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International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals

Alternative Strategies to Animal research and Testing

11: New Generations

The Draize campaign demonstrated what can be achieved with sufficient motivation. This suggests that one of the factors necessary to change scientific attitudes is an informed public which finds the abuse and exploitation of animals unacceptable. After all, it was public opinion which persuaded many companies to adopt more ethical procedures with the result that, in Britain at least, the use of animals to test cosmetics is now illegal.(41)

There are other ways to facilitate change: concerned individuals can influence the funding policy of medical charities, persuade government to end specific animal tests, and carry Humane Research Donor Cards to improve the supply of human tissue for research. Public opinion is especially important in those areas where the alternative is simply not to embark on the research in the first place. For instance, in medical terms much pharmaceutical research is unproductive since 70% of new drugs offer no improvement over existing products.(43) The proliferation of 'me-too' drugs, similar to those already available, does not significantly add to therapeutic options but does represent a comparatively safe financial investment since they require little or no innovation. The development of transgenic animals, for instance, to improve farm animal productivity, is again unwarranted because health studies stress we should be reducing our intake of animal products.

The second requirement for changing attitudes within the research community is a new generation of scientists who no longer regard animals as mere laboratory tools. So it is essential that students do not have to begin their careers by exploiting animals. And with the many alternatives available for education and training, including sophisticated models, videos, computer simulations, safe self-experimentation and in vitro techniques, it cannot be said that animal experiments are 'necessary'. Indeed, a survey of training courses by 246 departments of human medicine, veterinary medicine and natural science in Austrian universities, revealed that in only six cases were the use of animals compulsory. Two hundred and forty departments either did not think laboratory animals were essential for their courses or they practised alternative methods.(44)

Recognising the importance of education, animal protection groups are now putting great emphasis on student campaigns. Already the initiatives are paying dividends. In the United States, animal laboratories are no longer required by any civilian medical school for teaching purposes. In some of these medical schools the use of animals is now optional; in others the procedures have been discarded altogether. In Britain, dissection is no longer required by any school examining board, and has actually been banned in Argentina. And a survey of computer-based alternatives in undergraduate teaching in Britain and Europe, found that in 15 out of 20 university departments, students had objected to using animals. The survey acknowledged that 'Although there has always been some degree of student objection to using animals, it has never been so apparent as in recent years.'(45)

These are all important and encouraging trends, for the students of today are the scientists of the future.

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