Much of the opposition to vivisection has come from people who like animals and are upset by the sort of unmentionable agonies which animals endure in the name of science.
Today, as a result of the massive epidemic of iatrogenesis which is sweeping the world, many doctors have made it clear that they are firmly opposed to vivisection, not on ethical or moral grounds, but on scientific and medical ones. Doctors today are worried about vivisection not simply because of the damage it does to animals, but because of the damage it does to human beings.
Most of those who defend animal experiments do so on the basis that the results obtained by work with animals can be used to help save human lives. This powerful emotional argument can be summed up as the "laboratory rat or your child" choice.
The animals used in laboratory experiments do not normally suffer from the degenerative diseases such as high blood pressure or arthritis afflicting humans. Researchers can only give the animals they use high blood pressure by tying off blood vessels, removing kidneys or interfering with the animal's normal physiology.
You do not need to be a clinical genius to realize that testing a new drug for high blood pressure on a bunch of rats who never normally suffer from high blood pressure is hardly likely to produce reliable
results. All the useful information we have about the causes of high blood pressure and heart disease stress, lack of exercise, obesity, personality type, smoking, fatty food and so on have all been obtained by studying human beings, not cats or rats.
As for arthritis, researchers must resort to injecting the joints of rats and rabbits with irritating chemicals in an attempt to produce some inflammation of the end of the bones. It is not arthritis, but it is the closest the researchers can come up with.
Trying out new foods and combinations of foods on rats or genetically identical mice who have artificial arthritis is as absurd and as unnecessary as it sounds. Rats do not eat the same sort of foodstuffs as human beings and so are not likely to respond usefully to what is for them an unnatural diet. And there is no shortage of real, live, human patients prepared to try different diets to see if their arthritis is improved by it.
Vivisectionists claim that animal experiments have enabled surgeons to perform successful transplant operations.
The real problems occur after surgery on humans has been performed and involve organ rejection and infection problems which animal experiments do not help doctors to overcome. Over a nine-year period approximately four hundred heart-transplant operations were carried out on dogs, but the first human patients died because of complications that had not arisen in animal experiments. The first human patients were the real "guinea pigs".
Pro-vivisectionists claim that animal experiments have given us powerful antibiotics, such as penicillin.
When Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin growing on a culture dish in 1928 he tested the drug on rabbits and discarded it when it seemed useless. Later the drug was tested on a cat and a human patient at the same time. The cat died and the human being lived. If doctors had relied upon animal experiments to decide whether or not penicillin was of any value the drug would have been discarded long ago.
Aspirin can kill cats, too, whereas it is a relatively safe and effective painkiller when taken by humans. Arsenic is dangerous to humans but does not have anything like the same effect when given to rats, mice or sheep. Steroids damage mice differently from the way they potentially damage people. Morphine sedates human beings but excites cats, goats and horses, while insulin produces deformities in chickens and mice.
Pro-vivisection lobbyists have announced that tranquillizers were developed with the help of animal experiments.
It is perfectly true that animal experiments were used, but it was the failure of those animal experiments to show the addictive nature of the benzodiazepines which has led to tens of millions of people around the world getting hooked on them.
One of the many shortcomings of animal tests is that for fairly obvious reasons they do not check the psychological hazards associated with products which are under test. Even if animals do become physically or psychologically dependent on drugs they aren't able to complain about it.
Those who support animal experiments claim that work done on mice and rats will help produce drugs and techniques which will enable us to conquer cancer.
American toxicologist David Salsburg has shown that the standard test used on rats to see if chemicals can cause cancer gives results which can be applied accurately to human beings just 38 per cent of the time. That means that nearly two-thirds of the time the results animal experimenters obtain are wrong.
All the useful evidence we have accumulated about cancer has come from human studies. The links between chemicals, X-rays, foods and asbestos and different types of cancer were all obtained after doctors had studied human patients. Instead of helping, animal experiments have consistently slowed down the speed with which these essential discoveries have been accepted.
Excerpted with permission from Why Animal Experiments Must Stop by Dr Vernon Coleman. Copies may be obtained by sending lb6.95 to EMJ Books, 234 Summergangs Road, Hull HU8 8LL. You receive a free book when you join Plan 2000, which aims to stop animal experimentation by 2000. (Send lb10 to the same address).