What we advocate instead of animal experimentation
We advocate scientifically viable and non-harmful research, testing and teaching methods for humans and animals.
For people these include:
- Human relevant research for finding cures and treatments for humans as well as for testing the safety of products and substances for humans (i.e. epidemiology, in vitro research using human tissue, in silico research, and micro-dosing).
- Human relevant teaching methods for training people how to help people.
- Non-harmful teaching methods.
For animals these include:
- Non-harmful research, testing or teaching that is done to improve the quality of health for the individual involved in the study - like Dr Jane Goodall’s historic and ground-breaking, correctly named ‘animal research’. Non-invasive generally means non-surgical. Interventions should be non-invasive except where necessary for an animal's recovery or improvement in health.
- Scientifically viable and non-harmful teaching methods - these can be non-animal based for all teaching methods apart from training veterinarians and vet nurses and other animal care professions as there will be a point in the training process that students need to be exposed to animals, just like human doctors and surgeons. Using animals for veterinary purposes should – and can – match the use of human patients in research that will benefit humans: ethically and without harming any individual.
- Observational or behavioural research on free-living and sanctuary animals where participation is voluntary. This would involve the voluntary or passive participation of the subject where research methods are compatible with the subject's natural habits (ethology).
- Research, testing or teaching that is done for conservation purposes of the species involved in the study. These methods will exclude harmful interventions which would result in pain, injury, or death.
What are the non-animal based methods for research, testing and teaching?
There are already many different types of viable non-animal based research, testing and teaching methods but there is also a strong need for more of these methods to be developed!
Animals are not appropriate models for predicting the human response so when it comes to finding viable research methods for finding medical advancements, we need to make sure our start point is accurate — if we want to find cures and treatments for humans, we need to be using human-relevant research.
Human-based research and test methods
This doesn’t mean jumping straight to risky tests on human volunteers instead of animals, despite the common misconception.
The truth is that human-based research and test methods involve a broad range of bio-technologies that are human-relevant. They use advanced and current biological knowledge of the human species to study human diseases and develop drugs which are safe and effective in humans.
Toxicology/ regulatory testing
Testing chemicals such as drugs, household products, pesticides and cosmetics on animals is time-consuming and expensive, and the results can generally not be applied accurately to humans.
Predicting the potential risks that a chemical has to human health or the environment can easily be done without the use of animals.
Testing can start with in-silico methods and high-throughput screening to find patterns of activity that can then be followed up with targeted testing using cell or tissue models. Large groups of untested chemicals can also be assessed in this way.
In Silico Methods
These are sophisticated computer models. These can help provide information about chemicals and their health effects. Automated decisions trees can be built using knowledge of hundreds of chemicals and predict how likely it is that a new chemical will cause a certain kind of toxicity.
Chemicals made up of similar structure fragments can be grouped together and compared, allowing toxicologists to “read across” from a chemical with data to one without. And healthy virtual cells or even entire organs can be created and then used to simulate what might happen when exposed to a particular chemical.
- High-Throughput Screening
High-Throughput Screening can perform many different tests—maximizing cell types, or amounts or mixtures of chemicals—very quickly: These assays usually test chemical activity at the molecular level.1
Human-based research will always be the most relevant and reliable when trying to find treatments and cures for human disease.
Some researchers believe that animals have to be used in the early stages of developing a treatment or cure. However, this is only making the research flawed from the very beginning.
Many human diseases are also not found naturally in animals so they are artificially induced. This creates a whole set of new problems as the disease being studied is slightly (or dramatically) different from that found in humans.
Some researchers will also argue that they need to test on an entire living system. This is correct to a degree; it does need to be tested in a living system but that system also needs to be of the same species. Using a battery of human-based tests would be more predictive of human outcomes, compared to using an entirely different species.
A more accurate and relevant method would involve using a battery of human-based tests before moving into clinical trials. These human-based tests could be:
- Scanning technologies
There is a wide range of scanning technologies that can reveal processes in living humans. The images produced are now truly remarkable and are especially useful in neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's.
Microdosing involves giving a very small amount of a substance - less than one-hundredth of the quantity expected to have a noticeable effect - to a volunteer or patient. Body fluids are then analysed to see how the body has responded, or PET imaging is employed to ascertain how the substance behaves in specific organs. This technique has already been used successfully to test drugs for cardiovascular disease, pain, Alzheimer's disease and gastrointestinal disorders.
- Microfluidic devices
Microfluidic devices contain human tissue samples in tiny chambers linked by microchannels. Fluids and chemicals flow in a natural way between different compartments, simulating conditions in the human body. The technology can help scientists to understand how cancers spread, for example. Microfluidics can investigate human tissues and organ systems, with the creation of 'bioreactor' designed to supply nutrients and remove waste products.
For example Human-on a chip:
“Human-on-a-chip” models use real human cells inside tiny silicon chips. Several chips with different types of human cells inside can be linked together so that scientists can see how the mini “organs” react together and communicate with one another.
There are continuous developments with this technology. The Harvard University’s Wyss Institute has recently developed lung-on-a-chip, which can mimic the complicated mechanical and biochemical behaviours of a human lung.
- Isolated organs
Ethically-sourced human organs can be used in experiments; for example, it is common to test potential asthma triggers or therapies with isolated tracheas.
- Sophisticated computer programs
These can simulate complex human systems, form a single organ to the entire body. These computer systems use data from real humans. Computer simulations have been developed, for example, to predict the behaviour of a drug in the digestive system. These simulations are likely to predict such effects in humans more accurately than animal models and in a much more efficient way.
- Human tissues or organ systems
Human tissues or organ systems can also be recreated in laboratories. For example, Human lymph nodes have been created in the laboratory and can be employed to test vaccines and biologically-based drugs, like the TGN1412 monoclonal antibody, which - having been passed as safe on the basis of tests on monkeys - went on to cause catastrophic injuries to human trial subjects.
Epidemiology involves the study of significant numbers of people over a period of years, comparing their lifestyles, genes, medical interventions, environments, social status, etc. It remains a powerful tool with huge potential and has already produced enormously valuable findings, including the link between smoking and lung cancer. 2
Plus many more other methods! Read more about how some of these human-based methods are used in research into human diseases, such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease here
Other resources on non-animal based research and test methods that we recommend checking out:
Tail of Toxics - Improving Chemical Safety Without Animals by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
There are many different types of non-animal based teaching methods that include replacements for dissections. These include synthetic animal models, digitalised animal models, virtual organs as well as many other methods.
These are available for a wide range of teaching types including training veterinary and medical students. The availability of these is so big that currently, 100% of medical schools in the US and Canada have ended live animal use for medical student training. These medical schools now use non-animal based methods such as lifelike interactive and programmable simulators that better replicate human anatomy and physiology.
See more of these non-harmful teaching methods at:
It is important to clarify that:
We are fully opposed to and aim to abolish the use of animals to try and predict the human response to drugs and disease.
We don't support research that significantly harms individuals, even when a conservation benefit may accrue. These or other benefits should be pursued through non-harmful research.
The use of animals for the purpose of enhancing the animal agricultural industry is also something that we don’t support. Rather than doing research and testing on animals to try and make them more productive for alleged human benefit, we should focus our efforts on eliminating the exploitation of animals.