By Dr. Leo Rebello
28/552 Samata Nagar, Kandivali East, Mumbai 400101.
The actual figure of how many animals are tortured, maimed or killed annually by scientists world over is difficult to get. For no one bothers to add them up. The best estimate is 250 million animals a year. Roughly 70% of them suffer with no anaesthetic. They all die in the end after long incarceration in cages.
Some animals are specially bred. Mice guaranteed to develop cancer within a few months can cost $100 (Rs. 3,600 for a rat?). Some chimpanzees are captured in the wild. They cost thousands of dollars each because so many die while being transported around the world. Some species are facing extinction because of the vivisectors.
Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, some time ago, Dr. James Wyngaarden of America's National Institute of Health, reported that around 200,000 cats and dogs are taken from American streets - and then handed over to vivisectors to be used in experiments.
"In U. K. approximately 4,000 pet dogs and cats disappear, every week, to end up in the cages of 20,000 scientists who earn their living doing incredibly cruel (and totally pointless) things to harmless and defenceless creatures" says Dr. Vernon Coleman, who has done commendable work in this regard and even represented to the British Parliament that this useless practice be banned.
Dr. Milli Schar-Manzoli Secretary-General of ILDAV, tried to bring in a law in Swiss Parliament, but could not muster enough vote because the Parliamentarians were ignorant and/or misled; like our Vegetarian and Animal Lover Friends in India, who while raising voice against cruelty to animals in circusses and other fields, forget to raise Voice against this inhuman killings indulged in by the second-rate medical scientists who work on dubious research in pharmaceutical laboratories.
Writes Dr. Vernon Coleman, "Drug and cosmetic companies testing out new products and university scientists looking for new ways to win academic honours use up (literally) millions of animals every year. Every thoughtful and intelligent scientist who has bothered to look at the evidence knows that vivisection is pointless. The vivisectors do it because they make money out of it. Big money. Billions of dollars a year. And they do it because they are frightened to admit that they are wrong. If they admit that they are wrong they will have to admit that they have put men, women and children at risk. And they'll have to repeat the tests on thousands of drugs and other treatments".
If animal experiments are stopped, the so-called 'scientific' research is stopped, in the absence of which the drug testing stops, and the whole 'rickety edifice' of modern medicine (a pseudo-science) collapses. The entire economy of Western countries is dependent on three industries, namely, killer Drugs, junk Food and lethal Arms. Consequently, the whole show must go on!
But you can't fool all the people all the time. In Switzerland, there is an organisation called the International League of Doctors Against Vivisection (ILDAV in short), which has over 1000 highly respected doctors from across 50 countries who have researched, documented and published damaging evidence against vivisection. This author is the Vice President of ILDAV. In America the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has, likewise, 20,000 doctor members and the Medical Research Modernization Committee another 1,200 members. All of them are medically qualified doctors and they have no vested interest in stopping animal experiments.
We question: How can you learn anything useful about life by torturing and killing? How can the study of a life science start with the death of an innocent creature? The huge anatomical and physiological differences between animals and human beings mean that animal experiments can never be of practical value to anyone. Animal experiments are, without a shadow of doubt, unforgivably cruel, worthless, wasteful, inaccurate, uninformative and dangerously misleading. They kill people as well as animals and the cruelty is both indefensible and an affront to human dignity.
Apart from the fact that the animal experiments are an exercise in futility with no relevance to medical research and growth, there is now clear evidence that people who perform animal experiments are exposing themselves to danger. A report in JAMA described an outbreak of lymphocytic choriomeningitis among laboratory workers handling mice or mice tissues. There have been a number of sarcomas and lymphomas at the Institut Pasteur in Paris where a survey showed an increase in the number of deaths from cancers of the bone, pancreas and brain among laboratory workers. A report in The Lancet mentioned malignant melanomas and cancers of the blood as well as an increased risk of cancers of the brain and nervous system and stomach among laboratory staff.
Alongwith the mute animals the scientists are exposing themselves to hazards. There is also evidence to show that animal experiments dehumanise medical students and doctors. Students who are taught to disregard the feelings of cats, dogs and rabbits grow up to disregard the feelings of patients too.
One has also to remember that animals are not inferior to human beings. They also experience pain, and get bored and die of frustration like human beings in captivity. The results obtained in animal experiments also need not necessarily replicate in human beings. Animals in captivity have different diseases from pet animals or from those in natural habitat. No animal can get AIDS. Similarly, animals do not suffer from delusions or halucinations. Arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and high blood pressure all commonly affect human beings but do not occur anywhere else in the animal kingdom. The type of tuberculosis which affects people is very different from the type that is produced artificially in animals. The cancers which affect human patients are quite different from the cancers which affect mice in the laboratories.
Animal experiments also fail to produce any evidence of addiction. For example, when the benzodiazepines were first being tested on animals researchers reported that the drug tamed monkeys, dogs, lions and tigers. Mice were provoked into fighting by being given electric shocks and then calmed with tranquillisers. On the basis of these tests the benzodiazepines were prescribed for vast numbers of patients. But these tests did not indicate that the benzodiazepines would turn out to be among the most addictive of all modern drugs.
Similarly, an American toxicologist has shown that a test which is used on rats gives results which can be applied accurately to human beings just 38% of the time. Put another way, that means that 62% of the time the results produced by that test are wrong. Tossing a coin would atleast give a 50% chance of success! Also, the useful evidence we have accumulated about cancer has come from human studies and not animal experiments. The links between chemicals, X-rays, foods and asbestos on the one hand and different types of cancer on the other were obtained after doctors had studied human patients - not cats, dogs or rabbits. And despite attempts to suppress the evidence, it now seems extremely likely that AIDS virus was produced in an experiment with laboratory animals.
There is also very little doubt that many of the tests routinely performed by scientists using animals are not only barbaric but also absurdly unreliable. Consider the LD-50 test, for example.
The letters LD stand for 'lethal dose' and the 50 stands for the fact that this test is designed to find the dose necessary to kill 50% of the animals being used. But even the scientists performing this test now acknowledge that many of the animals used to die not because of the toxicity of the substance being tested but, because of the bulk of material the animals are forced to swallow. If you force a dog to swallow cupfuls of shampoo, toothpaste or talcum powder it will die whether or not the substance is poisonous!
In the Draize Eye Irritancy Test, substances such as, hairsprays and detergents are dropped into an animal's eye and left there for days or weeks to see what happens. Rabbits are usually chosen for this evil experiment - partly because they are docile and do not bite, but also because they have large, easily openable eyes. The scientists who perform the test score the eye damage according to redness, swelling and discharge. If the poor rabbit knew how to wash his eyes like human beings, the results would be different! There is, incidentally, an effective, efficient alternative available. Chemicals which are currently tested on animals eyes could easily be tested on an artificial test bed if scientists had the intelligence to change their habits.
The callous self-interest of vivisectors leads directly to the development and marketing of unsafe drugs and medical practices. They kill thousands of men, women and children. They are responsible for the fact that in most developed countries 1 in 6 hospital bed are occupied by people who have been made ill by doctors. There is, without a shadow of a doubt, a conspiracy between the medical profession and the drug industry to defend and protect a practice which has as much relevance to science as alchemy.
A future, more enlightened world, will see vivisection as one of the more obscene and inexplicable practices of our age; it is our equivalent of slavery and cruel colonialism and those who fail to condemn it loudly will be branded as being as guilty as the vivisectors themselves, by tomorrow's generation.
Dr. Leo Rebello is the Director of Natural Health Centre, Bombay, and President of the Indian Council of Natural Medicine and Research.