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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Is the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research Still Necessary in 2002? Unfortunately, “Yes”

Michael F.W. Festing

The use of laboratory animals in the year 2002 is essential both to maintain human health and to develop new treatments for the many diseases that still plague humans. The suggestion by Greek and Greek in Sacred Cows and Golden Geese in 2000, that animal experiments are invalid because animals are different from humans, shows clearly that they do not understand the philosophical basis for the use of models in science and every day life. Models only need to resemble the thing being modelled (the target) in a few key respects. A map of Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a useful model, but it differs from the garden in many respects. There are many examples where studies on animals and in vitro alternatives result in accurate predictions of human responses even though the models differ from humans in other ways. In the drug development model, validation is done in clinical trials. Models are also used in the discovery of fundamental processes shared by some, or all, living organisms. The laws of genetics were first discovered by using garden peas, but they are equally applicable to humans. It is because of the ethical, rather than scientific, objections to the use of animals that all scientists are urged to find alternatives according to the principles of reduction, refinement and replacement, laid down by Russell and Burch in 1959.