The Debate on Vivisection

Vivisection is not perfect. However, it is infinitely better than the alternative, studying the effects of novel compounds on humans. First, it is necessary to understand that even if we were ethically able to perform research on humans it would not preclude people from having adverse reactions and dying. Just as there are many differences between rats, mice, monkeys and humans, there are differences between each and every one of us. Therefore, what is good for you might kill me. For example, penicillin is known to cause allergic reactions in some people. Now, let us suppose for a moment that the people who are prone to having this allergic reaction are people with a particular genetic makeup (let us say Italian men). Now, what if penicillin was first tested on men in Italy. This would have resulted in negative findings and a loss of interest in the drug. So, just like a Guinea pig, who and what you test a drug on has a tremendous amount of influence on your results. Let me provide another example. Say you want to test a cholesterol drug, and you choose to use gerbils. You find nothing because, well, gerbils are not prone to diet-induced changes in cholesterol. Point is, the idea is to find a model system that is similar to that of the majority of humans.

The idea that vivisection is “false” is ridiculous. That would imply that researchers are performing experiments all over the world for no other reason thanI don’t know, they like to torture animals? I can tell you first hand that we do research to try and better understand how the human body functions. Many researchers, myself included, love animals. I have two dogs and two cats. I care for my monkeys too. However, what is more important to me is trying to help keep humankind from suffering. Does this mean we sacrifice a few animals to do so? Yes it does. Does this result in advancement of knowledge and improvements in medicine? Yes it does. Could we do this without animal models of disease? Possibly, but at a cost: using human Guinea pigs, and thus unnecessary human suffering.

Scientist do all they can to limit the number of animals used in a study, minimize any suffering that may be caused to an animal and are required (in the US at least) to meet certain guidelines to ensure the well being of laboratory animals. Having worked in several primate centers in the US, I can assure you that these animals have some of the best care and medical services available. It is somewhat appalling to me to see how much more some people care about the well being of animals when there are so many, in this country alone, that do not even have access to proper medical treatment. The facilities in the primate centers are better than some of the hospitals here in America!

I would like to conclude by saying that although I disagree with the idea that vivisection is unnecessary, I am happy to know that there are people out there who are concerned about the well being of animals and push to keep researchers from taking advantage of them, and causing unnecessary suffering. I think animal rights groups are an important part of modern science, although some take it a bit too far.