Science can not advance at the cost of the pain and agony of sentient beings. If saving a human life means killing a nonhuman being, then we need to move away from that model and towards a humane and effective medical research.
I am honored to be among the 77 scientists who joined forces with Animal Free Research UK, Safer Medicines Trust and the Alliance for Human Relevant Science to call for a change in regulation to enable medical research without the use of animals for all diseases. The open letter , a call to international regulatory bodies, was released on this Tuesday (July 14th, 2020) and it was published in The Guardian the same day.
An animal is someone, not something. Human and nonhuman animals are sentient beings. They are capable feel joy and to suffer physical and emotional pain. Can we then call a nonhuman animal a “person” ? I’d say so. A person is someone, not something. A person has the right to live in freedom and dignity. Not doing so will generate discrimination based on species, that is, speciesism. Discrimination wrongfully empowers morally ( and in many occasions, legally) the oppressor. Discrimination based on sex, IQ, race or species varies on the victim. The mechanism of slavery lies on tearing apart the dignity and freedom of someone, turning them into property, a something. Examples of modern slavery are sex trafficking, child labor and factory farming.
Philosopher Mary Midgley wrote a very nice essay on this subject “Persons and Non-persons“. It is important to reflect about the rationale of the judge.
Wrong educational model: It is appalling how junior medicine school students are “trained” to accept animal suffering as part of being a doctor or a scientist. Undergraduate students “learn” about acute mesenteric ischemia (AMI) with live animals, cutting them open, ligating the artery and then observing the evolution (slow and painful death). The physical and emotional pain that these sentient beings undergo can not be described. Being exposed to such horrendous actions won’t make the students better doctors. On the contrary. There is plenty of literature about AMI on humans that will result on a more relevant learning experience for the future health professional.
The macabre LD50: The term “Lethal Dose 50” is is used extensively in the the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. In toxicology, it represents the dose of a substance needed to kill 50% of the exposed population. Dogs, mice, rats, and many other animals are given the drug by different routes (orally, intravenously, intraperitoneal…). The survivors are too sick and end up being “euthanized”.
The cruel failure of science: Sadly, all that that suffering has been in vain. According to the Animals in Science Policy Institute, emerging evidence shows that 95% of drugs testing in animals fail at human clinical trial, and close to 100% Alzheimer’s drugs tested in animals fail when tested in humans
A daily holocaust: During WWII, Hitler’s doctors performed the most heinous experiments on humans, in the name of science. One of the doctors stood out from the rest. His name was Josef Mengele. He used children (had predilection for twins) . Mengele was called “the angel of death“. In addition to be in charged of sending the prisoners to the gas chamber, he conducted hundreds of experiments in children, killing them afterwards. One night, he killed 14 children by injecting chloroform into their hearts. I am bringing this topic because I want people to remember and never forger the atrocities done by the Nazis. In addition, it’s important to note that his sadistic methods don’t differ much from nonhuman animal experimentation carried out every single day around the world. I am convinced that animals conceive human beings as their Angels of death.
It is ironic that many would have trouble falling asleep thinking about the atrocities committed by Mengele, yet normalize the killing of millions of sentient beings that anticipate torture and suffering equally as those innocent gypsy children in Auschwitz concentration camp. All animals, human and non-human, shiver, cry, vomit and lose control of sphincters in response to emotional and physical stress. The question remains, why our governments perpetuate this holocaust.
Different species, different physiology: Different species have different physiology. That is part of the reason some clinical trials that may show promising results in non-human animals are a failure when tested in humans.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been shown that the expression of ACE2 receptors is different among rats and humans. In the open letter “A shift in focus is needed to tackle COVID-19” written this May by Animal Defenders International and co-signed by scientists and academics to the World Health Organization and other regulatory entities, they wrote:
[…] mice are one of the most commonly used species in drug and vaccine research. In addition to major differences between human and mouse respiratory systems, species differences specific to research for SARS-COV-2 include that mice do not naturally have the same receptors the virus uses to infect human cells. Researchers are now attempting to “humanize” mice to ensure they contract the virus. Such fundamental differences risk impeding the production of vaccines and other treatments to help prevent and reduce the symptoms of COVID-19 in people.
Humane and effective alternatives: We now know that animal experimentation is both cruel and ineffective as a research strategy. Traditional biomedical has failed to provide solutions for human related conditions and is now anachronistic. As a physician and computer scientist, I see the enormous benefit of applying computer models, artificial intelligence or computer vision as part of the new generation, state-of-the-art technology applied to biomedical research. Thanks to the GNU Health Federation, we are capable of building large, distributed networks that interconnect patients, physicians and researches around the globe to provide solutions in key areas of social medicine, cancer, bioinformatics and precision medicine.
Organizations such us Animal Free Research UK are leading medical research in the areas of diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative conditions by using cell cultures or amazing technologies like “organ-on-a-chip“.
There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, from the technological to the human aspects. These actions reflect how scientific communities, NGOs and citizens are coming together towards a humane, effective and human relevant medical research.
- Animal Free Research UK https://www.animalfreeresearchuk.org
- Safer Medicines Trust . https://safermedicines.org/
- Alliance for Human Relevant Science . https://www.humanrelevantscience.org/
- Animal Free Research UK. “A call to accelerate human focussed medical research” . https://www.animalfreeresearchuk.org/openletter/
- Mary Midgley – “Persons and non-persons” http://www.animal-rights-library.com/texts-m/midgley01.htm
- Animals in Science Policy Institute. “Animals in testing” . – https://www.animalsinscience.org/why_we_do_it/animals-in-testing/
- Lifton – “What made this man? Mengele” – http://academics.wellesley.edu/Polisci/wj/100/mengle.htm
- Animal Defenders International – https://www.ad-international.org
- AD International – “A shift in focus is needed to tackle COVID-19” .- https://www.ad-international.org/admin/downloads/adi_aa465255de851a533279bf8e1b053287.pdf
- GNU Health – https://www.gnuhealth.org
- Animal Free Research UK .- “Organ-on-a-chip” – http://www.animalfreeresearchuk.org/organ-on-a-chip/