Why do we still need animals for research?
Oxford University claim:
Finding cures for diseases can take many years of detailed scientific research. Most work is carried out in a laboratory, with computers or on patients. However, the law requires that at some stage essential information must be collected from research using animals if scientists are to make breakthroughs that can help save people’s lives.
Many factors perpetuate animal experimentation, the most obvious of which is momentum. The tradition is so deeply ingrained that the whole system is based on it. Its fundamental acceptance has long allowed it to escape attention. Many doctors and scientists have now started to question it – as evidenced by a recent survey of GPs, in which 82% out of the 500 surveyed were concerned that animal data can be misleading when applied to humans.
Another factor is that researchers are far removed from patient care and really believe that by experimenting on animals they are helping to cure human disease. Also, they attract grant money based on how many papers they publish in the scientific literature. It is much easier and faster to publish papers using animals than by doing human-based research.
There are many other reasons but by far the most important is money. Animal breeders and cage and equipment manufacturers are multi-billion £ industries. But the biggest beneficiary is the pharmaceutical industry.
Animal tests help them speed new drugs to market and, most significantly, give them a legal defence against public allegations of inadequate safety testing.
Pharmaceutical companies have known for decades that animal testing is scientifically worthless but they use it to provide liability protection when their drugs kill or injure people. Juries are easily swayed by volumes of safety data from rats, mice, dogs and monkeys – even though it is meaningless for humans.
Sadly, nothing has really changed since Thalidomide. Vioxx (2004) was the biggest drug recall in history, leaving thousands of deaths in its wake. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, said: “This is a public health emergency which raises grievous questions about the adequacy of our regulatory system.”