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Surely alternatives are available for all animal research?
Oxford University claim:

The University of Oxford has been at the forefront of developing and using alternatives to animals in scientific research. Scientists at Oxford were among the first in the world to create computer modelling, or in silico screening, of human organs and systems – such as the the creation of the first ‘virtual heart’.

There are a number of alternatives, and researchers must be able to demonstrate that non-animal techniques could not be used for their research before they are granted a Home Office licence. Some of the alternatives include: computer simulation, such as virtual organs or modelling of potential drug therapies; the use of cell and tissue culture experiments; epidemiological studies; and clinical trials involving humans. However, the alternatives cannot replace all animal work. In general, only about 10% of medical research in this country involves the use of animals.

SPEAK’s response:

Last year, the Government made a derisory £650,000 available towards developing alternative methods of research. Barely enough to cover the wages of a few researchers and a small office space! That figure contrasted with the millions being poured into the development of the Oxford lab alone – not to mention all the other research facilities in this country – and we get a real understanding why:

Profits and liability protection are the guiding principle, and if animal experiments can provide a sort of “placebo” to protect the pharmaceuticals, then their continuance must be at the top of the agenda. With the provision of data and statistics that these experiments yield, the average layperson can be fooled into thinking that animal experiments are good science.

But the only alternative to a senseless animal experiment is not to do it in the first place. Animal experimentation is bad science. The only alternative to bad science is good science. The following are just some examples of the alternatives that work.

• In vitro (test tube) research has been instrumental in many of the great discoveries – of antibiotics, for example, and the structure of DNA, as well as all the vaccines we have today, including polio and meningitis.
• Epidemiology (population research) revealed that folic acid deficiency causes birth defects, that smoking causes lung cancer and that lead damages children’s brains.
• Post-mortem studies are responsible for much of our modern medical knowledge – including the repair of congenital heart defects in babies.
• Genetic research has elucidated how certain genes are responsible for some diseases. DNA chips allow doctors to prescribe the right drug for specific patients, thus reducing serious side effects of chemotherapy, for example.
• Clinical studies of patients have given us most of our current treatments and cures – including our treatments of lazy eye and the knowledge that HIV transmission from mother to baby can be prevented.
• Human tissue is vital in the study of human disease and drug testing – animal tissues differ in crucial ways.
• Computer modelling is now very sophisticated, with virtual human organs and virtual metabolism programmes which predict drug effects in humans far more accurately than animals can.
• Advances in technology are largely responsible for the high standard of medical care we receive today, including MRI and PET scanners, ultrasound, laser surgery, cochlear implants, laparascopic surgery, artificial organs, pacemakers and even surgery to correct spina bifida in the womb.
• Human stem cells have already treated children with leukaemia and promise to deliver great benefits in the future.