In toxicology tests non-human primates (NHPs) are selected as most suited to studies of neurology, behavior, reproduction, genetics and xenotransplantation (Wikipedia describes this as ‘the transplantation of living cells, tissues or organs from one species to another’). They are also used in Aids tests. They are mainly purpose bred in USA, China and Europe but they are also caught in the wild or even gathered from zoos and circuses. There is great demand for them in laboratories as they are considered as being central to vaccine development and also Deep Brain Stimulation tests.
“Animal testing precedes human trials, but if we do not know whether the animal testing is relevant to the problem in humans, it will lose even minimal predictive value… the continued use of broad spectrum multi-strain /multi-species testing vividly shows that researchers do not actually know which laboratory results can be legitimately applied to humans”. Hugh LaFollette and Niall Shanks, Brute Science (London: Routledge, 1996) p 27
We have been responsible for using animals in our enquiry into physiological function and for our experiments in seeking a cure for abnormalities. This has been since the earliest known test of the Romans and Greeks in the second and fourth century respectively. Those such as Galen were known not only for their herbal remedies and also for their early experiments on animals. There is little known of these activities in the following centuries when there were no doubt severe religious ethics in place to ban such work.
However, the use and abuse of animals in the name of science has continued to emerge as a regular and increasingly accepted medical necessity in the 19th and 20th centuries. We have suffered a certain indoctrination that the sacrifice of animals will result in our good health and freedom of disease. Unfortunately we are not guaranteed good health and still humanity suffers disease and even new diseases.
More people began to turn against the methods for ethical reasons. It was not until the early 19th century however that the first animal protection law was enacted – in the British parliament. About fifty years later the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed to regulate animal testing specifically. Charles Darwin promoted the law and his sentiments are obvious in a letter written to Ray Lankester in 1871… “You ask about my opinion on vivisection. I quite agree that it is justifiable for real investigations on physiology; but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity. It is a subject which makes me sick with horror, so I will not say another word about it else I shall not sleep tonight.”
Anti-vivisection posters in public places abounded before mid 1900’s with many organizations attempting to awaken public opinion as to the cruelty associated with medical experimentation. Many including Rukminii Devi were influential in working to abolish the practice in Australia and in India. Many supporters now exist from those early efforts of philanthropists who believed in human dignity and the need to respect all living creatures. These activists urged scientists to explore other avenues to find the secrets of health and find natural remedies for disease.
The introductory statement of Lafollette and Shanks is shared by many prominent doctors, scientists and researchers who are not only voicing an opinion regarding a need for change, but presenting facts that demonstrate inefficient and even illogical animal testing really is.
Two strikes already are against those who continue this work, even when motivated by interest in health if methods prove to be unscientific. One being the extent of cruelty to helpless animals absconded against their will, to suffer in medical laboratories. Second, that the methods fail to prove sufficient results in curing disease and more importantly, improving the health of the people.
Animal lovers are dismayed and enraged to hear of the many thousands of animals that are shunted into the experimental channels, be it dogs, cats, horses, pigs or monkeys. Scientists argue that it is not cruel to do what they perform upon these animals used as ‘guinea pigs’, if it allows them the skill to relieve human disease. But animals are not volunteers.
Beyond medical purposes there are many other avenues where animals are ‘used’ or abused. Our technological age and creative inventions require testing in all areas where the effect upon human beings has to be determined. With the explosion of interest in chemical science and in all the areas of drugs as medication, along with totally new technologies that are employed in surgical procedures there is need for testing before release into the community.