Mark Twain and Vivisection

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Mark Twain and Vivisection

By Jenny Moxham
May 2010

This week is the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain's death (April 21st 1910) It is also World Week For Animals In Laboratories. What do the two things have in common? Apart from being a prolific writer, Twain was fiercely opposed to vivisection - the scientific act of operating, cutting, or otherwise experimenting on living animals.

He wrote, "I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn't. ... The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further".

Every year around the globe up to 100 million animals are experimented on within universities, medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, farms, defence establishments, and commercial facilities that provide animal-testing services to industry.

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 'designer animals' are deliberately bred 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.

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."

A vast array of alternatives to animal testing exists including cell, tissue and organ culture, microdosing, clinical research, biotechnology and epidemiology.

Surely, in the interests of both humans and non-humans alike it's time we abolished this archaic, cruel , dangerous and misleading practice and forged ahead with scientifically based, safe, humane non-animal research.