Below are some commonly asked vivisection related questions and answers. To read NZ specific Q and As go here.
You can also find important anti-vivisection articles at the bottom of this page.
Who permits vivisection?
All animal testing in the western world is government regulated. This means that there are government regulations that permit vivisection to happen all over the world.
Why is vivisection still happening?
There are many different factors that contribute to the ongoing use of animals for experiments. These factors are different for the different kinds of testing (i.e. different for academic research and regulatory testing).
One of the main reasons why academic research using animal experiments still occurs is because of the people in academia. They get grants to do the research and to fund labs. This acts as a source of income for these researchers and is also important for them personally as it enhances their academic prestige by increasing the number of publications they produce.
Animal based publications are generally easier/quicker to produce than human based, as human-based trials take more time and resources (they also give more reliable results). This can act as an incentive in some universities where the annual pay of researchers correlates with the number of publications they have produced which encourages the use of animals in experiments/research.
Funding is a lot easier to obtain for researchers who do animal-based experiments. This is a big problem for researchers who want to do human-based research but can’t get the funding to do so. This highlights the lack of incentive even further.
Government regulations and requirements (regulatory testing) are lagging far behind the science, this is another factor contributing to the ongoing use of animals for vivisection. Things haven’t really changed much since post World War Two – at which time there was a bit of an ethical debate around using humans for experiments and the Nuremberg Code was developed. This is essentially an international requirement for animal tests to be done before human trials. Read more about the Nuremberg Code here
The Government and policy makers are extremely risk adverse and relatively conservative, therefore it isn’t in their best interests to make changes and move away from animal testing. Think about it, would you rather continue using the standard practices that every other country in the world uses and have used for hundreds of years, or would you rather say yes to a new test that has no track record? If something went wrong, which let’s be honest, it always could, they would be directly liable so it is a HUGE risk.
Pharmaceutical companies also contribute to animal experiments for regulatory testing continuing for many of the same reasons as mentioned above. It is good protection for pharmaceutical companies from getting sued as if something goes wrong, they can claim that they followed all of the requirements.
Dr Ray Greek has suggested that universities could quite possibly be one of the biggest reasons why animal experiments continue. He states that if you look into how many studies go into developing a drug or treatment, you see how inefficient animal models are - that kind of inefficiency wouldn’t be tolerated in any other industry. However, the animal experimentation industry is getting away with it because people are unaware of this, they don’t generally know how drugs are developed and they don’t understand what’s going on in labs. Instead, they just take the word of the people who are making all the money from the experiments as the truth.
The following quote summarises our view on why vivisection still occurs: - "The most dangerous phrase in the language is, We've always done it this way." Grace Hopper
What are the alternatives to animal experiments?
Firstly, we stay away from using the word “alternative”. Is suggests that we are trying to replace the animal models by producing the same results. Animal models are flawed to begin with so we are looking for more reliable and accurate non-animal based methods instead of “alternatives”.
Read more on non-animal based methods here
Who is developing these non-animal methods?
There are a lot of organisations around the world that are working hard doing non-animal research to develop medicines, drugs and new ways of testing the safety of these products.
There are also many individual independent researchers working to develop new non-animal methods.
Some cosmetics companies develop their own non-animal tests in the EU, especially after the ban on cosmetics testing drove them to do so (A ban can drive the development so we shouldn’t necessarily be waiting for all of these non-animal methods to be available before we stop).
Some examples of the different organisations include:
- Dr Hadwen Trust: They are the UK’s leading non-animal medical research charity. They fund and promote the development of techniques and procedures to replace the use of animals in biomedical research.
- The International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER): Based in Chicago, IFER are a charity who fund scientists who are developing credible nonanimal models and testing protocols and also to graduate students seeking to incorporate animal welfare concerns and innovative technologies into their studies. They support the development, validation and implementation of innovative scientific methodologies that advance science and replace the use of animals in research, testing and education.
- XCELLR8 - Based in the UK, XCellR8 provide completely cruelty-free testing solutions for the cosmetics industry including key safety tests such as skin and eye irritation, skin sensitisation, skin corrosion, genotoxicity and cytotoxicity.
- Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University (WYSS): Based in the US, WYSS work to find human based advancements in technology, and for example they are using organs-on-a-chip to accelerate development of new pharmaceuticals, identify toxins in the environment, and treat life-threatening diseases, such as sepsis in hospitalized patients.
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM): Since 1985, the Physicians Committee has been working towards finding alternatives to the use of animals in medical education and research and advocating for more effective scientific methods. Their staff of physicians, dietitians, and scientists are working with policy makers, industry, the medical community, the media, and the public to create a better future for people and animals.
- AnaBios: Anabios Preclinical Drug Discovery is entirely focused on providing what is most critical: human data.
- SynDaver Labs – They design and build the world’s most sophisticated synthetic human tissues and body parts. These are used to replace live animals, cadavers and even human patients in medical device studies, clinical training and surgical simulation.
Some examples of individual researchers include:
- Bryan Hassell: The recipient of the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) Graduate Fellowship for Alternatives to the Use of Animals in Science. He is working on “Human cancer-on-a-chip as a replacement for animal testing.“
- David Baskette: A UK-based researcher who has published over 300 papers on skin sensitisation. He has focused particularly on trying to predict whether chemicals will cause allergy from their molecular structure and was also awarded a 2015 Lush Prize!
- Frank Gerberick: Has a laboratory at Procter & Gamble in the USA has developed one of the first widely-used non-animal test (the DPRA) to predict toxicity at the first stage in the skin sensitisation pathway. His primary research focus has been in the field of skin allergy with over 170 publications!
- Andreas Natsch / Roger Emter: Have led the development of the second non-animal test to reliably predict toxicity within the skin sensitisation pathway. Their ‘KeratinoSens’ method, developed in the Givaudan laboratories in Switzerland, uses a human cell line in a test tube and looks for a particular type of gene signalling.
- Terry Schultz: An emeritus professor at the University of Tennessee where he directed the Biological Activity Testing and Modelling Laboratory. His focus has been the non-animal testing of chemicals for toxicity and building computer databases of results to help predict outcomes.
There are also organisations made up of doctors and scientists who are against animal experiments:
- Doctors Against Animal Experiments: They are a charitable organisation of doctors and scientists who work in the medical field. They support the immediate abolition of all animal experiments on ethical and scientific grounds. They provide scientifically based information material on animal experiments both for doctors and scientists, as well as for the general public.
- Antidote Europe: Antidote Europe is a scientific body whose principal aim is the realisation and application of biomedical research methods that represent sound science.
- Doctors And Lawyers For Responsible Medicine (DLRM): DLRM is an international organisation with 500 professional members plus supporters calling for the abolition on medical and scientific grounds of all animal experiments in human medical research.
- Europeans For Medical Advancement (EFMA): The EFMA provides information and educational material for the public and professional on the scientific invalidity of the animal model in biomedical research.
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM): PCRM is supported by over 5,000 physicians and 100,000 laymen. It promotes preventive medicine through innovative programs — also mentioned above.
Are animals still used when these non-animal methods are being developed?
When it comes to regulatory testing (testing required by law), in vitro assays that have been validated are usually validated against historical animal data or known human responses. They do not require parallel animal studies to be conducted.
If a regulatory test is the focus, then regulators will refer to and judge against the historical animal or human data that they have when making a decision.
According to FRAME, in general, where regulatory tests are concerned if you are investigating developing a non-animal alternative to replace an existing animal test or assess a known human response then there should be historical animal or human clinical data to compare it to.
The same concept applies to other non-animal methods of research – historic animal data exists (not ideal to refer to at all) but so does existing human data.
If someone claims that they need to (that there is no existing animal data or human data) then that is great – they can then start from a reliable point and look at the human response (cellular level, computer modelling, organ on a chip etc).
Are all pharmaceuticals tested on animals?
You won’t find any that haven’t been tested on animals unless you’re talking about an old one that’s patent has run out like Panadol/paracetamol which can be made by a whole range of companies who aren’t the original company. Because of the regulatory requirements, you just won’t find any that haven’t been tested on animals (like the FDA regulations in America).
It would likely be too expensive for pharmaceuticals to be made in NZ for a domestic market but there is nothing black and white in NZ law that states that animal testing needs to be done. It would be more likely that the human ethics committee wouldn’t give approval over anything that hasn’t been tested on animals as they tend to be very conservative (I.e. just want to maintain the status quo and stick to the Nuremberg Code).
Aren’t all medicines and drugs really risky to take then? If their safety has been shown via unreliable, inaccurate animal tests?
No that isn’t necessarily true, unless you’re using a pharmaceutical that is new/just come out of the experimental stage, it will be safe because it already had years of being used on humans! The real trial is when they get released into the market and get used on humans – we are essentially the test subjects.
There are also clinical trials that are done before products reach the market, these will show the immediate effects in humans but not the long-term effects.
Pharmaceuticals are different from cosmetics and cleaning products etc. As it is near impossible to avoid the products/boycott them because there isn’t another option we would never advise someone not to use a medicine that could make them better because it was tested on animals in the past. We need to restructure the entire system so that both animals and humans are safer. Prevention is also a really important factor - more time and resources should be going into that!
What about vivisection for animals? Like veterinary research?
Generally speaking, NZAVS is not opposed to this when it uses sick animals who already have those diseases, to try and cure them. We do not, however, agree with this if the diseases are being artificially induced into the animal. There are also so many non-animal based methods of research that can be used.
What about dissections? Is NZAVS against dissections?
There are so many teaching methods available that don't involve the use of animals (dead or alive), it seems utterly pointless to dissect animal bodies.
From amazing virtual learning, books and sophisticated models to computer models, the animal-free options are endless! Animals don’t need to be sacrificed for their anatomy to be learnt by high school students. A good example of an alternative being used in NZ is at CPIT where they show a film on a rat being dissected so that they no longer have to use live rats.
As outlined by the Animals in Science Policy Institute (read more about them below), there are many reasons not to use animals for teaching purposes including:
- Increasing student learning by providing for different learning styles and allowing students to repeat exercises to consolidate learning (which cant be done with animal bodies).
- They are safer and more inclusive. Teachers can avoid handing out sharp scalpels and can provide students with the chance to repeat exercises to consolidate learning.
- Saving time and money as virtual dissections and 3D models cost less and don't make anywhere near as much mess.
- They are fun and interactive. Virtual dissections are interactive, and according to students themselves, a whole lot of fun!
- They are the greener option. There’s no need to worry about harsh preservative chemicals with virtual dissections and 3D models.
- No real animals have to be used which reduces emotional and ethical barriers to ensure students are getting the most out of their learning experience.
There are databases that contain lists of non-animal based teaching methods that schools and universities could easily use. A few of our favourites are:
Animal Learn (the educational division of the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) – They have created the Science Bank which is a loan program for individuals in the US. All the resources they have on their site can be sourced with the help of NZAVS, or if facilities wanted to get these themselves, they can find the name of the company who makes each item off the Science Bank website and contact them directly to make an order. See their database here.
The Science Bank (AAVS), has worked a lot with Interniche to grow their own loaning library.
Interniche have a great list of non-animal based methods and provide links directly to the suppliers (people need to contact the suppliers themselves, NZAVS can also help facilities in NZ with this). See their database here.
They offer a number of “alternatives” Loan Systems across the world (libraries of products available for free loan), as well as literature, support and advice for teachers and students. Many countries including Canada, India, Mexico and Russia have their own national loan system and it is something that we would also like to do in the future (as mentioned above).
SynDaver Labs make the world’s most sophisticated synthetic human tissues and body parts. Their SynDaver Synthetic Human bleeds breathes and employs hundreds of replaceable muscles, bones, organs, and vessels which are made from materials that mimic the mechanical, thermal, and physicochemical properties of live tissue. They have anatomy models, synthetic humans, organ models, models to train veterinarians and a variety of synthetic tissue research products (designed for medical device verification and validation testing). This is another good option for universities who require speciality equipment.
They also work to educate people on why they should choose non-animal methods instead of animal-based methods (they help prove that students perform better with these methods and that they are also more cost-efficient).
NZAVS would happily help any school or university in NZ source non-animal based methods and we will be working more on this in the future. We also hope to have our own national library full of non-animal based teaching methods that can be loaned out to schools and universities around NZ, one day!
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