Abstract: Nonhuman animal (“animal”) experimentation is typically defended by arguments that it is reliable, that animals provide sufficiently good models of human biology and dis- eases to yield relevant information, and that, consequently, its use provides major human health benefits. I demonstrate that a growing body of scientific literature critically assessing the validity of animal experimentation generally (and animal modeling specifically) raises important concerns about its reliability and predictive value for human outcomes and for understanding human physiology. The unreliability of animal experimentation across a wide range of areas undermines scientific arguments in favor of the practice. Additionally, I show how animal experimentation often significantly harms humans through misleading safety studies, potential abandonment of effective therapeutics, and direction of resources away from more effective testing methods. The resulting evidence suggests that the collective harms and costs to humans from animal experimentation outweigh potential benefits and that resources would be better invested in developing human-based testing methods.
There’s an infection called Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, which is common among young children and is caused by a virus. Lately, there seems to be another illness, Foot-in-mouth disease, that’s been going viral, at least socially. The main difference between these diseases is that the latter seems to affect mostly adults, and more specifically, adult male scientists.
The most recent victim of this Foot-in-mouth disease is Tim Hunt, a 2001 Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine, for his comment about women in the lab.More information...
The drafting of this report included Dr Akhtar and other leading ethicists and scientists. The working party concluded that animal experiments are both morally and scientifically flawed. The report of more than 50,000 words is probably the most comprehensive critique of animal experiments ever published.More information...
I’ve written previously about the fact that because of the lobbying efforts of the animal experimentation industry, at least 95 percent of all animals in U.S. laboratories — mainly mice and rats — are not considered “animals” under federal law. These animals are excluded from the minimal protections of the law, and are not even counted in federal reports. Policymakers, scientists and the public really have no idea how many animals there actually are in laboratories. Thus, discussions about the extent of this massive scientific and ethical problem — and what needs to be done about it — have been limited by this lack of data.
However, an important new study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics fills this void by reporting data on the use of all animals — mice and rats included — at some of the most prestigious facilities in the country. The results are alarming, and have received widespread media coverage, ranging from Buzzfeed to Yahoo Health to NBC News.
Fact: The CIA’s torture program was directly inspired by animal experiments.
In the 1960s, dogs were subjected to random electric shocks from which they could not escape. Eventually the dogs gave up trying to avoid the painful shocks, not even escaping when a path to escape was finally presented to them.
From the New York Times:
The dogs wouldn’t jump. All they had to do to avoid electric shocks was leap over a small barrier, but there they sat in boxes in a lab… passive and whining.
As we now know, these “learned helplessness” experiments on dogs and other animals became the foundation for brutal CIA torture techniques, such as waterboarding.
What concerns me most as a medical doctor is the fact that two psychologists hired by the CIA, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, directed these human torture experiments. The psychologists were curious about whether the theories of animal “learned helplessness” might work on humans.More information...
Book Chapter In: Linzey A, Linzey C (eds.). The Palgrave Handbook of Practical Animal Ethics, Palgrave MacMillan 2018.
Pamela Anderson has made a media splash by refusing to take part in the ice bucket challenge in support of the ALS Association because of its history of funding animal experiments that she describes as being cruel and fruitless.
Her stance has sparked widespread discussion. The question for us to consider is does Ms. Anderson have a point?More information...
Dr. Akhtar featured in Nick News with Linda Ellerbee discussing animal experimentation and the need to use more effective human-based testing methods.
Watch the episode here
I once attended a neuroscience conference featuring a talk about spinal cord injury. The presenter showed a brief video clip that haunts me still to this day.
The presenter showed a clip of his experiment in which he had crushed a cat’s spinal cord and was recording the cat’s movement on a treadmill. He had forcibly implanted electrodes into the cat’s brain and she was struggling to keep upright, dragging her paralyzed legs on the treadmill. She repeatedly fell off the machine.
At one point, the experimenter lifted her up to reposition her on the treadmill and the cat did something that was utterly unexpected. She rubbed her head against the experimenter’s hand.
I have focused on the human side of the equation. But we should also take a brief look at the animal side:
Just who are these animals abused in experimentation?More information...
Want to know more about the problems with animal experimentation – how it harms humans and animals and about alternatives? Listen to my presentation on Xtalks.