Vivisection: why it can never be right
Vivisection is the practice of animal experimentation. This can include the administration of drugs, infecting with diseases, poisoning for toxicity testing, brain damaging, maiming, blinding, and other painful and invasive procedures. It can, and often does, include protocols that cause severe suffering, such as long-term social isolation, full-body restraint, electric shocks, withholding of food and water, or repeatedly breeding and separating infants from mothers.
All forms of animal experimentation are based on an unfair ideal: the non-equal consideration of the interests and desires of the nonhuman animals involved. As animal rights advocates, we oppose vivisection on ethical grounds, believing that it is morally wrong to harm one species for the supposed benefit of another. We encourage our supporters to extend the circle of compassion to include all living animals – human and non-human alike.
Vivisection is a global travesty and not one country operates in isolation from another. The animal research industry is spreading quickly and effectively across the globe, particularly to countries in the developing world, and it must be tackled head-on using a multifaceted approach. Despite this abhorrent industry being shrouded in a thick cloak of secrecy, protected by governments and the pharma industry (with a vested interest in its continuation), undercover investigations inside laboratories and breeding farms have succeeded in bringing to light the extent of animal exploitation in these places. The public have become increasingly aware of the plight of animals in laboratories. Society would be against experimentation on humans against their will even if this would lead to great advances in the search for vaccines and cures. For animals of different species, this is not the case. Yet just like us, many are sentient, with emotions similar to ours. Their lives matter to them, just as our lives matter to us.
Each year, millions of animals are used by researchers as commodities in laboratories. These animals suffer and die in experiments that are not only inherently wrong, but also simply cannot be trusted. Vivisection is hailed by its proponents as being “essential” for medical progress, but the vast majority of animal experiments are carried out in “fundamental”, or curiosity driven research. These are misleading and, in fact, have been demonstrated to hinder medical progress.
Many different species of animals are used as tools by researchers, including rats, mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, cats, dogs, primates, birds, fish as well as “farmed animals” such as pigs, cows and goats. Experimenters often claim that non-human animals are used for research because of their similarities to humans.Yet by the same logic, their similarities would make it abhorrent to use them in drugs research. Regardless of species similarities, however, rearing other animals for our own use is simply wrong. All sentient animals deserve and are entitled to, equal consideration.
Animals unfortunate enough to be born and bred in the scientific research industry suffer enormously, both physically and psychologically. Even those not subjected to procedures themselves experience confinement, isolation, boredom, helplessness, depression, anxiety and frustration. They have little control over their own lives. They were born to die, many of whom never feel fresh air on their faces or experience life as it should be. The laboratory is anything but a natural environment. From birth to death, suffering is an inherent part of life in a laboratory.
Mass, institutionalised animal use
The UK is one of the largest users of animals in experiments in the world, particularly genetically altered animals, but current legislation in Britain also makes it one of the most secretive. The latest Home Office statistics reveal that in 2014, 3.87 million experiments were completed. Globally, numbers are difficult to estimate as there is a variability in the reporting of animal experiments, and many countries do not publish figures. A report in 2008 however estimated that during 2005, approximately 115.3 million animals could have been used for animal experimentation worldwide.
Currently, the use of animals is embedded in medical research methodology. Vivisection has become an institutionalised form of animal abuse, accepted by society mainly because it has so commonly been argued that it has played a vital part in nearly every historical medical breakthrough. Researchers and vivisection proponents advocate that animal research continues to be essential in order to advance medical research. A lack of will to “break” from the “norm”, sheer habit and the desire to gain funding for their work and progress in the medical field drives researchers to continue as their predecessors have done. The constant repeating of the same, or slightly varied, experiments means that thousands upon thousands of animals die. In some cases, law requires vivisection. In Europe, the United States, Japan and elsewhere it is currently required that companies must conduct a range of animal experiments in safety testing. Animal Justice Project holds that just because research has been done in the past on animals, this doesn’t mean that animal research should be carried out, nor is justifiable morally or scientifically.
Animal research = unreliable research
Due to species differences and other limitations of animal experiments, when animals are used for medical research (including drug development) the results are not directly translatable to humans. The so-called benefits to humans is simply unproven. This lack of human relevancy means that much animal research is unreliable research.
Close examination of many of the regular “breakthrough” claims by the research community has revealed that animal research has played a very little part in major breakthroughs. A book by co-written by Dr. Ray Greek and Dr. Jean Greek called “Sacred Cows and Golden Geese” explains in detail these false claims. Aside from the lack of importance of animal research, false positives have meant that many drugs failed clinical studies that showed success in animals. Animal experimentation has hindered progress, and provided misleading results.
Each species responds differently to substances, and this is the fundamental flaw in animal research. The results are further compounded by the distress that experimentation invariably causes. Living in a laboratory cage is a far cry from any natural environment, and animals are subjected to frequent handling, isolation from family members, aggression from conspecifics and isolation. The variables which result from animal experimentation mean that results also vary. Age, sex, weight and diet all have an effect on results. Results from the same experiments vary between researchers, and laboratories.
The solution to replace animal use in medical research is to focus on funding research that is of high-quality, human-relevant and that develops viable approaches that scientists actively want to use rather than reverting to the default position of the animal “model”, now proven by current science as invalid for patients.
There is a wide range of non-animal research techniques to replace animal use. Organisations such as Dr. Hadwen Trust exist to fund new research committed to advancing biomedical science without the use of animals. Companies such as LUSH also advocate strongly for an end to animal research for cosmetics, and release materials educating the public on the key issues, such as those surrounding the controversial REACH programme. Watch a simple and clever video explaining REACH by LUSH.
Only the complete replacement of animals will lead to technological innovation, advance medical science and provide data that is truly relevant to humans.There is a range of different methods that can be used to replace animal experiments. These include:
Cell cultures, human tissues, in chemico testing, organ on a chip, imaging studies, molecular methods (genomics/proteomics/metabolomics), microdosing (microdosing is an innovative technique that measures how very small doses of potential new medicines are absorbed, distributed, metabolised and excreted by the human body (in so called ADME studies), microorganisms, population research, volunteer studies and computer models.
One of the biggest advances is the organ-on-a-chip, which is a multi-channel 3-D microfluidic cell culture chip that simulates the activities, mechanics and physiological response of entire organs and organ systems. The chips are designed to mimic human organs, and allow researchers to experiment with different drugs. The ultimate goal is to use these chips to create a whole “human-on-a-chip” (read more about the “Organ on a chip”).
Animal abuse under “strictest” control
Norman Baker, the previous Home Office minister responsible for animal research was quoted as saying he believes the day would come when animal experiments could be banned. During his time as Home Office Minister, Baker also confirmed his intention to lift Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (ASPA) 1986 which stops the Home Office giving out information about experiment licences which researchers want to keep secret.
ASPA has recently been amended to include the updated European Directive 2010/63 EU and Britain, in line with the rest of Europe, has adopted the codes of practice and legislation as set down by the new Directive. The UK government claims that Britain has the “strictest” laws regarding animal experiments. However, these laws are weakly enforced, and do nothing to end the use of animals in laboratories. Vivisection is wrong on moral grounds, and undercover investigations reveal time and time again the suffering and death involved in this abhorrent industry. They also reveal that these so-called strictest laws do nothing to stop the suffering.
The UK government allocates very little funding on the replacement of animals in research. Funding is currently directed more towards the other two “R’s”– Refinement and Reduction. Even the third “R” Replacement, in the eyes of the government and industry does not mean an actual replacement as animal tissues, cells and live invertebrates are used. Total replacement is the only morally ethical “R”, and the only “R” which will truly advance medical progress.
Shining light in dark places
Getting even the most basic information on the vivisection industry can be a difficult task. For example, government statistics often do not explicitly indicate how many animals were actually used by researchers. Several NGOs, and the ex-Home Office Minister have lobbied for a review of Section 24 of ASPA, the so-called “Secrecy Clause” with a view to ending the blanket ban on the Government releasing information about animal experiments into the public domain. Section 24 overrides the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). So, at present, the law prevents the Home Office disclosing details of what is done to animals and why. This is despite widespread concern over the use of animals in research. We have a right to know what animals are enduring in research laboratories. We are still waiting for the UK government to make a decision on Section 24.
Extending the circle of compassion beyond humankind demands a break with traditional thought, which holds that animals exist for humans to use. In a world that is largely anthropocentric, the idea of compassion, respect, and justice for all animals is often disregarded as sentimentality. Other species are freely used by man for food, clothing, entertainment and research tools.
Animal Justice Project believes that non-human animals should not be viewed merely as resources, but as fellow earthlings – each entwined, and with senses that are unique to them, and each with a special place in the web of life. The right to enter into the circle of compassion cannot be measured by mental, physical or emotional abilities.
As humans, we have the freedom to make choices that have immense effects on the lives of other animals. With this freedom comes the moral obligation to make responsible decisions. It has been said that the moral progress of our society can be measured by the way it treats animals. Animal experimentation – an institutionalised form of exploitation – stands in the way of moral progress. Now is the time to extend our sphere of ethical concern to all other animals.