Only during the last two-years of medical school and beyond do medical students actually begin to read x-rays, perform surgery, prescribe antibiotics etc. Their workdays lengthen, and they hardly have time to ponder the dispensability of their animal education. Years later, they may defend animal experimentation as an essential process because they remember studying it in college and medical school, but most would never rely on the precarious results in their daily medical practices.
Don't all doctors support the concept of animal experimentation?
We commissioned a survey of 500 General Practitioners, conducted by global market research organisation TNS Healthcare in 2004. The results revealed a staggering level of distrust in results obtained from animal experiments:
- 82% were concerned that animal data can be misleading when applied to humans
- only 21% would have more confidence in animal tests for new drugs than in a battery of human-based safety tests
- 83% would support an independent scientific evaluation of the clinical relevance of animal experimentation
Clearly, a silent majority of doctors today are aware that animal tests are not the safety net the public and the medical profession are frequently assured they are by the government and the pharmaceutical industry.
A paper published in the British Medical Journal on 28th February 2004 asked "Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans?" If such evidence cannot be found, the practice should cease. Patients will benefit because they will no longer be damaged by misleading data, and also because the resources currently pouring into animal research will be freed for clinical research.
Today, medicine is much more evidence-based and it is time to weigh the real harm from animal experiments against the alleged benefits. An independent, transparent evaluation of the scientific value of animal experiments is long overdue. Incredibly, the government "has not commissioned or evaluated any formal research on the efficacy of animal experiments and has no plans to do so" (Home Office, April 2004).