PCRM Opposes Animal Research
Scientific Technique Integral to Medical Progress
Animal research models have played an integral role in medical progress, including one of the earliest hormonal treatments for cancer. But the Cancer Project's parent organization, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)
, is opposed to the use of lab animals for any humane-life-saving purpose.
PCRM's official position paper on the subject reveals a pernicious enthusiasm to offer half-truths in support of an intellectually bankrupt position. For starters, the group claims 'the profound differences in anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry between humans and animals make animals poor models for humans.'
The numerous scientific advancements based on animal research include vaccines for the virus that causes liver cancer, drugs for breast and prostate cancer, and antibody therapies for adult leukemia and lymphoma. Medical miracles like these belie the claim that animals don't function as good models of human physiology. (For more extensive lists see here and here.)
Plus, virtually every major medical authority acknowledges the importance of animal experiments to the future of humanity. Here's what a few of them have to say:
- The American Cancer Society says: “The importance of using animals in research cannot be overstated. Research with animals has led to significant advances in medicine, including organ transplantation and vaccines for smallpox, polio, and hepatitis. The field of cancer research with animal models has produced successful cancer treatments for childhood leukemia. Further animal research is crucial for understanding the causes of cancer, developing and testing new drugs, studying new forms of treatment, and identifying ways to prevent cancer.”
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says animal research models have helped extend the average American life expectancy by 23.5 years.
- A 1996 survey of all living Nobel Laureates in Physiology and Medicine reported unanimous support for the propositions that “Animal experiments have been vital to the discovery and development of many advances in physiology and medicine” and “Animal experiments are still crucial to the investigation and development of many medical treatments.”
- The American Medical Association has, in the words of its vice-president, “formally censured” PCRM “for purposefully misrepresenting the critical role animals play in medical research.”
PCRM also claims that “today's technology offers many effective alternatives to animal dissection … including computer-generated animal models and dissection CD-ROMs, software, and simulators.”
This is simply wrong. Alternatives to animal research, like computer modeling and human population studies, are helpful but have significant limitations. As the Research Defence Society puts it:
There are stages in any research program when it is not enough to know how individual molecules, cells or tissues behave. The living body is much more than just a collection of these parts, and we need to understand how they interact, how they are controlled … For example, it is difficult to even imagine what range of test tube techniques or the complexity of computer systems would be necessary to mimic the amazing events that occur during the development and birth of a new baby. With present day technology, and even in the foreseeable future, this is simply not possible. By contrast, appropriate whole animal tests can detect potentially harmful effects of new treatments on fetal development and other events during pregnancy.