The Arguments for Animal Testing - Getting Down to the Facts!

The Arguments for Animal Testing - Getting Down to the Facts!

  This article published Saturday 21st May, 2016 was helpful in highlighting the many different opinions on animal-based research. It helped push the issue of animal testing into the spotlight after the University of Otago announced their plans to build a new $50 million animal lab. We knew these varying opinions existed but it is still disappointing to see the common misconception that animal testing is required for the "greater good" and is a necessary evil if we want to help people, still falsely being reinforced to the general public. Opinions of different experts are hard to take at face value. If someone who has taken part in a controversial animal-based experiment announces that they are pro-animal testing, are you really going to be that surprised?

Instead of opinions with potential invested interests we need to consider the facts.

A list was included in the article that states "some of the dozens of medical advances in which animal research has played a role". This list isn't factual and is taken from a biased, pro-vivisection source (see the below pictures). 

The list from the Otago Daily Times which states incorrect, biased information that is taken out of context.


The list that we assume (is quite obviously copy and pasted) was used to give information to the Otago Daily times. It was taken from

 Ethics, morals and opinions aside, members of society should be working together to obtain the most accurate and reliable information so that we can further advance our medical based knowledge and improve the future of human health.

 1790 Vaccine for smallpox developed (cow) - FALSE

The only link that the development of the vaccine for smallpox has to cows is the link between cowpox immunity and smallpox immunity.

For centuries, it was known that people who survived smallpox became immune to it. For that reason, nearly every culture tried to induce immunity in healthy individuals. For example, the Chinese used tubes to insert powdered smallpox scabs into their nostrils.

In the 1700s Edward Jenner, an English doctor learned from a milkmaid that she believed herself protected from smallpox because she had caught cowpox from a cow. Human trials were also done on numerous individuals who were successfully inoculated with cowpox and were then shown to be immune to smallpox.1

There are no other links to cows in the development of the smallpox vaccine. 


1919 Mechanisms of immunity discovered (guinea pig, horse, rabbit) - MISLEADING

This claim is different from the others as it isn't referring to animal-based research, which is bad science because of the many anatomical, physiological and other differences that exist between species.

Instead, a study involving the mechanisms of immunity of different species is considered "animal research". This means research involving animals when the research is meant to understand or benefit the animal being used. However, this type of basic biological research isn't relevant when trying to transfer it to humans. 

For example, monkeys treated with a therapeutic antibody (anti-CD28 monoclonal antibody TGN1412) did not predict the potentially fatal immune response that was triggered in humans.2Even animals who are genetically similarity to humans, such as primates, have failed to predict what happens in humans, we, therefore, couldn't reliably use the results from experiments using guinea pigs, horses or rabbits to predict the immune response of humans.


1920 Insulin (dog, rabbit) - FALSE

Insulin was derailed for humans because experiments on dogs led scientists to believe that it was a liver disease.

Defenders of the animal model are fond of citing the development of insulin as support for continued animal-based studies. They argue that insulin harvested from slaughterhouses prolonged the lives of many diabetics. But crediting the recovery of insulin (a slaughterhouse by-product) to animal experiments is analogous to thanking the Toyota salesman for inventing the automobile.

In 1869, scientists identified insulin-producing pancreatic cells that malfunction in diabetic patients. Other human pancreatic conditions, such as pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis were seen to produce diabetic symptoms, reinforcing the disease's link with the pancreas. When animal-based researchers experimented on pancreases in animals, the animals did become diabetic. However, the animals' symptoms led to conjecture that diabetes was a liver disease, linking sugar transport to the liver and glycogen.

In the early 1920s two scientists, John Macleod and Frederick Banting, isolated and purified insulin by extracting it from a dog. For this, they received a Nobel Prize. Macleod admitted that their contribution was not the discovery of insulin, but rather reproducing in the dog lab what had already been demonstrated in man. They were not obliged to extract insulin from dogs, because certainly there was ample tissue from humans. They merely did so because it was convention and thus convenient. In that same year, Banting and Best gave dog insulin to a human patient with disastrous results. Note what Roberts said about the dog experiments in 1922:

"The production of insulin originated in a wrongly conceived, wrongly conducted, and wrongly interpreted series of experiments."

Using in vitro techniques, Banting, Best, and other scientists were able to mass-produce insulin from pig and cow pancreases collected at slaughterhouses. This is the main contribution animals have made to diabetics; their pancreases were used as a source for insulin. More recently, animal insulin has been replaced as science developed safer, human insulin. 2


1945 Penicillin Tested (mouse) - FALSE

The claim that the discovery of penicillin is due to results from animal testing, favours our argument more than pro-vivisectors. This is a really good example of one of the many problems of using animals to model humans, which is: "Which animal do we believe?

Penicillin is:

- Metabolised too quickly in rabbits

- Fatal for guinea pigs

-  Teratogenic in rats (causes limb malformations in offspring)

- Effective in mice

- Effective in humans

Hence. many species have responded differently to penicillin and in its developing stage, the use of penicillin on humans was actually held back because of results found during experiments on rabbits.

Penicillin was rediscovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928 (It had actually been discovered in late 1800). Fleming then tested it in vitro (not using animals) and in vivo on rabbits and mice. The in vitro results showed promise, as did topical application on rabbits. But when given systemically, the rabbits metabolised it too rapidly and led Fleming to believe it would be useless for humans when administered systemically.

Fleming continued to grow penicillin and even routinely gave it to humans as a topical treatment for infections. He also gave it to four humans suffering from ophthalmic neonatorum, an eye disease of infants. Three of them responded well.

These results encouraged other scientists, Florey and Chain to continue the penicillin purification process. The purified product was tested on mice, resulting in cures of otherwise fatal infection.

Florey himself emphasized species differences when he stated:

"Mice were used in the initial toxicity tests because of their small size, but what a lucky chance it was, for in this respect man is like the mouse and not the guinea-pig. If we had used guinea-pigs exclusively we should have said that penicillin was toxic, and we probably should not have proceeded to try and overcome the difficulties of producing the substance for trial in man".

Prior to Florey and Chain testing penicillin on humans, out of pure desperation, Fleming administered it systemically to a friend of his who was dying in the hospital and a dramatic cure was obtained. Publicity surrounding Fleming's friend led to funding to develop the drug and Fleming went down in history as the person responsible for penicillin.3Read more here.


1956 Open heart surgery and caridac pacemakers developed (dog) - MISLEADING

Open heart surgery: The heart-lung machine was the most critical development in open heart surgery because it takes over the function of the patient's hearts and lungs during open-heart operations.

John H. Gibbon of Philadelphia, USA, developed a heart-lung machine on dogs and abandoned his project when two human patients died, admitting that it was unsafe for human beings. Whereas J. W. Kirklin of the Mayo Clinic, without the use of animals, and using careful clinical trials made a heart-lung machine which was successful on human beings.4,5 

Cardiac pacemakers developed: The pacemaker for complete heart block was developed through research-based around humans who were afflicted with the condition. Each of the techniques made to contract or stimulate the ventricles in attempts to "pace" the human heart was tested on dogs and shown to be "effective" on the dogs at least. It was quickly discarded in human patients because of the many problems it caused such as pain, burns and inability to keep up continuous simulation for the prolonged periods. After seeing his method, which was developed on dogs, fail in humans, Dr C. Walton Lillihei pioneer of the pacemaker came up with a new method of stitching electrodes directly on to the heart, leading them through the chest and running a pulsed current through them through observing his human patients.5Therefore, the development of artificial pacemakers for complete heart block grew out of the direct studies of human patients suffering from ventricular septal defect.

Beagles are the breed most often used in research because of their intermediate size and loving nature. The problem with using dogs:

For decades, scientists have mistakenly turned to animals to study heart health. Experimenters induce heart failure and related conditions in dog's other animals to try and learn more about heart health in humans.
Using dogs to study heart failure in humans has been failing for decades - Read more

Not only are there critical anatomical difference but our response to various drugs is also very different from dogs:

For example, the drug Flenac (fenclofenac) passed animal toxicity tests in 10 animal species (mice, rats, guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits, cats, dogs, pigs, horses, and monkeys). However, in humans, severe liver toxicity was produced, which wasn't predicted by any of the animals in their tests.[6]    Another example is shown with aspirin (Acetylsalicylic acid), a commonly used pain reliever for humans. It causes teratogenic malformations in mice, rats, dogs, cats, rabbits, and monkeys which aren't seen in humans.[6] There has also been an extensive analysis done on the use of dogs in predicting human toxicology and drug safety that shows that alternative methods are urgently required as dogs are highly inconsistent predictors of toxic responses in humans.


1995 Gene transfer for cystic fibrosis developed (mouse, non-human primate) - MISLEADING

Cystic Fibrosis has been promoted as an area where animal research has been of particular value.  Despite the failure of animal models, the clinical nature of discoveries and treatment developments, this claim continues.

Attempts have been made to develop animal models which mimic cystic fibrosis and may be used to help develop treatments or even a cure.  However, they failed to overcome the biological nature of genetic illnesses, that they reflect the interaction of the defective gene and other genes with the environment.

The mouse model was developed by implanting a foreign gene into a mouse embryo, transferring the embryo to another mouse, thus enabling the birth of an animal with a defective gene and breeding of further generations with the same defect.  The defective gene is recessive, which means that if a faulty and a normal gene are inherited, the normal one will be dominant, and cystic fibrosis symptoms don't develop - the individual will be a carrier.  If they then pass the defective gene on along with another defective gene from the other parent, cystic fibrosis will develop in the recipient.  Mice with two faulty genes were therefore seen as models for the human condition. This is not an accurate representation of the human disease.

Pro-vivisection groups claim that using this mouse model, scientists were able to show that having enough liquid on airway surfaces is the key to preventing mucus build-up in the lungs which will be useful for testing lung treatments. The differences between mouse and human lungs are significant, and this difference was predictable.  The mouse lung does not contain serous glands, yet these are the crucial glands in the human patient which secrete the mucus into the lungs. Ask yourself - If this miraculous gene transfer to mice that happened over 20 years ago, was so vital to finding a cure. Why is there still no cure for cystic fibrosis?

"It would be a mistake to consider that only [animal] data have any real relevance in clinical go/no go decisions, and in cases such as cystic fibrosis, where there is little point in utilising animal models, efforts would be better directed towards [Asterand's human tissue tests] studies on human lung epithelial cells in vitro. The results of such studies would provide a much sounder basis for the decision as to whether or not a clinical study is warranted."- Dr Bob Coleman 

Animal-based research is holding us back from finding cures and treatments relevant to humans. Read more on the problems with the mouse model here


2001 Promising drug for prevention of Aids developed (monkey) - FALSE

"Indeed, since the first HIV vaccine clinical trials in humans in 1987, more than 100 clinical trials have been funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases through mid-2006. Yet every one of the more than 50 preventive vaccines and more than 30 therapeutic vaccines that were successful against HIV/AIDS in primate studies have failed in human clinical trials."7

Although the nearly 30 years of animal-based research to develop a vaccine for aids has shown little success, recent human-based research has found a promising HIV vaccine candidate.

Vaccines work by using foreign molecules called immunogens to induce B cells in the immune system to produce antibodies to neutralize or eliminate pathogens that harbor those molecules. Developing a vaccine against HIV has been challenging, as the virus mutates rapidly. There are people who are known to be repeatedly exposed to HIV but never progress to develop AIDS despite no treatment. Some of these so-called long-term nonprogressors appear to have the ability to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAb) that are capable of preventing HIV infection. Using donated blood, researchers demonstrated that about 96% of people would respond to this new immunogen! Read more.

Results from misleading animal experiments using non-human primates have only held us back from finding a vaccine or cure that can be used on humans. 

Being able to pull out cases where the results from animal-based research have reacted differently or the same in human trials only strengthens our scientific argument against vivisection. A model of the human response should be a reliable, accurate predictor.

There is a better way to further human health in a safer, more reliable way that benefits both animals and humans - The answer is human-based research.

  1. History of Vaccines by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia
  2. The Scientific Case Against the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research by Animal Aid
  3. Penicillin and Insulin - Both Derailed by Animal Experimentation by For Life On Earth
  4. The risk takers by Holt, Rinehard and Winston, 1962, page 70.
  5. Animal research takes lives: humans and animals both suffer by Bette Overall
  6. Dangerous Medicine: Examples of Animal-Based "Safety" Tests Gone Wrong by PCRM
  7. Clinical Research on HIV Vaccines by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 2005