Animal Testing Was Never That Reliable, but Now It’s Pointless Too

Kate Harveston

Kate Harveston is originally from Williamsport, PA and holds a bachelor's degree in English. She enjoys writing about health and social justice issues. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found curled up reading dystopian fiction or hiking and searching for inspiration. If you like her writing, follow her blog, So Well, So Woman.

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7 Responses

  1. DavidTC says:

    According to some scientists, fewer than half of every 100 research projects involving animals result in publishable findings. Of those, a further half contain fatal errors in method or documentation, meaning the funding and the scientists’ time was wasted with carelessness.

    Uh, isn’t that true of _all_ science?

    In fact, those percentages of ‘good results’ seem way too high for me, the idea that half of all animal testing results in publishable results sounds completely impossible to me, and science is in the middle of a replication crisis that means if half of the published results gotten via animal testing are reproducable, then it’s doing pretty damn well.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to DavidTC says:

      Then there’s negative effects — say, a drug that turns out causes cancer, or liver failure, or heart issues in animals during testing — and thus never causes that to humans, because it’s dropped or sent back for further research.Report

    • Brent F in reply to DavidTC says:


      This statement fails hard in terms of comparing animal testing to viable alternatives rather than an imagined ideal. Therefore its not making proper accounting of costs and benefits.
      The flaws in research cited would likely be in place in any availible research method. The benefits of animal research models are considerable including

      1. Generally more cost effective than alternatives, particularly in the past.
      2. Can simulate the response of an entire organism rather than an isolated part of one.
      3. Mammals are pretty similar to each other on a physiological and molecular level, so using them to simulate humans is generally pretty effective. It doesn’t work perfectly, which leads to the discrepancies the noted above. However,but no model works perfectly and by the same token, human cells in culture act somewhat differently from human cells in a body which produces analgous problems translating findings from one to the other.

      Its not like the issues with biomedical animal testing aren’t apparent to the people doing the testing, they know them better than anyone. Its used because the experts on the matter have done cost benefit analysis on the subject and concluded the benefits outweigh the costs. They also generally have to generate annoying amounts of paperwork to explain that in order to get permission from arm-length bodies in order to get permission to do the work they want to do.Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    Your case for ‘fraud’ is laughable. There was no grand fraud. Animal testing was never a fraud, it was merely the best option available short of testing on actual people from the word go.

    Is it a good thing that we can start phasing out animal testing? Absolutely. It’s OK to recognize that the old way should pass into history when better ways become available, without trying to associate it to criminal behavior.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Your case for ‘fraud’ is laughable. There was no grand fraud.

      I disagree. I think scientists _should_ sue animals for the time and effort they’ve wasted testing on them. Animals have clearly misrepresented their usefulness in testing.

      I’m not really sure _how_ they’d sue animals, but I think the scientific community has a valid legal complaint against them.Report

  3. Mike Siegel says:

    Yeah, I’m not necessarily seeing that there’s fraud going on here. Animal studies are not perfect replicas of human studies. But they are an important safeguard one can use before testing things on humans. My dad did some of the breakthrough research on preserving blood based on testing chimps. The new ebola vaccine was first tested on on macaques. The translation to human is not perfect but it is useful.

    I don’t think it should be done callously. But I don’t buy this idea that it was never reliable.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to Mike Siegel says:

      There’s a whole industry devoted to making animals more like humans, so that testing gives you even better results.

      Humanized mice, for instance, used to test cancer therapies..

      The researchers would be the absolute first to tell you they’d love swap out humanized mice for perfect simulations of the human body, but they work with the best tools they have. And that’s mice who react to cancer (and cancer drugs) more like humans than anything else they’ve got.

      And while terminal patients are a useful place to test things, not all medications are for terminal conditions (and also, they’d kind of like data for a longer time span than “the three months it took this guy to die”).Report