AR Philosophy > Debating AR

Chipping Away at the Mountainous Lie of Animal Research


(Moderator's Note: Animal modeled biomedical research harms humans by yielding results that cannot be extrapolated from animals to humans. It diverts research dollars that could be going to proven methods of  curing disease and is used to justify the introduction of unsafe medications.  Barbara Stagno, Director of IDA's Northeast Region, was kind enough to share her panel presentation notes from last week's AR  2001 Conference in Washington DC.  Please read them as background to speak out against animal research at every chance you get. 

With time, we can expose this scandal, the way the farmed animal scandal is being exposed today!)

Arguing Animal Free Research
July 1, 2001
AR 2001 Conference
by Barbara Stagno, Northeast Director
In Defense of Animals (IDA)

The goal of this talk
--Provide a few basic concepts that you can use to refute arguments in support of vivisection without having to be a walking encyclopedia. There are some basic principles that apply to all animal research that render it problematic as a tool for researching human medicine.

Overcoming the fear of speaking about vivisection
--  don't allow yourself to become intimidated
--  don't feel you have to have an extensive scientific background. A lot of this is really common sense.
-- Anyone can -- and should -- speak on these issues.

Animal researchers frequently use scientific jargon as a smokescreen for their inefficiency.
--any valid scientific argument can be presented to anyone in plain English. Even Einstein's theory of relativity can be explained in plain English to someone who doesn't know calculus. A sound concept is something that can be understood by anyone.
-- Popular books by Stephen Hawkings, intended for the lay public and exploring advanced concepts in physics and math.
-- Frankie Trull has no scientific training and she's the spokesperson for the Foundation for Biomedical Research.

Useful to know about 5 non-animal methods that you can name off the top of your head.
Cell and tissues cultures, clinical research autopsy, diagnostic imaging, epidemiology, mathematical and computer modeling

The Three Basic Principles for Arguing Against the Scientific Efficacy of Vivisection

1. We cannot extrapolate what we learn in animals to humans
2. Animals tests do not predict human outcomes
3. Artificially induced disease states do not yield accurate results

I. Extrapolation

It has been shown time and again that you cannot extrapolate accurately from one species to another. Any correlation that occurs, occurs by chance.
--For example, because rats respond similarly to humans when exposed to  drug A, does not mean that you can infer based on that particular trial that humans and rats will respond similarly when exposed to drugs B, C, or D. Each trial is an independent toss-up, and the correlation between the human and rat response is arbitrary in terms of its reliability.

An article entitled: "The Role of Epidemiology in Elucidating the Importance of Environmental Factors in Human Cancer" states: "Unfortunately, extrapolation from animal results to man remains largely problematical and no amount of mathematical sophistication can render such extrapolation more certain."

Why are we not able to extrapolate successfully from animals to humans?
-- This is due to species-specific characteristics.  Over the course of evolution, each species has established well-defined physiological, biochemical, anatomical and metabolic differences.
--  These differences are profound, particularly on the cellular, or sub-cellular level. Most diseases do their damage on the cellular level.
-- who has noticed that our animal companions don't catch colds, flu, measles, chicken pox, mumps, etc. And we don't catch distemper, parvo virus, their upper respiratory infections. This is not insignificant. It has to do with crucial differences that underlie the physical integrity of each species and is built into the genetic code.

Vivisectors are aware of this but try to minimize it. They respond that, "Sure, there are differences, but the similarities are compelling enough that we can learn a great deal from testing on animals."

But how true is that?

A close look at the rat as a model for human disease Here are just a few examples of how rat physiology significantly differs from humans.

--  cholesterol metabolism - Rats can much more quickly eliminate cholesterol from the body than humans can.

This is due to two factors:
a) rats have a much higher level of a liver enzyme (5-desaturase) which metabolizes fats than humans do.
b) Rats do not have a gall bladder. Bile breakdown in the rat occurs through a bile acid, muricholic acid, which is not even present in humans.

As a result of these two factors, rats are very resistant to diet induced plaques in the arteries. This impacts greatly on studies of heart disease and cholesterol.

-- Related to that, stroke due to vascular occlusion is very rare in rats. Meanwhile it is the third leading cause of human death in the U.S.

-- Rats have a very different cardiovascular anatomy and their normal heart rate is 300-500 beats per minute.

-- Rats don't vomit.

-- Rats can synthesize beta-carotene and Vitamin A in radically differently ways than humans. These two compounds are considered central to cancer and nutrition research.

-- Rats synthesize their own vitamin C, a capacity that is not shared by humans.  On average, they store about 20 - 30 mg of Vitamin C in their bodies, which is equivalent to 7.5 grams - a very high dose in the human. Vitamin C has been shown to play a critical role in the prevention of cancer.  In fact, rats and many other animals are rather resistant to many human cancers and the high level of vitamin C may play a role in this.

--  Spontaneous colon tumors are rare in rats, yet these are the second leading cause of cancer death in Americans.
This is just a brief glance at what are a huge array of significant differences between rat and human anatomy and physiology.

II. Predictability

Animal research is poor science because it lacks predictability - a key quality of any scientific methodology is its ability to predict the outcome, with great reliability, given certain factors.

Astronomy is a science. If a scientist knows the location of two stars that are a distance x apart and each traveling towards each other at a given speed, then he/she will be able to predict how much closer they will be to one another in y number of years.

Animal tests lack this predictability.

If we know that a mouse responds to drugs A, B and C with side effects X, Y and Z, this does not tell us how the human will respond to those same three drugs. Nor does it even tell us how a rat will respond to those 3 drugs because the rat, just like the human, is a separate animal from the mouse.

Animal "models" --  because they do not extrapolate well to human diseases --  are not predictive of human conditions.
--Therefore they do not give accurate results for use in human medicine
-- and worse yet, they provide results that are misleading.

Most often "results" from animal tests are obtained by working backwards.

-- Vivisectors begin with an observation that derives from human studies, and then try to validate it through animal studies. Because it is generated in the laboratory, it appears scientific, but it is not true science because we knew the outcome first.
-- This method lacks predictability.

As quoted from the Handbook of Laboratory Animal Medicine: "It is impossible to give reliable general rules for the validity of extrapolation from one species to another. [This] can often only be verified after the first trials in the target species [humans]. Extrapolation from animal models -- will always remain a matter of hindsight."
     [Volume II: Animal Models Svendensen and Hau (Eds.) CRC Press 1994 p6.]

This is, in fact, the reason why animal researchers are able to claim that animal research has led to all human cures and get away with it. Because in the discovery of cures for human disease, animal research has played a part, but that part has rarely been more than one of confirming important observations that were already known from human studies.

-- Though polio affects the nervous system, in humans it is transmitted through the gastrointestinal tract.
-- Pathologists had discovered the poliovirus in human intestines as early as 1912, suggesting entrance through the digestive tract.
-- Monkey "models" falsely indicated that only brain tissue could be used to grow poliovirus.
-- Also based on monkey studies, researchers concluded that the virus entered the body through the nose and spread directly to the central nervous system.
-- Animal studies conveyed both the wrong model of transmission and the wrong course of the disease for the human body.
--Thus researchers spent decades studying and infecting the nervous systems of primates with the poliovirus, but it was a dead end.

Ultimately the development of an effective vaccine came about through a human tissue culture method. In 1954, three scientists received the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for their ability to grow the poliovirus in human non-nervous tissue culture.

Albert Sabin, one of the developers of the polio vaccine, testified before Congress in 1984 that animal models of polio actually delayed the vaccine's development for decades.
-- Sabin stated under oath:
" -- polio prevention was long delayed by the erroneous conception of the nature of the human disease based on misleading experimental models of the disease in monkeys" [Albert Sabin, MD, Statement before the subcommittee on Hospitals and Health Care, Committee on Veterans Affair's, House of Representatives, April 26, 1984 serial no. 98-48].


Insulin was not discovered through vivisection. The standard claim by the vivisection lobby is that Charles Best and Frederick Banting discovered the hormone using dogs. Not true. Clinical data, combined with basic biochemistry techniques, led to the discovery of insulin.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. In diabetic patients, there is an absence or deficiency of this hormone, which regulates sugar metabolism. In 1788, an autopsy performed on a patient who had died from diabetes revealed a link between diabetes and some sort of
abnormality of the pancreas.  Acceptance of this link was delayed by more than 100 years partly because scientists failed to produce diabetes in animals by damaging the pancreas.

Then in 1920 during an autopsy on a human patient who had died from a rare pancreatic disorder, a pathologist discovered the Islets of Langerhans, which is  the site of insulin production in the pancreas.

The discovery of insulin itself took place in 1921 when a biochemist isolated it from among those secreted by the pancreas. The substance was then tested on human diabetics and found to be effective.

III. Artifically induced diseases or injuries to an organism do not accurately mimic those that are naturally occurring.

Most people are not aware that animals do not get many, if not most of the disease scientists study to advance human medicine, but what's studied in the lab is some sort of "model" that scientists create by inflicting injury to the animal in the hope that it will parallel the disease state.

Animals do not get cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimers, even cardiovascularocclusive disease is very rare in animals.

Yet vivisectors purport to study these diseases using animals all the time.

What they do instead is study "models."

--  Parkinson's disease - deficiency of dopamine in the brain. Vivisectors create physical or drug-induced lesions that affect the brain's level of dopamine. 

-- Alzheimer's - Scientists attempt to induce the dementia associated with the disease by administering drugs that alter brain chemistry in the animal, typically a mouse.

Using this method, which essentially attempts to mimic the symptoms of a disease by tampering with the healthy body of an animal, researchers attempt to study the intricate etiology and course of disease.  Needless to say, such a system is fraught with problems, compounded by the fact that there is poor correlation between the animal and human to begin with.

Transgenic animals

Animals with a human gene inserted into their own DNA. Concept is to circumvent problem of species-specific differences and create a more comparable model for the human body. Very popular now.

These animals are still mice. Insertion of one gene, or even a segment of DNA, does not recreate a mini-human.

In 1997, Science magazine published the results of a study: the National Cancer Institute tested 12 anti-cancer drugs on mice who were genetically engineered to grow human tumors.  The effectiveness of the drugs were already known.
-- The study showed that 30 out of 48 times the drugs were ineffective in mice, even though the mice had been genetically manipulated to grow "human" tumors.
-- 63% of the time the mouse models with human tumors were wrong. [Science, vol. 278, Nov. 7, 1997, p. 1041)]

Another example of how studying an artificial disease is not the same and yields wrong results.

Iams corporation, a manufacturer of dog and cat food.
-- Conducted highly invasive and frequently terminal experiments on dogs and cats, all in the name of making a better dog and cat food.
-- Several of the experiments are done to study the effect of diet on kidney disease. The researchers deliberately damage the kidneys of the experimental animals by destroying the kidney function with a single surgical procedure. The animal is thrown into acute renal failure.
-- However, it is already known through veterinary clinical studies that dietary modifications are useful only with chronic renal failure, and not acute renal failure.
--perfect example of the flaw of creating models of disease regardless of the species being tested.
-- Absence of a true clinical picture and the artificiality of the disease state render the results suspect.

These experiments pose yet another example of the questions we should raise about doing harmfully invasive research whether it is on dogs to study humans or dogs to study dogs. The same principles apply.

Common arguments from vivisectors:

1) Whole, intact systems argument

Yes, but it's the wrong system. Results in lab animals are even more inadequate than the results of in vitro applications. Cell cultures are increasingly specialized and sophisticated.

2) Genetic engineering argument

Again, it's the wrong system/wrong organism/wrong species. A
mouse with a human gene in his or her DNA is still a mouse.

3) History of medicine argument: Everything we know today we've learned from animal experiments.

This statement is false. Animal experiments played a confusing role in most instances and at best only confirmed what was already known to occur in humans.

Important to point out that most examples of animal researched "cures" are 50 or more years old and in the last 50 years biomedical science has forged frontiers so vast that it's ridiculous to ignore them:  lasers, fiber optics, diagnostic imaging, gene splicing, DNA sequencing, micro-chips and computers!!! These things have all totally revolutionized science and medicine to the degree that a methodology used a half-century ago should be called into question.

4) Our quotes are out of context.
Challenge them to prove it.

Gene therapy tragedy

Jesse Gelsinger suffered from a mild form of rare genetic disorder.

Missing a gene that would breakdown nitrogen. He was able to control it with drugs and diet.

Volunteered to participate in a clinical trail to insert the missing gene into his body.

Scientists use a virus as the vector to transfer the gene into human patients.

Using animals, they did this procedure, and the animals did well.

In Gelsinger's case, the virus replicated out of control and killed him.

Why? It seems that, due to a difference between a viral receptor site on the mouse liver vs. the human liver, the amount of virus that was estimated to be needed to serve as a vector was miscalculated.

This is an example of a slight difference on the microscopic level that proved fatal for this one young man.

After Gelsinger's death, it came to light that the researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, where this study was done, had neglected to report over 600 untoward reactions in other humans to gene therapy.

Penn failed to stop the study that killed Gelsinger, even though previous patients had suffered from grade III toxicity resulting from gene treatment.

There are examples of successful gene therapy trials that have been conducted in human clinical studies.

[The Scientist, February 7, 2000, p17]

-- end of presentation --

Americans for Medical Advancement (AFMA) also has 4 brochures that are an EXCELLENT teaching tool to hand out to members of your community, and to use as attachments to your letters to Congress and Laboratory Directors. Their brochures include:

50 Deadly Consequences of Lab Animal Experiments ($1)

The Truth Hurts. What they're not telling you about the human harm from animal experimentation ($1)

Focus On The Future. A Closer look at Human-based Methods of Medical Discovery ($1)

Of Mice, Money and Medical Misconceptions: The Truth About Animal Experimentation ($2)

Order these excellent brochures online at: