“Vivisection is a social evil because if it advances human knowledge, it does so at the expense of human character.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
What is Vivisection?
Vivisection is defined as experimentation on live animals, usually in relation to surgeries on living organisms with a central nervous system, though all testing on live animals (invasive, and non-invasive) is considered to be vivisection to animal rights activists.
Vivisection began around 300 B.C. with a few of the earliest notable scientists such as Aristotle, Galen, and Vesalius conducting tests on live (vivisection) and dead (dissection) animals in hopes of learning more about human anatomy and physiology. Human cadavers were used when allowed, and were usually from executed prisoners or acquired through grave robbing. Dissection and vivisection of non-human animals was much more popular because of how easy it was to acquire an animal, versus a human, and because people generally held the Cartesian view that animals were just complex machines, incapable of feeling or understanding pain.
94% of all animal testing is done for cosmetics and household products, leaving only 6% for medical research. On March 11, 2013, The European Union passed a long-awaited ban of the sale of all animal tested cosmetics and is urging other countries to do the same.
Most Common Medical and Non-medical Tests on Animals
Many of the most common tests conducted on animals are done with absolutely no anesthetic and no regard for the animal’s ability to feel pain. If a scientist believes that their research will be tainted by findings from animals that have been given pain medications, they are not required to administer them.
- Lethal Dose Tests (also known as LD-50) – These tests are done to determine the median lethal dose of a toxin, pathogen or radiation that is able to kill half the members of a tested population. These tests are done by first administering a specified dose, and if all of the subjects die, the dose is decreased until it leaves only half of the subjects dead.
- Draize Skin Irritancy Tests – These tests are done to determine whether products (usually cosmetics) are safe to use on human skin. They are usually done without anesthetic to albino rabbits. These animals are observed for up to fourteen days for signs of skin irritation and swelling.
- Draize Eye Irritancy Tests – These tests are done to determine whether products (usually cosmetics) are safe to use on the human eye. They are usually done without anesthetic to albino rabbits who are restrained in devices which prevent them from moving their heads. These animals are observed for up to fourteen days for signs of redness, cloudiness, ulceration, swelling, discharge, hemorrhaging and/or blindness in the tested eye.
- Maternal Deprivation Studies – These tests are done for many reasons. Generally they are done to gain a better understanding of humans with varying problems. Much of the time they are done to “model” human conditions such as alcoholism, aggression, depression, addiction, maternal-infant bonding and anxiety disorders.
- Aggression Studies – These tests are done to better understand aggression in humans, as well as to develop pharmaceuticals that can block or diminish aggression in people with disorders such as Intermittent Explosive Disorder, among others.
- Pain Experiments – These tests are done to better understand the way humans feel and experience pain. Much of this testing is done to develop pain medication for humans.
How Reliable is Animal Testing?
Though human animals and non-human animals are similar in the fact that we are both sentient and are able to experience pain and pleasure, we are still very much different. It is the differences in anatomy and chemical processes in different species of animals (including humans) which actually hinder many scientific developments.
In the 1950’s a drug called Thalidomide, prescribed to pregnant mothers to alleviate morning sickness, was shown to cause birth defects in human babies after having no such effect on rats used in experiments. It is estimated that there have been between 10,000 and 20,000 victims of the drug.
Vioxx, a drug approved by the FDA in May of 1999 to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis and acute pain conditions was later taken off the market in 2004 because of concerns regarding increased risk of heart attacks and strokes caused by long-term use of the drug. It has been reported by the FDA to have caused the deaths of an estimated 27,000 people, though others put the number as high as 55,000 and others as high as 140,000.
TGN1412 (aka “the elephant man drug”), the working name of a drug intended to treat rheumatoid arthritis and chronic lymphoid leukemia, was withdrawn from the market after the first human patients to receive the drug suffered multiple organ dysfunction due to extreme inflammatory reactions. The drug, however, showed no such effects when used on non-human primates during preliminary experiments, even though the dose given to the non-human primates was about 500 times stronger than the dose administered to the human volunteers.
Reliable results gained from vivisection are highly dependent upon the species of animal used in experiments. NSAIDs (such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen — used as pain relievers) are lethal to cats. Methylphenidate (used to treat ADHD) and Pseudoephedrine (used to treat congested sinus cavities) cause seizures in dogs. Penicillin (the first ever antibiotic safe for use in humans) is lethal to guinea pigs and rabbits. It’s the luck of the draw when choosing which species to test on. No one knows for sure the safety of new medications and products until they are used on humans. There’s no telling how many possible cures have been trashed simply because they were tested on the wrong species of animal.
I suspect Big Pharma understands this as well, otherwise they wouldn’t spend millions of dollars testing experimental new drugs on poor people in third world nations.
Alternatives to Animal Testing
Vivisection is out-dated science and in many cases is not used to benefit humans, but is only implemented to acquire grant money (and thus profits) for the scientist, school, organization or company conducting the experiments. For an extensive description of animal testing alternatives, please click here.
What You Can Do to Help
There are many ways to ensure that you are doing the most you can to end animal testing (these are just some of them):
- Only buy products from companies that are certified and labeled as vegan and cruelty-free – no animal testing (there are links on the bottom of this page to assist you with this).
- Ask the manager at your local grocery store to order and stock more vegan-friendly and cruelty-free items.
- Only donate to charities that do not conduct or pay others to conduct experiments on animals.
- Distribute leaflets outside of public places like grocery stores, noting which products are animal-friendly and which ones are not as well as the reasons one should not support vivisection. You can order or print leaflets from many animal rights organizations, such as Vegan Outreach.
- Tell your friends and tell them to tell their friends.
- Write letters and/or make phone calls to companies, charities, organizations and public officials urging them to take a stand against animal testing and telling them you won’t vote/buy/donate to them until they change their position on vivisection.
- Go to animal rights demos and protests
It’s easy to at first agree with the idea of animal testing, but until you see it with your own eyes it is hard to understand exactly what is going on and how you may truly feel about the experiments imposed on animals.
“I abhor vivisection with my whole soul. All the scientific discoveries stained with innocent blood I count as of no consequence.” ~ Gandhi
More Ways to Make a Difference
Here are some more ways to maximize your impact and be ethically consistent: