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

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What are some possible alternatives to vivisection?

Understanding Animal Research claims that most of the accusations made against vivisection are inaccurate, and that animal testing produces valuable information about how new drugs react inside a living body. Tests are carried out to identify major undesirable effects such as liver damage, raised blood pressure, nerve damage or damage to a foetus. Drugs can be altered by digestion, and become either less effective or more toxic, and Understanding Animal Research argues that such problems cannot be investigated using cell samples in test tubes. 

The Medical Research Council states that it “considers the use of animals to be necessary in many areas of biomedical research in order to better understand the living body and what goes wrong in disease.” It claims that  “animal research is essential in the development of safe and effective ways of preventing or treating diseases.”

Anti vivisection campaigners argue that in vitro (test tube) experiments are at least as accurate and often more accurate than animal tests.  In these tests, experiments are carried out on cells rather than living animals. They do, however, still require cells to be taken from somewhere. This can be from humans, but is also often still from other animals. Another approach is to use computer modelling where the results from previous animal experiments are used so that computer algorithms can calculate the most likely outcome in a new test. 

As people develop new methods of scientific study, it seems likely that they will be able to move further away from the animal tests of old. Until that time, there are groups involved with trying to improve the way that animals used for experiments are treated. 

The RSPCA is one of a number of animal rights groups campaigning to ensure that the “3 Rs” are met in terms of animal testing. The 3 Rs were first defined in 1959 and are: Replacement (replacing animals tests with other experiments wherever possible), Refinement (changing the tests to cause less suffering to the animals) and Reduction (reducing the number of animals that the tests are carried out on). The UK National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction in Animals in Research (NC3Rs) is an independent scientific organisation whose job it is to find ways to reduce the need for animal testing and to improve the welfare conditions of any animals used for research.

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