Argument: Animal tests too infrequently lead to scientific advancements

Issue Report: Animal testing


Animal experiments have been a part of medical research for centuries, and many millions are conducted every year. It would be absurd if some of those experiments had not led to some progress, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries when so little was known about how human and animal bodies function. However, due to species differences and other limitations of animal experiments for predicting what happens in humans, very many experiments on rats, mice, rabbits, primates and other animals have produced misleading information. The government’s advisory committee has admitted that the validity of animal experiments cannot be assumed and would need to be demonstrated on a case-by-case basis. Where the reliability of animal experiments for medical progress has been independently analysed, many were shown either to have been conducted badly or to have wrongly predicted human outcomes.

For some diseases where little progress has been made in spite of decades of animal experiments, the conclusion must be that the animal models are failing to elucidate the human condition, and may well have obscured our understanding of it. There are numerous examples of animal research delaying medical progress because results from animal studies have sent research in the wrong direction. For example, the recently revealed deficiencies of the mouse and rabbit ‘models’ of multiple sclerosis (MS) provide a reason why research into this disease has remained largely unproductive over many decades.

Animal experiments are fraught with difficulties arising from species variations and the artificiality of animal ‘models’ of disease. There is little objective evidence so far of their reliability or their relevance to human outcomes. By contrast, at the start of the 21st century, non-animal techniques have become the cutting edge of medical research. Animal experiments are being replaced by a range of non-animal methods that as well as being more humane, frequently prove cheaper, quicker and more effective – as well as saving lives.”

Katerina Apostolides & Lea Oksman. “Man’s Dominion over the Animals”. The Yale Free Press. Winter 2004 – “Unfortunately, not all animal experimentation today can even claim this much. One experiment funded by the March of Dimes involved killing and comparing the brains of normal cats, normal kittens, cats who had one eye sewn shut for at least a year, and cats reared in complete darkness. By the March of Dimes’ own admission, no clinically relevant knowledge emerged from this study.”