Testing products and procedures on animals to see if they can work on humans is like trying to find your way around Tokyo armed with a map of Beijing. Granted, there are similarities between the cities: Both have roads, buildings, and other infrastructures—but they are different roads, buildings, and infrastructures, and the cities are governed by different laws and have different traffic codes. Similarly, the physiological differences between humans and other animals prevent the results of animal tests from being accurately extrapolated to humans.
Certainly, some medical developments were the result of cruel animal tests, but that does not mean that the developments would not have been possible without animal testing or that the primitive techniques used in the 1800s are still valid today. Human clinical and epidemiological studies, studies on cadavers, and computer simulations are faster, more reliable, less expensive, and more humane than animal tests. Scientists have used human brain cells to develop a model "microbrain" that can be used to study tumors and have also come up with artificial skin and bone marrow. Instead of killing animals, we can now test irritancy on egg membranes, produce vaccines from cell cultures, and perform pregnancy tests using blood samples. As Gordon Baxter—cofounder of Pharmagene Laboratories, a company that uses only human tissue and computers to develop and test its drugs—says, "If you have information on human genes, what's the point of going back to animals?"
Many products, especially cosmetics, have been used by humans for ages without adverse effects and thus shouldn't be tested on animals. In 2003, an overwhelming majority of members of the European Parliament agreed to ban animal testing for cosmetics. Products tested on animals, regardless of where the testing took place, will not be sold in the European Union.
As for using animals in education, more and more schools are dropping dissection altogether. In Great Britain, it is against the law for medical students to practice surgery on animals, and British physicians are just as competent as those who were educated elsewhere. Many of the leading U.S. medical schools, including Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, now use innovative, clinical teaching methods instead of cruel animal laboratories. Harvard, for instance, offers a cardiac-anesthesia practicum in which students observe human heart bypass operations instead of performing terminal surgery on dogs. The Harvard staff members who developed this practicum have recommended that it be implemented elsewhere.
Even if we had no alternative to using animals, which is not the case, vivisection—surgery or experimentation on live animals—would still be ethically unacceptable. Writer and pacifist Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, once said: "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 unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further."
To say that animal experiments involve pain is an understatement. Animals are infected with diseases that they would never normally contract—tiny mice grow tumors as large as their own bodies, kittens are purposely blinded, and rats are made to suffer seizures. Experimenters force-feed chemicals to animals, conduct repeated surgeries on them, saw their skulls open to implant wires in their brains, crush their spines, and much more. Think about what it would be like to endure this, usually without any painkillers, and then be dumped back into a cage. Video footage from inside laboratories shows that animals cower in fear every time someone walks by their cages. They don't know if they will be dragged from their prison cells for an injection, a blood withdrawal, or a painful procedure or surgery—or to be killed. Often animals see other animals killed right in front of them. Watch what happens to animals in laboratories.
We know that the past cannot be changed; PETA does not advocate throwing out every drug on the market that has been tested on animals. But by advocating the use of non-animal research methods as well as a focus on prevention as the best way to combat disease, we can help change the future. Encouraging people to avoid fat and cholesterol, quit smoking, reduce their consumption of alcohol and other drugs, exercise regularly, and help clean up the environment will save more human lives and prevent more human suffering than all the animal tests in the world.
Learn more about animal experimentation and ways that you can help end it.