Phasing out animal research is possible

Last week, two protests took place on and around Malcolm Moos Health Sciences Tower. They were conducted in protest of animal experimentation at the University. Through two acts of civil disobedience, protesters presented the University with a list of demands. These acts were decried as acts of “destruction and violence” by the pro-animal research group Focus on Animal Contributions to Science. These claims are false.
If one would consider sitting on the floor of an office or dangling from a rope violent, what would one consider killing tens of thousands of animals a year at the University?
FACTS members state that “30 years ago, a heart attack at 50 years of age was nearly always fatal, and only 20 percent of cancer patients survived more than five years after treatment.” They go on to state that this is a result of animal experimentation. They say nothing of the information that was learned from the literally millions of people who have suffered from these horrible diseases; information that we, the Student Organization for Animal Rights, argue is far more valid and useful in the study of human disease.
In the past 30 years, epidemiological studies of large human populations have pointed out risk factors attributed to these diseases. It is common knowledge, for example, that smoking puts one at risk for lung cancer. However, depending on which animal one chooses to use, this idea can be proven or refuted. One study, conducted by Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, showed that substances known to be carcinogens in humans produced cancer in animals only 48 percent of the time; these animal models produced results worse than flipping a coin.
Things such as epidemiological studies have led to vast changes in lifestyle and a hope for prevention. Early advances in cancer research took place as a direct result of human observation. Chemotherapy was born as a result of observations of poisonous gasses used in war. Its effects on human populations, including soldiers, were taken note of and then brought into animal laboratories. Early animal tests of substances, such as mustard gasses, were less than encouraging, so different animals were tried. Chemotherapy has become the basis for cancer treatment, and, again, can be proven or refuted with animal research.
A recently concluded 30-year study by the National Cancer Institute tested 400,000 different substances for their curative qualities of cancer in mice. Given the enormity of such a study, it is shocking to learn that no new cancer treatment drugs were found as a result. This also leads one to question the usefulness of animal research.
The most important advance in heart attack survival rates came when it was observed that the sooner treatment is begun, the higher the patient’s chances of survival. Thus came the idea of emergency response; if the patient can receive care earlier, the chances of survival increase greatly. Human epidemiological studies formed the basis for this idea. After-care for heart attack victims often includes a change in dietary habits and perhaps the use of prescription drugs. A change in diet is the result, again, of the observation in human patients. Dogs, one of the most common models for heart disease, show little to no response to dietary changes. Anti-hypertensive drugs, given to help reduce the risk of heart attack, show wildly varying results depending on the animal model used. Again, animal models can be used to prove or disprove these ideas.
What one finds by looking at these examples is that animal models fail to predict. This idea of prediction forms the basis for science, which groups such as FACTS must agree with. This is the problem with animal research; it fails to give us an accurate picture of human disease. It is a matter of which animal is used, not whether or not the treatment works for humans. Thirty years of astute observation of human disease and clinical intervention in millions of human patients have led to medical advancement in cancer and heart attacks. Animal research, if taken alone, is extremely misleading; if it is taken with human observation and clinical intervention, its results remain ambiguous due to its failure to predict. Human-based observation and clinical intervention — human-based “research” if you will — has and will always be the more accurate means for medical advancement.
Direct Action for Animals and SOAR took this belief to heart in their protests last week. While protesters passed out literature and engaged in discussion outside, demands were made inside.
These demands, called “unrealistic and idealistic” by Cynthia Gillette, are not so. One demand, the phasing out of primate research at the University, is entirely achievable. Of more than 138,000 animals used in research in 1997, only 86 were primates. That would be a reduction of .0006 percent of animal research. Only a small effort would have to be made to accomplish this. Another, the phasing out of dissection, could be accomplished with ease. Already it is not a requirement, but an option at the University. Computer models exist over the Internet for anyone to use. Artificial animals are also available as an alternative.

The Student Organization for Animal Rights