This year World Day for Animals in Laboratories is 40 years old. The day was founded by the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) in 1979. Throughout the 1980s there were demonstrations and protests to mark World Day by anti-vivisection organizations in the UK and overseas. Among the targets were the Ministry of Defence’s Porton Down laboratory, Cambridge University and Shamrock Farm primate breeder.
In 1987 Oxford University was chosen by Animal Aid as the target for its Blinded by Science campaign and nearly 3000 people held a march and rally. The target was sight deprivation experiments carried out by Colin Blakemore including sewing up the eyes of monkeys and keeping kittens in the dark.
Ten years later in 1997 hundreds took part in the World Day Oxford Liberation Tour - marching around the city centre, then converging on the homes of Blakemore and the head of physiology. The City’s main museums, all the science departments and the science library closed for the day.
One of the main campaigns of the late nineties targeted Hillgrove Farm in Witney, Oxfordshire. When a five mile exclusion zone was thrown around the laboratory cat breeder, national demos went ahead instead in Oxford, against the University’s department of psychology which used cats from Hillgrove, causing traffic chaos. Hillgrove closed down in 1999.
In 2004, Speak – the Voice for the Animals was founded to a new animal research facility being built by Oxford University. Protests were held regularly, including for World Day, and construction of the new facility ground to a halt for 16 months. It eventually opened in November 2008 but the Speak campaign went on and in 2013 World Day returned to Oxford for a noisy march against animal experiments there.
Animal Justice Project
Each year inside British laboratories, almost 4 million animals are forcibly experimented on. Every 8 seconds, one animal dies.
Included are experiments on more than 600,000 animals which were categorised by researchers as causing “MODERATE” or “SEVERE” suffering.
Objections to animal experiments fall into two categories, moral objections and scientific objections.
We have no right. Animals are not ours to do with as we please.
The extremity of the suffering. Vivisection puts feeling creatures through about as much suffering as it is possible to put a feeling creature through, from surgical procedures without anaesthetic to drownings, from electric shocks to foreign object implants.
Consistency. It's now (since 1998) illegal to vivisect gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos in the UK. If it's wrong to forcibly compel a chimpanzee to undergo painful experiments, then it's wrong to forcibly compel a mouse to.
The public is increasingly against it (especially the younger generation).
For example, according to Ipsos Mori, a clear majority of under 21s they surveyed responded that 'Experimenting on animals is always morally wrong'
Malpractice and failing regulation. Undercover investigations have revealed appalling breaches in what little protection exists in vivisection laboratories.
For example, workers at HLS (one of the biggest contract test laboratories in the UK) were filmed punching beagle puppies in the face. As another example, workers at the Royal College of Surgeons found it amusing to tattoo the word "crap" on a monkeys forehead (for this breach the laboratory was fined a mere 250 pounds and even this was subsequently overturned on appeal).
It is not just the animals that suffer and die in the laboratories. Millions are additionally killed every year in squalid breeding facilities and as "surplus stock".
Violence leads to violence. People who train themselves to "not be squeamish" about inflicting extreme suffering on animals, are capable of anything. This can only be detrimental to society's moral progress.
Reliability. A research methodology must be reliably predictive, not just occasionally right.
Animals are poor model for humans.
Paracetamol is toxic to cats.
Chocolate is toxic to dogs.
Penicillin is toxic to guinea pigs.
Chimpanzees (one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom) are essentially immune to AIDS, malaria and hepatitis B.
Learning about the wrong diseases. For example, we are wasting resources studying (artificially created) mouse cancer instead of human cancer. Data from mouse cancer studies has proven itself not reliably predictive of human response.
Life saving human cures may have been thrown away because they failed animal tests (for example we nearly lost the useful cancer drugs Gleevec and Tamoxifen in this manner).
Testing on animals does not safely screen drugs that are harmful to humans.
Examples include Vioxx (which caused heart attacks and strokes), Thalidomide (which caused birth defects) and TGN 1412 (which caused multiple organ failure!). In fact 9 out of 10 drugs tested safe on animals prove harmful to humans.
Decades of cruel animal experimentation has glaringly FAILED to find cures for the most feared human diseases like cancer, aids and alzheimers.
More reliable alternatives exist. These include cell and tissue studies, computer modelling, micro-dosing and autopsies.
This year World Day for Animals in Laboratories (WDAIL) returns to Oxford University, notorious for its use of animals in cruel and unreliable experiments.
In 2015 alone Oxford carried out experiments on 226,194 animals, the highest number of any university in the UK. animaljusticeproject.com/million-lives
By 2017 this had increased by over 10,000. According to the Oxford Mail: “More than 236,000 animals from at least 12 species were used in ‘procedures’ in 2017. Of those, 2,202 were used in ‘severe’ procedures. In 2017, 35,777 mice, rats, frogs and zebrafish died before being used in procedures, despite being bred for that purpose, according to the university. However, the university did not clarify how many animals died due to testing.”
Oxford has gained an unenviable reputation for carrying out some of the most appalling experiments in the name of science. Due to its international standing it’s in the forefront of research and as a result millions of animals including monkeys, cats, dogs, rabbits, mice, rats, guinea pigs, fish and other animals have suffered torture and death.
Some of the most notorious research has been psychological experiments on monkeys. In one example the Department of Experimental Psychology investigated the effects of brain damage on the social behaviour of nine macaque monkeys.
The monkeys were divided into three groups – each having different parts of their brains surgically damaged. Once the animals had regained consciousness, they were studied to see how they responded to various threatening situations. This included being exposed to rubber snakes and the stares of unfamiliar human faces.
Similar previous experiments conducted by the same researchers had shown that the greater the brain damage, the less sociable the monkeys became. The team did not reveal the fate of the monkeys after the experiment and the researchers made a tacit admission about the lack of relevance of their own research. They said the equivalent tests given to human subjects (for which non-invasive scanning equipment was used) were considerably more complex than those possible in monkeys.
Rudebeck M, Buckley MJ, Walton ME, Rushworth MFS.
Science 2006; 313:1310-1312. ‘A role for the macaque anterior cingulate gyrus in social valuation.
In another experiment, two male macaque monkeys had electrodes inserted into their heads, were restrained in “primate chairs” to restrict their movement and then subjected to a series of images up to 67 times, while others were brain damaged to make them “indecisive” and yet more set thousands of tasks while confined in small individual cages in front of a computer screen before and after different parts of the visual cortex of their brains were removed.