Those who defend vivisection claim that without animal experiments, research would grind to a halt. Yet experience shows this is not the case because scientists quickly devise new techniques to achieve their objectives. For instance, Britain's former prohibition on the use of Animals to practice microsurgery, led to the development of human placental tissue as a viable substitute(17).
Developing humane technologies depends very much on attitudes prevalent within the scientific community, and some tests continue long after they are considered essential because scientists do not feel strongly about the unnecessary loss of life. Although public pressure has been partially successful in persuading companies to adopt alternative strategies, there is much that governments can do to stimulate positive attitudes. Even if unwilling to immediately prohibit animal experiments, they can set target dates after which specific tests would no longer be permitted; they can mandate a continuing and substantial annual decline in the use of animals and they can insist that drug companies improve safety profiles by always subjecting new product to human tissue tests. At the same time government funding agencies can provide incentives by giving priority to grant applications featuring methods of direct relevance to people, such as clinical, epidemiological and human tissue studies. And by, establishing national, co-ordinated networks of tissue banks, they can overcome the shortage of human material for research and testing.
But the alternative to many experiments is simply not to embark on the research in the first place. The development of genetically engineered (transgenic) animals, for instance to improve farm animal productivity, is unwarranted because health studies stress we should be reducing our intake of animal products. And the use of pig or monkey organs for human transplant operations should be halted to avoid the possibility of animal viruses producing deadly new plagues(30).
It is clearly in the interests of humans and animals that vivisection is stopped so the energy and skill of scientific investigation is directed into better and safer channels. Only then can we expect medical science to achieve its full potential.
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