- G. Bernard Shaw
The January 24 Associated Press (AP) story was unashamedly entitled, "Lab rats out of a job." (It made me think if AP writer Michael Hill had covered the liberation of Auschwitz, he'd have declared Europe's Jews to suddenly be "homeless.") In the piece, Hill talks of possible "high-tech alternatives" to animal experimentation. Before you view this as a major scientific and moral step forward, allow me to present Hill's closing salvo: "Taylor Bennett, senior science adviser to the National Association for Biomedical Researchers, said animal testing maintains an essential role in making sure new pharmaceutical products are safe and effective for humans."
Safe and effective? Not so, says Robert Mendelsohn, M.D. "The reason why I am against animal research is because it doesn't work," he explains. "It has no scientific value and every good scientist knows that."
Aysha Z Akhtar, M.D., M.P.H., a senior medical advisor and Jarrod Bailey, Ph.D., a senior research consultant for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, concur. "The more we study the relevance of animal tests, the more apparent their shortcomings become," Akhtar and Bailey state in a Feb. 9, 2007 letter published in the British Medical Journal. "Even subtle physiological differences between humans and animals can manifest as profound differences in disease physiology and treatment effectiveness and safety. For example, numerous differences in spinal cord physiology and reaction to injury exist between species and even strains within a species. These differences likely contribute to the repeated failure of spinal cord treatments that have tested safe and effective in animals to translate into human benefit."
In addition, say Akhtar and Bailey, "tests in rodents for predicting human carcinogenicity with a false negative rate approaching two-thirds, potentially caus(ed) widespread human exposure to carcinogens." They also point at wonder drugs like Vioxx, which failed to show adverse reactions in animal tests but ended up to be potentially deadly for humans.
"Results from animal tests are not transferable between species, and therefore cannot guarantee product safety for humans," agrees Herbert Gundersheimer, M.D.
"A major shift in our research paradigm is long overdue," declare Akhtar and Bailey. "The move away from animal experiments toward more accurate methods of studying disease and intervention is scientifically superior and more ethical for humanity, as well as for animals."
"Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are like us,'" says Professor Charles R. Magel. "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."
If animal experimentation is both ethically indefensible cruelty and speciously spurious science, why are we still subjected to ill-informed media articles like Michael Hill's "Lab rats out of a job"? Dr. Gundersheimer has a possible answer: "In reality (animal) tests do not provide protection for consumers from unsafe products, but rather they are used to protect corporations from legal liability."
(Did I just hear someone shout out "Bingo"?)
As James Baldwin once reminded us: "People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster."
Mickey Z. is the author of the forthcoming novel, CPR for Dummies (Raw Dog Screaming Press). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.