Aug.-Sept. '00

Genetic Engineering

Editorial: Animal Experimentation

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Dogs in Danger

The Spaceman

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Cancer Society
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From the Editor

by Craig Mazer

When you donate money, you expect it to be used wisely and to help living creatures.However, as explained in this issue, organizations like the American Cancer Society sometimes do more harm than good. Even more shocking, these organizations sometimes use donated funds to conduct lethal experiments on animals that have no practical benefit to anyone.

Some of the largest charities in the country (from the March of Dimes to the American Lung Association to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation) conduct experiments on animals that often involve starving, crippling, burning, poisoning, and slicing them open despite the enormous variations that exist between rats, dogs, pigs, and human beings. All the while, Neal Barnard M.D., founder of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, says "non-animal methods provide a more accurate method of testing and can be interpreted more objectively."

Of course we want a cure for AIDS, cancer, Parkinson's Disease, and other health issues. But at what cost? Is it worth the life of thousands of rabbits for a "possible" cancer breakthrough? One might have an argument if animal experiments weren't so misleading and were the only option available. However, there are many charities (well over 100 including Easter Seals, Children's Burn Foundation, and National Children's Cancer Society) that deal with research of the same health issues but conduct no animal testing and animal experiments.

In many cases, animal studies do not just hurt animals and waste money; they harm and kill people, too. The drugs Thalidomide, Zomax, and DES were all tested on animals and judged safe but had devastating consequences for the humans who used them. A General Accounting Office report, released in May 1990, found that more than half of the prescription drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration between 1976 and 1985 caused side effects that were serious enough to cause the drugs to be withdrawn from the market or relabeled. All of these drugs had been tested on animals.

Dr. Edward Kass of the Harvard Medical School said in a speech he gave to the Infectious Disease Society of America:

"[I]t was not medical research that had stamped out tuberculosis, diphtheria, pneumonia and puerperal sepsis; the primary credit for those monumental accomplishments must go to public health, sanitation and the general improvement in the standard of living brought about by industrialization."

So why do these charities continue to conduct such seemingly useless and cruel experiments? Animal experiments began because of religious prohibitions against the dissection of human corpses. Even those these prohibitions were eventually lifted, the practice of testing on animals had already become institutionalized. Today, there are at least 20 million animals killed every year by animal experiments (and as many as 80 million -- reports on the number of animals killed each year do not have to include mice, rats and birds so the actual number has to be estimated).

Hundreds of thousands of these animals are killed each year using tax-payer money. The Department of Defense spent about $180 million on experiments using 553,000 animals in 1993. The National Institutes of Health is the world's largest funder of animal experiments, giving out nearly $5 billion in grants each year that go toward studies involving animals.

So, what now? First of all, stop supporting charities that conduct animal experiments (resource below). Secondly, support charities that don't experiment (resource below). Finally, write to your legislators (resource below) and urge them to put an end to animal experiments. We can improve human lives without killing animals.

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