Philosophy of AR > Animal Testing Index > Anti-vivisection Index

Vivisection FAQs

"I had bought two male chimps from a primate colony in Holland. They lived next to each other in separate cages for several months before I used one as a [heart] donor. When we put him to sleep in his cage in preparation for the operation, he chattered and cried incessantly. We attached no significance to this, but it must have made a great impression on his companion, for when we removed the body to the operating room, the other chimp wept bitterly and was inconsolable for days. The incident made a deep impression on me. I vowed never again to experiment with such sensitive creatures."
--Christian Barnard, MD, who performed the first human heart transplant


How many animals are dissected?
What species are used?
Where do the animals used in dissection come from? Aren't most of the animals used in dissection captive-reared?
Fetal pigs are by-products (of the meat industry), so what's wrong with using them?
Since so many cats are euthanized in animal shelters, shouldn't we use them in dissections?
What states have dissection laws?
Do any other countries have laws regarding dissection?

How many animals are dissected? Back to Top

    A reasonable estimate is that about six million vertebrate animals are dissected yearly in U.S. high schools alone, with an additional, unknown number used in colleges and middle and elementary schools. The number of invertebrate animals dissected is probably comparable to that of vertebrates.

What species are used? Back to Top

    The most commonly dissected vertebrates are frogs, fetal pigs, and cats. Others include dogfish sharks, perch, rats, pigeons, salamanders, rabbits, mice, turtles, snakes, mink, foxes, and bats. Invertebrates include crayfish, grasshoppers, earthworms, clams, sea stars, squid, sea urchins, and cockroaches.

Where do the animals used in dissection come from? Aren't most of the animals used in dissection captive-reared? Back to Top

    No. Most animal species used in dissection are predominantly taken from the wild. These include frogs, spiny dogfish (sharks), mudpuppies and other salamanders, birds, snakes, turtles, fish, and most invertebrates.

Fetal pigs are by-products (of the meat industry), so what's wrong with using them? Back to Top

    Many students object to using fetal pigs because of their concern for the treatment of animals raised for human consumption. Almost all of the 97 million pigs currently slaughtered for human consumption in the United States each year are raised in crowded, confined conditions, where they are deprived of space, fresh air, and fresh forage for the duration of the shortened lives. Many also have their tails cut off, and their teeth excised as piglets. The fetuses that end up in the dissection tray are taken from pregnant sows at the slaughterhouse.

Since so many cats are euthanized in animal shelters, shouldn't we use them in dissections? Back to Top

    The HSUS condones transfer of euthanized animals from shelters to research or educational institutions under only very limited circumstances. First, no transactions of live animals should occur, and any animal involved must have been humanely euthanized due to either mortal illness or injury, or because no suitable home could be found for the animal within a reasonable time.

    Second, animal cadavers may be transferred only when the animal's former owner has been informed of this policy and has given consent. Full public awareness of any animal transfer policy is vital to maintaining public trust in animal shelters. Regardless of owner consent, however, shelters not wishing to supply animal carcasses to institutions should not be compelled to do so.

    Third, such transfers should not involve elementary, middle or high schools. The HSUS opposes the practice of animal dissection in pre-college classrooms for numerous reasons. At the college level, we acknowledge the need for animal cadavers in veterinary training, for instance, but emphasize the importance that any cadavers come only from humanely euthanized animals and that no animal be raised or killed specifically for use in dissection.

    Fourth, transfer of animals from animal shelters must never involve any exchange of money. The existence of so-called "surplus" cats is a result of the tragedy of pet overpopulation. Millions of cats are killed yearly in US shelters because there are not enough homes for them all. When there is money to be made in dealing in their carcasses, there may be less incentive for addressing overpopulation. There is also the perception that the shelter would rather gain from this tragedy than spend their monetary resources necessary to solve it.

    Finally, when the above criteria are met, it should be explained to students that the animals are from an ethically sound source.

What states have dissection laws? Back to Top

    The following states currently have laws upholding a student's right to choose humane alternatives to dissection without being penalized: Florida, California, Pennsylvania, New York, and Rhode Island. Maine has a similar state-wide policy, and Louisiana passed a similar resolution in 1992. In Maryland, school boards are required to include information on available alternatives in their course listings. Many schools and school boards (e.g., the Chicago Public School System) have independently enacted student choice policies. Student choice legislation is pending in Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

Do any other countries have laws regarding dissection? Back to Top

    Animal dissection was banned from schools in Argentina in 1987, and in Slovakia in 1994. In 1993 a law took effect in Italy that recognizes the right of conscientious objectors to refuse to participate in animals experimentation. In 1997 the Indian government announced that animal dissection would be made optional for school students in India, though that decision is yet to be implemented.

Where exactly do you stand on the issue of the use of animals in biomedical research?

I am opposed to all use of animals in biomedical research. Experimental techniques never tried before to save the life of a given human or animal, when it has a reasonable chance of success, are ethically OK.

How you do feel about the use of animals to better scientific knowledge and come up with new cures/medicines?

Animals hinder development of new cures/medicines, because animals just do not work well enough as human models. About half of all drugs released by the FDA are later reported to have serious side effects. Occasionally, drugs that worked perfectly on animals cause terrible human suffering as with thalidomide and several experimental vaccines. Drugs are always tested on humans after they are developed and tested on animals -- this proves that even the scientists know that animal tests are too unreliable to work. If the tests are too unreliable, how can developing the drugs on animals be reliable and the best way to develop new cures/medicines?

The reason given for using animals instead of human cell cultures is because one can't predict the effect that a drug will have on the entire human body, because of the interactions between cells and the hundreds of cells in the body. But animals are completely different -- it is impossible to predict whether a drug will or will not harm a one species, human or not, no matter how many animals you test it on. Rats and mice have many different reactions to drugs; how can you possibly extrapolate rat results to humans? Even apes and chimpanzees are not close enough to humans to be used for developing vaccines or cures. You can infect a simian with the HIV virus, but he won't develop the symptoms of AIDS, because his genetic code is sufficiently different from humans as not to work.

Is animal experimentation necessary, or are there alternatives that we should be looking for/using?

There are lots of other ways that drugs can be developed, such as computer modeling and human cell cultures. Animals are just one method that happens to get most of the funding. Health is focused on providing medicines/cures *after* people get sick. A good healthy vegetarian diet and lots of exercise and reduction of risk factors like smoking and environmental pollution -- that would prevent most heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other major diseases.

Many groups would like to see the implementation of the 3 R's. Do you consider this enough, or does further action need to be taken?

The 3 R's are bullshit. Reduce, Refine, Replace. Reducing the number of animals, or refining the methods used, do not eliminate the problem that animal tests just aren't a valid way of testing. And "Replace" is usually taken to mean "replacing" one type of animal testing with another type of animal testing. We need to abolish the use of animals by humans for "research."

What role does the government play in the animal experimentation issue?

Government funds the main organizations that hand out money for research, it promotes animal welfare causes (which are usually compatible with experimentation - even if animal rights causes are not), it requires and regulates the testing of drugs and other new chemicals. The extent of animal experimentation actually done by the government is mainly military-related (bullets, biological weapons.) It creates new research institutes.

Where do you obtain your data/information (just in general)?

Other activists and their flyers and books; the media; and the scientific literature available at the university library. I try to be conservative in presenting facts.

Does the media influence people's opinions on the right/wrong sides of the issue?

Does it ever! Every other week, the newswires have another article proclaiming another "benefit" of animal research. About 1/4 of these articles note that the treatment "may not apply to humans". I would say that the media very strongly promote animal research (not so much animal testing.)

How do you feel about the current legislation that says companies (biomedical) must test their products on animals before they can be put out on the market?

It's a bit of a scam. Because different species react differently, animal tests can produce whatever results are wanted by the company doing the testing -- they just have to pick the right "model" or animal that doesn't react badly. Then, they can proceed to human tests (which would not be necessary if animals were good "models") and see if humans make it through. However, the human tests cannot test for genetic defects or long-term problems caused by the new drugs, due to their short nature (a week or so.) As a result, 50% of all drugs approved by the FDA after the human testing end up to have serious side effects, after they have been tested on the general population. You can't have animal experimentation without human experimentation.. If I had to take a drug, I wouldn't want to unless it had been tested extensively on the human population for a few decades. I cannot trust the drug system.

The legislation was put in place by drug lobbyists to keep animal testing going. Without animal testing, the number of drugs released would shrink considerably, because animal tests would no longer be there to "pass" them, and it would be harder to to "prove" that a drug was OK for human consumption.

What do you think is the most important issue with respect to animal rights?

The right of animals to not be raised and killed by humans, especially to be used for food. More animals are raised and killed in cruel ways for food than for any other use.

(Motor vehicles are the second cause of death, and animal research is the third. Pesticides/Chemicals/Agriculture may be even greater than all three, if you consider the death of insects and mice to be significant.)

What is your opinion of animal testing by the Military? What alternatives should be considered?

The use of animals by the military is mainly to test out new weapons. Animals are shot at and killed in many nasty ways. This doesn't make too much sense, because a pig's head will explode when hit by the latest bullet in a much different way than a human civilian's head, because it's a different shape. The alternative is to just not test weapons on live animals. This is an example of the link between human suffering (through war) and animal suffering.

What is your opinion of animal testing by private industry? What alternatives should be considered?

Animal testing by cosmetic companies is done purely for legal reasons: if anyone sues L'Oreal because their eyeliner made them blind, L'Oreal can say in court, "We tested this eyeliner on rabbits by pinning their eyes open and squirting eyeliner in and leaving it there for 2 weeks, and only 2 out of 500 rabbits developed ulcers in their eyes. Our product is safe!" The company doesn't really care that bunnies can't cry (no tear ducts) and the court usually doesn't realize that the product data isn't valid.

Also, there is no way to guarantee that a drug or cosmetic tested on one species will be safe or will work on another species. Not even rats and mice are similar enough to react the same way to most drugs. So, when they test new drugs on animals, they try and get around this by testing the drug on lots of animals, and seeing if they all react the same. "OK, this new drug works beautifully on rats and mice, but it kills guinea pigs, has no effect on dogs, and makes cats sick. Should we now test it on humans?" Any drug tested on animals is *always* tested on humans afterwards. That proves that the scientists don't trust the animal test results at all!

Even after they do all that testing on humans, 50% of new drugs are later found to have serious side effects. Even aspirin has serious side effects! Some drugs, like thalidomide, passed all animal tests and later showed up to have horrible side effects -- thalidomide causes birth defects such as missing limbs.

What do you think should be done to prevent cruelty to animals?

People have to learn about what cruelty is currently done to animals, and decide if they want to be part of it. If they don't want to be, they should stop eating animals and using products tested on animals, and tell others about it. Most people just don't know or think about it.

It's very sad, but as far as I can see, most people just aren't smart enough and kind enough to treat animals kindly. They could be, if everyone was taught from a young age to be kind to animals, but most people are not.

What is your opinion of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals and other similar organizations?

Almost all animal rights-type organizations do different things to help animals. Some do a lot, some do almost nothing at all. For example:

PETA mainly educates people about animal rights issues. I'm not sure if dressing up like animals for protests is the best way to present the issue of animal testing, but it sure gets the issue on the 11 o'clock news.

Some organizations are actually against animals; they pretend to be for animal welfare but actually support hunting. For example, the World Wildlife Fund, or Ducks Unlimited (Unlimited ducks for hunters) or the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

Some organizations promote the welfare of animals, but still support the idea that humans can overrule the rights of animals when convenient. For example, the idea that we have the right to kill and eat animals as long as they are raised under perfect conditions is promoted by most humane societies. (I sure as heck wouldn't want to be a chicken being cared for by one of these societies.)

What is your opinion of The Animal Liberation Front and other similar animal liberators?

Well, freeing animals without being able to make sure they will be able to take care of themselves -- like letting 10,000 mink free from a fur farm -- is bloody stupid.
Likewise, blowing up twenty lorries used to transport animals is hopelessly stupid. People are responsible for their own ethical decisions surrounding food, and the companies that grow and kill animals for us merely fill that need as cheaply as possible.
These organizations have done a lot to expose the horrible cruelty to animals in medical research labs and factory farms by taking videotapes, so for that reason alone, I support them.

What do you do to help animals?

I let other people know about how animals are treated, and don't use animals for food, clothing, or any other way.

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