Vivisection is the practice of experimenting on live animals for scientific and medical purposes.

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What are some arguments against vivisection?

Some animal rights activists would argue that it is not acceptable for people to use other living creatures to experiment on, even if the results are beneficial to humans.  Animals other than humans can feel and they do not have the mouse vivisectionability to give consent for what is being done to them. 

Animal testing has also been branded as unreliable by anti-vivisectionists, along with some doctors and researchers, as animals can react to chemicals and conditions in very different ways to humans, in a problem known as the ‘species difference’.  For example, the drug Thalidomide, which caused numerous birth defects and thousands of foetal deaths worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s, had successfully passed animal testing.

In 2006, a drug called TGN1412, or Theralizumab, was tested on humans in a round of medical trials. The drug was designed to treat chronic leukaemia and rheumatoid arthritis and had been tested on animals, including macaque monkeys, with no serious side effects. However, when it was given to 6 humans at only 1/500 of the highest dose given safely to the monkeys, the drug caused a severe allergic reaction called a cytokine storm. The humans suffered extreme swelling of their skin and organs. One lost his fingers and toes as a result of the test and another suffered organ failure.

In 2016, a drug trial for a pain and mood disorder drug caused six men to be hospitalised in France. One later died and four of the remaining five were left with brain damage. This drug had also been tested on animals. Although extreme reactions like these are very rare, they do demonstrate that testing on animals doesn’t always ensure that a drug is safe for human use. 

Professor Pietro Croce was a vivisector for many years, and now campaigns against animal testing.  He describes many other examples of ‘species difference’ where medicines have dramatically different effects in animals and humans.  Testing on animals might also cause people to think that a drug is dangerous, when it may be safe for humans.  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 also argues that, if a company wants to ‘prove’ that a product is safe, they can simply choose to test it on an animal species which is not affected by that product. In this way, the printing of health warnings on cigarette packets was delayed for years during the 1960’s.  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 to people!

Read More: What medical benefits has vivisection provided?

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