International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals

International Charter for Health and Humane Research

4. Medical Research

Critics of animal experiments argue that vivisection is bad science because it tells us about animals when we need to know about people(11). This is because human disease can take an entirely different form in animals due to physiological and biochemical differences between the species. For instance, although rats and mice constitute 98% of the animals used for cancer research, it is acknowledged that they have a poor track record in predicting clinically useful treatments(12). One survey found that for every 30-40 drugs effective in treating mouse cancers, only one will work in people(13). Another example is the failure to induce AIDS in laboratory animals by inoculating them with HIV.

In view of the differences between species, it would indeed be surprising if animal research had contributed greatly to our health. In fact most major advances derive from human studies, methods that are directly relevant to people(11). These include epidemiology, where clues about disease and its prevention come from comparing the health of different groups or communities; clinical observation of patients who are ill or who have died, an approach vital to the discovery of new treatments; and studies with healthy volunteers which are essential for understanding how the body works.

Much research can be carried out in the test tube and almost any useful drug effect can be identified in this way using cells, tissues and enzymes from the body(14). Whilst these often originate from animals killed for the purpose, human material could be used to advantage. Tissues can be obtained from volunteers, biopsies, surgical waste and post mortems. An example is the development of anticancer drugs using tumor tissue from patients. Computer simulation of biological systems can also aid drug discovery: based on the idea that medicines must be the correct shape to trigger their effects on the tissues, scientists are employing computer graphics to design new treatments.

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