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Animal Experimentation



By Nir Shalev




Meet the Animals

Categories of Experimentation

The Opposition to Experimentation

"for" Animals

Medical Experimentation
& Use

Military Experimentation

Educational Use

Israel's Complicity

Products & Charities





Primate Experiment
   in Jerusalem


Examples of Experiments
   in Israel

The term vivisection comes from the Latin words "vivus," meaning "alive," and "section," meaning "cutting." Today, it is used to refer to any experiment on live animals, whether or not cutting is involved. Vivisection is the most controversial of all animal-related issues. Whether you agree or disagree with the use of animals in medical experiments, it is important to understand what animal experimentation entails, what the alternatives are, and why the biomedical establishment in Israel and elsewhere resists reforming existing practices.


Approximately 500,000 animals are used in experiments in Israeli laboratories every year. Most, if not all, of these animals suffer considerable pain or distress. The mere fact of being in a laboratory instead of in their native habitat causes animals stress and suffering.


Those who oppose animal experiments on ethical grounds say that because animals feel pain and suffering, we have a moral obligation to refrain from deliberately harming them. The only permissible experiment is one designed to help the individual animal on whom the experiment is conducted.


Those who oppose animal experimentation on scientific grounds say it is just bad science. Biological differences between species and the stress of being in a laboratory render the results of experiments inaccurate.


Animals are complex biological systems made up of many different subsystems (respiratory and circulatory, for example) that interact with one another. Small differences between one species and another result in major differences in how each species shows signs of illness, reacts to drugs, and responds to different therapies.


For example, rodents are often less sensitive to cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) than humans, so in tests on rodents to identify which substances cause cancer in people, researchers use very high doses. But by increasing the dosage, they introduce a new, uncontrolled element. High doses can, by themselves, either mask a carcinogenic effect by producing other types of toxicity, or they can produce false-positive results that is, branding non-carcinogens as cancer-causing substances. (The false positives can be caused by the high dosages overwhelming the animal's natural tissue-repair mechanisms.) Therefore, the results of the standard rodent carcinogenicity test, conducted on millions of rats and mice every year, are impossible to interpret, let alone to extrapolate to man.


Many research methods exist that do not include animal experiments. Non-harmful clinical research on humans is the most accurate way to study diseases and to explore their causes and possible treatments.  In vitro ("in glass," outside the body) cell and tissue cultures provide a powerful tool for the study of physiological and pathological (disease-producing) phenomena at the molecular level, and they can also be used to screen for the toxic, as well as beneficial, effects of drugs. Advanced imaging systems like PET scans and MRIs allow researchers to study the human brain in action without harming the patient or volunteer. Software and other sophisticated tools provide an alternative to the traditional use of animals in education, both in high schools and universities.


Despite the inherent scientific and ethical problems associated with animal experimentation and the availability of non-animal alternatives, use of animals for experimental purposes is strongly entrenched. In Israel, the powerful biomedical establishment has managed to defeat any attempt at meaningful reform.