The most important principle underpinning animal experimentation regulation and policy internationally is that the likely benefits of such research must outweigh its expected costs. The intended beneficiaries are usually human patients or consumers, while the animal subjects bear the main harms, or costs.
It is therefore surprising that human benefits are usually uncritically assumed, rather than critically assessed on the basis of reliable evidence. My site www.AnimalExperiments.info
provides peer-reviewed scientific studies and governmental reports which deliver accurate information about the impacts laboratory animals experience, the human benefits accruing from invasive animal research, and the potential offered by alternative research, testing and educational strategies.
Following weeks of research, the list of available studies has now been considerably expanded, helpfully grouped and organized, and supplemented by a series of published summary articles, some of which also serve as ideal handouts.
With a strong editorial
in The Times
world-renowned primatologist Dame Jane Goodall has rebutted Lord Drayson’s rash claims about animal experimentation in this newspaper earlier in the week. “Medical research will wither in our universities”
if we don't import laboratory animals to the UK, he claimed. When exactly did he decide that entering the ‘most extreme claims about animal research’ contest was a fit and proper function for a member of the House of Lords? Although his strong entry only narrowly trails the all-time winner: “medical progress would be severely maimed by prohibition or severe curtailing of animal experiments”
(Osswald 1992), he is a bit behind the times. This, at least, appears proper for a Lord.
Most real scientists stopped making such claims when a slew of large-scale studies published in scientific journals over the last decade very clearly established that the contributions of animal research to human healthcare are exceedingly low. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of its costs. These issues are explored in detail in my recent book, The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments
. Given the urgency with which Lord Drayson appears to need educating, I’ll be happy to provide him with a free copy. Or he can simply review some of the relevant scientific studies with which he's obviously unfamiliar, at www.AnimalExperiments.info
As Prof Goodall pointed out, “insistence on animal research might actually be holding back medical progress.”
She described alternative research strategies that are more cost effective and potentially more predictive for human outcomes, and called on science to “direct its collectively awesome intellect toward finding alternatives to the use of live animals in all procedures – as soon as possible.”
Download her editorial here
On December 15, 2011, the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) released Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity
. The report concluded that most current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is not warranted, but stopped short of recommending an outright ban. The scientific journal ALTEX
has just published my analysis
of that position. I concluded that alternatives exist for the few current research fields for which the IOM committee felt chimpanzee research might possibly be necessary, and that in any case, the adverse welfare impacts on chimpanzees subjected to invasive research — which appeared to receive little consideration — render such research unethical.
NIH Director Francis Collins accepted the committee’s recommendations, ceasing all funding for new chimpanzee experimentation. The NIH will also review current research to determine which experiments should be stopped. Dr Collins estimated that about 37 research projects might be affected, of which perhaps half could be discontinued.
Self-punishment is a very ancient tradition. Nevertheless, I've recently manage to invent a brand new variety! At enormous personal expense I've taken to crossing oceans to give talks to large audiences who probably hate me. Recently I lectured on the evils of animal experimentation at Europe's largest laboratory animal science conference. My adventure
has just been published in Veterinary Practice
. Don’t miss the pics
either, from the beautiful, ancient city in which the conference was held!