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What to know about your bequests to charities

A man in his 80s who dearly loves animals decides that it's time to write his will. He bequeaths $20,000 to the New England Anti-Vivisection Society to work towards eliminating vivisection. He also bequeaths $20,000 to the American Cancer Society in hopes they will soon eliminate cancer. What is the value of his bequest to the animals?

Unfortunately, much less than intended.

Without realizing it, he has negated his wish to help eliminate vivisection, because many health charities – including the American Cancer Society – conduct or fund animal experiments. Moreover, he has unknowingly detracted from his goal of eliminating cancer, because animal research has failed to help prevent, treat, or cure human cancer. In fact, our incidences of cancer have continued to rise, despite the millions of animals used in cancer research. In the words of 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.” The value of this man’s heartfelt and generous bequest is therefore sadly undermined.

Had he known, he would have made his second bequest to a charity that works to eliminate cancer without supporting vivisection, such as The Cancer Project, United Cancer Research Society, or the National Children's Cancer Society. That way, his $40,000 combined bequest would have been invaluable.

When choosing health charities as benefactors of your bequest, please consider whether they fund animal research, or more scientifically productive and humane alternative research methods. Please contact NEAVS directly for a list of humane charities. Or consider leaving your legacy gift to help fund organizations like NEAVS and the American Fund for Alternatives to Animal Research, which are working to support the development, validation, and use of scientifically superior alternatives to animal use.