Aysha Akhtar, M.D., M.P.H., is a neurologist and preventive medicine specialist and Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, Oxford, United Kingdom
Annually, more than 115 million animals are used worldwide in experimentation or to supply the biomedical industry.1 Nonhuman animal (hereafter “animal”) experimentation falls under two categories: basic (i.e., investigation of basic biology and human disease) and applied (i.e., drug research and development and toxicity and safety testing). Regardless of its categorization, animal experimentation is intended to inform human biology and health sciences and to promote the safety and efficacy of potential treatments. Despite its use of immense resources, the animal suffering involved, and its impact on human health, the question of animal experimentation’s efficacy has been subjected to little systematic scrutiny.2
Although it is widely accepted that medicine should be evidence based, animal experimentation as a means of informing human health has generally not been held, in practice, to this standard. This fact makes it surprising that animal experimentation is typically viewed as the default and gold standard of preclinical testing and is generally supported without critical examination of its validity. A survey published in 2008 of anecdotal cases and statements given in support of animal experimentation demonstrates how it has not and could not be validated as a necessary step in biomedical research, and the survey casts doubt on its predictive value.3 I show that animal experimentation is poorly predictive of human outcomes,4 that it is unreliable across a wide category of disease areas,5 and that existing literature demonstrates the unreliability of animal experimentation, thereby undermining scientific arguments in its favor. I further show that the collective harms that result from an unreliable practice tip the ethical scale of harms and benefits against continuation in much, if not all, of experimentation involving animals.6
The unreliability of applying animal experimental results to human biology and diseases is increasingly recognized. Animals are in many respects biologically and psychologically similar to humans, perhaps most notably in the shared characteristics of pain, fear, and suffering.80 In contrast, evidence demonstrates that critically important physiological and genetic differences between humans and other animals can invalidate the use of animals to study human diseases, treatments, pharmaceuticals, and the like. In significant measure, animal models specifically, and animal experimentation generally, are inadequate bases for predicting clinical outcomes in human beings in the great bulk of biomedical science. As a result, humans can be subject to significant and avoidable harm.
The data showing the unreliability of animal experimentation and the resultant harms to humans (and nonhumans) undermine long-standing claims that animal experimentation is necessary to enhance human health and therefore ethically justified. Rather, they demonstrate that animal experimentation poses significant costs and harms to human beings. It is possible—as I have argued elsewhere—that animal research is more costly and harmful, on the whole, than it is beneficial to human health.81 When considering the ethical justifiability of animal experiments, we should ask if it is ethically acceptable to deprive humans of resources, opportunity, hope, and even their lives by seeking answers in what may be the wrong place. In my view, it would be better to direct resources away from animal experimentation and into developing more accurate, human-based technologies.
Kathryn Bayne, ... Virginia Williams, in Laboratory Animal Welfare, 2013
International Council for Laboratory Animal Science
The International Council for Laboratory Animal Science (ICLAS) is an international scientific organization dedicated to advancing human and animal health by promoting the ethical care and use of laboratory animals in research worldwide. It was formed in 1956 by UNESCO, CIOMS, and the International Union of Biological Sciences as the International Committee on Laboratory Animals, with the goal of improving standards for the care and use of laboratory animals. In addition, ICLAS has had a long-standing relationship with the WHO and recently entered into a formal agreement with the OIE to facilitate collaboration in several areas of mutual interest, including cooperation in the development and revision of international animal welfare standards and guidelines and the roles and responsibilities of the veterinary profession in the welfare of animals used in research.Read more..
Science-based assessment of animal welfare: laboratory animals
Division of Laboratory Animal Science, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80.166, 3508 TD Utrecht, the Netherlands/ Karolinska Institute, 17177 Stockholm, Sweden Summary The use of animals in experimental research parallels the development of medicine, which had its roots in ancient Greece.
The increasing demand for high-standard animal models, together with a critical view of the way animals are used, has led to the development of a multidisciplinary branch of science we now know as ‘laboratory animal science’. The guiding principles are replacement, reduction and refinement (the Three Rs), first proposed by Russell and Burch in 1959. When animals are used, the people involved have an obligation to safeguard their welfare and minimise discomfort; this will also generally be beneficial for both the animal and the experimental outcome. The ability of an animal to cope with the environment and exert control over its life seems to be crucial for animal welfare. In this paper, attention is paid to the assessment of welfare, environmental factors affecting welfare, legislative requirements and future trends such as the production and use of genetically modified animals.
Keywords Environmental enrichment – Genetically modified animal – Individually ventilated cage – Laboratory animal – Laboratory Animal Science – Three Rs – Welfare.
Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
There are several steps that you can take to help you determine whether experiments on animals are being conducted in your city, at your college, at a company whose products you purchase, or at your alma mater: