The problem with animal research

by John Pranger

• Sponsored by the Animal Defense & Anti-Vivisection Society of BC.

Monkey animal for researchThe arrival in Canada each year of monkeys destined for the laboratory shows the entrenched nature of Canada’s R&D community. While the use of animals in medical research and toxicity testing is being scaled back elsewhere in the world – due to a recognition of the inadequacy of this research – in Canada, more than three million animals are subjected to experimentation in publicly funded institutions every year.

Many of these animals are subjected to procedures involving severe pain “near, at or above the pain tolerance threshold of unanesthetized, conscious animals” (Category of Invasiveness = E). This means that, annually, thousands of animals suffer prolonged, unendurable pain at the hands of Canadian scientists. And these statistics only hold true of those institutes that report to the Canadian Council on Animal Care; private facilities are not compelled to follow CCAC guidelines nor to divulge their animal usage. What makes this sorry situation all the more unacceptable is the plain fact that human medicine has not been improved by the use of animals in this way.

In 2004, the British Medical Journal published an article titled “Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans?” It states, “The public often consider it axiomatic that animal research has contributed to the treatment of human disease, yet little evidence is available to support this view.” (BMJ, 2004; 328:514-517, 28 Feb)

After over 150 years of animal research, literally billions of animals used, billions of taxpayer dollars spent and regular news articles claiming that animal research benefits humans, this revelation might shock you. Equally, the enormous damage to human health that has been caused by animal experimentation is little known.

Experimenters receive billions of tax and charity dollars to conduct experiments that leading scientists say only serve to hinder and prevent medical progress. Anti-vivisectionist doctors, surgeons and scientists have long denounced animal studies as scientifically invalid – but so far with precious little result. The damage to human health comes in many forms. It ranges from the more visible harm caused by dangerous drugs that have passed animal tests, to more subtle forms such as the medically-invasive attitude that animal experimentation has helped advance. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reported that 92% of all the drugs found safe and effective in animal tests were either unsafe or ineffective in humans. We’d be better off just flipping a coin!

From Opren to Fen-Phen, from Thalidomide to Vioxx – withdrawn in 2004 after killing more than 100,000 people, having been deemed “safe” after being tested on monkeys and other species ­– the toll of pharmaceutical harm is a devastating indictment of the way we have allowed established science to flourish while more scientifically credible, effective and humane non-animal research remains on the back burner.

Important therapies such as chloroform and penicillin were almost derailed altogether due to their inefficacy in the animal model. Nobody can say how many possible cures have been similarly discarded due to their poor performance in animals. Even the most infinitesimal difference between species can render the data derived from one species inapplicable in another. Cancers that spontaneously arise in humans cannot be understood by artificially inducing tumours in animals under unnatural laboratory conditions. As an exasperated Thomas E. Wagner, senior scientist at Ohio University’s Edison Bio-Technology Institute, put it, “God knows we’ve cured mice of all sorts of tumours. But that isn’t medical research.” (The Columbus Dispatch, March 20, 1998)

Human arthritis cannot be replicated by experiments, which attempt to artificially “recreate” the disease by crushing or hammering the joints of animals. Poisoning the brains of monkeys to simulate Parkinson’s disease results only in Parkinson’s-like symptoms – and all the human tragedy these entail – being forced onto terrified and immobilized monkeys. True PD cannot be replicated in this way. Technological advances have led to the development of far more relevant, human-based approaches to these and other human diseases and must be implemented if we are to conquer human disease. (See: Marius Maxwell, MB,BChir, DPhil –

Most current research into degenerative diseases is designed to discover patentable, synthetic drugs that suppress symptoms as a long-term treatment, but don’t heal the patient who is often prescribed a “cocktail” of drugs to counteract the “side-effects” of the previous drugs. Israeli physician Dr. Arie Brecher explains, “From an animal, one can get only a very approximate indication of how a human will react under similar circumstances.

But this is not science – it’s a lottery. However, we are not playing games. At stake are health and life. The day it was decided to develop medicaments using animal models, it was a sad day for mankind. People began to get sick and to die due to medications. A new epoch in medicine started: the epoch of iatrogenic diseases, caused by doctors, by medical therapies. In the US, at least one and a half million people are hospitalized every year due to the intake of drugs and many die. For the first time in history, medicine causes disasters instead of curing illness.” (See: Brecher

Despite continual reports of “imminent medical breakthroughs” and so-called “miracle drugs,” our health situation is not improving. Total spending on health care in Canada is well over $200 billion, growing an estimated five percent per year and threatening to choke the Provincial budgets. The awarding of millions of dollars in Canadian government grants every year to research involving animal experiments is a constant drain on the taxpayer as it displaces money that should be going to patient care and clinical research methods. To make matters worse, the animal researchers alone decide which grant proposals will receive funding; through the system of peer review, vivisectors submit grant proposals and sit on the same committees that approve such grants. In any other area, this conflict of interest and corresponding lack of cost-benefit analysis would simply not occur. In the self-monitored world of animal research, it is business as usual.

In addition to taxpayer sponsored government grants, animal research is funded by private charities. This money is donated by well-meaning people in good faith that it will be spent on valid research. These people hope that their donations will help find a cure for the disease in question. They may be unaware that their donations help to finance often bizarre, frequently repetitive, always cruel and sadly ineffective animal research.

As medical consumers and taxpayers, we have an absolute right to question the mismanagement of our health and why our healthcare needs are not being advanced. With our money, the biomedical research industry has created a system, which is completely self-monitored and self-regulated. It is imperative that we demand from government that animal experimentation be replaced immediately by the valid research that will enable us to create a healthy – and yes, humane – society.

John Pranger is a director-emeritus of the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society of BC. His essays on the history and proliferation of animal experimentation have helped to spearhead the ADAV’s public outreach campaigns, including Stop UBC Animal Research and the new Humane Charities Canada initiative.

EVENT April 16-24 marks the annual World Week for Animals in Laboratories. To become involved or to learn more about the ADAV Society, visit

2 thoughts on “The problem with animal research”

  1. Petition: Stop the Pain! Stop Vivisection Canada!

    As part of the Lifeforce campaigns during World Week for Animals in Laboratories we have started a petition. This petition seeks to first stop some of the most painful experiments on animals while implementing a phase out of all similar animal experiments. Please sign it at:

  2. World Week For Animals In Laboratories
    April 16 to 24, 2016
    Lifeforce will be announcing several new initiatives during this vital world awareness week for all life!
    You can email these political leaders:
    1. Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
    2. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair
    3. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May

    Here’s a Sample Letter:
    Will you help stop inhumane, scientifically fallacious experiments on animals?
    Why Don’t Animal Models Help Our Health?
    Numerous doctors agree that vivisection retards scientific progress because these animal models are unlike naturally occurring human diseases or injuries. The researcher is not looking at the human malady. Furthermore, many methods tested, such as drug therapies, react differently on various species of animals because there are major biological and anatomical differences species in addition to sex and age differences. Data obtained from animal models cannot be reliably extrapolated to solve human problems.
    Documented reviews of medical history in such fields as spinal cord research, heart disease, diabetes and AIDS research substantiate the position that major medical advances are a result of studies that include in-vitro (non-animal) tests and human epidemiological studies (the study of naturally occurring diseases or injury). Contrary to common public perception the animal experiments can be conducted before but also during, and after human clinical/epidemiological studies.
    All the inhumane, scientifically fallacious vivisection can be phase out over the next ten years. While there has been billions of animals killed over the 150 years of vivisection atrocities there has been no added protection to people when drugs or medical procedures have gone to human clinical tests and epidemiological studies. Lifeforce will be announcing new campaigns to start the “End of Vivisection” phase out.
    Please help protect all life. Read More at Stop Vivisection Canada!
    Who Funded Vivisection?
    “Health” organizations such as the Heart Foundation, BC Lung Association’s Christmas Seal Campaign, Canadian Diabetes Association, BC Cancer organizations, Rick Hansen Foundation, Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and many others fund vivisection. Most of the public is unaware while many of these organizations do not make it general public knowledge.
    Government tax money, businesses and public donations also fund the lucrative vivisection industry.
    Do you need help?
    If you need help planning an event and need literature, posters, etc. to raise public awareness contact Lifeforce at . Printer friendly posters available (Note: all photos taken in Vancouver vivisection laboratories)

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