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News release

Uncaged condemns 'extreme and misleading' pro-animal testing declaration

Guinea pigUncaged today has dismissed a statement by pro-animal research scientists as an 'extreme and misleading' PR stunt. Their assertions regarding the supposed necessity of animal research to medicine, the 'humane' nature of animal experiments and its 'strict' regulation are unfounded and designed to defend the status quo in animal testing. The statement has been organised by the drug industry-funded lobby group, the Research Defence Society (RDS).

Uncaged has branded as 'absurd' the RDS claim that there would be no medical progress were it not for animal experimentation. (1) This claim has already been criticised by the recent Nuffield Bioethics Council report on animal experiments. (2) These extreme and unsustainable assertions how the lengths that animal research interests will go to mislead the public over this cruel practice. In fact, there has been no independent inquiry into the scientific validity of animal experimentation. On the contrary, a recent academic review of animal research casts doubt on its relevance to human medicine. (3) This compounds the widely acknowledged issue of species differences which prevents reliable extrapolation of animal test data to the human situation.

The traditional support for animal experimentation within the scientific establishment and drug industry stems from professional arrogance and self-interest, and the financial demands of the pharmaceutical industry. Animal research became entrenched during a period when researchers were keen to assert their professional autonomy from democratic oversight. Animal experiments provide a simplistic methodology for testing hypotheses in laboratory situations - they are an academic convenience that bears no direct comparison to the complex reality of human health and disease.

More recently, animal testing has served the economic demands of the pharmaceutical industry, as protocols can be manipulated to help generate the data necessary to the marketing of drugs. The Vioxx controversy is the latest in a constant flow of scandals on the part of drug companies, and it reveals their willingness to sacrifice human welfare for the sake of profits. Therefore, claims of humane motivation by the drug industry and their associates in academic research lack credibility. In the Vioxx case, the animal testing failed to warn of the cardiovascular effects that have prompted the current furore. Indeed, several animal studies suggested the drugs would actually reduce the risk of such side-effects. (4)

The RDS also claims that there is no scientific opposition to animal experimentation. However, a recent poll has demonstrated medical widespread scepticism regarding the reliability of animal research, and anecdotal evidence suggests that many doctors and researchers are afraid to speak out against the entrenched pro-animal research position for fear of damaging their career prospects.

The Declaration also makes a series of claims related to animal welfare, ethics and regulation. But the fact of the matter is that animal welfare is a strictly secondary consideration to the careerist and economic priorities of animal researchers. The cost-benefit assessment of animal research proposals that is at the heart of British legislation is endorsed by the Declaration. However, in reality the assessment is operated in such a way that the self-interest of scientists and industry routinely outweighs the most vital interests of animals to a life free from pain, suffering and distress. Even research groups not opposed to animal experimentation recognise that in relation to the cost-benefit assessment:

'Where there has been doubt, the benefit of that doubt has overwhelmingly been given to science and/or commercial interests at the expense of animals. We would question whether this is inconsistent with the aims and objectives of the Act.' (5)

Furthermore, the statement's claims of a desire to move away from animal experimentation through 'alternative methods' are not borne in the practice of animal researchers. Once again, even vigorous supporters of animal experiments, such as Dr Ian Gibson MP, acknowledge this situation:

'However, I know from practical experience that although we say that we look for alternatives before we approve research, it is half-hearted. It is not a full-fledged development of new computational techniques, tissue culture experiments and so on.' (6)

The Declaration goes on to claim that UK regulation is the strictest in the world and calls for adherence to such regulations. However, as discussed above, such statements act as a smokescreen for the constant insider lobbying by animal research interests designed to weaken and evade regulatory control. Drug companies have consistently blackmailed the Government by threatening to move jobs and investment out of Britain in order to prevent enforcement of regulations, a tactic they have recently adopted in Sweden. (7) Yet again, a more moderate research organisation has pointed out that the RDS's true attitude to regulatory scrutiny does not match its public statements. (8)

Dan Lyons, Uncaged Campaigns Director, comments:

"Our own experience of trying to publish leaked details of animal experimentation has taught us the lengths to which animal researchers will go to prevent openness and accountability, contrary to the impression they give in this latest PR stunt. When researchers can, with impunity, leave monkeys in the kind of state illustrated by these study notes:

  • 'Appears to be in discomfort/clinging to front of cage, head back, no response to external stimuli, shallow breathing/slow respiration rate, weak, salivating, enlarged abdomen, discoloured gums' (9) ; or

  • 'Collapsed on cage floor, appears weak and unable to get up, breathing shallow and rapid, salivating, heavy-lidded eyes, body and limb tremors' (10)

then their claims of "humane animal research" and "strict regulation" are frankly offensive."


  1. For example, see the comment by Dr Robin Lovell-Badge at www.rds-net.org.uk/pages/news.asp?i_PageID=1964&i_ToolbarID=6
  2. 'It is sometimes assumed that to end animal research would be to end scientific and medical progress, but such generalisation is unhelpful.' Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2005) The ethics of research involving animals: xviii. See Uncaged's commentary.
  3. Pound et al., "Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans", BMJ 2004; 328: 514-517.
  4. Matthews, R. (2005) 'Of mice, men and medical concern'. Financial Times, 4th March 2005.
  5. Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (1996), 'Editorial', ATLA 24: 640.
  6. Hansard, 9 Sept 2004 : Column 329WH
  7. www.guardian.co.uk/animalrights/story/0,11917,1550508,00.html
  8. Combes, R. (1999) 'Editorial', ATLA 27: 309.
  9. Monkey Y239m in study IAN004.
  10. Monkey Y242f in study IAN013.

Uncaged Campaigns 24.08.05


Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.