You are here

Experimentation

Hundreds of millions of nonhuman animals are used as resources or research models every year in experimentation in universities and laboratories throughout the world. Rats and mice, hamsters, rabbits, gerbils, dogs, cats, pigs, cows, sheep, reptiles, trout, primates, a diversity of bird species and many others suffer our experiments of biology, biochemistry, physiology and psychology…

We inoculate them with viruses, alter their DNA, impregnate them and kill the pregnant mothers so we can study their fetuses, we submit them to starvation or electric shocks to test their resistance, burn them alive, apply irritants to their eyes and skin, we block their glands, force them to inhale toxic substances, provoke paralysis, submit them to radiation and extreme temperatures...

Of all these experiments, those considered most trivial (cosmetics testing for example) tend to be the main targets of criticism, whilst medical experiments tend to go unquestioned by the public due to the benefits they claim for human animals. Nevertheless, all forms of animal experimentation are based on an unfair ideal: the non-equal consideration of the interests and desires of the nonhuman animals involved.

Scientific advancement is one of the foundations of our culture. It implies great benefits for humans, but this advance has certain limits. For example, the majority of society would be against experimentation on humans against their will even if this would lead to great advances in the search for vaccines and cures. The same criteria should also apply to other animals since they, just like us, they are sentient and the emotions and sensations they feel matter to them just as much as ours do to us. Lke us, they don’t want to die and want to enjoy a free life. Using non-consenting, nonhuman animals for experiments to acquire vaccines or cures for humans is just as arbitrary as would be using a certain group of humans (for example white people) to find cures for a different race. The colour of our skin or our eyes, our gender, the species we belong to, are all irrelevant characteristics when we speak of bearing in mind another’s interests in avoiding suffering and enjoying their life. All that is relevant here is the possession of such interests, independent of race, gender, intelligence or the species an individual belongs to.

 

Research methods without vivisection

Comparative population studies allow the discovery of common patterns in diseases that allow their prevention. Epidemiological studies have lead to the discovery of the relationship between smoking and cancer and the identification of risk factors. Population studies have revealed the transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases and have shown us how they can be prevented. Studies of human volunteer subjects (in many cases already affected by a certain illness and thus in search of finding a cure for everybody) have enabled researchers to isolate the brain abnormalities of patients suffering schizophrenia and other mental disorders. The in-vitro studies of cell cultivation are used in search of substances and in testing and producing a diversity of pharmaceuticals such as vaccines, antibiotics and therapeutic proteins.

 

Non-animal based toxicity testing

A variety of substance toxicity testing methods have been officially approved as a replacement for animal based toxicity tests. We are in the process of updating this section of the report with more information on this subject.

 

Animal-Free Studies

The majority of American universities – including Harvard, Stanford and Yale – have replaced live animal studies in physiology, pharmacology and surgical training with animal-free methods. New study methods include direct human surgery observation, human patient simulations, use of human corpses donated to medical research, sophisticated computer programs, specialist learning models, etc.

 

The nonhuman animal experimentation paradox

A show of the inherent injustice of animal testing arises when they state that the nonhuman animals used in their experiments are sufficiently similar to us as to allow them to make use of the results of the experiments they submit them to... but if they are so similar they also deserve the same consideration as we do. The better a model they make for us due to being like us, the more obvious it becomes that they deserve to be protected as our equals.

 

About questioning the scientific validity of animal testing

Often, animal advocates who oppose vivisection (animal testing) question the scientific efficacy of testing on animals, basing their arguments on the genetic differences that exist between members of different species and the fact that a small difference at a genetic level has negative consequences when trying to apply the results of tests on one species to the human species. However, the problem with submitting nonhuman animals to such experiments is not a scientific issue revolving around the accuracy of the results, but an ethical question which cannot be ignored.

We cannot justify conducting harmful experiments on mice when we would not be willing to do exactly the same to human beings. The mere fact that the individuals (the mice) don’t belong to our own species does not justify us in undervaluing their interests and using them as resources. If, effectively, the criteria on which we based our decision on who we experimented on was about who would provide us with the greatest benefits and most reliable results, we would be justifying the use of experiments on other humans against their will, and we would even have to conclude that we had a duty to do for so a greater good. After all, we wouldn’t have the problems of having to transfer data between species since the subjects of the experiments would belong to the same species as those hoping to benefit from the tests.

We can’t maintain double standards which, in reality, only show up our oppressiveness: if what is most important were the benefit obtained, some humans would fall victim of such a mentality. If the reliability of results is not a criteria which justifies such practices, we should not apply them when the victims are nonhumans.

 

If it weren’t for animal experimentation we wouldn’t have medicines such as ___ which have saved many human lives.

To state that if it wasn’t for animal testing we wouldn’t have discovered ‘X’ medicine is a very bold statement since we can’t be sure that its development would have been impossible without using nonhuman animals. In fact, a multitude of medical advances have come about without the use of other animals and if they invested the quantity of resources which currently go into vivisection into animal-free research methods we might quickly advance much more. Medical history shows the delays caused by various animal experiments (false positives as well as false negatives). In any case, the basis for using nonhuman animals in an injustice: they consider the interests of these animals to be less important than those of humans for the simple fact that they don’t belong to the fortunate species (Homo sapiens) – curiously our own.

In spite of the fact that they have carried out experiments on human animals in the past, surely the majority of us would agree now that we should not experiment on other human animals against their will for the benefit of those human animals which we would save by doing so. Those human lives which have been saved have been saved at the cost of many more nonhumans who were arbitrary discriminated against… if we truly decided to base our criteria the benefit gained for the rest of humanity (development of medicines, vaccines, understanding of the effects of toxins, etc.) we would have to test on other humans against their will since they would produce better results and a greater advance in medical science… so, is this really the criteria which we believe justifies animal experimentation?

 

But animal testing is the basis of medical research.. so you must be against scientific advances and medical progress.

No. We are in favour of research and scientific progress, but not at any cost. The search for knowledge is not an aim which justifies any possible action. Science has to be subject to an ethical reasoning free of arbitrary discrimination, which prevents those with power from oppressing those without it. In the past there has been research and experimentation conducted on non-consenting humans which obviously didn’t respect the interests of the subjects. For example, the experiments into the effects of syphilis, conducted on 399 African Americans in Tuskegee between 1932 and 1972 – recognised by the U.S. government itself – and the experiments carried out by Josef Mengele during the 1940s in Nazi Germany.

Supporters rescue 36 dogs from vivisection breeding facility Harlan Interfauna/Isoquimen
 

 

On the night of January 1st 2011, anonymous supporters of Animal Equality rescued 36 dogs from the vivisection breeding facility Harlan Interfauna/Isoquimen,
situated in Catalonia, Spain.