Many supporters of the anti-vivisection movement are concerned that they do not know what to say when vivisectors make specific claims about the value of the work they do.
This section is designed to explain some of the false arguments put forward (often with apparent scientific logic) by the vivisectors and those who defend vivisection.
The vivisectors say: Those who are opposed to animal experiments should not accept drugs that have been produced after animal testing was done.
The truth is: It is difficult, probably impossible, for patients to take drugs that haven't been tested on animals because just about all drugs are, at some time, tested on animals. But just because drugs have been tested on animals doesn't mean that the tests were relevant, useful or valid. The fact is that those drugs would have been produced more speedily and more safely without animal tests. Clinical developments may have followed animal experiments but that does not mean that there is any connection between the two. Medical progress continues despite – and definitely not because of – animal research.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments are useful because they enable scientists to check out observations made by clinicians.
The truth is: Animal experiments delay progress unnecessarily. After doctors had observed that people who smoked tobacco seemed prone to developing cancer animal experimenters spent years making dogs and monkeys smoke cigarettes in an attempt to establish a link between tobacco and cancer in animals. Much to the commercial profit of the tobacco companies this link turned out to be extremely difficult to prove. As a result doctors and politicians were discouraged from providing warnings about the dangers of smoking tobacco for many years and millions of people may have died unnecessarily.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments must continue until we hat effective and reliable alternatives.
The truth is: Animal experiments are neither effective nor reliable. Indeed, animal experiments are so unpredictable and unreliable that continuing with them does great harm to people as well as animals. Human patients would be better off if drug companies did no tests on animals at all. Those who argue that animal tests are necessary because suitable alternatives are not yet available are missing the point. Animal experiments are not just useless – they are dangerously misleading. Remember: a few years ago the big cosmetic companies were all saying that they couldn't manage without performing animal experiments but today more and more international cosmetic companies are publicly boasting that they no longer test their products on animals.
The vivisectors say: New processes such as cell and tissue cultures are all very well but the whole living organism is essential for proper tests.
The truth is: Cell cultures have been available for over a century. In organ cultures small pieces of whole organs can be kept alive and enzyme and support systems maintained. It is true that whole organisms are necessary before conclusions about the efficacy and safety of a treatment can be reached but this requires human patients not animals.
The vivisectors say: Many drugs which have been tested on animals are useful. This proves that animal tests are essential.
The truth is: Just because scientists perform experiments with animals that does not mean that animal experiments are essential or even useful. Most experimenters wear white coats and drink coffee. But that doesn't mean that scientists have to wear white coats and drink coffee in order to make useful discoveries.
The vivisectors say: Animal tests can be misleading so we should be doing more not less animal tests.
The truth is: More tests would simply mean more unreliable results, more confusion and more unnecessary deaths. Many useful drugs cause problems in some animals but not in others. It is impossible for anyone to know which tests to take notice of and which to ignore.
The vivisectors say: Drug companies have to do animal tests to defend themselves against possible charges of negligence.
The truth is: When one drug company was taken to court because of advertisement claims for a drug, the company was asked to produce the evidence for this claim. The only evidence produced was from experimental studies on two animal tissues. Even the expert witnesses called by the company testified that data from animal experiments could not be extrapolated safely to patients.
After an American girl suffered eye damage when she had used a shampoo she tried to claim damages from the company involved on the basis that the drug also proved to be an irritant when tested on animals. However, the court ruled in favour of the company on the grounds that there was no evidence to show that tests done on rabbits could be used to predict what would be likely to happen to humans.
When a woman took a major international drug company to court because the drug she had been given had damaged her sight and paralysed her, she produced evidence showing that the company had known for twenty years that in experiments the drug had damaged the eyesight of rabbits, had blinded and killed calves and grown cattle and had killed or paralysed dogs. The drug company denied negligence, saying that they knew of no evidence that the drug had adverse effects on human beings and apparently dismissing the animal research as irrelevant.
The vivisectors say: Alternatives to animals are expensive and would put up the price of products.
The truth is: It might be more expensive to begin with – because laboratories would have to be altered, animal cages would have to be dismantled and scientists would have to be made redundant or retrained. But in the long run the alternatives would be far cheaper than using animals.
The vivisectors say: Vivisection is backed by 1000 scientists from around the world who have signed a petition declaring that animal experiments are essential and should continue.
The truth is: Many of the scientists who support vivisection earn their living doing animal experiments. They stand to lose everything – including income and reputation – if animal experiments are stopped. Even so there are 20,000 scientists with licences to perform animal experiments in Britain alone. Why do the other 19,000 not support animal experiments? Despite the position of the medical establishment the majority of practising doctors who have expressed any views on this subject regard animal experiments as misleading and are wholeheartedly opposed to vivisection.
The vivisectors say: Vast amounts of money are being spent on looking for effective non-animal ways to test drugs and medical treatments.
The truth is: Comparatively very little money is being spent on looking for alternatives.
The vivisectors say: Drug companies will never dare agree that animal experiments are pointless because if they do they will expose themselves to massive lawsuits from patients who have been disabled by inadequately tested drugs.
The truth is: It would be possible to introduce a moratorium on past liabilities to encourage companies to stop using animals.
The vivisectors say: Very few animal experiments are performed each year.
The truth is: The people around the world who use and authorise the use of animals in laboratory experiments do not care enough to count the animals used and so no one knows for sure how many animals are tortured and killed in laboratory experiments but informed estimates put the world-wide figure at around 250 million a year. This works out at between 100,000 and 125,000 an hour. Or, approximately 2,000 animals a minute.
The vivisectors say: Vivisection is a very small business.
The truth is: Vivisection is a multi-billion dollar business. Apart from the grants, fat salaries and expense accounts received by the scientists who actually do animal experiments there are many large and profitable industries supplying animals, cages and restraints. Individual mice can cost $100 each. Monkeys usually cost tens of thousands of dollars each because they have to be captured in the wild. (The cost is pushed higher because many die while being shipped over to the laboratories.)
The vivisectors say: Since there are not enough non-animal tests available to enable us to assess all the existing carcinogens in our environment we should allow scientists to carry on doing experiments with animals until more tests become available .
The truth is: Animal tests used to assess possible carcinogenic substances are misleading. They are based on inaccurate ideas about how cancer develops and about the degree to which data gained from experiments performed with high doses of chemicals can reveal anything about the effects of low doses of chemicals. The original theory was that if substances damage the DNA then they will cause cancer. But in some tests cancer can develop because the high doses of chemicals kill cells, provoking cell division which then produces the risk of cancer. According to animal tests, coffee, tomato puree, peanut butter and alcoholic drinks all appear to be stuffed with naturally occurring carcinogens – up to 200 times as dangerous as the carcinogens in some banned chemicals. The most absurd evidence of the futility of animal tests is surely the fact that tobacco smoke has been cleared of causing cancer in standard tests on rats. Rats can consume vast quantities of alcohol without suffering any liver damage. Only seven out of 19 known carcinogens were properly identified using the standard National Cancer Institute animal testing protocol in the USA. Non-animal testing is more sensitive, more accurate and less expensive.
The vivisectors say: One advantage of using animals is that the age and sex of the animals used does not matter.
The truth is: The age and sex of humans matter a lot when drugs are being used. Some drugs produce a much more dangerous reaction when given to older patients. The age and sex of animals matter a lot too. Old rats are far more likely to get cancer than young ones and there are many other vital differences in the way members of the same species react. Female rats are usually more sensitive to toxicity than are male rats. I wonder how many of the researchers who realise this deliberately choose to use young male rats when testing a new drug hoping to find out that it is safe. Another example of variations within a species is given by chimpanzees. Experiments on chimps invariably use chimps of differing ages despite the fact that there are enormous differences between immature and mature animals in physiological, anatomical, psychological and sexual terms.
The vivisectors say: The subject of vivisection should be confined to discussion between the experts. The experts know best.
The truth is: The experts are only discussing this problem at all because of pressure from the general public.
The vivisectors say: Several Nobel prize winners have expressed their support for animal experimentation. This means that animal experiments must be continued.
The truth is: Many Nobel prize winners are, inevitably, members of the scientific establishment. It is hardly surprising that a few Nobel prize winners support animal experiments. I am far more convinced by the fact that a majority of practising doctors believe that animal experiments can be misleading because of anatomical and physiological differences between animals and human beings. A recent survey of British doctors showed that 88% agree that animal experiments can be misleading.
The vivisectors say: Why would vivisectors carry on doing animal experiments if the evidence showed so clear ly that animal experiments were pointless and misleading?
The truth is: The vivisectors are committed to carrying on with what they do because when they change their minds they will have to admit that they were wrong. This means that they would expose themselves to some ridicule and contempt, they could expose themselves to widespread lawsuits and they would have to admit that all the work they had done in the past had been useless. Thousands of drugs which were launched on the basis of animal tests would have to be withdrawn and re-tested. Many would then be banned. The animal researchers would find that their modest skills were worthless and their vast departments and huge drug industry pay offs would be lost. Their apparent achievements would be devalued and it would be clear that they had wasted their lives. I am not surprised that they are fighting hard. Meanwhile, animal experiments are quick and easy to do. It is possible to prove just about anything by using animals and animal experiments lead to a steady supply of scientific papers.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments have led to many important discoveries.
The truth is: Vivisectors and their supporters certainly try to claim the credit for just about every scientific discovery ever made. Whenever animals are used in research vivisectors claim that it was their work which made the breakthrough possible. Since animal experiments are so widespread vivisectors are able to claim responsibility for almost all advances in biomedical sciences. The claims made for vivisection are so absurd that I wouldn't be surprised to hear vivisectors claim that animal experiments had led to the development of the motor car, television set and pop up toaster.
The vivisectors say: Many vivisectors are now introducing codes to ensure that animals are well looked after.
The truth is: You can't have a code for vivisection any more than you have a code for rape. ("It's OK to rape a woman if you buy her dinner beforehand and make sure that the room is warm and that there is plenty of straw on the floor.")
The vivisectors say: Those of us who oppose vivisection would change our minds if we were ill or if we had sick relatives.
The truth is: We would not change our minds because we know that animal experiments would not help us and would, indeed, delay useful developments in the world of medicine.
The vivisectors say: The drugs developed by drug companies are often of great use to animals.
The truth is: This is the favourite fall back argument of people who do experiments on animals. One of the big tobacco companies recently argued in court that it was exposing mice to tobacco smoke so that it could learn more about how to help mice. Some observers were sceptical. The argument is, in any case, irrelevant. It seems absurd to argue that it is acceptable to sew up the eyelids of perfectly healthy kittens or to deliberately try to make monkeys depressed in order to treat another animal. What sort of logic is there in torturing and killing animals to find treatments for animals? Most veterinary research is designed to increase farm profits rather than cure animals. It is possible that by treating sick cats experimenters could learn enough to help other cats. But you don't have to torture and kill animals in order to find ways to treat them.
The vivisectors say: Genetic experiments on animals are likely to lead to tremendous advances in medicine.
The truth is: Three of the first 'developments' produced by genetic engineers were: a form of pest resistant tobacco plant, a type of calf so big that it needed to be delivered by caesarean section and a hybrid goat-sheep. Slick, boy wonder scientists with little common sense, a greatly enhanced sense of self importance and a dangerous sense of their own infallibility are endangering the very future of our world. I do not believe there is any evidence to suggest that these experiments will prove to be of value.
The vivisectors say: Animals have poorly developed intellects when compared to human beings and can therefore be used in experiments without any fear.
The truth is: A one year old year cat is more rational and sensible than a six week old baby.
The vivisectors say: Animals are very similar to human beings. And so they are suitable for experiments.
The truth is: If animals are very similar to human beings why are we doing experiments on them? Surely such experiments must be ethically indefensible?
The vivisectors say: Many doctors perform animal experiments.
The truth is: They don't. Very few medically qualified doctors perform animal experiments. The majority of doctors who have expressed any opinion agree with me that animal experiments are useless.
The vivisectors say: If practising doctors disapproved of animal experiments they would say so more publicly.
The truth is: Many doctors are afraid of annoying the big drug companies or the medical establishment (which is controlled by the big drug companies). But more and more doctors are speaking out.
The vivisectors say: Anti-vivisection groups have frequently used information that has been obtained by activists breaking into laboratories.
The truth is: Laboratories are usually very secretive and do not allow the public to see what they are doing (even though public money is often being used). As a result the only way that the public can find out what is happening is when break-ins occur. Many dishonest, incompetent and illegal practices have been exposed in this way.
The vivisectors say: Without animal experiments surgery would not have progressed as far as it has.
The truth is: That is absolute nonsense. I believe that surgical experiments on animals may be enormously misleading. Consider psychosurgery for example. The first leucotomies were performed in the 1930s when it was thought that the frontal lobes were the source of delusions in mental patients. American workers removed the frontal lobes of chimpanzees in 1935 and thought that the animals were more contented afterwards. Since then, on the basis of those animal experiments, thousands of patients have had their frontal lobes cut out and the operation has been performed for a wide range of conditions including schizophrenia, depression, obsessional neurosis, anxiety, hysteria, eczema, asthma, chronic rheumatism, anorexia nervosa, ulcerative colitis, tuberculosis, hypertension, angina, cancer pain and drug side effects.
It is also worth remembering that it was Galen's work on pigs two thousand years ago which misled surgeons for centuries. Galen based his writings and lectures on experiments he had conducted on pigs. It is now generally agreed among medical historians that Galen's work held back medical progress for centuries until religious restrictions were withdrawn and doctors were able to cut up human cadavers. Only then did doctors discover that there are enormous differences between the anatomy of the pig and the anatomy of the human being.
The vivisectors say: Surgeons need to practice on animals to learn their skills.
The truth is: Surgeons in most countries – Britain for example – learn all their skills on human patients and not on animals. Even the law recognises the absurdity of practising surgery on animals and British surgeons must practise their skills on people. Many vivisectors are unqualified to perform human surgery. The basic techniques used in surgery are remarkably simple and can be quickly and easily learned in the operating theatre by assisting a more skilled surgeon. Differences in anatomy mean that operations performed on animals are of no value to surgeons and may encourage a false sense of confidence or carelessness.
The vivisectors say: Animal experimenters get personal pleasure from their work and should be allowed to continue with it.
The truth is: Putting aside the obvious moral and ethical arguments about whether or not scientists have the right to use animals for their own pleasure there is another issue here. There is now clear evidence that people who perform animal experiments are exposing themselves to danger. A recent report described an outbreak of lymphocytic choriomeningitis among laboratory workers handling mice or mice tissues. Another survey showed an increase in the number of deaths from cancers of the bone and pancreas among laboratory workers. And a third report listed malignant melanomas and cancers of the blood as being hazards to which laboratory staff who work with animals are exposed. There is also an increased risk of cancers of the brain and nervous system and stomach. Those who want to stop animal experiments also care about people – and want to protect laboratory staff from being exposed to unnecessary and unacceptable hazards.
The vivisectors say: Without proper drug tests performed on animals pregnant women would be at risk.
The truth is: We need to encourage doctors and drug companies to watch for, report and take note of side effects in order to protect patients properly. I believe that if proper drug surveillance techniques had been available in the 1960s the thalidomide problem would have been picked up much earlier.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments are necessary so that vivisectors can inject cancer cells into animals to see what happens.
The truth is: When human cancer cells are injected into animals the cancers produced are biologically different to the ones that occur in humans. Animal experiments have no value whatsoever in the search for treatments for cancer. Indeed, animal experiments have wasted money and resources, have misled researchers and doctors and have led to the development of treatments which have caused serious problems when given to human patients. Much of the cancer research done by the world's massive cancer industry is of little value. Around 80% of all cancers can be prevented but very little effort it put into teaching people about methods of prevention – largely, I suspect, because there is little profit to be made out of telling people how not to fall ill.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments help them assess the effectiveness of new drugs designed for the treatment of mental illness.
The truth is: Animals do not noticeably suffer from the same mental disorders as human beings. How can researchers possibly know whether or not animals are suffering from delusions or hallucinations? Mice have been provoked into fighting by being given electric shocks and then calmed with tranquillisers – but what is the point of this? Animal experiments also fail to produce any evidence of addiction. For example, when the benzodiazepines were first being tested on animals researchers reported that the drug tamed monkeys, dogs, lions and tigers. These tests were used to help encourage doctors to prescribe the benzodiazepine drugs for vast numbers of patients. But these tests did not indicate that the benzodiazepines would turn out to be among the most addictive of all modem drugs.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments are very useful in the laboratory since they enable the researcher to obtain results relatively quickly.
The truth is: It is very easy to do research and to get it published by using animals. All you have to do is to change the animals and do different things to them. It is much easier to do experiments with animals than with people. There are fewer rules to obey and when things go wrong there is less likely to be any trouble. (Also most researchers are not medically qualified and do not have access to human patients.) Most university departments are ruled by a quest for grants rather than a quest for knowledge and the validity of the research done is of minor significance. The only things that really matter are the number of papers published and the perceived value of the published material.
The vivisectors say: Basic research will help human patients in the long term though it is never possible to say how or when research will prove valuable.
The truth is: If research is going to be useful then it has to be properly planned and relevant and it has to be reliably performed. But most modern research is so poorly planned and executed, and so many researchers 'fiddle' their results, that no one will ever benefit. Modern scientific papers are so badly written that 99% are invalid. Scientists rely on the fact that very few people will question their work. Amazingly, 85% of medical procedures have never been properly tested. We should be spending a greater proportion of our limited resources on assessing existing therapies.
The vivisectors say: Animals are kept in good conditions.
The truth is: Animals are not kept in good conditions. Time and time again evidence becomes available that animals are kept in deplorable conditions. These poor conditions make the results the researchers obtain even more unreliable than they would otherwise be. Most of the committees and organisations which theoretically exist to ensure that researchers look after the animals they use are manned by researchers or by people who support animal experiments. This is like allowing criminals to police our streets.
The vivisectors say: Animals are inferior to us and therefore it is perfectly acceptable to do anything we like to them.
The truth is: This is the same sort of argument used by racists, sexists and others. If we experiment on animals because they are less well endowed intellectually (a doubtful argument in many cases) why don't we allow experimentation on the mentally ill and on babies and small children?
The vivisectors say: Animals cannot feel pain or suffer in the same way that human beings can – therefore animal experiments are justified and justifiable.
The truth is: All the available evidence shows that animals can feel pain and can suffer from stress. The prerequisites for pain reception are a central nervous system, a system of peripheral pain receptors and a series of neural connections between the receptors and the central nervous system. All vertebrate animals possess these three essentials and can undoubtedly feel pain.
The vivisectors say: Animals are very similar to human beings and so tests done on animals are reliable.
The truth is: The drug tamoxifen, currently used as a treatment for women with breast cancer, causes liver tumours in rats. This evidence was regarded as bad news for rats but meaningless for women. My book Betrayal of Trust (published by the European Medical Journal) lists over 50 drugs which are prescribed for human patients but which are known to cause cancer or other serious problems when given to animals. So, if drug companies and drug regulatory authorities can ignore animal tests when it suits them (presumably on the grounds that animals are different to people) what on earth can be the point in doing yet more tests on animals? Not that it is just in the area of drugs that differences exist. Scientists recently reported that: "animal studies have made it clear that there are considerable differences in the effects of vasectomy among species. Which, if any of these models applies to man is not known."
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments help in the fight against cancer.
The truth is: Because animal tests can be misleading there is a risk that such experiments may hold back medical progress. Some experts claim that trying to find out if chemicals cause cancer by testing them on animals is less efficient than tossing a coin. An American toxicologist has shown that a test which is used on rats gives results which can be applied accurately to human beings just 38% of the time. Put another way, that means that 62% of the time the results produced by that test are wrong. Tossing a coin would at least give a 50% chance of success. Animal experiments are inaccurate for the simple reason that animals used in laboratory experiments are different from people.
According to one expert, giving evidence to the United States Congress: "conflicting animal results have often delayed and hampered the war on cancer, they have never produced a single substantial advance either in the prevention or treatment of human cancer."
An extremely eminent academic concluded, after a long study of cancer experiments: "It has fallen to my lot to have to make a general survey of cancer in all its aspects and I do not believe that anyone who does this with an open mind can come to any other conclusion than that to search for the cause or cure of cancer by means of experiments on lower animals is useless. Time and money are spent in vain." America's Food and Drug Administration has now produced a 'test bed' made of human muscle tissue cells which can be used reliably to test anti-cancer drugs.
What would you prefer to take: a drug tested on mice or one tested on cells exactly similar to the ones in your own body?
The links between chemicals, X rays, foods and asbestos on the one hand and different types of cancer on the other were obtained after doctors had studied human patients – not cats, dogs or rabbits. Many experts believe that instead of helping, animal experiments have slowed down the speed with which these essential discoveries have been accepted.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments are essential if we are ever to find a cure for AIDS.
The truth is: Despite enormous expenditure on AIDS research scientists have failed in all their attempts to give AIDS to animals. In view of the differences in the immune systems of animals and humans this is hardly surprising. (I now believe that AIDS may have been produced in an experiment with laboratory animals.) Although no animal has ever been infected with HIV animals under test are regarded as dangerous and infected when being tested and are therefore deprived of all human and animal contact.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments led to the development of the polio vaccine which has saved thousands if not millions of lives.
The truth is: An early breakthrough in the development of a polio vaccine was made in 1949 using a human tissue culture. Monkey kidney tissue was used in the 1950s because it was standard laboratory practice but no one realised that one of the viruses commonly found in monkey kidney cells could cause cancer in human beings. If human cells had been used to prepare the vaccine the original polio vaccine would not have been as disastrous as it was. It is also worth remembering that the number of deaths from polio had fallen dramatically long before the first polio vaccine was introduced. The incidence of polio had dropped as better sanitation, better housing, cleaner water and better food was introduced in the second half of the nineteenth century. Some scientists claim that the polio vaccine is still tested with animals. It shouldn't be. Over ten years ago the World Health Organisation recommended that animal tests are unnecessary when human cells are used to produce the vaccine.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments are helping doctors treat high blood pressure.
The truth is: The animals used in laboratory experiments do not normally suffer from high blood pressure. Researchers can only give the animals high blood pressure by tying off brood vessels, by removing kidneys or by interfering with the animal's normal physiology or anatomy so much that any resemblance to normality is lost. Advances in the treatment of high blood pressure have come from clinical experiences.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments have helped in the treatment of arthritis.
The truth is: Laboratory animals do not normally suffer from arthritis. To test new drugs researchers inject the joints of animals with irritating chemicals in order to produce some inflammation at the ends of the bones. But the disease they create artificially is still not real arthritis. Trying to find dietary answers for arthritis by giving animals different foodstuffs is even more absurd because people don't eat the same type of diet as animals.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments have helped in the treatment of diabetes.
The truth is: The first link between the pancreas gland and diabetes was established in 1788 – without any animal experiments. Back in 1766 a physician showed that the urine of diabetics is loaded with sugar. Animal experiments merely delayed the time when diabetic patients could be treated.
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