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Animal experiments have long been criticized - especially because countless animals are exposed to suffering to a great extent. However, it is less well known that many scientists and doctors also reject experiments on live animals - not only for ethical reasons, but also for medical and scientific reasons. They think this method is wrong because it would have dangerous consequences to transfer animal test results to humans.
Dr. Utz Anhalt interviewed leading members of the "Doctors Against Animal Experiments" who are calling for an end to animal experiments because these animals caused unnecessary suffering and at the same time had no value for scientific knowledge and medical practices in humans.
Can you tell us something about "The Doctors Against Animal Experiments". When and why this organization was founded. What are the goals? What have you achieved so far? "
The Association of Doctors Against Animal Experiments was founded in 1979 by neurologists Margot and Herbert Stiller, ophthalmologist Reinhold Braun and like-minded colleagues in Hamburg, as they recognized that animal experiments are profoundly unethical and the results from animal experiments are of no value due to the considerable differences between humans and animals have.
Under the motto "Medical progress is important - animal experiments are the wrong way!", The association has since campaigned for a general abolition of animal experiments, since these have to be rejected for ethical, medical and scientific reasons.
The Association of Doctors Against Animal Experiments plays an important role within the animal experiment opponents and animal rights movement in the development and provision of scientifically based arguments against animal experiments, in the research of background information from animal experiment-based research, as well as in information on the state of development of animal experiment-free methods.
The goal of the association Ärzte gegen Tierversuche e.V. is the abolition of all animal experiments.
A particularly important success of our educational work, which has been ongoing for 36 years with Information booths, campaigns, signature campaigns, press releases, is that animal testing has become a public issue with increasing media presence, that political pressure has been created, and that non-animal research is being promoted.
The association has maintained an Internet database since the mid-1990s, in which several thousand animal studies have been recorded and are comprehensibly described by laypeople in order to give an impression of the cruelty and absurdity of animal experiments.
With our Eastern Europe project, we are already providing 55 institutes in 5 countries of the former Soviet Union with non-animal teaching materials. As a result, they forego the numerous animal experiments that have been used in student training so far. This saved 38,000 vertebrates (dogs, cats, rabbits, rats and frogs) and 15,000 invertebrates each year from suffering and dying in animal experiments.
Thanks to the "Stop botox animal experiments" campaign that we initiated, together with our partners in the "European Coalition to End Animal Experiments" (ECEAE), the pressure to build up was so great that two manufacturers of the neurotoxin botulinum toxin (botox for short) have meanwhile developed a recognized cell culture -Test method. We will continue this campaign until the other companies switch as well.
Also in cooperation with the ECEAE we were able to prevent with our REACH project that repeated toxicity studies were repeated. At least 18,000 rats, mice, rabbits and fish escaped an agonizing death.
On our extremely informative and constantly updated homepage, interested laypersons and scientists find access to well-founded and knowledgeable information on the subject of animal experiments.
"Doctors against animal experiments" already says in the name that it is a scientifically based criticism. The idea that opponents of animal experiments are emotionally motivated often circulates in public, while scientists and doctors consider animal experiments necessary. While animal testing for the military and cosmetics is widely rejected, many animal testing sees it as necessary for science. But you also have serious medical and scientific criticism of this practice. Which?
Our association "Doctors Against Animal Experiments" expressly rejects animal experiments for ethical, medical and scientific reasons. The medical and scientific criticism of animal experiments is based on a large number of arguments.
Human diseases cannot be investigated by experimenting on living organisms of another species, since even with species that are closely related to humans, there are serious differences in anatomy and physiology. We now know that it is not the individual gene that is important, but its regulation determines what it does in an organism. To give an example: monkeys, which as our closest relatives in the animal kingdom have a high degree of genetic correspondence with humans, show clear differences among other things. with regard to immunological reactions, and fatal to fatal incidents have repeatedly occurred in the clinical trial of medicinal products that were considered safe and effective when tested on monkeys.
Human diseases cannot be modeled in animals. The primarily healthy young animals are artificially damaged by diseases, mostly diseases that are foreign to the species and whose complex mechanisms of origin and processes in the human organism cannot be reproduced in an “animal model”.
The (never species-appropriate) keeping conditions in the laboratory mean enormous stress for the animals. In addition, there are stress reactions due to experimental manipulations such as touching them alone and painful procedures, which also falsifies the research results.
The results from animal research speak for themselves. 95% of the drugs tested in animal experiments fail in clinical trials, i.e. when they are first tested on humans, because of serious side effects or ineffectiveness. Of the 5% of the approved drugs, a fifth is withdrawn from the market after years of use due to serious complications (e.g. Vioxx, Lipobay, Acomplia and many more). Due to drug side effects, 58,000 people die in Germany every year and 210,000 have to be treated in hospital. Drug side effects have become the third leading cause of death.
Animal experiments have so far neither succeeded in finding out the causes of “common diseases” such as cancer, Parkinson's disease, rheumatic diseases, depression, dementia, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, migraines etc., nor have they been reliably cured.
Vivisection, the cutting of animals alive, has a tradition in Europe in particular in Cartesian thinking. Rene Descartes shaped the dualism of material body and immaterial soul in modern times; the body should work like a machine. The animal's cries of pain were nothing more than reactions of a soulless machine. This dualism is fundamentally wrong, as evidenced by biological research. Feelings and thoughts arise in the brain, messenger substances carry this information, endorphin provides happiness, etc. Nevertheless, this essentially Catholic thinking shaped Western science. Does this also apply to today's representatives of "necessary" animal experiments?
The researchers who conduct experiments on animals in most cases postulate their alleged necessity and justify it with the - clearly refutable - benefit for humans.
It is difficult to say to what extent these researchers feel compelled to give a philosophically justified justification or waste thoughts on an ethics of their actions.
How they deal with the perception that the animals are obviously capable of suffering and that they deliberately cause them suffering cannot be answered.
What is certain, however, is that animal research-based research is an enormous economic factor and that it promotes careers in academia, especially since the German Research Foundation predominantly approves funds for animal experiment research.
4) What exactly is animal testing? If I drip acid into a rabbit's eyes to see how risky a cosmetic product is, it is obviously torture. Is it also reprehensible to let rats search for the exit in a labyrinth?
Animal experiments are defined according to § 7 of the Animal Welfare Act as interventions or treatments for experimental or training purposes on animals if they can be associated with pain, suffering or damage for these animals and on the genetic makeup of animals if they cause pain, suffering or damage for the animals genetically modified animals or their carrier animals can be connected.
The concept of reprehensibility is a somewhat coquettish approach to the facts. Even if the mentioned, completely senseless and inconclusive labyrinth experiments on rats seem relatively “harmless”, the animals are exposed to considerable posture and experimental stress and they are killed after the experiments as well as almost all “experimental” animals .
There is, however, a degree within animal experiments, the so-called degree of severity. The EU directive stipulates that the degree of suffering inflicted on an animal in the context of an animal experiment is assigned to one of four degrees of severity. This is assessed in the application for approval for a planned animal experiment by the performing experimenter - and usually trivialized.
The ban in the EU directive on tests of severity "difficult" is not implemented in Germany. This means attempts at the severity level “difficult” such as - to name just a few examples -
- administering electric shocks
- Poisoning death
- radiation with fatal consequences
- Death from graft rejection
- Bone tumors and metastatic tumors
- Unstable fractures
- Septic multi-organ failure
may continue to be carried out in Germany.
Since February 2016, our association has been running a campaign together with two other animal rights organizations with the aim that Germany should implement the EU's prohibition of animal tests of severity "difficult".
Today's medicine is based on the patient as an individual. For example, if someone suffers from a mental disorder such as Borderline Syndrome, genetic dispositions also play a role, as does their biographical experience and social environment. So there is no ideal therapeutic model; the therapy has to be tailored much more precisely to these people. Does this contradict animal experiments, which are based on an animal model?
The absurdity of animal experiments is particularly evident in the "animal models" used in the research of mental illnesses. In the field of depression research, for example, all methods have in common that by adding physical stress to the animal in the most cruel way a state is created which the experimenter calls depression, which is then to be “cured” by administering an antidepressant.
For example, in the “forced swimming test”, mice and rats have to swim to the point of exhaustion in a water container with smooth, straight walls and are considered depressed when given up early.
In another experiment, mice are placed on a grid that is under current in phases and if at some point they no longer jump up due to electric shocks but suffer these defenselessly, they are considered depressed.
In the tail suspension test, rats are hung on the tail by means of adhesive strips and if they no longer rear up but hang, they are considered depressed.
To create a so-called depression, rats and mice are immersed in cold water, locked in tight plexiglass cylinders for six hours a day for weeks, they have to go hungry and thirsty, are tortured with strobe lights, loud noises, sleep deprivation and extreme temperature fluctuations.
Depressive episodes of humans, in addition to the dispositions mentioned, are rarely triggered by physical, but by psychological stress. How do you want to model the symptoms typical of depression in animals, from inner emptiness, joylessness, feelings of guilt, disappointment to suicidality? Especially since linguistic communication is indispensable for evaluating the symptoms. There is definitely no “animal model” that can represent mental illnesses such as borderline disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, schizophrenia etc. in their complexity and individual expression.
6) People react to medication in very different ways. The human brain is a social organ and unimaginably complex. Each species is also a complex biological system, but a different one. Can forecasts be derived from animal experiments at all?
No, this is impossible. Because of the aspects mentioned in point 5), among other things, results from animal experiments cannot be transferred to humans.
The completely unsatisfactory results in the field of psychopharmaceutical research are blamed even by researchers who have previously relied on animal experiments to stick to animal experiment tests and there is a shift towards what is known as personalized medicine, which is based on the characteristics of a person to be treated and not only supports their disease diagnosis.
Brain researcher Wolf Singer, however, believes that basic research findings can be transferred to humans because the biological processes in animals and humans are extremely similar. What would you say to that?
Like all experimenters of basic research, which is meaningless and purposeless, Wolf Singer is guilty of proving his claims.
A follow-up examination of the results from 15 years of basic research in Bavaria showed that not a single result has led to a therapeutic procedure for humans.
In Germany alone, around 1.2 million of the 2.8 million animals in total are tortured and killed each year.
Animal experiments are an integral part of studying veterinary medicine, and biologists and medical doctors are also faced with the question of participating. Is it a scientist's challenge to reject animal testing?
The founders of the association "Doctors Against Animal Experiments", Margot and Herbert Stiller, suffered from severe verbal attacks up to the point of murder. Flat-rate denigration of opponents of animal experiments by animal experimenters is still the order of the day.
Already in the first semesters of studying medicine, veterinary medicine and biology, students at many German universities are still "brought in line". So-called "animal-consuming" exercises are pending. If you refuse to participate, you will not get your certificate and cannot continue studying. The fear of bad grades or even having to give up studying forces many students to act against their conscience. Anyone who has made it through their studies despite the desired conditioning of young scientists and who still refuses to experiment on animals and wants to do research without them, must also face restrictions in their further professional careers.
However, emerging career-free research is opening up new career opportunities.
Wolf Singer justifies animal experiments by saying that the alternative is to experiment on people. But that would be ethically impossible. And tissue cultures were not suitable for studying the function of organs. What do you reply to this statement?
Precisely because of the lack of transferability of the knowledge obtained in animal experiments to humans, this becomes an experimental object with an unpredictable risk to life and limb!
The multitude of methods developed in the meantime for animal-free research are very well suited for the study of organ functions.
If you use human cells and tissues that z. For example, in the case of operations as “waste”, there is no problem of portability.
What is the use of gaining knowledge about organ functions, if they are organs of the wrong species?
The abolition of animal testing as a not only deeply unethical, but also completely unsuitable concept of biomedical research is not only a contribution to animal welfare, but ultimately a contribution to improving the safety and effectiveness of medicinal products and thus to protecting patients.
What would be the alternative to animal testing?
Despite very little financial support and cumbersome long-term approval procedures, a large number of research methods without animal testing could be developed.
- Cell cultures with human cells
- Research on induced pluripotent cells
- Biochips (microorganoids), in which only a few living human cells are applied in the smallest space, which depict and simulate the function of organs in an organ-typical three-dimensional arrangement
- Human blood cells and antibodies from bacterial phages
- Chromatographic procedures
- Computer models (QSAR) which are used to calculate the likely effect based on the molecular structure of a substance
- Imaging procedures such as functional magnetic resonance imaging
- Simulators for practicing surgical procedures
- Epidemiological studies
- Clinical studies based on careful, scientifically-based observation of patients under therapy by their treating physicians. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)