Why Choose Alternative Cancer Treatments (14b)

Contemporary Animal Experimentation

Part 2 of excerpts from A Critical Look at Animal Experimentation, ctd. from Part 1

Why Vivisection Persists

If animal experimentation is so flawed, 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 directly applicable to humans, 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 source.178,179

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 centers 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 centers 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.180-183 Animal re-searchers' 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.184 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.’"184

Animal researchers' ethical defense 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.185,186 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.187-189 Chimpanzees and gorillas can be taught human sign language, and sign with one another even without humans present.190,191

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 anesthesia or analgesia.192 However, the 2002 Helms’ Amendment ensures that mice, rats, and birds, which constitute over 90% of all animals used in vivisection in the United States, receive absolutely no protection from the Animal Welfare Act.193

Furthermore, evidence indicates 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 anesthesia or analgesia to the animals. Nevertheless, in their annual reports to the USDA, none of the re-searchers 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 answer."194

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. The 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.

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The above excerpts are from

A Critical Look at Animal Experimentation
by Christopher Anderegg, M.D., Ph.D.
Murry J. Cohen, M.D.
Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.
Rhoda Ruttenberg, M.D.
Alix Fano, M.A.

Sixth Edition

Medical Research Modernization Committee
Modernizing Medical Research and Promoting Human Health

Table of Contents
Historical Impact of Animal Experimentation
Contemporary Animal Experimentation
Selective Diseases
Degenerative Neurological Diseases
Psychiatry and Psychology
Genetic Diseases
Toxicity Testing
Educational Exercise
Animal Research Risks
Importance of Clinical Research
Non-Animal Methodologies
Patient Studies
Post-Marketing Surveillance
Other Non-Animal Methods
References and Notes

The entire document is also available as a PDF file.

The MRMC is a nonprofit health advocacy organization composed of scientists and medical professionals who identify and promote efficient, reliable, and cost-effective research methods. The MRMC focuses exclusively on the scientific merits of different research approaches, even though some undoubtedly raise serious and important ethical concerns.

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