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Vivisection

Vivisection

Vivisection (pronounced vih-vih-SEK-shun) literally means the dissection or cutting of a living animal. The term has come to apply to any and all types of experiments on live animals, and it is a term to which many scientists object. People who believe that humans have no right to perform any type of experiments on animals are sometimes called antivivisectionists, although they can be more properly described as animal rights activists.

Early history

Humans have been using animals for their own purposes probably from the earliest times, and some would say that the notion that people are more important than animals is taught in the Bible. The Greeks said that since animals could not think as humans did, they were a lesser form of life, and this notion was continued by Christians who said that since animals had no souls, they were not really important. With the beginning of modern science in the seventeenth century, animals were used as an easy way of understanding our own bodies. That is, a doctor would cut open a pig or a sheep and study its internal organs as a way of learning more about human anatomy. But cutting into a dead animal's body is different than performing an experiment on a living subject.

Scientific use of animals

By the nineteenth century, doctors were regularly using cows, sheep, and goats to study diseases. The French microbiologist Louis Pasteur (18221895) pioneered the use of vaccines by testing them on healthy animals. His unvaccinated animals died when they were exposed to certain diseases. Other great physiologists (scientists who study how the body functions) like Russian Ivan Pavlov (18491936) and Frenchman Claude Bernard (18131878) operated on dogs and left their surgical cuts open in order to better understand how their organs worked. Both men made major medical discoveries because of this. After World War II (193945), the use of animals in laboratories of all types grew enormously. Increasingly, dogs, cats, rats, mice, monkeys, and many other types of animals were needed by scientists for many different purposes. Animals were used for biological and medical research, as well as for the education and training of doctors and veterinarians; they were used to develop and test vaccines and new drugs; and they were used for the testing of commercial products such as cosmetics.

Words to Know

Animal rights: The philosophy that animals have rights no less compelling than human rights.

Dissection: Cutting and separating the body along its natural cleavage lines to allow scientific examination.

The case for experimentation

The use of animals for experimentation has become a sensitive issue, and the opposing sides in this debate can both make persuasive arguments. Many of those in favor say simply that people are more important than animals, and that while it is unfortunate that animals must sometimes suffer and die, it is worth it if humans lives are saved by this research. They argue that two-thirds of all the Nobel Prizes for medicine or physiology awarded since 1902 have been discoveries made involving the use of animals. Those who argue that animals also should be used for medicine and product testing say that these tests are essential if our drugs and products are to be safe. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the government agency responsible for that safety, actually requires animal tests for certain medicines and eye-care products. Finally, the dead bodies of animals are used in schools to teach biology, and many high school students dissect frogs or even an unborn pig or a rabbit in biology class. There is no doubt that the use of all sort of animals in all sorts of laboratories requires that millions of animals be used experimentally.

The case against experimentation

People who are against such use argue that this is not just "use" of an animal but rather, it is abuse. The case against animal research states that nearly everything about the system of animal experimentation is bad for the animals. They state that certain animals are bred only for this

purpose, and most are kept caged in stressful environments. They are subjected to all manner of cruel and sometimes painful procedures, and in the end they are disposed of. Animal rights activists say that such research really does not save human lives since scientists cannot really compare the reactions of an animal with those of a human being. They also argue that new techniques can provide scientists with alternatives to testing animals.

Opposition to vivisection has been organized since the last quarter of the nineteenth century when a strong antivivisection movement in England resulted in the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876. Nearly 100 years later, the modern animal rights movement helped get the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 passed in the United States. These and later laws regulate the conditions under which animals may be used in laboratories, yet most who oppose them would say that they do not go far enough. The most active group in America, called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has a motto saying, "Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use in entertainment."

Although the numbers of animals used for experiments is dropping, animal research is still big business and, some would argue, an essential and very important business. The debate between the scientific community and those who oppose vivisection involves some very difficult questions. Animal rights activists believe that those who use animals experimentally, even though responsibly, should realize that their work treats animals as objects who have no rights. It also inflicts stress, fear, pain, and a lack of freedom on its subjects. Experimenters would counter this by saying that their work is essential to our way of life and to human health and well-being, and that there is no real substitute for animal experimentation. In the end, animal testing is a moral dilemma that each person must come to terms with on his or her own.

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vivisection

vivisection (vĬv´Ĭsĕk´shən), dissection of living animals for experimental purposes. The use of the term in recent years has been expanded to include all experimentation on living animals, rather than just dissection alone. The practice contributed to the outstanding progress that was made in the 17th cent. by William Harvey in understanding the circulation of the blood. However, the use of research animals in the laboratory did not become widespread in Europe until the 19th cent. In 1896, when the National Institute of Health originated in the United States, it began to take an active role in encouraging proper care and use of laboratory animals. Since 1945, the National Society for Medical Research has tried to explain to the public the nature and necessity of experimental procedures on animals. During the 1980s, the incidence of vandalism, harassment, and theft in research centers using animals for testing increased greatly. Most nations have government agencies that assume advisory or regulatory roles in the practice of vivisection. Private organizations in the United States concerned with vivisection include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In the United States today, strict rules and procedures, laid down by the National Institutes of Health and a number of other public and private organizations, ensure ethical and sensitive use of animals for research. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Animal Welfare Regulations are among the most important documents setting forth requirements for animal care and use by institutions using animals in research, testing, and education. Regulations have been effective since 1985. Members of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees observe and enforce compliance to these rulings on institutional levels. The USDA regularly inspects all institutions that use animals for experimental purposes. Animals most frequently used in the laboratory include rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, and monkeys. When animals more closely resembling humans in size and structure are needed, dogs and chimpanzees may be utilized. Animal experimentation is especially advantageous if offspring of several generations are to be observed: for instance, about 5 generations of mice can be observed in a year, whereas in humans the same experiment would require over 100 years.

See studies by T. Regan (1988), S. Sperling (1988), and B. Rollin (1989).

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vivisection

vivisection From the Latin vivi, living, and sectio, cutting, vivisection, strictly speaking, means cutting live tissues. As such it could be applied to any surgical procedure, including human operations. In practice the word is often used pejoratively as a synonym for experiments on animals, implying cruelty such as the infliction of operative techniques without the use of an anaesthetic, which even if it were not abhorrent to the investigator would be both impracticable and against the law. The term is sometimes used also to refer to any procedure involving laboratory animals — not only operations that are carried out within the law under anaesthetic, but also investigations that do not involve surgery, such as changing diets or giving injections. In the UK all laboratory procedures on vertebrates (and also on the octopus) are regulated by the Home Office, under the 1986 Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, which superceded the 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act.

E. M. Tansey


See also animals in research.

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vivisection

viv·i·sec·tion / ˌvivəˈsekshən/ • n. the practice of performing operations on live animals for the purpose of experimentation or scientific research (used only by people who are opposed to such work). ∎ fig. ruthlessly sharp and detailed criticism or analysis: the vivisection of America's seamy underbelly. DERIVATIVES: viv·i·sec·tion·ist / -ist/ n. & adj.

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vivisection

vivisection Dissection of living bodies for experimental purposes. Work with laboratory animals in testing drugs, vaccines and pharmaceuticals frequently involves such dissections. The ethical issue of experimenting on living animals is a matter of controversy. See also animal rights

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vivisection

vivisection (viv-i-sek-shŏn) n. a surgical operation on a living animal for experimental purposes.

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vivisection

vivisection XVIII. f. vīvi-, comb. form of L. vīvus alive + SECTION, after dissection.

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vivisection

vivisectionashen, fashion, passion, ration •abstraction, action, attraction, benefaction, compaction, contraction, counteraction, diffraction, enaction, exaction, extraction, faction, fraction, interaction, liquefaction, malefaction, petrifaction, proaction, protraction, putrefaction, redaction, retroaction, satisfaction, stupefaction, subtraction, traction, transaction, tumefaction, vitrifaction •expansion, mansion, scansion, stanchion •sanction •caption, contraption •harshen, Martian •cession, discretion, freshen, session •abjection, affection, circumspection, collection, complexion, confection, connection, convection, correction, defection, deflection, dejection, detection, direction, ejection, election, erection, genuflection, imperfection, infection, inflection, injection, inspection, insurrection, interconnection, interjection, intersection, introspection, lection, misdirection, objection, perfection, predilection, projection, protection, refection, reflection, rejection, resurrection, retrospection, section, selection, subjection, transection, vivisection •exemption, pre-emption, redemption •abstention, apprehension, ascension, attention, circumvention, comprehension, condescension, contention, contravention, convention, declension, detention, dimension, dissension, extension, gentian, hypertension, hypotension, intention, intervention, invention, mention, misapprehension, obtention, pension, prehension, prevention, recension, retention, subvention, supervention, suspension, tension •conception, contraception, deception, exception, inception, interception, misconception, perception, reception •Übermenschen • subsection •ablation, aeration, agnation, Alsatian, Amerasian, Asian, aviation, cetacean, citation, conation, creation, Croatian, crustacean, curation, Dalmatian, delation, dilation, donation, duration, elation, fixation, Galatian, gyration, Haitian, halation, Horatian, ideation, illation, lavation, legation, libation, location, lunation, mutation, natation, nation, negation, notation, nutation, oblation, oration, ovation, potation, relation, rogation, rotation, Sarmatian, sedation, Serbo-Croatian, station, taxation, Thracian, vacation, vexation, vocation, zonation •accretion, Capetian, completion, concretion, deletion, depletion, Diocletian, excretion, Grecian, Helvetian, repletion, Rhodesian, secretion, suppletion, Tahitian, venetian •academician, addition, aesthetician (US esthetician), ambition, audition, beautician, clinician, coition, cosmetician, diagnostician, dialectician, dietitian, Domitian, edition, electrician, emission, fission, fruition, Hermitian, ignition, linguistician, logician, magician, mathematician, Mauritian, mechanician, metaphysician, mission, monition, mortician, munition, musician, obstetrician, omission, optician, paediatrician (US pediatrician), patrician, petition, Phoenician, physician, politician, position, rhetorician, sedition, statistician, suspicion, tactician, technician, theoretician, Titian, tuition, volition •addiction, affliction, benediction, constriction, conviction, crucifixion, depiction, dereliction, diction, eviction, fiction, friction, infliction, interdiction, jurisdiction, malediction, restriction, transfixion, valediction •distinction, extinction, intinction •ascription, circumscription, conscription, decryption, description, Egyptian, encryption, inscription, misdescription, prescription, subscription, superscription, transcription •proscription •concoction, decoction •adoption, option •abortion, apportion, caution, contortion, distortion, extortion, portion, proportion, retortion, torsion •auction •absorption, sorption •commotion, devotion, emotion, groschen, Laotian, locomotion, lotion, motion, notion, Nova Scotian, ocean, potion, promotion •ablution, absolution, allocution, attribution, circumlocution, circumvolution, Confucian, constitution, contribution, convolution, counter-revolution, destitution, dilution, diminution, distribution, electrocution, elocution, evolution, execution, institution, interlocution, irresolution, Lilliputian, locution, perlocution, persecution, pollution, prosecution, prostitution, restitution, retribution, Rosicrucian, solution, substitution, volution •cushion • resumption • München •pincushion •Belorussian, Prussian, Russian •abduction, conduction, construction, deduction, destruction, eduction, effluxion, induction, instruction, introduction, misconstruction, obstruction, production, reduction, ruction, seduction, suction, underproduction •avulsion, compulsion, convulsion, emulsion, expulsion, impulsion, propulsion, repulsion, revulsion •assumption, consumption, gumption, presumption •luncheon, scuncheon, truncheon •compunction, conjunction, dysfunction, expunction, function, junction, malfunction, multifunction, unction •abruption, corruption, disruption, eruption, interruption •T-junction • liposuction •animadversion, aspersion, assertion, aversion, Cistercian, coercion, conversion, desertion, disconcertion, dispersion, diversion, emersion, excursion, exertion, extroversion, immersion, incursion, insertion, interspersion, introversion, Persian, perversion, submersion, subversion, tertian, version •excerption

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Vivisection

Vivisection

An ancient history

Battle lines are drawn

The debate today

Resources

Vivisection originally meant the dissection of a live animal, usually for the purpose of teaching or research. Historically, the word came also to mean the use of a live animal in any experiment. Vivisection, especially in its broader meaning, is a time-tested tool that has helped humans understand how the bodies of animals function, how disease alters that function, and how such diseases can be treated. However, changing attitudes toward animals and a more cynical outlook toward the biomedical enterprise have caused some people to question the continued usefulness and morality of using animals for this purpose.

An ancient history

The practice of true vivisection dates back to ancient times. Around 500 BC, one of the earliest known vivisectionists, Akmaeon of Croton, discovered that the optic nerve is necessary for vision by cutting it in living animals. One of the most well knownand controversialearly vivisectionists was Galen of Pergamon, physician to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Galen, who lived in the second century AD, is remembered today for his pioneering use of vivisection of animals to understand health and disease in the human body. But Galen was also a poor scientist, failing to identify such major bodily functions as the circulation of the blood. An unquestioning adherence to Galens false beliefs in succeeding generations of physicians was undoubtedly a major hindrance to medical progress in Europe.

Real progress in medical knowledge began again with the experiments of the Italian physicians Andreas Vesalius and his student, Realdo Colombo, in the sixteenth century. They pioneered the use of vivisection to correct and expand, rather than merely to confirm, Galens science. In the early seventeenth century, English physician William Harvey used vivisection to discover the circulation of the blood and to debunk many of Galens other beliefs.

But this century also saw the beginnings of an antivivisectionist movement. Physician Jean Riolan Jr. in France and Irish physician Edmund OMeara both argued that the painful and violent deaths suffered by vivisected animalsremember, there was no anesthesia yetwere putting the animals into an unnatural state that could lead to faulty assumptions about the functioning of a healthy animal.

Also in this century, vivisection received an important philosophical boost from the French philosopher Renè Descartes. Descartes believed that the mind and the body are separate entities, and that animals differ from humans in that they have bodies but no true minds. As such, animals were morally no different from machines, and so vivisection was not morally wrong. Descartes even went so far as to say that animals did not feel real pain (a belief that is sometimes still repeated today, although few believe it to be true), although he stressed that vivisection was primarily defensible because it helped humans, not because hurting animals was right. Unfortunately, some of Descartess later followers lost this fine distinction, and were known for their gratuitous cruelty to animals.

Battle lines are drawn

Around the turn of the eighteenth century, both vivisectionists and their critics gained momentum. English physicist Robert Boyles experiments with animals in a vacuum chamber were hailed at the time for their contribution to the understanding of breathing and the function of the lungs. But also in England, the literary figures Joseph Addison, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Johnson all condemned the practice of vivisection and live animal experiments as cruel. Johnson suggested that medical students who learned to become insensitive to the suffering of animals in experiments would also become insensitive to human painan argument that continues to this day.

But it was the nineteenth century that saw many of todays attitudes forming. The medical advances of this era, derived at least in part from animal experiments, were profound, including widespread use of vaccination (first discovered at the end of the eighteenth century); the understanding of microorganisms as a cause of disease; the use of sterile procedures in surgery; the discovery of the diphtheria antitoxin, which could be used to save patients with that often fatal disease; and the discovery of anesthesia.

This last discovery, however, did not have as great an effect on the vivisection debate as might have been expected. For one thing, antivivisectionists argued that researchers were not using anesthesia as often as they should; they also began to argue that anesthesia was only being given at low levels, to prevent the animal from struggling, rather than the higher levels necessary to control pain. Again, these arguments are repeated today.

A major confrontation between pro-vivisection physicians and antivivisectionists came to a head in turn of the century America. This conflict was sometimes bitter, calling to mind more recent events in the debate. Antivivisectionists were accused of using out of date and misleading pictures of animals in experimental devices to garner sympathy for their cause; they also planted spies in laboratories to expose vivisectionist practices. The fight came to a head at the U.S. Senate hearings of 1896 and 1900, where testimony by some of the worlds greatest medical researchers led to the defeat of a bill to regulate vivisection in the District of Columbia.

The debate today

Today the biomedical establishment and antivivisectionists are again locked in a struggle over the appropriateness of animal experimentation. The biomedical research enterprise has become a huge endeavor in the last century; in addition, the pharmaceutical, agricultural, and cosmetics industries use many animals each year to test new products and procedures. A new wrinkle in the debate is scientists ability to genetically engineer animalsespecially miceto either lack or to contain genes related to human disease.

As of late 2006 United States law does not require detailed regulation or recording of experiments involving animals except for dogs, cats, and primates, so it is difficult to estimate how many animals are involved in total. In 1991, 108,000 dogs and 35,000 cats were used in biomedical experiments in the United States. By comparison, in England, where detailed records are kept of all animal experiments, the total number of animals used in 1990 was about 3.2 million, with roughly 16,000 being dogs and cats; so we know that the total number of animals used in experiments in the United States must be very large.

Sometimes the debate today may seem a contest between scientists who oppose all regulation and animal extremists who would deny that animal research has helped human beings at all. In 1975 animal rights activist Peter Singers book Animal Liberation suggested that animal research is wrong not merely because it is cruel, but because animals have the same rights as humans not to suffer. This book fueled a movement that has sometimes been violent, including groups such as the Animal Liberation Front that have threatened researchers lives and broken into and vandalized laboratories. On the other side, occasionally one may hear a scientist voicing the Cartesian opinion that animals cant feel pain, and that the goal of medical knowledge justifies any treatment of animals.

But others have voiced more moderate views that may represent a more realistic goal for the future. Animal welfare activists seek to institute safeguards against cruelty in laboratories without banning animal research. The famous English primatologist Jane Goodall, while recognizing the importance of primate research for human health, has argued that our growing understanding of animal intelligence demands more humane conditions in laboratoriesespecially for highly intelligent animals such as chimpanzees.

Both scientists and laypeople have played an important role in minimizing animal pain in research by serving on the now-required animal welfare committees at institutions engaging in government-funded researchalthough the political power of such committees has been claimed to vary between different institutions. And the growing use of computer simulations, tissues grown in the laboratory, and other alternatives to animal use is being hailed for its ethical as well as scientific value.

But in the end, it seems unlikely that animal research will either be abolished or will continue without further regulation. Research alternatives, while helpful, must be compared to the real thing in order

KEY TERMS

Animal rights The philosophy that animals have rights no less compelling than human rights; more extreme animal liberationists believe that no human use of animals is justified.

Animal welfare The philosophy that humans have a moral obligation to treat animals humanely while using them for human purposes.

Animal welfare committee A committee at an academic institution that reviews and approves research at that institution with animals.

Antivivisectionist Someone who believes in the abolition of vivisection, and often other types of animal research as well.

Vivisectionist A scientist who carries out vivisections or other animal experiments.

to be validated: for instance, the safe testing of drugs will continue to require large numbers of animals, even when alternatives are also used. On the other hand, many animal welfare activists note that instances of cruelty and broken regulations continue to be discovered at some laboratories, and that vast numbers of animal experiments in the cosmetics and agricultural industries are hardly regulated at all.

In the end, the question may be as enduring as human beings ability to view the same event in very different ways. The value of animal experimentation to human health and knowledge is not seriously in doubt. But past scientific beliefssuch as that animals cannot feel pain; that an animal rendered motionless by anesthesia cannot feel pain; and that higher animals such as dogs and primates cannot feel anxiety and fearhave been overturned by increased scientific understanding.

Resources

BOOKS

Fox, James G. and Lynn C. Anderson, ed. Laboratory Animal Medicine. 2nd ed. London, England: Acedemic Press, 2002.

PERIODICALS

Goodall, Jane. A Plea for the Chimps. The New York Times Magazine. (17 May 1987): 108-120.

Kenneth B. Chiacchia

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Vivisection

Vivisection

Vivisection originally meant the dissection of a live animal , usually for the purpose of teaching or research. Historically, the word came also to mean the use of a live animal in any experiment. Vivisection, especially in its broader meaning, is a time-tested tool that has helped humans understand how the bodies of animals function, how disease alters that function, and how such diseases can be treated. However, changing attitudes toward animals and a more cynical outlook toward the biomedical enterprise have caused some people to question the continued usefulness and morality of using animals for this purpose.


An ancient history

The practice of true vivisection dates back to ancient times. Around 500 b.c., one of the earliest known vivisectionists, Akmaeon of Croton, discovered that the optic nerve is necessary for vision by cutting it in living animals. One of the most well known—and controversial—early vivisectionists was Galen of Pergamon, physician to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Galen, who lived in the second century a.d., is remembered today for his pioneering use of vivisection of animals to understand health and disease in the human body. But Galen was also a poor scientist, failing to identify such major bodily functions as the circulation of the blood . An unquestioning adherence to Galen's false beliefs in succeeding generations of physicians was undoubtedly a major hindrance to medical progress in Europe .

Real progress in medical knowledge began again with the experiments of the Italian physicians Andreas Vesalius and his student, Realdo Colombo, in the sixteenth century. They pioneered the use of vivisection to correct and expand, rather than merely to confirm, Galen's science. In the early seventeenth century, English physician William Harvey used vivisection to discover the circulation of the blood and to debunk many of Galen's other beliefs.

But this century also saw the beginnings of an anti-vivisectionist movement. Physician Jean Riolan Jr. in France and Irish physician Edmund O'Meara both argued that the painful and violent deaths suffered by vivisected animals—remember, there was no anesthesia yet—were putting the animals into an unnatural state that could lead to faulty assumptions about the functioning of a healthy animal.

Also in this century, vivisection received an important philosophical boost from the French philosopher René Descartes. Descartes believed that the mind and the body are separate entities, and that animals differ from humans in that they have bodies but no true minds. As such, animals were morally no different from machines, and so vivisection was not morally wrong. Descartes even went so far as to say that animals did not feel real pain (a belief that is sometimes still repeated today, although few believe it to be true), although he stressed that vivisection was primarily defensible because it helped humans, not because hurting animals was right. Unfortunately, some of Descartes's later followers lost this fine distinction, and were known for their gratuitous cruelty to animals.

Battle lines are drawn

Around the turn of the eighteenth century, both vivisectionists and their critics gained momentum . English physicist Robert Boyle's experiments with animals in a vacuum chamber were hailed at the time for their contribution to the understanding of breathing and the function of the lungs. But also in England, the literary figures Joseph Addison, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Johnson all condemned the practice of vivisection and live animal experiments as cruel. Johnson suggested that medical students who learned to become insensitive to the suffering of animals in experiments would also become insensitive to human pain—an argument that continues to this day.

But it was the nineteenth century that saw many of today's attitudes forming. The medical advances of this era, derived at least in part from animal experiments, were profound, including widespread use of vaccination (first discovered at the end of the eighteenth century); the understanding of microorganisms as a cause of disease; the use of sterile procedures in surgery ; the discovery of the diphtheria antitoxin, which could be used to save patients with that often fatal disease; and the discovery of anesthesia.

This last discovery, however, did not have as great an effect on the vivisection debate as might have been expected. For one thing, antivivisectionists argued that researchers were not using anesthesia as often as they should; they also began to argue that anesthesia was only being given at low levels, to prevent the animal from struggling, rather than the higher levels necessary to control pain. Again, these arguments are repeated today.

A major confrontation between pro-vivisection physicians and antivivisectionists came to a head in turn of the century America. This conflict was sometimes bitter, calling to mind more recent events in the debate. Antivivisectionists were accused of using out of date and misleading pictures of animals in experimental devices to garner sympathy for their cause; they also planted spies in laboratories to expose vivisectionist practices. The fight came to a head at the U.S. Senate hearings of 1896 and 1900, where testimony by some of the world's greatest medical researchers led to the defeat of a bill to regulate vivisection in the District of Columbia.


The debate today

Today the biomedical establishment and antivivisectionists are again locked in a struggle over the appropriateness of animal experimentation. The biomedical research enterprise has become a huge endeavor in the last century; in addition, the pharmaceutical, agricultural, and cosmetics industries use many animals each year to test new products and procedures. A new wrinkle in the debate is scientists' ability to genetically engineer animals—especially mice—to either lack or to contain genes related to human disease.

Present United States law does not require detailed regulation or recording of experiments involving animals except for dogs, cats , and primates , so it is difficult to estimate how many animals are involved in total. In 1991, 108,000 dogs and 35,000 cats were used in biomedical experiments in the United States. By comparison, in England, where detailed records are kept of all animal experiments, the total number of animals used in 1990 was about 3.2 million, with roughly 16,000 being dogs and cats; so we know that the total number of animals used in experiments in the United States must be very large.

Sometimes the debate today may seem a contest between scientists who oppose all regulation and animal extremists who would deny that animal research has helped human beings at all. In 1975 animal rights activist Peter Singer's book Animal Liberation suggested that animal research is wrong not merely because it is cruel, but because animals have the same rights as humans not to suffer. This book fueled a movement that has sometimes been violent, including groups such as the Animal Liberation Front that have threatened researchers' lives and broken into and vandalized laboratories. On the other side, occasionally one may hear a scientist voicing the Cartesian opinion that animals can't feel pain, and that the goal of medical knowledge justifies any treatment of animals.

But others have voiced more moderate views that may represent a more realistic goal for the future. Animal welfare activists seek to institute safeguards against cruelty in laboratories without banning animal research. The famous English primatologist Jane Goodall, while recognizing the importance of primate research for human health, has argued that our growing understanding of animal intelligence demands more humane conditions in laboratories—especially for highly intelligent animals such as chimpanzees .

Both scientists and laypeople have played an important role in minimizing animal pain in research by serving on the now-required animal welfare committees at institutions engaging in government-funded research—although the political power of such committees has been claimed to vary between different institutions. And the growing use of computer simulations, tissues grown in the laboratory, and other alternatives to animal use is being hailed for its ethical as well as scientific value.

But in the end, it seems unlikely that animal research will either be abolished or will continue without further regulation. Research alternatives, while helpful, must be compared to the real thing in order to be validated: for instance, the safe testing of drugs will continue to require large numbers of animals, even when alternatives are also used. On the other hand, many animal welfare activists note that instances of cruelty and broken regulations continue to be discovered at some laboratories, and that vast numbers of animal experiments in the cosmetics and agricultural industries are hardly regulated at all.

In the end, the question may be as enduring as human beings' ability to view the same event in very different ways. The value of animal experimentation to human health and knowledge is not seriously in doubt. But past "scientific" beliefs—such as that animals cannot feel pain; that an animal rendered motionless by anesthesia cannot feel pain; and that higher animals such as dogs and primates cannot feel anxiety and fear—have been overturned by increased scientific understanding.


Resources

books

Orlans, F. Barbara. In the Name of Science: Issues in Responsible Animal Experimentation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Paton, William. Man and Mouse: Animals in Medical Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Rupke, Nicolaas A., ed. Vivisection in Historical Perspective. Kent, England: Croom Helm Ltd., 1987.

periodicals

Goodall, Jane. "A Plea for the Chimps." The New York Times Magazine (May 17, 1987): 108-120.

other

"The New Research Environment." Video recording. Washington, DC: The Foundation for Biomedical Research, in cooperation with the Association of American Medical Colleges and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1987.


Kenneth B. Chiacchia

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Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

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Notes:
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  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.