"If Not For" by Lawrence Carter-Long
"But if it wasn't for animals being used in research, a lot of cures that
have been found for diseases and such would not have been found."
I caution you to be wary of such blanket statements. Not only are they
nearly impossible to prove (a clear indication that something is amiss, IMHO...), but they also show a profound misunderstanding of the
very minimal role that the use of animals has had in determining human
While it would be ridiculous to assert that animals have not been used in
research, biology or medicine, it is indeed another to claim that the use
of animals in such areas was necessary or even helpful in achieving medical
progress for humans. Hyperbole is a poor substitute for documentation.
Anyone unfamiliar with medical history who stumbled across the revisionist
propaganda of many of the proponents of vivisection would find it
difficult to believe that animal experimentation was not also responsible for
everything from the invention of the wheel to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Of course, such claims are preposterous. In fact, anyone with a unbiased
knowledge of medical history can tell you that the key discoveries in such
areas as heart disease and cancer were discovered through clinical
investigation, observation of patients and human autopsies. Despite the
attempt to rewrite history by the supporters of animal experiments,
these facts remain unchanged.
I find that the increase in life expectancy that the proponents of
vivisection often attribute to experiments on non-human animals were,
in fact, due to other factors. Animal experiments played virtually no
role at all for the increased longevity we now enjoy. Researchers from
Boston and Harvard Universities have written that, "the main influences
a) rising standards of living, of which the most significant feature was
a better diet;
b) improvements in hygiene; and
c) a favorable trend in the relationship between some microorganisms and the
human host. Therapy made no contributions and the effect of immunization
was restricted to smallpox which accounted for only about one twentieth of
the reduction of death rate." The disturbing (and lazy) tendency to
overstate the importance of animal experiments in medical history betrays
the truth and weakens provivisectionist arguments.
Another area that begs further discussion are the FAILURES of experiments
on non-human animals for the hypothetical benefit of humans. Lung cancer
highlights one of the most monumental failures in this area. We knew from
numerous prospective and retrospective studies of human patients that there
was a strong correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer by as
early as 1963.
In contrast, almost all experimental efforts to replicate lung cancer in
animals failed. This led Clarence Little, a leading animal researcher to
"The failure of many investigators ... to induce experimental
cancers, except in a handful of cases, despite 50 years of trying, casts
serious doubt on the cigarette-lung cancer theory."
Thus, the reliance of animal data delayed health warnings on cigarettes for
decades, while in the meantime thousands of people continued to suffer and
die because of lung cancer. I wonder, are the proponents of animal
experimentation willing to take the blame for the lives lost and the
suffering caused because of this and other failures?
Perhaps they should...
Medical advances in fighting polio were also hindered because of misleading
information derived from animal "models." Research by Paul and Sabin shows
us that the monkey model of polio resulted in a critical misunderstanding of
the mechanism of infection. Studies on monkeys falsely indicated that the
polio virus infects only the nervous system. This erroneous assumption (and
you know what they say about assumptions) resulted in misdirected preventive
measures and delayed the development of tissue culture methodologies which
were responsible for the discovery of the vaccine.
Animal experiments have "proven" that smoking is safe, and that thalidomide
does not cause birth defects. They might have also denied us many benefits
if we had relied on animal studies which showed that penicillin is toxic to
guinea pigs and that aspirin kills cats. Beyond the protestations of the
proponents of animal experimentation, it is clear it is time to make
significant changes in the ways that we view and approach medicine - away
from animal tests to a more sensible and human-centered approach.
Taking a more critical view of animal experimentation is a major step in
that direction, as I see it. Please don't take my word for it either.
My interest in this subject stems from the fact that I grew up being
spoon fed the kind of disturbing opinions of people like your Zoology
teacher. As a former poster child for cerebral palsy research (a uniquely
human condition, btw, that has no non-human animal model), I learned
very early on to question the assumptions people sometimes make about
darn near everything. And eventually came to undertstand the following:
even if I could get a cure for my condition or the ills of all humankind
through experiments on unconsenting animals, it would not be worth what
what I would give up in the process.
There is nothing noble about killing innocents for our own understandable
- yet undeniably - selfish desires. Therefore, whatever the excuses,
the practice cannot be condoned in clear conscience.