"Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are like us.' Ask the experimenters why it is morally OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are not like us.' Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction." -Professor Charles R. Magel
This week (April 17th - 24th 2010) is World Week For Animals In Laboratories. It is dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of laboratory animals and to educating the public regarding the scientific, moral, and economic objections to animal experimentation.
Every year around the globe up to 100 million animals are experimented on. They are poisoned, irradiated, burned, gassed, forced to take drugs, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of food, water and sleep and infected with disease. They have electrodes implanted in their brains and tubes inserted into their organs. They have chemicals dripped in their eyes and are forced to ingest pesticides and similar toxic substances. On top of this they are deprived of everything normal and natural in life and confined in barren enclosures, often in social isolation.
Here in Australia we experiment annually on 7 million animals. Many are bred in intensive production facilities as ‘designer animals' - often with horrific genetic diseases.
Though some people may not agree with all animal experimentation, most believe that if we are to find cures for human diseases it is a "necessary evil". Nothing could be further from the truth!
Far from being a "necessary evil" experimenting on animals is a dangerous science that takes human lives as well as animal lives. Because every animal is biologically different and thus reacts differently to different substances, results obtained from animal testing cannot accurately and safely be applied to humans. For example, monkeys and guinea pigs can eat strychnine yet a small amount will kill humans. Belladonna is harmless to goats and rabbits but harms humans. Henbane will poison a man but not a snail and digitalis helps our hearts but causes heart failure in dogs.
Animal testing has resulted in disastrous consequences for humans over the years but surely the most memorable must be the Thalidomide disaster which resulted in more than 10,000 babies being born with bizarre limb deformities despite the drug being tested extensively on animals.
Prior to the current worldwide obsession with animal experimentation many valuable medical discoveries were made including the early anaesthetics, penicillin, digitalis, quinine, the measurement of blood pressure and the treatment of cataracts, malaria and angina pectoris.
Despite the sacrificing of millions of laboratory animals, no animal experiment as such has ever led to a cure for a human disease and there is no evidence to prove that an increase in animal experimentation has brought corresponding improvements in human health or the understanding of disease.
For 50 years researchers have been artificially inducing cancer in animals yet still we have no cancer cure. Dr Kenneth Starr,a doctor from the NSW Cancer Council recognized the futility of animal experimentation back in 1960 when he stated, "It is not possible to apply to the human species experimental information derived from inducing cancer in animals."
When vivisection became popular in the mid 1800's there was very little knowledge about animals. Today we know that, like us, they have desires and needs and share many of our human emotions including fear, anxiety and loneliness. We know too that they experience pain in exactly the same way as us.
Consequently, to ruthlessly continue using these sensitive fellow beings as mere 'laboratory tools' is cruel and unethical.
There is a vast array of alternatives to animal tests including cell, tissue and organ culture, microdosing, clinical research, biotechnology and epidemiology.
In the interests of humans and non-humans alike it's surely time to dispel the myth that animal experimentation is a "necessary evil" and forge ahead with truly scientific humane, non-animal research.