Alternatives Overview

"In the agony of death a dog has been known to caress his master, and everyone has heard of the dog suffering under vivisection, who licked the hand of the operator.  This man, unless the operation was fully justified by an increase of our knowledge, or unless he had a heart of stone, must have felt remorse to the last hour of his life." 1

NEAVS Initiatives

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scientific developments
in alternatives to animal use
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  • Cruelty-free Cosmetics and Household Products: NEAVS is committed to supporting companies that do not engage in animal testing during any stage of product development and instead use humane and more effective non-animal testing. Our programs and priorities engage in coalition efforts as well as our own initiatives to replace animal testing with better and more humane science.
     
  • Fellowship Grant for Alternatives to Animal Research in Women's Health and Sex Differences: The American Fund for Alternatives to Animal Research (AFAAR) and NEAVS offer a one-year, $40,000 postdoctoral fellowship grant to a woman committed to developing, validating, or using alternatives to animal methods in the investigation of women's health or sex differences.
     
  • Mandating Alternatives to Animal Testing: NEAVS is a founding member of the Mandatory Alternatives Petition (MAP) coalition, which works to encourage the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to develop better policy guidelines regarding the use of non-animal, in vitro testing methods to meet FDA requirements for drug or device approval.

Why Alternatives? 

Worldwide estimates on the number of vertebrate animals used in science—from mice to nonhuman primates—range from the tens of millions to more than 100 million annually. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that over 25 million animals are used each year in scientific research, testing, and education. Animals used include cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets, fish, pigs, sheep, monkeys, chimpanzees, and more.

In education, animals are kept as “pets” in classrooms and used in biology and psychology classes, graduate training courses, and science fair projects. Cats, fetal pigs, and frogs are the most commonly dissected vertebrate species in science classes; frogs, who are typically wild-caught, account for roughly half of the animals dissected in elementary and secondary schools.

In research, scientists utilize animals for a number of different purposes, including the development and testing of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, consumer products, and military weapons. The majority of animals used in research and testing are rats, mice, and birds because of their low cost, high availability, and ease of breeding. The scientific debate about using animals in research and testing lies in the simple fact that animals are not predictive for human responses—be it for drugs or for understanding human disease. Two simple and familiar examples of products being deadly to animals are aspirin being poisonous to cats while providing pain relief in humans, and chocolate being toxic to dogs but practically a staple for many people.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has an annual budget of more than $30 billion and is the largest single funding agency in the U.S. for animal research. Tragically, the NIH spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year funding a bottomless pit of duplicated animal research that accomplishes nothing more than funneling tax dollars into government-supported laboratories. Many research facilities receive well over $100 million yearly and some laboratories approach $200 million. The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) who evaluate projects for approval are heavily staffed by animal researchers, affiliated veterinarians, and others with vested interests in animal research.  Sadly, the current system provides funding approval for virtually any project and has led to a steady climb in animal research. In 2010, roughly 40 percent of the grants and contracts funded by the NIH involved animal research.

In contrast to relevant in vitro, epidemiological, and clinical studies, animal experiments have caused immense suffering and wasted billions of dollars and decades of time that could have been spent finding the preventions, treatments, and cures humans need. Traditional toxicity tests performed on animals have resulted in the deaths of millions of animals each year, while mostly producing data that is inaccurate or irrelevant to humans. To be valid, science must be predictive, and to be considered reliable, it must be consistently so. Animal data is neither. Animals who are infected in the lab do not mimic human disease; physiology differs among species and animal "models" are incapable of elucidating the complex nature of disease in humans. For example, animal experimentation has provided little, if anything, in the understanding and treatment of AIDS—a major cause of death in humans. Of the more than 80 HIV vaccines that have proven safe and efficacious in chimpanzees (as well as other nonhuman primates), all have failed to protect or prove safe in humans in nearly 200 human clinical trials. With cancer research, in one 2006 study researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine claimed that they cured many types and stages of cancer (the second leading cause of death to cardiovascular disease in humans) without side effects when tested in mice. Of course, researchers are still hoping that what they have learned will someday be applied to human treatments. As stated by Dr. Richard Klausner, former Director of the National Cancer Institute, “We have cured cancer in mice for decades—and it simply didn’t work in humans.”[2]

Conclusion

There is, however, hope for the future as federal agencies and scientists begin to more openly recognize and accept that solutions to cardiovascular disease, cancer, AIDS, and other human health problems lie, not in animal-based methods, but in directly applicable human-based studies—science without vivisection, science NEAVS supports. Recognition of the inadequacy of animal toxicity testing has resulted in the development of better techniques that are able to produce comparable toxicity values of chemicals applicable to humans. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency and the NIH are currently evaluating new technologies in molecular, cellular, and computational sciences to supplement or replace more traditional methods of toxicity testing—new technologies that are producing safer, more complete, and more relevant data for humans.

News of alternatives to harmful animal use continues to flood our desks every day—renewing our faith in what science can and will do once it sets its priorities straight. For instance, a non-animal lung tissue alternative has been created by scientists at the Harvard Medical School and the Children's Hospital in Boston. The “lung-on-a-chip” mimics a human lung, allowing scientists to observe both the basic functions of the lung and the effects that environmental toxins or drugs may have on living lung tissue—heralding, for example, the end of restraining beagles in forced inhalation experiments. Stated by Dr. Donald Ingber, lead scientist of the Harvard study at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, “We really can't understand how biology works unless we put it in the physical context of real living cells, tissues and organs." Therefore, "organs-on-chips could replace many animal studies in the future.”3

NEAVS and its programs will help hasten the inevitable and necessary transition away from animal-based experimentation, testing, and teaching, toward science and science education governed by progressive scientific thought and compassionate ethics. Our accomplishments include funding world-renowned scientists who have developed scientifically more predictive alternatives to such cruel toxicity tests as the LD50, in which researchers slowly poison animals to death. We are a founding member of a coalition to bring consumers information on products not tested on animals. We petition, challenge, and testify at hearings before federal agencies such as the NIH, the Institute of Medicine, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a variety of issues, including mandating that pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, and other entities regulated by the FDA must use existing alternatives to replace cruel animal tests. Most importantly, we expose the suffering of millions of animals every day in laboratories throughout the world—educating and inspiring the public to join us in our work! The American public only reluctantly supports the use of animals in research, and then only when they are led to believe that animals are necessary and they do not suffer. NEAVS’ work shows that animals are in fact not necessary and they do indeed suffer and die.

Humane science is su­perior science. Ethical research benefits not only animals, but humans too.


[1] Sagan, C., & Druyan, A. (1993). Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. Ballantine Books.

[2] Cimons, M., Getlin, J., & Maugh, T., II. (1998, May 6). Cancer Drugs Face Long Road From Mice to Men. Los Angeles Times, A1. 

[3] Dougherty, E. (2010, July 30). Living, Breathing Human Lung on a Chip. Focus, Office of Communications and External Relations, Harvard Medical School.

 

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