“I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t. … The pain which it inflicts upon un-consenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.”
~ Mark Twain
The term “animal vivisection” refers to the practice of using live animals as involuntary test subjects in experiments performed by scientists and researchers. Animal vivisection usually starts with living animals (hence the prefix “vivi”), who then may die during testing due to the trauma inflicted, or may be killed at the very end so that they can be dissected. Sadly, in some fields of animal research, it is common practice to kill all the animals once the tests have been completed, simply because the animals are seen as no longer having any value. Therefore, it is important that anyone who cares about animals be informed about animal vivisection, given the many horrors that go into it:
1. Your Tax Dollars Go To Support Animal Vivisection.
Sadly, whenever you pay your taxes, some of this money will inevitably go towards funding animal-based research. Every year, the United States government gives billions of dollars to the National Institutes of Health, which the NIH in turn uses to sponsor research using animals. The NIH conducts animal experimentation in its own facilities, as well as providing funding for vivisection at many private companies, organizations, colleges and universities. With an average annual budget exceeding $13 billion, the NIH is the largest supporter of animal testing in the world.
Some of the horrific examples of research conducted over the years by (or with support from) the National Institutes of Health include: raping rats and guinea pigs with laboratory instruments in order to study sexual behavior/performance; forcing lizards to fight one another, and then decapitating them, in order to examine the effects of stress; sewing monkeys’ eyelids shut to study ocular protein levels; subjecting primates to severe head trauma in order to examine the resulting brain damage; and breeding baby monkeys to be genetically predisposed to depression, separating them from their mothers immediately after birth, and subjecting them to stressful and frightening situations all in the name of mental health research.
2. Many of the Products You Buy and Charities You Support Test on Animals.
Most consumers would never suspect that many of the products they purchase on a regular basis have been tested on animals. However, one simply needs to stroll down the aisle of a local grocery store or pharmacy to be surrounded by companies that routinely conduct animal vivisection, such as Avon, Church & Dwight, Clorox, Estee Lauder, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal, Proctor & Gamble, Revlon, S.C. Johnson, and Unilever. One must also keep in mind that many of these large corporations own multiple subsidiaries. For example, Church & Dwight owns Arm & Hammer and OxiClean; Proctor & Gamble owns Iams and Pampers; and S.C. Johnson owns Glade and Windex.
In addition to consumer product companies, many charitable organizations sadly test on animals as well, such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the March of Dimes, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and UNICEF. Even the much publicized “Ice Bucket Challenge” (which involved people, including celebrities, pouring ice water over themselves on social media) raised awareness and funds for the vivisection-supporting ALS Association.
Now, while all of this may seem overwhelming, there are many resources to help concerned consumers and philanthropists determine how to spend their money without supporting cruelty to animals. Helpful websites include humaneseal.org, navs.org, and veganrabbit.com.
3. Chinese Law is Causing Formerly Humane Companies to Switch Sides.
Depending on the country, cosmetics testing on animals may be completely voluntary, banned, or required by law. For instance, the European Union has chosen to outlaw animal tests for both domestically produced and imported cosmetics (with certain loopholes). In the United States, it is up to each individual domestic cosmetics company to determine whether or not it wants to test its products on animals, and both humane and inhumane cosmetics are allowed to be imported. However, the Chinese government requires animal testing on certain cosmetics that are produced domestically (such as hair coloring and sunscreen), and requires animal tests for all imported cosmetics. Unfortunately, this has caused certain companies such as Avon, Estee Lauder, L’Occitane, and Mary Kay (which once claimed to be cruelty-free) to resume financing vivisection so that their products can be sold to the increasingly profitable Chinese market.
4. Over Ninety Percent of Drugs Tested on Animals Fail in Human Trials.
Anatomy and physiology vary from species to species, so it only makes sense that any given disease or chemical will affect different animals in different ways. For example, penicillin is a commonly used antibiotic for humans, but has been shown to be lethal to guinea pigs; arsenic is poisonous to humans, while sheep can ingest large quantities with no ill effects; and chimpanzees are unaffected by AIDS, even when they are intentionally infected with HIV by NIH researchers.
However, despite the many discrepancies between human and animal biology, the US Food and Drug Administration still requires pharmaceutical companies to test newly developed drugs on animals before they move on to clinical trials with human volunteers. Yet the Department of Health and Human Services has admitted that over ninety percent of pharmaceuticals fail once they reach human studies. These drugs, which seemed to produce the desired effects in animal studies, can cause dangerous and even lethal side effects in humans. Scientists waste valuable time, countless animal lives, and billions of dollars on this misguided and inaccurate research, all because they refuse to accept that data from animal models cannot be accurately translated to humans.
5. An Omnivorous Diet Leads to More Cruelty to Animals in Labs.
The consumption of meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal products leads to immense suffering for animals raised on farms (whether they be factory farms or otherwise). However, since so many of the most prevalent diseases in our society are directly linked to diet, and researchers routinely use animal vivisection in an attempt to treat these diseases, an omnivorous diet also causes immense suffering for animals trapped in laboratories.
For example, heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world, and kills around six hundred thousand people in the US every year (25% of all deaths). This being the case, pharmaceutical companies have invested billions of dollars in developing drugs to combat heart disease (such as Lipitor and Crestor), and all of these brand name drugs have at some point undergone animal testing, due to the FDA’s outdated policies. However, a majority of heart disease cases could be prevented or cured if people switched to a healthy, well-balanced vegan diet. Adopting a plant-based lifestyle would not only save billions of dollars in healthcare spending and countless human lives, but innumerable animals as well, as they would be spared the torture of having to endure unnecessary medical research.
6. After All This Time, Cigarettes Are Still Tested on Animals.
Despite all the overwhelming evidence regarding the ill health effects of tobacco products, companies such as Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds continue to subject animals to experimentation. Unlike pharmaceuticals, however, the use of animals to test tobacco products is not required by US law. In Germany, where tobacco research on animals is illegal, scientists use in vitro (non-animal) methods, involving human lung tissue cultured in petri dishes, to test for health problems.
In addition, the use of animals in tobacco research is another prime example of vivisection’s unreliable nature. An epidemiological study first established the link between cigarettes and lung cancer in 1954. However, these findings were ignored by other scientists and officials (including the Surgeon General’s office), since laboratory tests which forced animals to inhale cigarette smoke had never shown carcinogenic effects. It was not until 1965 that the federal government passed a law requiring a label on cigarettes which read “Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health,” and it was not until 1984 that the surgeon general was willing to mandate labels that linked cigarettes to cancer.
7. Laboratories Use Animals Taken From Shelters.
In the practice known as “pound seizure,” animals (such as dogs and cats) are sold or donated to laboratories or universities for use in vivisection. Pound seizure can often have a corrupting effect on shelters, as staff members may see it to be more profitable to sell animals to laboratories rather than promote their adoption. Unfortunately, there are no federal laws regarding pound seizure, and the issue is left up to the discretion of state and county officials.
While laws vary from place to place, 16 states outright prohibit pound seizure, 34 states allow it in some form or another, and in two states (Ohio and Oklahoma) shelters are legally required to surrender animals to research facilities or “Class B” dealers when demanded, regardless of whether an animal has had a chance to be adopted or returned to their rightful family.
Class B (or random source) dealers are groups or individuals that act as middlemen, procuring both live and deceased animals from shelters to then sell to laboratories. In addition to pound seizure, Class B dealers also purchase dogs and cats from breeders, kidnap strays and animals left outside, and respond to classified ads (usually while lying about who they really are in order to deceive well-meaning people who can no longer care for their animals). In 2014, these immoral practices even led the notoriously cruel National Institutes of Health to announce that it would no longer use Class B dealers.
8. The Military Conducts Trauma Tests on Animals.
Despite a decision by the United States Department of Defense in late 2014 to reduce their use of vivisection, the US military and its contractors continue to torture animals in routine procedures to test weapons (such as guns, explosives, and chemical/biological weapons) and train medical personnel. In what is known as “live tissue training,” the military shoots, stabs, sets afire, and dismembers live animals in order to teach soldiers how to treat battlefield injuries. Animals such as pigs and goats are restrained, mortally wounded by multiple weapons, and then released to the care of military trainees, who see how long they can keep their animal “patients” alive.
However, 23 out of 28 NATO member nations do not use animals to train military personnel, and instead rely on alternatives, such as human actors, cadavers, and high-tech mannequins that simulate trauma victims. Furthermore, studies (some even conducted by the US military itself) have repeatedly shown that non-animal methods are more accurate and practical than methods involving vivisection. American military regulations even require humane, non-animal methods to be used when at all possible, but sadly this rule exists only on paper, and is regularly ignored.
9. The Nobel Prize is Awarded to Scientists Who Conduct Animal Vivisection.
Even the organizations behind the prestigious Nobel Prize do not take a stand against animal vivisection. In fact, they even condone and promote it. Of the 105 Nobel Prizes for Physiology or Medicine awarded between 1901 and 2014, 91 of them have been given to scientists who used animals in their research.
For example, the famous Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1904 for his research regarding digestion, in which he used dogs as his test subjects. During his experiments, Pavlov removed portions of dogs’ digestive systems and created gaping holes in their bodies. When the dogs ate, the food would fall out of the incisions, and Pavlov could use these holes to collect various digestive fluids. Many of these dogs went on to die from starvation or from complications related to their surgical mutilations. To fund his experiments, Pavlov also set up a facility similar to a factory farm, were dogs would be strapped to a table and have their stomach acid drained, which could be sold as a supposed treatment for indigestion. And despite the commonly held belief, he never actually used a bell to cause dogs to salivate; he did, however, use electrical shocks.
Sadly, in the time that has passed since Pavlov’s experiments, researchers’ mentalities towards animals has not changed. In 2014, the latest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, John O’Keefe, criticized the UK government for efforts it has made to phase out animal vivisection, and seven Nobel Laureates signed a letter to the Israeli Prime Minister to decry any future legislation meant to protect animals used in research.
10. More Accurate and Humane Alternatives Exist.
In this technologically advanced world of ours, there is an ever increasing plethora of alternatives to animal vivisection. In vitro testing involves culturing cells in a sterile environment, such as petri dishes or test tubes. In vitro methods can replicate certain anatomical parts, such as the surface of the skin or the surface of an eye, and can be used to perform disease, toxicity, and irritancy tests without infecting, poisoning, or scarring innocent animals. Additionally, in vitro toxicity tests have been shown to be 2-3 times more accurate than toxicity tests performed on rodents. With ‘in vitro’ methods, scientists can avoid attempting to translate results from animal models and instead test directly on human cells.
Computer modeling involves researchers recreating molecular structures within a software program in order to study them. Using the software as a guide, molecules can be manipulated to make them more effective, or examined to predict their toxicity without sacrificing animals’ lives. Computer programs also exist that make dissection in schools and universities obsolete, as students are able to examine highly detailed, 3-D anatomy models and perform digital autopsies.
Epidemiological research involves studying human populations on a large scale, and looking for trends/patterns within those populations. Epidemiologists have successfully identified countless harmful chemicals and lifestyle habits using their research, which can then be applied to promote public health. For example, both asbestos and arsenic have been shown to be perfectly safe for humans when scientists used animal models to study them, while epidemiological research has shown these substances to be quite deadly.
Other alternatives include utilizing human cadavers that have been donated to science, state-of-the-art microchips that mimic human organs, or using human volunteers in cases where the testing procedures are known to be free from any life-threatening or severe effects.
“I abhor vivisection with my whole soul. All the scientific discoveries stained with innocent blood I count as of no consequence.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“What I think about vivisection is that if people admit that they have the right to take or endanger the life of living beings for the benefit of many, there will be no limit to their cruelty.”
~ Count Leo Tolstoy, Russian author
“I abhor vivisection. It should at least be curbed. Better, it should be abolished. I know of no achievement through vivisection, no scientific discovery that could not have been obtained without such barbarism and cruelty. The whole thing is evil.”
~ Dr. Charles Mayo, skilled surgeon on the governing board of the Mayo Clinic
“Atrocities are no less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called medical research.”
~ George Bernard Shaw, 1925 Nobel-Prize recipient
American Anti-Vivisection Society
Animal Research Info
British Broadcasting Corporation
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In Defense of Animals
Last Chance for Animals
National Anti-Vivisection Society
New York Times
The New Yorker
The Nobel Foundation
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine
Speaking of Research
Understanding Animal Research
World Health Organization
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