When Challenged Vivisectors Couldn't Name One Patient Whose Life Had Been Saved By Animal Experiments

Proof that animal experiments don't save lives

It's now official: vivisection is a barbaric waste of time, of no value whatsoever to human beings.

Some years ago I issued a simple but crucial challenge to vivisectors on this website.

The challenge was widely publicised and was very simple. I challenged vivisectors - and those who support vivisection - to find ONE patient whose life had been saved as a direct result of animal experimentation - and whom they could prove would now be dead if it had not been for animal experiments.

They couldn't.

Despite a desperate search, vivisectors and their supporters have failed to find one patient, anywhere in the world, whose life has been saved by animal experiments.

I am not in the slightest surprised.

But this truly must now be the end of the vivisectors' wicked pretence that what they do is of value to medicine, doctors and patients.

For years vivisectors and their supporters have claimed that they have to keep torturing and killing animals to save human lives.

For years vivisectors have claimed that they want to debate the issue on scientific and medical grounds.

This was their big chance to prove their point.

When I issued the challenge I told vivisectors that if they met the challenge successfully those of us who oppose vivisection would, in the future, have to rely on moral and ethical arguments.

But I also pointed out that if vivisectors could not meet this challenge they would lose any remaining credibility.

Well, they've lost.

And the anti-vivisectionists have won.

This is a complete and utter humiliation for vivisectors.

The argument is now officially over.

It is now official that vivisection is a cruel fraud - done solely for money and kudos.

Vivisection has nothing whatsoever to do with people or health.

Remember that next time you hear a scientist claiming that vivisection helps people.

This seems a good point to deal with a number of letters on vivisection.

My mail always contains a vast selection of letters from VCHL readers who want vivisection stopped. But I've also had letters from readers expressing the other point of view.

Some argue that attempts to bring animal experimentation to an end are doomed because animal experiments are regarded as essential by the law and, indeed, by the medical profession's own requirements.

In fact there are no laws in the UK requiring drug companies (or anyone else) to perform animal experiments (see my book `Fighting for Animals' for the evidence - including official ministerial confirmation). The World Medical Association's Declaration of Helsinki (on recommendations guiding physicians in biomedical research in human subjects) was officially amended in 2000 and laboratory procedures on animals are no longer recommended as essential before studies in humans are conducted.

Animal experiments are conducted only because they enable drug companies to launch new products on the market without proper clinical testing. And people as well as animals suffer because of animal experiments.

I have also received a considerable amount of mail from readers arguing that people who are opposed to animal experiments shouldn't take drugs which had been tested on animals.

This is a nonsense (though, sadly, I know of a number of people who have refused life-saving treatment because of this rather callous and inaccurate argument). There is no drug on the market which would not have been produced just as speedily (and in most cases more speedily) without animal experiments.

I've also had letters (including quite a few from some very eminent doctors) claiming that the majority of doctors approve of animal experiments.

A few years ago I conducted what was, and probably still is, the biggest ever survey of doctors on this subject.

* 88% of doctors agreed that laboratory experiments performed on animals can be misleading because of anatomical and physiological differences between animals and humans.

* 69% of doctors agreed that too many experiments on animals are performed.

* 51% of doctors agreed that patients would suffer fewer side effects if new drugs were tested more extensively on human cell and tissue cultures.

* 81% of doctors would like to see scientists trying harder to find alternatives to animals for testing drugs and cosmetics.

Finally, a reader who is a former cardio thoracic surgeon argues that without animal experiments cardiac surgery, particularly open heart surgery, would not have been developed and established.

The basic claim is that by chopping up animals (usually dogs or monkeys) surgeons can learn and experiment with techniques which will help them when they do experiments on people. History suggests otherwise. Two thousand years ago a Greek surgeon called Galen based his writings and lectures on experiments he conducted on pigs. At the time surgeons were not allowed to chop up dead human bodies and so Galen's work was all that was available. It is, however, now generally agreed among medical historians that Galen's work held back medical progress for several hundred years until religious restrictions were withdrawn and doctors were allowed to cut up human cadavers. Only then did doctors discover that there are significant differences between the anatomy of the pig and the anatomy of a human.

Open heart surgery long pre-dates the often mistakenly credited animal experiments. In my book `The Story of Medicine' I reported that the first open heart operation was performed by Professor Rehn of Frankfurt, who successfully repaired a right ventricular stab wound in 1896. In the scientific paper which announced the success of his operative procedure Rehn explained that he was forced to operate by the fact that his patient was bleeding to death after being stabbed between the ribs with a kitchen knife. Just two years later (1898) doctors were proposing to operate on the mitral valve in order to restore cardiac function. These experiments were performed on real live human patients who would have died if surgery had not been attempted.

Transplant operations have certainly been done on a wide range of animals (hearts, kidneys and even heads have been transplanted by enthusiastic experimenters) but these experiments have constantly misled pioneering surgeons rather than helped them.

If you look at the results obtained after surgeons began performing heart transplant operations you can easily see that for the first few months the mortality rate has invariably been horrendously high. Then, steadily, the mortality rate begins to fall a little as the surgeons gain more experience of human hearts. What is clear from the figures is that the first human patients are the real guinea pigs. The experiments on animals are of no practical value. The real problems occur after surgery has been performed and involve organ rejection and injection - problems which animal experiments do not help doctors overcome. In the early days of heart transplantation, over a nine year period, approximately four hundred heart transplant operations were carried out on dogs but the first human patients died because of complications which had not arisen in the animal experiments. As usual differences in anatomy and physiology mean that the results obtained from animal experiments cannot be used to help surgeons operating on people.

In a way all this misses the point, of course. Animal researchers may claim that their work helps transplant surgeons. But it is no coincidence that Britain, which has for years led the world in transplant surgery, has one of the highest death rates from heart disease in the world. Most cases of heart disease can (and could and should) be prevented.

And, as I have reported in numerous books, work done in the US has shown that heart disease is most effectively treated without drugs or surgery. A simple curative programme (based on diet, exercise and stress control) has proved to be the safest, most effective and most economical way to reverse existing heart disease.

The real bottom line is stark: no animal experiment has ever saved a human life. But animal experiments have led to many human deaths.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2003