International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals

History of Animal Experiments

2: Claude Bernard Animal Experiments

Why then have animal experiments become so much a part of scientific practice that any criticism is considered heresy? Much of today's obsession with animal models of human disease can be traced to the 19th century physiologists who transformed vivisection from an occasional method into the scientific fashion we know today. One of the most influential figures was the French physiologist Claude Bernard who, in 1865, published his Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, a work specially designed to guide physicians in their research. Bernard regarded the vivisection laboratory as the "true sanctuary of medical science" and considered it much more important than the clinical study of hospital patients. It was Bernard who popularized the artificial production of disease in animals by chemical or physical means, thereby leading the way for today's reliance on animal models in medical research. But by far his most dangerous legacy was the belief that animal experiments are entirely relevant to people: "Experiments on animals, with deleterious substances or in harmful circumstances, are very useful and entirely conclusive for the toxicology and hygiene of man. Investigations of medicinal or of toxic substances are wholly applicable to man from the therapeutic point of view... ."2


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