Vivisection is the practice of using animals for scientific and medical purposes.

The Arguments Against

One of the most serious arguments against animal testing is that the results obtained from experiments on animals do not accurately show the effects of a tested substance on humans. Professor Pietro Croce, an Italian, was a vivisector for many years, and now campaigns against animal testing. Among the examples he gives of animals giving misleading results when compared with humans are:

 - Parsley is a deadly poison for parrots.

- Arsenic, a poison to humans is harmless to sheep. Sheep, goats, horses and mice can also eat hemlock in huge quantities - whereas it is a poison to humans.

- A hedgehog can eat enough opium at one sitting to keep a hardened drug addict high for a fortnight.

- Morphine is an anaesthetic for humans, yet if it is given to cats, it produces a state of frenzied excitement.

- Vitamin C is not needed at all by dogs, rats, hamsters and mice, as their bodies produce Vitamin C of their own accord. If humans, primates or guinea-pigs are deprived of Vitamin C, they will die of scurvy.

- Simply inhaling the fumes of prussic acid is enough to kill humans, yet it can be drunk without harm by toads, sheep and hedgehogs.

- Scopolamine can kill humans with a dose of just 5 milligrams. Dogs and cats find 100 milligrams harmless. This is very worrying when it comes to working out safe dosages, as it is calculated by looking at the relationship between body mass and dosage. If we take the average cat to weigh 4 kilograms and the average human to weigh 70 kilograms, this means the correct dose of scopolamine for a human would be 1800 milligrams - 360 times the actual safe dose.

- Penicillin, the first antibiotic, was tested on mice. Had it been tested on guinea pigs, it would have been considered dangerous, as penicillin affects the floral bacteria in guinea pigs' stomachs, and kills them within a few days.

- Professor Croce argues that to obtain the result you want from an animal test, you just have to choose the species to carry out the tests on. In this way, health warnings on cigarette packets were held up for years during the 1960's whilst scientists (paid by tobacco companies) proved time and again that smoking cigarettes does not cause lung cancer in rats and mice, despite the fact that by that time, there was already plenty of documented human evidence to show that cigarettes were dangerous!

The unreliability of animal testing was shown to disastrous effect in the case of fialuridine. This drug passed its animal test phase with no problems, but when it was given to fifteen volunteer humans, it caused acute liver damage, killing five of them and forcing two others to have liver transplants. However, this kind of problem is very rare, and must not be seen as representative of all animal testing.

The Medical Research Modernization Committee (MRMC), an American organisation for doctors who are against animal testing, states that vivisection makes it easy for scientists to quickly come up with 'new' and 'exciting' research. All they have to do is take existing data and change the animal species being experimented on to produce a different result. This allows researchers to publish their findings regularly, and enables them to find funding for future research. Frequently though, these experiments produce no data useful to the advance of human medicine.

The MRMC also suggests that trying to learn about treating diseases such as cancer and AIDS using animal testing is a waste of time and money. They claim that since 1971, when the National Cancer Act was passed in the US, billions of dollars have been spent on possible cancer cures, but have yielded little in the way of new treatments. A major reason for this, MRMC suggests, is that cancers in animals develop and progress in very different ways to cancers in humans. In 1986, two time Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling wrote

"Everyone should know that most cancer research is largely a fraud, and that the major cancer research organisations are derelict in their duties to the people who support them."

AIDS research in America has also been unproductive, say the MRMC. Animals infected with HIV have failed to develop symptoms similar to those caused by AIDS in humans. Over a ten year period, more than 100 chimpanzees (our closest living relatives) have been infected with HIV. Only two have become ill. The same report goes on to suggest that AIDS may have been caused by vivisection, with monkey viruses being mutated to form HIV whist producing a polio vaccine from baboon tissue. It is certainly true that 15 laboratory workers in the US have been killed by the Marburg virus and other monkey viruses, and that there have been two outbreaks of ebola in US monkey colonies.

The above is just a small proportion of the evidence and information to be obtained to back up the allegation that animals are unlike humans and should therefore not be used to predict human reactions to new treatments and medicines.

Read More: Arguments for

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