Philosophy - Index
Testing - Index
2 - THE LIES THEY TELL
IN THEIR ATTEMPTS TO
DEFEND the terrible things they do, animal researchers tell a lot of lies here
are some of the commonest, together with the real facts.
Lie number 1: They
say that animals are properly anaesthetized during painful or uncomfortable
The evidence shows that
this simply is not true. Approximately three quarters of all animal experiments
are conducted without any anaesthetic at all and recent figures show that the
number of experiments is going up. For example, one recent set of Home Office
figures in Britain showed that during a twelve month period the number of
experiments performed without anaesthetics on baboons went up by 11 per cent,
the number of experiments without anaesthetics on rabbits went up by 20 per cent
and the number of experiments done without anaesthetics on beagles went up by 15
Even when anaesthetics are
used the available evidence suggests that they are often inadequate. It is rare
for a scientist experimenting on animals to have a properly trained anaesthetist
present during a procedure and there is no doubt that many of the scientists who
have licences to experiment on animals do not understand how anaesthetics need
to be given. Anaesthesia is a complex, sophisticated speciality which it takes
doctors years to master. As a result of ignorance many animals are paralysed but
not anaesthetized with the result that although they cannot move or cry out,
they can still feel pain. Other animals are simply given inadequate quantities
The story of Wilhelm
Feldberg, a researcher at the National Institute for Medical Research in London,
helps demolish the myth that animals are always anaesthetized.
I first wrote about
Feldberg several years ago after a reader of mine had brought his activities to
Feldberg studied medicine
Munich and Berlin and in 1949 was appointed Head of the Division of Physiology
and Pharmacology at the National Institute for Medical Research. It was there
that many of his experiments were performed in the years that followed.
Looked at on paper
Feldberg's list of qualifications and academic achievements was impressive. He
was a medically qualified doctor, a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the
Royal College of Physicians and a Commander of the British Empire. Much of
Feldberg's work was made possible by grants from the Medical Research Council.
A fairly typical
scientific paper was published in the British Journal of Pharmacology
1978 after Feldberg and a colleague performed a series of experiments on cats.
To begin with the
experimenters implanted a tube into the brains of the cats. Then, when the cats
had recovered from the anaesthetic. a mustard drug was injected straight down
the tube into their brains. It was not difficult to imagine what happened next,
but it may help if I quote directly from the paper that Feldberg and his
injections, shivering began within a minute or two and quickly became vigorous
and widespread. The next effect was vocalization. It began with periods of
miaowing which became more frequent and of longer duration and gradually the
miaowing changed to growling and yelping. Later tachypnoea (rapid breathing),
panting, salivation, piloerection (hair standing on end) and ear twitching were
observed; later again, periods of intense excitation alternated with Periods of
a more restful condition. During the periods of excitation the cat would
suddenly charge blindly ahead or jump up to or cling on to the side or the roof
of the cage, the pupils being maximally dilated. The cats showed compulsive
biting; care had to be taken to prevent them biting through the lead of the
rectal probe (a thermometer had been tied into the cats' rectums) by offering
them instead a pencil on which they could clamp their teeth and eventually gnaw
If teenage youths had
performed these experiments with stray cats they would have been locked up.
Feldberg, who had discovered that if you stick mustard into the brain of a live,
unanaesthetized cat it would pant, salivate, leap up and down, miaow and try to
bite its way through anything in reach, was given buckets of cash to perform
variations on the same experiment and write about it in scientific journals.
For example, in 1983
Feldberg (this time working with two new chums) published a scientific paper
entitled 'Hyperglycaemia, a morphine like effect produced by naloxone in the
In order to write this
scientific paper Feldberg started off by putting tubes into the brains of live
cats. Once again he discovered that if you inject a substance into a cat's brain
while it is still alive and conscious it gets physically upset. Feldberg
reported that his cats shivered, miaowed, panted, salivated, retched, vomited
and lost control of their bladders and bowels.
Feldberg did experiments
like this for around thirty years, injecting a variety of chemicals into the
brains of live, unanaesthetized cats. And he wrote a lot of scientific papers
and became one of Britain's most honoured scientists.
Feldberg worked a lot with
cats, but it was experiments on rabbits which brought about his downfall in the
early summer of 1990 just four months after he was awarded the Wellcome Gold
Medal in Pharmacology by the British Pharmacological Society.
Just before Christmas 1989
two undercover operators finally persuaded Feldberg to allow them to take video
and still photographs of him at work. Flattered by the attention he was getting
(one of the investigators, Melody MacDonald, was a former fashion model)
As a result of film which
the investigators took just after Feldberg's eightyninth birthday, the Medical
Research Council held an inquiry. The published report of the inquiry shows that
according to the Medical Research Council Feldberg failed to ensure that four of
the rabbits he used were sufficiently anaesthetized during experiments performed
at the National Institute for Medical Research, in Mill Hill, London.
The Medical Research Council's report describes the benefit likely to accrue
from Feldberg's work as 'negligible' and admitted that 'applied to the
methodology the word "crude" is not inappropriate'. They conclude that 'a number
of animals perished for no discernible beneficial reason' and criticized the
British Home Secretary for the fact that he 'failed to weigh adequately the
likely benefit of the research against the likely adverse effects on the animals
In some ways Feldberg was
probably unlucky. I very much doubt if he was the only scientist in Britain who
was failing to anaesthetize laboratory animals properly. He certainly wasn't the
only scientist doing research work of negligible value.
It's quite clear from this
case history that it is a lie to say that animals which are experimented on are
invariably and adequately anaesthetized. The truth is that most animals have no
anaesthetic at all; and even when an anaesthetic is used the chances are high
that it will be inadequate.
Lie number 2: They
say that the majority of scientists only use mice and rats and that most of the
people who protest about animal experiments only do so because they think that
cats and dogs are involved.
This time scientists (and
their supporters) attempt to mislead the public in two quite separate ways.
First, they imply that
rats and mice do not matter. This simply is not true, of course. The vast
majority of those who disapprove of animal experiments disapprove of all animal
experiments it does not matter whether experiments involve cats, sheep, mice,
dogs, gerbils, guinea pigs or frogs. The principles which are followed by those
who oppose vivisection are identical whatever the creature.
Second, they lie when they
suggest that experiments involving cats, dogs and primates are rare. The truth
is that I doubt if there is a species known to us which has not been used in
experiments by vivisectors. Monkeys, baboons and other primates are popular
because it is easier for a scientist to argue that work done on a monkey is
relevant to human beings than it is to make the same claim for work done on rats
or mice. Rabbits are popular because their large eyes make a convenient test
site for newly developed chemicals.
British experimenters use
around 13,000 dogs a year and are particularly fond of beagles as experimental
animals because they are friendly, trusting and intelligent. Talk to a scientist
who uses beagles and they will tell you that they like working with them because
their confidence is easily won.
At one British university
a zoology researcher obtained two greater horseshoe bats (an endangered and
protected species) and kept them for eighteen months in a plywood box. Each side
of the box was 0.6 metres long and the walls were lined with plastic netting.
In laboratories all over
the world research scientists are regularly experimenting on animals as small as
hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils or as large as pigs, sheep and horses. Some
animals are specially bred for laboratories. Others are 'acquired' in dubious
circumstances. Large or small, young or old, tame or wild, animals are tortured,
watched and then killed. Name any species and I will name the experiment. You
envisage the suffering and I will find evidence of an experiment far worse and
far more obscene than anything you can think of.
Lie number 3:
Researchers claim that the animals they use are well looked after. They say that
all experimenters care deeply about the animals they use and that before, during
and after experiments animals are treated with care and respect.
Sadly, the evidence shows
that this is far from true.
Consider, for example, the
case of eminent American psychologist Dr Edward Taub who for years conducted
experiments in which the nerves controlling monkeys' arms were damaged. The
alleged aim of the research work was to find information that would help human
stroke victims, but doctors have been investigating stroke victims for decades
and I can think of no reason why anyone should want to conduct such experiments
It was through the efforts
of an undercover activist called Alexander Pacheco that Taub's research methods
were brought to the public's attention. Pacheco reported that he saw one animal
collapse through not being fed and that he was instructed to torment and
frustrate the monkeys, which were often strapped into 'crucifix' type
restraints, with their eyes blindfolded and their heads locked into vices. Bones
had been broken and some monkeys had been so distressed that they appeared to
have bitten off their own fingers. The cages in which the monkeys were kept were
describedas rusty and filthy dirty.
After taking photographs
of the monkeys Pacheco brought a lawsuit against Taub, who was charged on
seventeen separate counts of cruelty one for each of the seventeen monkeys who
were involved in the experiments. During the police raid which followed the
lawsuit investigating officers discovered rubbish bins filled with the mutilated
bodies of monkeys.
At his original trial Taub
was fined a total of $3,000 for failing to provide veterinary care for six
monkeys who were said to be in urgent need of treatment. The National Institutes
of Health cancelled a large grant to the laboratory where Taub worked.
Eventually, however, Taub managed to get the convictions overturned. One judge
discounted physical damage and suffering as subjective and inadmissible. Another
court overturned one conviction on the grounds that a state's anticruelty law
could not be applied to a federally funded research project. Another court
concluded that human beings had no legal standing to sue on behalf of monkeys.
And Taub ended up by claiming that he was a martyr to science.
Taub is by no means the
only researcher to have been accused of mistreating laboratory animals.
In an experiment conducted
by researchers in Pennsylvania baboons' heads were pushed violently to one side
by a pneumatic ram. The aim was to investigate the effects of head injuries. The
animals were supposed to have been anaesthetized during the experiments but
afterwards the United States Department of Agriculture charged the University of
Pennsylvania with over twenty violations of the Animals Welfare Act. The
researchers were accused of sneering and joking at the way the sad, brain
damaged baboons moved after they had been injured.
In London the Royal
College of Surgeons was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a
laboratory monkey and fined �250 after the British Union for the Abolition of
Vivisection brought a private prosecution, using evidence obtained during a raid
on the College's research centre. A ten year old monkey was reported to have
been found collapsed on the floor of her tiny, box type cell suffering from
dehydration. The ruling was overturned after the Royal College of Surgeons
appealed on what appeared to be legal grounds.
In most countries
researchers can usually avoid prosecution by keeping their laboratories locked
and by claiming that everything they do is part of an experiment (even the most
unbelievable cruelty can be sanctioned legally if the researcher claims that the
suffering was part of the experiment).
Even where attempts have
been made to introduce legislation to protect laboratory animals there have been
appalling delays. For example, a quarter of a century after a law was passed to
control the use of animals in American research laboratories, and four years
after the United States Congress added extra provisions, the Department of
Agriculture had still only produced two out of three expected reports detailing
precisely how the law should be carried out. The intention of the legislation
was to ensure that researchers looked after the mental and physical wellbeing of
the animals in their care. Meanwhile, a recent survey of official reports from
the US Department of Agriculture showed that animals are being abused or
neglected in more than four out of every five research institutions in America.
Lie number 4: Many
supporters of vivisection claim that animal experiments are required by law for
all drugs, cosmetics and other
chemicals. Some spokesmen say that they do not like doing animal experiments but
that they have no alternative if
they are going to satisfy the law.
This is not true. Where
laws do exist to control the marketing and sale of products they usually insist
that products which are sold to the public must not be liable to cause damage to
human health under normal conditions of use'.
The success of companies
which never test their products or their ingredients on animals shows
that it is perfectly possible to prepare and sell safe cosmetics (for example)
which do not contain ingredients which have been tested on animals.
In my view companies which
sell products which have been tested on animals or which sell products which
contain ingredients which have been tested on animals do so of their own
volition often because they consider animal testing to be cheaper or more
convenient than other alternatives.
The law controlling animal
experiments needs to be changed and brought up to date, but I have no sympathy
for companies which still try to hide behind existing legislation.
Lie number 5: They say
that all scientists approve of and support animal experiments, that animal
experiments have produced an almost endless variety of valuable information and,
finally, that dozens of Nobel prize winning scientists performed animal
experiments as part of their award winning work.
The first claim, that all
scientists approve of and support animal experiments, is easily disproved. The
Ligue Internationale M6decins pour FAbolition de la Vivisection has nearly six
hundred members all eminent medical scientists in twentyeight different
countries who are all opposed to animal experiments and who all believe that
animal experiments are of no value whatsoever.
The second claim, that
animal experiments have produced an almost endless variety of valuable
information, is based on a premise that stands up less securely than a twolegged
It is undeniably true that
many animal experiments have been done and it is undeniably true that scientists
have, over the years, discovered many valuable pieces of information. But
although there may be a superficial link between these two undeniable truths,
there is no deep, fundamental connection.
Indeed, a close study of
scientific and medical developments during the last century or two shows quite
dearly that animal experiments have hindered progress and caused far more
problems than they have solved. To claim that because scientists have performed
animal experiments and scientists have made valuable breakthroughs there must be
a link between the two is as silly as claiming that because scientists have
drunk coffee or tea the consumption of caffeinerich drinks must be an integral
part of scientific progress.
(I have dissected this
argument in more precise detail on pages 53 to 75)
Finally, there is the
claim that because dozens of scientists who have performed animal experiments
have won Nobel prizes there must be value in animal experiments. Once again this
is an illogical claim which is based on an entirely false premise. The truth is
that for decades the scientific community has accepted animal experiments as
essential and has therefore excluded scientists who have not used animals in
their research work from any chance of winning such honours. The vast majority
of scientists winning Nobel prizes have been white males, but that merely
reflects the fact that the majority of scientists being eligible for Nobel
prizes were white males and that the system was heavily weighted in favour of
white males winning these honours.
Lie number 6: They say
that animals do not suffer because they cannot feel pain and do not enjoy or
endure any emotional responses.
Researchers with the
remnants of feelings and a vague idea of what compassion is probably like to
think that all this is true.
It is not.
The prerequisites for pain
reception are a central nervous system, a system of peripheral pain receptors
and a series of neural connections between the receptors and the central nervous
system. All vertebrate animals possess these three essentials and can
undoubtedly feel pain. Anyone with a sadistic nature who doubts the truth of
this should try hitting a dog or cat and watching what happens.
The argument that animals
cannot feel pain is so patently absurd that it is difficult to understand why
anyone should believe it to be true. The fact is, of course, that the
individuals who support this argument are not overly well endowed with
intelligence. I have yet to meet any researcher or supporter of vivisection whom
I can credit with anything more than a most modest intellect, and I find it
difficult to underestimate the intelligence of these people.
Similarly, there can be
little doubt that the animals used in laboratory experiments do indeed suffer a
great deal of emotional and psychological distress. During recent years a good
deal of research has been done which shows just how complex and sophisticated
the social behaviour of animals such as monkeys, cats and dogs can be. Observers
who have studied animals know that fear and anxiety are driving forces which
affect members of every species and which are, indeed, usually present as a
means of selfdefence. Similarly, all the animals used by experimenters suffer
agonies of boredom and frustration when kept alone in small cages for long
periods of time.
Lie number 7. They
accuse those who oppose vivisection of caring more
for animals than for
It is difficult to imagine
a more absurd or more unsustainable lie but this is, nevertheless, one which is
often repeated by vivisectors who are anxious to discredit their opponents. I
have lost count of the number of times I have heard it put forward usually by
meanspirited people whose compassion and thoughtfulness for other members of the
human race matches their level of compassion for the subjects of vivisection.
The truth is that I have
never met a committed member of the antivivisection movement who was not also
committed to campaigning for human rights. Just about every leading member of
the antivivisection movement has also made loud public protests about injustice,
prejudice and cruelty to human beings.
1 have repeatedly been
accused of caring only about animals and yet I have spent most of my life
campaigning for more justice and better rights and conditions for human
patients. I believe that the lives and welfare of all creatures (including
humans) are closely and inextricably linked. It is absolute nonsense to claim
that those who care for animals do not care for humans.
To give just one practical
example, I have spent eighteen years nearly the whole of my professional life
campaigning against the overprescribing of tranquillizers and sleeping tablets.
When the authorities in Britain finally took action the then Under Secretary of
State for Health and Social Security admitted that it had been my campaigning
articles which had finally persuaded the government to take action.
Lie number 8: They
accuse those of us who oppose animal experiments of using emotional arguments to
try to sway the uncommitted.
This really is the pot
calling the kettle black. I cannot remember when I last heard a serious opponent
of vivisection using an emotional argument to sustain his or her case. The truth
is that we do not need to use emotional arguments and we do not want to use
emotional arguments. Those of us who oppose animal experiments know that we can
do so most effectively on scientific grounds.
The trouble is, however,
that our opponents those who want animal experiments to continue do not want to
argue on scientific grounds. It is they
who insist on using emotional
Whenever programmes about
vivisection appear on television or radio stations those who support vivisection
usually bring with them patients who are suffering from some disease or other.
Naturally enough the patients are grateful for the treatment they have received
and although they often look confused they grudgingly concede that animal
experiments have to be accepted if human lives are to be saved. This is moral
blackmail but it does not stop the vivisectors sitting back, looking smug and
wearing 'there you are, what have you got to say to that?'
looks on their
When the supporters of
vivisection speak to journalists or write newspaper or magazine articles of
their own they invariably introduce the thought of patients suffering from
leukaemia, diabetes or some other threatening disease. Sometimes they will even
provide photographs of individual patients preferably young and good looking.
'It is this child or a
laboratory rat', they say with outrageous dishonesty. They rely on a crude form
of emotional blackmail that has all the subtlety of paintbrush graffiti to put
the uninformed and the uncommitted into a terrible position.
The implication is always
that patients' lives have been saved through animal experiments. The
provivisection supporters use fear and anxiety to help prosecute their argument.
They know that they cannot possibly win a scientific argument and so they rely
on false emotional arguments.
Lie number 9: They say
that institutions where animals are kept and
experimented upon are regularly examined by skilled, impartial inspectors who
make sure that animals are well looked after
and treated with proper care and consideration.
But in Britain allegedly
one of the best regulated of all countries there are around 20,000 experimenters
who have licences for animal experiments and around twenty inspectors.
This means that if every
inspector visits a new scientist every day of the year (never has a day off,
never takes any holidays, never falls sick, never spends time doing paperwork or
attending meetings, and works weekends) then each scientist will be visited
about once every three years.
However good the
inspectors are, this just is not often enough to ensure that animals are well
looked after and rules are obeyed. Recent figures from the Home Office in
Britain show that while, in one twelve month period, the number of infringements
of the rules went up by 111 per cent, the number of visits paid by inspectors to
laboratories went down by 8 per cent.
Lie number 10: They say
that the Nazis disapproved of animal experiments. The clear implication is that
anyone who disapproves of animal experiments must be in some way comparable to
This is a meanspirited,
nasty little lie that commonly appears in provivisection propaganda. I have
frequently been called a Nazi because I oppose animal experiments. The truth is
that Nazi doctors like Josef Mengele did most of their experiments on human
beings because they believed that they would get better results that way. They
did perforrd some experiments on animals, but because they had access to an
unlimited supply of human experimental material they did not bother using cats,
monkeys or rats very much. Mengele, for example, is said to have used 400,000
human prisoners in his experiments. Why on earth would he have wanted to bother
Lie number 11: They say
that they have to be secretive about what they do because they are frightened of
being bombed by terrorist groups.
Animal experimenters were
secretive about their work long before the first bomb exploded. For decades many
animal experiments have been conducted behind locked doors for the simple reason
that the experimenters themselves know that what they do is so foul, so barbaric
and so repugnant that if members of the public knew what they were doing there
would be an outcry and their work would be stopped.
The bombing of
laboratories has been a tremendous help to animal experimenters, who have used
such attacks to excuse their secrecy and to try to attract some public sympathy.
Indeed, bombing campaigns have proved so successful in helping experimenters
attract support that some scientists (and their supporters) have been accused of
sending themselves fake bombs and fake threats.
Lie number 12: When all
else fails pro vivisectionists will often claim that the results obtained in
laboratory experiments can be used to help animals.
Theoretically, it is true
that drugs developed through work on rats could be used to treat rats. But does
anyone seriously believe that experiments are performed on laboratory animals
with the aim of finding drugs that will help those animals? And just how much
effort goes into translating laboratory results into practical remedies for
animals? Very little, I suspect.
The real flaw in this
argument lies in the fact that even if the provivisectionists were genuinely
concerned about finding drugs with which to treat animal diseases they would not
have to torture or kill them in order to find those drugs. The vast majority of
doctors manage to find out useful things about human patients without performing
evil experiments on them. The simple truth is that you do not have to kill an
animal in order to find out how to help it.
3 THE MORAL AND ETHICAL ARGUMENTS
LIKE MOST MODERN
ANTIVIVISECTIONISTS I prefer to argue against vivisection on scientific and
medical grounds. But the moral and ethical arguments are important and should
not be forgotten.
Moral dilemma number 1:
Are animals merely 'things' which exist to be used by humankind?
Rend Descartes was one of
the greatest thinkers in history and certainly one of the greatest men of the
seventeenth century, but he had a few weaknesses and blind spots. The biggest
was probably his belief that because they had no immortal soul animals had no
conscious life, no desires, no feelings and no emotions.
Descartes with the enviable certainty of a man who is inspired by powerful
religious prejudices, were no more entitled to respect or consideration than
were clocks; horses were no more 'alive' in the human sense than were the
carriages they drew.
If Descartes had spent
just a little more time looking around him and a little less time trying to
understand the secrets of the universe, he would have known that he was wrong.
If he had had enough common sense to talk to any child with a pet dog, cat or
rabbit he would have learned the truth: that although it is impossible for us to
imagine precisely how animals do think, or what they think about, there cannot
possibly be any doubt that they are capable of as much thought as many humans.
Simple observations would have told Descartes that animals feel pain, suffer
when they are sick, get bored, endure unhappiness and depression, grieve, mourn
and can be driven mad by abuse.
Each member of the animal
kingdom is different, but that does not mean that cats are any less alive than
Frenchmen or that dogs are any less deserving of our compassion than children.
Even rats perhaps the most despised and least lovable of laboratory animals are
intelligent, alert and sociable animals. They can develop relationships with one
another and with human beings and they quickly become bored and frustrated when
But Descartes did not look
around him and did not talk enough to children and his theories rapidly became
accepted as fact by a society which was always better at thinking up theories
than it was at sustaining them with facts. He was a powerful and influential
member of the academic establishment and, most important of all, his beliefs
fitted in comfortably with the beliefs of other scholars.
As the years went by so
Cartesian logic spread throughout the scientific community and before long a
scientist who wanted to look inside a cat would do so simply by nailing it to a
board and cutting it open. He would ignore its squeals of protest as of little
more significance than the squeaking of a rusty door hinge or a stiff axle.
To a large extent,
therefore, it was Descartes' crude, simplistic and undeniably inaccurate
philosophy which led to the development of modern day vivisection.
In order to keep thinking
of animals as 'things' rather than sensitive individuals, most researchers have
developed the habit of talking and writing about the creatures they use in a
totally impersonal way, often using a strange vocabulary to describe what they
are doing. Researchers will, for example, refer to cats as 'preparations', will
describe crying or miaowing as 'vocalization' and will use phrases like
'nutritional insufficiency' instead of saying that animals starved to death. One
group of researchers has used the term 'binocularly deprived' to describe
domestic tabby kittens which they had deliberately blinded. When animals are
finished with at the end of experiments they are frequently 'sacrificed' or
'subjected to euthanasia'. Maybe researchers do not like to remind themselves
that they are killers.
Moral dilemma number 2:
Do animals have rights?
Researchers with a simple
way of looking at the world will frequently argue that animals do not have any
rights. When pushed they will explain that the sole purpose of animals is to
make our lives easier. The furthest they will go towards accepting that animals
deserve to be treated with respect is to say that human beings share a
responsibility to ensure that animals are not subjected to unnecessary
suffering. The word 'unnecessary' is, of course, impossible to define
satisfactorily and very few active researchers will ever admit that any
experiments have ever involved 'unnecessary' suffering.
Why Experiments Must Stop --