vegetarian diet,
regular exercise, smoking cessation, and stress management can reverse heart
disease. Henry Heimlich has relied exclusively on human clinical
investigation to develop techniques and operations that have saved thousands
of lives, including the Heimlich Manoeuvre for choking and drowning victims,
the Heimlich operation to replace the oesophagus (throat tube), and the
Heimlich Chest Drainage Valve. Currently, his clinical research includes
malariotherapy as a promising treatment for AIDS.
Modern noninvasive imaging devices such as CAT, MRI, PET, and SPECT scans
have revolutionized clinical investigation. These devices permit the ongoing
evaluation of human disease in living human patients, and have contributed
greatly to medical knowledge.
3. Autopsies and Biopsies
The autopsy rate in the United States has been falling steadily, much to the
dismay of clinical investigators who recognize the value of this traditional
research tool. Autopsies have been crucial to our current understanding of
many diseases, such as heart disease, appendicitis, diabetes and Alzheimer's
disease. Although the usefulness of autopsies is generally limited to the
disease's lethal stage, biopsies can provide information into other disease
stages. Diagnostic needle and endoscopic biopsies often permit safe
procurement of human tissues from living patients. For example, endoscopic
biopsies have demonstrated that colon cancers derive from benign tumours
called adenomas. This is in contrast to the leading animal model of colon
cancer, in which there is no adenoma-to-carcinoma sequence.
4. Post-Marketing Surveillance
Because of computer technology, it is now possible to keep detailed and
comprehensive records of drug side-effects. A central database with such
information, derived from post-marketing surveillance, would enable rapid
identification of dangerous drugs. Such a data system would also increase
the likelihood that unexpected beneficial side-effects of drugs would be
recognized. Indeed, the anti-cancer properties of such medications as
prednisone, nitrogen mustard, and actinomycin D; chlorpromazine's
tranquillizing effect; and the mood-elevating effect of MAO-inhibitor and
tricyclic antidepressants were all discovered through clinical observation
5. Other Non-Animal Methods
In vitro cell and tissue cultures are powerful investigative tools. Between
the mid-1950s and mid-1980s, the NCI screened 400,000 chemicals as possible
anti-cancer agents, mostly on mice who had been given mouse leukaemia. The
few compounds that were effective against mouse leukaemia had little effect
on the major human cancer killers. Today, this wasteful program has largely
been replaced with a screen of about 100 in vitro human cancer cell lines, a
much less costly and more reliable alternative. Similarly, in vitro tests
using cells with human DNA can detect DNA damage much more readily than
Regarding vaccines, in 1949 researchers discovered that vaccines made from
human tissue cultures were more effective, safer, and less expensive than
monkey tissue vaccines, completely avoiding the serious danger of animal
virus contamination. Likewise, many animal tests for viral vaccine safety
have been replaced by far more sensitive and reliable cell culture
Antibodies have broad research and clinical applications. Researchers use
millions of animals to produce antibodies by techniques that cause great
suffering. Despite the ready availability of inexpensive in vitro methods,
many researchers (who claim to use animals "only when necessary") don't
bother to use the humane alternative.
Mathematical models using human clinical data are another source of
information that is more reliable than data derived from animal studies.
Mathematical models use human clinical and epidemiological data to generate
hypotheses about complex disease processes. For example, a mathematical
model has indicated that there are two distinct types of breast cancer - one
very malignant, the other much less so - that look alike under the
microscope. This model suggests that the more malignant form requires early
diagnosis and aggressive treatment, while excision is likely curative in the
less malignant form.
Why Vivisection Persists
If animal experimentation is of such questionable value, why does it
persist? There are several likely explanations.
Vivisection is easily published. In the "publish or perish" world of
academic science, it requires little originality or insight to take an
already well-defined animal model, change a variable (or the species being
used), and obtain "new" and "interesting" findings within a short period of
time. In contrast, clinical research (while much more useful) is often more
difficult and time-consuming. Also, the many species available and the
nearly infinite possible manipulations offer researchers the opportunity to
"prove" almost any theory that serves their economic, professional, or
political needs. For example, researchers have "proven" in animals that
cigarettes both do and do not cause cancer - depending on the funding
Vivisection is self-perpetuating. Scientists' salaries and professional
status are often tied to grants, and a critical element of success in grant
applications is proof of prior experience and expertise. Researchers trained
in animal research techniques find it difficult or inconvenient to adopt new
methods, such as tissue cultures.
Vivisection appears more "scientific" than clinical research. Researchers
often assert that laboratory experiments are "controlled," because they can
change one variable at a time. The control, however, is illusory. Any animal
model differs in myriad ways from human physiology and pathology. In
addition, the laboratory setting itself creates confounding variables - for
example, stress and undesired or unrecognized pathology in the animals. Such
variables can have system-wide effects, skew experimental results, and
undermine extrapolation of findings to humans.
Vivisection is lucrative. Its traditionally respected place in modern
medicine results in secure financial support, which is often an integral
component of a university's budget. Many medical centres receive tens of
millions of dollars annually in direct grants for animal research, and tens
of millions more for overhead costs that are supposedly related to that
research. Since these medical centres depend on this overhead for much of
their administrative costs, construction, and building maintenance, they
perpetuate vivisection by praising it in the media and to legislators.
Vivisection's morality is rarely questioned by researchers, who generally
choose to dogmatically defend the practice rather than confront the obvious
moral issues it raises. Animal researchers' language betrays their efforts
to avoid morality. For example, they "sacrifice" animals rather than kill
them, and they may note animal "distress," but they rarely acknowledge pain
or other suffering. Young scientists quickly learn to adopt such a mindset
from their superiors, as sociologist Arnold Arluke explains:
One message - almost a warning - that newcomers got was that it was
controversial or risky to admit to having ethical concerns, because to do so
was tantamount to admitting that there really was something morally wrong
with animal experimentation, thereby giving "ammunition to the enemy."
Animal researchers' ethical defence of the practice has been superficial and
self-serving. Usually, they simply point to supposed human benefits and
argue that the ends justify the means. Often, they add that nonhuman animals
are "inferior," lacking certain attributes compared to humans, such as
intelligence, family structure, social bonding, communication skills, and
altruism. However, numerous nonhuman animals - among them rats, pigs, dogs,
monkeys, and great apes - reason and/or display altruism. There is
accumulating evidence that many animals experience the same range of
emotions as humans. Chimpanzees and gorillas can be taught human sign
language, and sign with one another even without humans present.
The general public, which cares about animal welfare, has been led to
believe that animals rarely suffer in laboratories. Animal researchers often
cite U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics (derived from
researchers themselves) that only 6 to 8 percent of animals used in
vivisection experience pain unrelieved by anaesthesia or analgesia.
Evidence indicates, however, that many animal researchers fail to
acknowledge - or even perceive - animal pain and suffering. For example,
sociologist Mary Phillips observed animal researchers kill rats in acute
toxicity tests, induce cancer in rodents, subject animals to major surgery
with no post-operative analgesia, and perform numerous other painful
procedures without administering anaesthesia or analgesia to the animals.
Nevertheless, in their annual reports to the USDA, none of the researchers
acknowledged that any animals had experienced unrelieved pain or distress.
Phillips reported, "Over and over, researchers assured me that in their
laboratories, animals were never hurt...'Pain' meant the acute pain of
surgery on conscious animals, and almost nothing else...[When I asked] about
psychological or emotional suffering, many researchers were at a loss to
The tens of millions of animals used and killed each year in American
laboratories generally suffer enormously, often from fear and physical pain,
nearly always from the deprivation inflicted by their confinement, which
denies their most basic psychological and physical needs.
The value of animal experimentation has been grossly exaggerated by those
with a vested economic interest in its preservation. Because animal
experimentation focuses on artificially created pathology, involves
confounding variables, and is undermined by differences in human and
nonhuman anatomy, physiology, and pathology, it is an inherently unsound
method to investigate human disease processes. Billions of dollars invested
annually in animal research would be put to much more efficient, effective,
and humane use if redirected to clinical and epidemiological research and
public health programs.