Last updated 15 October 2000







This FAQ has been compiled to help aid informed debate on the use of animals in biomedical research. Debate on the subject on newsgroups like talk.politics.animals (t.p.a.) and uk.politics.animals (uk.p.a.) is hampered by the fact that the same familiar myths about the use of animals in research continually resurface. Many of these have an urban myth-like quality and/or are lifted straight from the publications of animal rights (AR) organisations by newcomers unaware of the real facts. This FAQ gives the true stories behind a series of AR myths, where appropriate citing references to primary sources which allow readers to check the facts for themselves. The information collected here shows that AR myths have no more basis in fact than other urban legends like the 'vanishing hitchhiker' and 'dead grandmother on the roof-rack' stories. My hope is that the debunking of these myths will encourage a higher standard of debate on the newsgroups concerned.

The FAQ will be posted on t.p.a.. and uk.p.a. each month. New readers of t.p.a. and uk.p.a. are encouraged to refer to this FAQ before rushing to post some untrue horror story lifted from the latest PETA press release.

You are also encouraged to provide examples of other AR myths for inclusion in this FAQ. Send them to

I have included a collection of internet resources where further reliable information about biomedical research can be found.

Although this FAQ is compiled by me, and I take responsibility for all errors, I have collected material from a variety for sources, which are credited in the acknowledgements section.

Kevin O'Donnell

2 March 1997


MYTH 2.1: "Animals are so different from people that research using animals is not worthwhile."

In fact, all mammals have the same basic organs - heart, lungs, kidney, liver etc., performing the same functions and co-ordinated in the same way. These major similarities outweigh minor differences, although these minor differences can themselves provide useful information. for example, if we knew why muscular dystrophy in mice caused less muscle wasting than in humans, this might lead to a treatment for the disease.

A gauge of the biological similarity between animals and humans is the fact that insulin from pigs was used successfully to treat human diabetics for several decades.

Around a third of medicines used by vets are also used in the treatment of humans. A list of 350 animal diseases with a human counterpart has been compiled (1) by the veterinarian Charles Cornelius, who states that the study of animal diseases with a view to providing treatment for the human counterpart is a "neglected resource". Another reference is the Encyclopaedia Britannica which in the section on "Animal Disease" lists diseases common to animals and humans and states that 2 it is likely that for every known human disease, an identical or similar human disease exists in at least one other species".

1. Cornelius, C E (1969) New Eng. J. Med. vol. 281: 934-945

MYTH 2.2: "Animal testing is unreliable, because side-effects are not detected in animals."

AR propaganda often gives the impression that many medicines have been withdrawn because side effects occur in humans but not in animals. In fact, the final stage of any clinical trial is a test involving human 3-5,000 human volunteers. If a side-effect is so rare that it occurs in, say, only 1 in 10,000 people then this stage of the clinical trial will miss it - but that can hardly be blamed on animal testing.

AR propaganda gives the impression that a great many medicines have been withdrawn from sale because of side-effects and quote figures for the number of people affected. In fact, on examination, these figures are found to consist largely of accidental and deliberate overdoses (1).

The true scale of the problem can be judged from the fact that of the 2,000 drugs on the market since 1961, less than 40 have been withdrawn in the UK, US, France or Germany due to serious side-effects. This indicates a success rate of 98% for drug testing procedures. Only 10 drugs have been withdrawn from all 4 countries (2).

1. Jick H (1974) Drugs - Remarkably Nontoxic New Eng. J. Med. vol 291: 824-828

2. Spriet-Pourra C & Auriche M (1994) Drug Withdrawal From Sale. 2nd Edition, PJB Publications Ltd.

Here is some more specific information about examples frequently cited in AR propaganda.

MYTH 2.2.1: "Penicillin is toxic to guinea pigs but not humans"

One of my favourite AR myths this one, because it is a good illustration a favourite AR tactic, the half truth.

The reaction of the guinea-pig to penicillin was first described in a scientific paper in 1943(1). High daily doses of very impure penicillin killed 95% of guinea-pigs within 3-4 days. So far, so true. However, when the purity was increased tenfold, 60% died. We now know that even these preparations were only 60% pure. This it is quite likely, and is actually suggested in the 1943 paper, that the impurities in the early samples of penicillin were responsible for some of the toxicity. The paper also went to great pains to emphasise that when given the same dose of penicillin as used in humans, no toxic effects were observed.

What is really interesting is why high doses of penicillin kills guinea pigs - it is nothing to do with the toxicity of penicillin itself. The high doses kill the natural bacterial fauna of the guinea pig intestine, leading to colonisation by other types of bacteria and subsequent blood poisoning (2). The same phenomenon is observed in humans who take large doses of antibiotic over a long period. Thus it appears that the guinea pig, far from being strikingly different from humans, is in fact similar to the many patients who develop inflammation of the colon (colitis) when they take penicillin.

1. Hamre D M et al (1943) Am. J. Med. Sci. vol.206: 64

2. De Somer P et al (1955) Ant. Chem. vol.5: 463

MYTH 2.2.2: "Morphine sedates humans but excites cats"

In fact, morphine has the same effect on cats as on humans!

This seems to stem from a paper reporting the effect of morphine on cats. 3mg/kg caused no excitement, whereas 20mg/kg produced marked excitement (1). This dose is 50-200 times that administered to humans for pain-killing purposes (0.1-0.2mg/kg). A similar dose in cats produces the same effects as in humans (2). Dosage levels that produce excitation in cats also produce excitation in humans (3).

1. Sturtevant FM & Drill VA (1957) Nature vol. 179:1253

2. Davis LE & Donnely EJ (1968) J. Am. Vet. Med. Ass. vol. 153: 1161

3. Human Pharmacology (1991) Eds Wingard LB, Brody TM, Larner J & Schwartz A. Wolfe Publishing Ltd.

MYTH 2.2.3: "Chloroform anaesthetises humans but kills dogs."

In fact, chloroform is also equally toxic to humans! Chloroform was first used as an anaesthetic in midwifery in 1846, when a paper was published showing that it induced unconsciousness in animals (1). However, following a high incidence of deaths, its toxicity in a number of species was investigated. It was found to be similar to that in humans (2). For this reason, chloroform never gained widespread use. A standard pharmacology textbook describes chloroform as follows: "Chloroform is hepatotoxic and nephrotoxic. Even with current techniques for precise administration, its toxicity exceeds that of other agents. cardiac arrhythmias are not infrequent and can lead to cardiac arrest." (3)

1. Florens M (1847) Comptes Rendus vol. 24: 342

2. Wakely TH (1848) Lancet vol. i: 19

3. Goodman & Gilman (1980) The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 6th Ed., Macmillan.

MYTH 2.2.4 "Thalidomide passed animal tests with 'flying colours'."

This is a particularly distasteful lie because it attempts to exploit people's concern for the disabled.

Some 30 years ago, the drug thalidomide was prescribed to women in early pregnancy to overcome the unpleasantness of morning sickness. It was soon clear that this had the most appalling effect of damaging the developing embryo. It is often claimed by AR propaganda that these effects were not shown in animal tests.

In fact, thalidomide was never tested on pregnant animals before it was used in humans - it was not realised at that time that a drug could have a harmful effect on the foetus but not the mother. This showed up a serious weakness in the way that testing is carried out and changes have now been made. However, after the effects of thalidomide had been established and the drug withdrawn, the same effects were shown to occur in a variety of animals (1-5).

In the US, thalidomide was never approved by the US Food and Drug administration because they were not satisfied with the level of testing carried out in Europe.

The lesson of the thalidomide tragedy is that it was not animal experimentation that was at fault - but *too little* animal experimentation.

1.DiPaolo JA (1963). Congenital malformation in strain A mice: its experimental production by thalidomide. JAMA vol.183: 139-141

2 King CTG &; Kendrick FJ (1962). Teratogenic effects of thalidomide in the Sprague Dawley rat. The Lancet: ii: 1116

3. Homburger F, Chaube S, Eppenberger M, Bogdonoff PD and Nixon CW (1965). Susceptibility of certain inbred strains of hamsters to teratogenic effects of thalidomide. Toxicol Appl Pharmaco vol.: 686-69

4. Hamilton WJ & Poswillo DE (1972). Limb reduction anomalies induced in the marmoset by thalidomide. J Anat vol.11:505-50

5. Hendrick AG, Axelrod LR & Clayborn LD (1966). Thalidomide syndrome in baboons Natur vol. 210: 958-95

MYTH 2.2.5 "Aspirin is highly poisonous to cats and causes birth defects in rats and mice - but not humans"

In fact, aspirin is only toxic to cats in doses far higher than those used by humans.

For example, 60mg/kg of aspirin given 5 times in one day produced death in cats within 36 hours of the first dose (1). This is equivalent to an average man consuming 60 tablets in one day. In fact the plasma concentration of aspirin at the time of the cats' death was 60mg/100ml - 3 times the level that produces severe toxic effects in man.

The birth defects myth is equally groundless. The doses of aspirin shown to produce birth defects in rats were 150mg/kg twice a day throughout organogenesis (2) or 250mg daily throughout pregnancy (3). The equivalent human dose would be 55 or 46 tablets a day respectively for a 55kg woman.

Not surprisingly, human data for similar dosage levels does not exist! However one paper (4) does describe 8 cases of fetal abnormality in mothers who took large does of aspirin during pregnancy. A retrospective study of 833 patients showed a significant increase in fetal malformation amongst those who took large amounts of aspirin during the first trimester of pregnancy(5).

1) Davis LE and Donnelly EJ (1968) J. Amer . Vet. Med. Ass. Vol. 153:1161

2)Wilson, Ritter, Scott and Fradkin (1977) Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. vol.41:67

3) McColl, Globus and Robinson (1965) Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. vol.7:409

4)McNeil (1973) Clin. Paediat. vol.12:347

5)Richards (1969) Brit. J. Prevent Soc. Med. vol.23:218

MYTH 2.3:

"Animal research has made no contribution to medical progress."

Between 1992 and 1994, the Research Defence Society published a series of leaflets giving the numbers of patients benefiting from developments arising from animal research in the UK each year:

50,000,000 prescriptions for antibiotics
30,000,000 prescriptions for asthma
3,000,000 operations under local or general anaesthetics
180,000 diabetics kept alive with insulin
90,000 cataract operations
60,000 joint operations
15,000 coronary bypasses
10,000 pacemakers implanted
6,000 heart valve repairs or replacements
4,000 congenital heart defects corrected
2,500 corneal transplants
2,000 kidney transplants
400 heart or heart/lung transplants

The figures relating to surgical procedures in this table were the subject of a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, an independent UK body which ensures that adverts and publicity material are "legal, decent, honest, truthful". The complaint was brought by an animal rights group (who presumably thought that the other figures were beyond reproach).

The ASA found that the RDS leaflet did indeed meet their standards (1).

1. ASA Monthly Report April, 1996.

MYTH 2.4: "Laboratory animals suffer great pain and distress"

Most animal procedures involve only mild procedures such as a single injection, a blood sample or a change of diet. Where significant pain or distress could be caused, pain killers or anaesthetics must be used. In fact, for most procedures this is not necessary (2). In the UK, all experiments must be approved by an independent Inspectorate who have the power to remove the license for using animals from any project, person or facility which does not meet these criteria (1). Most other countries have similar laws.

1. Animal (Scientific procedures ) Act, 1986

2. Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals (1995) HMSO, London

MYTH 2.5: "Most animal research consists of cosmetics testing."

In reality, hardly any does.

The UK's Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act ensures that statistics relevant to animal research are collated and published each year. The latest figures show that only 0.1% of all procedures involving animals were for cosmetics testing (1).

It is worth noting that *none* of this was for finished beauty products. In fact many things classified as cosmetics are quasi-medical, such as sun screens and contact lens solutions.

*If* we need new cosmetics and toiletries then they must be tested for safety and as yet there are no methods to replace the use of animals in all instances. The European Community was committed to ending the use of animals for cosmetics testing in member countries. However, it has had to postpone this ban because alternatives to animal testing are not available.

The only other options are to ban all new products and ingredients which would come under the cosmetics designation or to redefine 'cosmetics' to mean 'finished beauty products' (which is what most people think it is anyway). This would immediately reduce the number of animals used to test cosmetics to zero!

1. Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals (1995) HMSO, London.

MYTH 2.6: "The use of animals is unnecessary because alternative methods can be used."

There is no alternative to the use of whole organisms. Where alternatives do exist, they are used - because they are cheaper and because, in the UK at least, the law requires it (1).

The British Association for the Advancement of Science produced a Declaration on Animals in Medical Research (2) which includes the statement:

"Continued research involving animals is essential for the conquest of many unsolved medical problems, such as cancer, AIDS, other infectious diseases, and genetic, developmental, neurological and psychiatric conditions"

It goes on to say that:

"The comprehensive legislation governing the use of animals in scientific research must be strictly adhered to. Those involved must respect animal life, using animals only when essential and as humanely as possible, and they should adopt alternative methods as soon as they are proved to be reliable."

The statement is signed by over 1000 eminent doctors and scientists, including 31 Nobel prize winners. It is a good example of the commitment of biomedical researchers to the 3 Rs - Refinement, Reduction and Replacement - as the basis for the use of animals in research. As soon as alternative methods become available, they are used. In fact, animal experiments account for only 5 pence of every pound donated to UK medical charities.

Methods such as computer programmes and cell culture are in fact widely used as complimentary methods to animal testing. However cell cultures, often cited by AR propaganda as an 'alternative method' has a requirement for specially produced animal products and so is not a true non-animal method.

1. Animals (Scientific procedures) Act, 1986

2. Animals and the Advancement of Science (1990), BAAS

MYTH 2.6.1: "Cell/Tissue Culture is an alternative to the use of animals in research"

Tissue culture is often cited in AR literature as an alternative to the use of animals. This consists of monolayers of cells of a specific type e.g. liver grown in culture medium. Of course, such monolayers cannot replicate the interaction between different types of cells that occurs in the body but they are nevertheless very useful tools. What they are not however, is an alternative to the use of animals.

Cell cultures have been mainly of animal cells in the past, however the advent of a company specialising in human tissue culture, Pharmagene, led some AR organisations to claim that animal experiments could now end. This is not a view shared by Pharmagene themselves, who state "There are many purposes for which animals will still have to be used for various aspects of the discovery and development process, particularly where information in the whole organism is required." (1). Remember, this is a company with a vested interest in cell cultures.

This myth is also untrue from another point of view because cell cultures have an absolute requirement for animal products. this is because the medium in which the cells are grown requires animal serum, usually in the form of fetal bovine serum. This is extracted from new-born or fetal calves, mainly collected from abattoirs. As this is classed as an abattoir by-product, it does not come under the control of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act.

The serum is also tested for the presence of a range of pathogens. For example, Sigma test their FBS for Bovine Viral Diahorrea, Bovine Adenovirus type I and V, Bovine Parvovirus, Infectious Bovine Rhinotrachitillis, Parainfluenza type 3, Rabies and Reovirus (2). All of these assays require antibodies produced in animals. The production of such antibodies is covered by the ASP.

From an animal welfare point of view, the difference between the humane use of a mouse and the use of an aborted calf is not immediately obvious.

1. Interview with Pharmagene, RDS News Oct. 1996

2. Certificate of Analysis for FBS, Sigma Cell Culture, 1995

MYTH 2.7: "Vaccines and antibiotics have achieved nothing. Clean water and good sanitation are all that is needed to fight disease."

This is another half-truth. Clean water and good sanitation are undoubtedly very important - but they are not the whole story.

By the 1940s and 50s, when clean water and good sanitation were standard in the UK, there were still hundreds of thousands of cases of these often fatal diseases every year. The introduction of vaccines to prevent diseases and antibiotics to treat them when they did occur had a dramatic effect, virtually eradicating, and in some cases totally eradicating, diseases such as TB, diphtheria and cholera.

For example, there were still over 50,000 new cases of TB in the UK in 1950. It was only the development of effective vaccines and drugs, through medical research in which animals were vital, that made TB both preventable and treatable.

Similarly, in 1940 in the UK, diphtheria was affecting 50,000 people a year. The mass diphtheria immunisation campaign - resulting from medical research involving animals - then began. By 1950 the death rate was near zero.

The problem of infectious diseases in the third world is largely an economic one: people and governments in the third world do not have the resources to combat disease effectively. Hundreds of millions of people suffer and die from parasitic diseases, few of which can be treated or cured simply and cheaply, if at all.

In theory public health measures could of course reduce the devastating effects of these diseases, but the investment required would be colossal. Effective and cheap vaccines are the best solution, and it is hard to see how these could be developed without some animal research.

MYTH 2.8: "Many pointless, unnecessary experiments are carried out using animals."

This assertion defies logic. Why on earth would companies, charities and funding-cut stricken public sector scientists want to waste money in this way? Animal experiments are much more expensive than non-animal ones - that's one reason why animal are only used when no other method would do.

However, we need not rely only on common-sense to tell us that this myth is wrong: Under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986, project licences are only granted if the potential results are important enough to justify the use of animals and if non-animal methods cannot be used (1).

1. Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986

MYTH 2.9: "The reason animals are used in research is to make money."

Animals are only used in research where no other method is possible.

Much research is carried out by non-profit making bodies like public laboratories and charities. Whereas it is true that pharmaceutical companies exist to make a profit, the same can be said of any company whatsoever. Even the companies that print AR literature or producers of vegetarian food. However pharmaceutical companies would lose money if they carried out more animal experiments than were necessary. As noted in 2.8, animal experiments are expensive. That is why many of them have active research programmes to develop more non-animal methods.

MYTH 2.10: "Most animals used in research are cats, dogs or monkeys."

In fact, hardly any are.

AR propaganda relies heavily on out of date photographs of large animals (and one charity has been censured by the Advertising Standards Authority for advertising material which does this). The real figures (1) are:

Rats and mice 83%
Fish , birds and reptiles 12%
Other small mammals 3%
Large mammals (cows, etc.) 1.3%
Dogs and cats 0.4%
Primates 0.2%

1. Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals (1995) HMSO, London

MYTH 2.11: "There are no laws or regulations protecting lab animals. "

In the UK, the use of animals in research is governed by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1996. This has been referred to several times in this FAQ and is worth looking at in more detail (1).

The Act requires that animal procedures:

*take place only in laboratories which have appropriate animal accommodation and veterinary facilities, and have gained a certificate of designation

*are part of an approved research or testing programme which has been given a project licence

* are carried out by people with sufficient training, skills and experience as shown in their personal licence

Licences are only granted if:

*the potential results are important enough to justify the use of animals

* the research cannot be done using non-animal methods

*the minimum number of animals will be used

*dogs, cats or primates are only used when other species are not suitable

*any discomfort or suffering is kept to a minimum by appropriate use of anaesthetics or pain killers

*researchers and technicians conducting procedures have the necessary training, skills and experience

*research premises have the necessary facilities to look after the animals properly (laid down in a Home Office Code of Practice)

The Act is enforced by a team of Inspectors (all qualified vets or doctors). They visit each establishment an average of 8 times/year, often without prior notice. In addition, a named vet must be on call at each establishment at all times. Animals must be examined every day and any animal in severe pain or distress that cannot be relieved must be painlessly put down.

Other countries in Europe and North America have similar laws and regulations governing animal research. for example the US Animal Welfare Act and the 'Guide for the care and Use of Laboratory Animals' of the Public Health Service.

1) Description taken from 'Facts and figures on animal research in Great Britain' (1995) RDS

MYTH 2.12: "Researchers don't care about the well-being of animals."

Like most people, most researchers love animals and care about their well-being. Many have family pets, and unlike animal rights organisations they do not wish to see domestic animals eradicated. That's why scientists and doctors support the principle of the 3 Rs -Reduction, Refinement and Replacement - a principle first established by scientists themselves (1).

Scientists, like everyone else, will be happy to see the use of animal in research stop. However this can only happen when it is no longer necessary to advance science and medicine - and this will not be possible in the foreseeable future.

1. Burch R & Russell W The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique (1959)

MYTH 2.13: "Animal rights is a 'progressive' philosophy"

There is nothing 'progressive' about depriving the seriously ill of medical advances. Opposition to the AR cause cuts across the traditional left-right divide. Indeed, the only modern regime to enact the type of measures demanded by the AR movement was Nazi Germany.

Cartoon showing animals giving Goering a Nazi salute

The above cartoon is taken from Robert N. Proctor, The Nazi War on Cancer Princeton University Press, 1999 ISBN 0-691-00196-0 p.129

The Nazis enthusiasm for animal rights is also illustrated by the news article reproduced below (taken from the Animal Research Database cited in Section 3):

The following is a translation of document #186 in Medizin im Nationalsozialismus by Walter Wuttke-Groneberg (Rottenberg: Shwaebische Verlagsgesellschaft) 1982.

Translator's remarks and literal German words in {}.

Vivisection Forbidden in Prussia!

The New Germany leads all civilized nations in the area of animal protection!

The famous national socialist Graf E. Reventkow published in the Reichswart, the official publication of the "union of patriotic Europeans", the lead article "Protection and Rights {Recht} for the Animal". National Socialism, he writes, has for the first time in Germany begun to show Germans the importance of the individual's duty toward the animal . Most Germans have been raised with the attitude that animals are created by God for the use and benefit of man. The church gets this idea from the Jewish tradition. We have met with not a few clerics who defend this position with utmost steadfastness and vigor, yes one could say almost brutally. Usually they defend their position with the unstated intent of deepening and widening the chasm between man who has soul and soulless (how do they know that?) animals...

The friend of animals knows to what inexpressible extent the mutual understanding between man and animal and feelings of togetherness can be developed, and there are many friends of animals in Germany, and also many who cannot accept animal torture out of simple humanitarian reasons. In general however, we still find ourselves in a desert of unfeeling and brutality as well as sadism. There is much to be done and we would first like to address vivisection, for which the words "cultural shame" do not even come close; in fact it must be viewed as a criminal activity.

Graf Reventkow presents a number of examples of beastial vivisection crimes and affirms at the end, with mention of Adolph Hitler's sharp anti-vivisectionist positions, our demand that once and for all an end has to be brought to this animal exploitation.

We German friends of animals and anti-vivisectionists have placed our hopes upon the Chancellor of the Reich and his comrades in arms who are, as we know, friends of animals. Our trust has not been betrayed!

The New Germany brings proof that it is not only the hearth but bringer of a new, higher, more refined, culture:

Vivisection, a cultural shame in the whole civilized world, against which the Best in all states have fought in vain for decades, will be banned in the New Germany!

A Reich Animal Protection Law which includes a ban on vivisection is imminent and just now comes the news, elating all friends of animals, that the greatest German state, Prussia, has outlawed vivisection with no exceptions!

The National Socialist German Workers' Party { NSDAP } press release states:

"The Prussian minister-president Goering has released a statement stating that starting 16 August 1933 vivisection of animals of all kinds is forbidden in Prussia. He has requested that the concerned ministries draft a law after which vivisection will be punished with a high penalty *). Until the law goes into effect, persons who, despite this prohibition, order, participate or perform vivisections on animals of any kind will be deported to concentration camps."

Among all civilized nations, Germany is thus the first to put an end to the cultural shame of vivisection! The New Germany not only frees man from the curse of materialism, sadism, and cultural Bolshevism, but gives the cruelly persecuted, tortured, and until now, wholly defenceless animals their rights { Recht }. Animal friends and anti-vivisectionists of all states will joyfully welcome this action of the National Socialist government of the New Germany!

What Reichschancellor Adolph Hitler and Minister-president Goering have done and will do for the protection of animals should set the course for the leaders of all civilized nations! It is a deed which will bring the New Germany innumerable new elated friends in all nations. Millions of friends of animals and anti-vivisectionists of all civilized nations thank these two leaders from their hearts for this exemplary civil deed!

Buddha, the Great loving spirit of the East, says: "He who is kind-hearted to animals, heaven will protect!" May this blessing fulfils the leaders of the New Germany, who have done great things for animals, until the end. May the blessing hand of fate protect these bringers of a New Spirit, until their godgiven earthly mission is fulfilled!


*) As we in the meantime have learned, a similar ban has been proclaimed in Bavaria. The formal laws are imminent - thanks to the energetic initiative of our Peoples' chancellor Adolph Hitler, for whom all friends of animals of the world will maintain forever their gratitude, their love, and their loyalty.

From: Die Weisse Fahne {The White Flag} 14 (1933) : 710-711.

This support for animal rights is also found in today's fascists. German neo-Nazis have used the slogan "Stop animal experiments - use Turks instead" (1).

In the UK, the animal rights policies of fascist groups have been documented by the internationally-respected anti-fascist journal Searchlight (2). A leading Green Party member was sufficiently to concerned to say that "Eco-fascism is on the march" and noted that "Despite their hatred of other races the far right have become animal lovers" (3)

A group of UK fascists aligned with Italy's neo-fascists established an AR organisation called Greenwave. Its aims include:

"Total ban on all animal experiments

Total ban on the use of animals in ANY form of entertainment

Total ban on ALL hunting or shooting of animals"

In its 4th issue, the UK AR magazine Arkangel published no less than 5 letters from members of this group and other fascists, defending the rights of fascists to take part in AR groups and spelling out their AR credentials(4).

None of this is intended to imply that all AR supporters are card-carrying fascists. However, it does make it clear that support for AR is certainly not 'progressive' and in fact is confined to the political fringes. No major political party of the left or right supports the AR agenda.

1) Searchlight (1988) no.161:19.

2)'The Greening of the Brownshirts' Searchlight(1989) no.165

3)' The Green Shirt Effect' Searchlight(1989) no.168:4-5

4)'They're no Arkangels' Searchlight (1991) no.189:12

MYTH 2.14: "Animal rights groups' propaganda is truthful."

AR propaganda routinely makes fictitious claims, in order to win support, and of course money, from people who have no access to other information.

In the UK material produced by AR groups has repeatedly fallen foul of the Advertising Standards Authority. Aside from the examples cited elsewhere in this FAQ, the following AR claims (by the National Anti Vivisection Society) were found not to meet the ASA's 'legal, decent, honest, truthful' standard in 1994 (ASA ref. B93-00281):

"Animal experiments are...misleading and unproductive"

"Animal experiments are bad science"

"They [animals] suffer from different diseases [to humans]"

PETA have also fallen foul of the ASA with their claim that thalidomide passed animal tests with 'flying colours' (1)

When the group Anti Vivisection Agency placed an advertisement in several UK newspapers in December 1992. Virtually every sentence was found to be in breach of ASA standards(2) !

However, first prize for dishonesty has to go to the group Plan 2000. This AR group produced fund-raising leaflets in which nearly every claim was found not to meet the ASA's standards(3).

These are all examples of an independent body finding that claims made by AR groups are dishonest and misleading.

In fact, such misleading material tends to be the rule rather than the exception, leading to the conclusion that it is a deliberate tactic rather than an unfortunate accident.

1) ASA Monthly Report no. 65 October 1996

2) ASA Monthly Report no. 19 December 1992

3) ASA Monthly Report no. 43 December 1994

MYTH 2.15: "Animal rights groups should be supported by animal lovers."

In fact AR groups such as PETA have many extreme proposals that pet-lovers in particular should be shocked by:

"Pet ownership is an abysmal situation brought about by human manipulation" (Ingrid Newkirk, PETA founder Washingtonian Aug. 1986)

"In the end I think it would be lovely if we stopped this whole notion of pets altogether" (Ingrid Newkirk Newsday, Feb. 21 1988)

"One day we would like an end to pet shops and breeding animals [Dogs] would pursue their natural lives in the wild" (Ingrid Newkirk, Chicago Daily Herald Mar 1, 1990)

"Eventually companion animals will be phased out...." (Ingrid Newkirk, "Just Like Us? Toward a Notion of Animal Right" (symposium), Harper's, August 1988)

"Let us allow the dog to disappear from our brick and concrete jungles- from our firesides, from the leather nooses and chains by which we enslave it." (John Bryant, _Fettered Kingdoms: An Examination of A Changing Ethic_ (Washington D C, PeTA, 1982). p. 15)

"The cat, like the dog, must disappear..... We should cut the domestic cat free from our dominance by neutering, neutering, and more neutering, until our pathetic version of the cat ceases to exist." (John Bryant, _Fettered Kingdoms: An Examination of a Changing Ethic_(Washington, D.C.: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 1982), p.15)

From the above, it is clear that pet-lovers have a great deal to fear from the AR movement.

People who describe themselves as supporters of 'animal rights' are often shocked to discover the real agenda of the AR organisations. This is because being an animal lover is not the same as supporting animal rights. Most people who describe themselves as animal lovers, including most scientists, are in fact supporters of _animal welfare_ rather than animal rights.

MYTH 2.16: "Many scientists and doctors support the AR position."

Doctors and scientists involved in biomedical research are overwhelmingly in favour of the continued use of animals in research.

In 1988 and 1989 the AMA surveyed 500,000 active physicians, both members and non-members. 97% supported the use of animals in medical research.

A survey of the attitudes of UK doctors was carried out by the British Medical Association in 1993(1).

Over 94% agreed with the statement that "animal experiments have made an important contribution to many advances in medicine". Only 2.3% disagreed.

83% agreed that "animal experiments have an important role in developing new treatments.

The BMA produced an official statement on animal research:

"The BMA believes that animal experimentation is necessary at present to develop a better understanding of diseases and how to treat them, but believes that, wherever possible, alternative methods should be used."

Section 2.6 of this FAQ describes the British Association for the Advancement of Science's Declaration on Animal Experiments and its overwhelming support among eminent scientists and doctors.

The most recent survey is that of all living Nobel Laureates in medicine and physiology, carried out in 1996 to commemorate the centenary of Nobel's death(2) 39/71 Laureates replied and their responses are instructive:

100% agreed that "animal experiments had been vital to the discovery and development of many advances in physiology and medicine".

100% agreed that "animal experiments are still crucial to the investigation and development of many medical treatments".

100% agreed that "Because there is no complete alternative yet, a total and immediate ban on animal experiments would hamper much medical progress".

From all of the above it is clear that the overwhelming majority of scientists and doctors support the use of animals in biomedical research.

More specific myths involving individuals are dealt with below.

1) BMA News Review, June 1993 (A representative sample of 800 surveyed/350 responded)

2) Centenary Survey of Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine (1996) SIMR

MYTH 2.16.1: "Charles Darwin opposed animal research"

In fact, he was a strong supporter of it:

In a letter to a Swedish professor of physiology in 1881, Darwin wrote (1):

"I know that physiology cannot possibly progress except by means of experiments on living animals, and I feel the deepest conviction that he who retards the progress of physiology commits a crime against mankind."

1. The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1959) Darwin, Francis, ed. New York: BasicBooks, Inc., 382-383.

MYTH 2.16.2: "Albert Schweitzer opposed animal research"

In fact, he had the same attitude as today's scientists.

In a letter to the New York Times (1), James A. Pittman, M.D., recalled visiting Schweitzer in 1957 in French Equitorial Africa;

"At that time, I asked him specifically about his views on the use of laboratory animals for biomedical research. His response (as translated from the German) was: 'It is necessary for the advancement of medical understanding.' There was absolutely no equivocation in his statement."

Schweitzer's own words on animal research can be found in The Teaching of Reverence for Life (Holt, Rinehart, Winston; 1965). Schweitzer makes the same moral distinction made by the research community: while all life is meaningful, the goal of improving human and animal health requires the sacrifice of some life in order to preserve others.

1. Letter from James A. Pittman, M.D., Dean, University of Alabama School of Medicine, to the New York Times, May 26, 1990, p. 22.

MYTH 2.17: "Many lab animals are used in testing tobacco products."

In fact, just two project licences for procedures connected with tobacco were issued in the UK in 1995 (1). Both were concerned with investigating the link between smoking and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The experiments did not use dogs, as AR literature likes to imply, but embryonated chicken eggs .

1. Report of the Animal Procedures Committee for 1995 (1996) HMSO, London

MYTH 2.18: "The number of animals used in research each year is 100 million/250 million/ a billion"

AR groups make a habit of exaggerating the numbers of animals used in research. The UK AR group Plan 2000 fell foul of the Advertising standards authority for that very reason (see Myth 2.14 above). The true world figure is around 50 million. In other words, one rat, per person, per 100 years.

That breaks down as follows (figures in millions):

USA 22 (1)
EU 11.8 (2)
Japan* 2.5
Canada 2.1 (3)
Switzerland 0.86 (4)
Australia 0.75(5)
others* 10

total 50.01

* Estimated on the side of caution

NB UK figures have shown a steady decrease over the last 20 years and in line with that it is likely that the world total is now considerably lower that 50 million.

1. US Congress Office of Technology Assessment (1986)

2. Commission of the European Communities (1994)

3. Canadian Council on Animal Care (1995) Resource 18

4. Swiss Federal Office of Veterinary Care (1993)

5. Report of the Australian Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare: Animal Experimentation (1989)


Americans for Medical Progress

AMP is a wonderful organisation that campaigns on behalf of the seriously ill and those who benefit from medical progress (i.e. all of us!). Many will be familiar with their successful "Hollywood Hypocrisy" campaign and other actions in support of AIDS sufferers. The AMP WWW pages have a great deal of information about the AR movement's aims and tactics, the benefits of biomedical research, AMP campaigns and much else. Why not visit them and join in their fight to stop AR supporters halting medical advance?

Seriously Ill for Medical Research

SIMR is a UK organisation made up of people who've decided that those with most at stake in the debate over animal research, the seriously ill, should have a voice. SIMR produces a range of excellent material and conducts campaigns giving the patients' view point.

Research Defence Society

The RDS is a UK association of doctors and biomedical scientists. It produces a great deal of carefully researched information showing how the use of animals has been essential in biomedical advance. The RDS also runs proactive campaigns to bring this home to the public. The RDS WWW site is an invaluable resource for all those interested in defending biomedical research.

Biomedical Research Education Trust

BRET produce excellent material aimed at schools and non-scientists. Their material explains the need for animals in research in an informative but jargon-free way. Recommended.

Foundation for Biomedical Research

The FBR is a sort of American RDS and produces an impressive selection of education and publicity material. If you are interested in the truth about the use of animals in biomedical research, this is another URL you should have in your bookmarks file.

European Biomedical Research Association

This site contains a wealth of detailed information about animal use in the EC, and the EC regulations governing it.

Other useful WWW resources:

The Animal Research Database , compiled by Greg Popken, contains a great deal of useful material, including information about Nazi support for animal rights from which the translated document reproduced in 2.13 was extracted.

The Mouse and Rat Research Home Page is the place to go for scientific information about how 85% of lab animals are used.

I am always happy to hear about other resources - if you know of any you think should be included, please send me the details.


The material collected here has been compiled from a number of different sources. A significant amount was taken (with permission) from material produced by the Research Defence Society, much of it by Dr J. Botting. Material was also taken from the web sites of Biomedical Research Foundation and Americans for Medical Progress. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who work for these fine organisations, often at some personal risk. Their activities are helping to make this world a better place.

I take responsibility for any mistakes and the overall compilation.


The author of this FAQ is Kevin O'Donnell ( Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute this FAQ providing it is copied in its entirety, including the Acknowledgement and copyright notice and provided no charge is made.