Op-Ed writing sample - NEAVS
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Op-Ed writing sample - NEAVS
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Busting Myths and Building Bridges (an excerpt from Echo Magazine, April 2014)
For most people, even compassionate animal-loving people, two words sum up their acceptance of using
animals in biomedical research and product testing: “necessary evil.”
What if I were to tell you this isn’t the case at all? Or that using animals in science for the purported benefit
of humans is actually counterproductive? Besides advocating against the unimaginable suffering millions of
animals in labs endure, our goal as anti-vivisectionists is to fight science with science. When we do, we win.
Vivisection is the practice of cutting into or dissecting a living animal for scientific purposes. The so-called
“modern era” of animal experimentation began nearly 150 years ago. In 1871 the first dedicated U.S. animal
lab was built at Harvard Medical School. In response, our founders incorporated the New England Anti-
Vivisection Society (NEAVS) in 1895.
Though using animals as a model for humans became entrenched and remains the tragic standard, anti-
vivisectionists have remained determined – despite facing a multibillion-dollar animal research industry
backed by high-powered lobbyists. But, particularly of late, science is catching up with our resolve to end
animal use and make better and more humane science the new gold standard. Today science provides our
arguments unambiguous data showing animal research is flawed, while new technologies that are more
efficacious are eliminating cruel animal use.
Before examining the data, consider the logic. Mice are not little people. In 2012 the Institute of Medicine
concluded there was no current need for chimpanzees in biomedical research. The National Institutes of
Health responded by retiring 90% of its chimpanzees (NEAVS’ Project R&R Release and Restitution for
Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories was crucially influential: see releasechimps.org). If our closest relative
(humans and chimpanzees share up to 98% of genes) is not useful for human research, why would mice or
any other species be? There are too many variables in anatomy, gene expression, metabolism, etc.
between species to safely and predictably extrapolate data.
If you flipped a coin to guess how humans will respond to a chemical, your prediction would actually be as
accurate as if you tested it on a nonhuman animal.1 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, and the pharmaceutical industry all acknowledge this. The FDA
reports 92% of drugs approved after animal testing fail to receive approval after human clinical trials.2
have moved away from studying human disease in humans," says former NIH Director Elias Zerhouni. "We
all drank the Kool-Aid on [animal use] ... We need to refocus and adapt new methodologies ..."3
Did you know penicillin is toxic to guinea pigs, aspirin is poisonous to cats, forcing dogs to inhale cigarettes
showed no cancer link , and though the arthritis drug Vioxx was safe in animals it recently caused more than
60,000 deaths in the U.S. alone? And, of more than 80 HIV vaccines proven safe and efficacious in
chimpanzees and other primates, all failed in humans. “We have cured cancer in mice for decades – and it
simply didn’t work in humans,” says Dr. Richard Klausner, former director of the National Cancer Institute.4
Researchers are genetically engineering animals to be more human-like, even though our closest genetic
relative the chimpanzee has been declared no longer needed for biomedical research. Why not shift funding
to promising animal-free technologies? What other areas of science remain stuck in a model developed
more than 100 years ago? To be valid, science must be predictive. To be reliable, it must be consistent.
Animal data is neither.
1 Greek, R., & Menache, A. (2013). Systematic reviews of animal models: Methodology versus epistemology. International Journal of Medical Sciences, 10(3), 206-221.
4 Cimons, M., Getlin, J., & Maugh, T., II. (1998, May 6). Cancer Drugs Face Long Road From Mice to Men. Los Angeles Times, A1.