Guest Blog with ADAV/ Stop UBC Animal Research

Guest Blog with ADAV/ Stop UBC Animal Research

Every year, Canada’s universities conduct thousands of experiments on animals including pigs, mice, cats, rabbits, goats, monkeys, even wild-caught songbirds. In 2012, the number of animals used by the University of British Columbia – the 2nd largest biomedical campus in Canada – rose to a staggering 227,362. Much of this comprised ‘basic’ research which is defined as “experimental or theoretical work… without any practical application or use in view”.

Our scientific director Dr. Andre Menache states: “I don’t know whether there are public opinion surveys in Canada on this issue, but in the EU and USA, most people are opposed to inflicting harm and suffering on animals for the sake of curiosity-driven research”.

Sadly, Canada allows researchers to conduct invasive, painful procedures on animals, even those which cause agony near, at or ABOVE the pain tolerance threshold of unanaesthetised, conscious animals (where analgesics may interfere with the researchers’ data). This is in accordance with the Canadian Council on Animal Care’s guidelines. According to UBC’s statistics for 2012, the number of animals their researchers subjected to this level of unrelieved “distress” was 85, while 74,556 more suffered pain of undisclosed duration at the next step down: “moderate to severe” levels.

While UBC may be blazing trails for other institutions in Canada by releasing these numbers – following a determined campaign by our organization – the university still refuses to disclose which species are involved, what exactly is happening to rhesus macaque monkeys (just like the cute little IKEA guy) which are known to be caught up in controversial neurological research at UBC that one veterinary expert has described as “cruel and shocking”, nor does their spokesperson explain the stunning increase in the overall number of animals involved – up from 211,604 in 2010 to last year’s toll.

“You are going up against a very entrenched profession that depends on use of animals. Good luck.”

Dr. David Suzuki

The increased use of animals by UBC researchers clearly puts UBC in violation of the 3 R’s – reduction, refinement, replacement – of animal research. This is a system designed for the phasing-out of animal use in favour of cutting-edge, human-based approaches. Alternatives to animal-based are being widely implemented elsewhere. In the field of brain research, scientists have the ability to scan the conscious human brain engaging in a variety of cognitive tasks of which a frightened and restrained monkey is not capable. Stroke researchers are steadily turning away from animal models citing critical physiological differences. Parkinson’s disease cannot effectively be modeled in a rat or a monkey – while researchers elsewhere are exploring novel approaches such as RNA interference and human nerve cell-based therapies, VP of Research Dr. John Hepburn is on the record as saying that UBC has no intention of ending invasive procedures on animal brains as yet another model of parkinsonism is tried. UBC expends much energy in developing strains of rodents intended for use in cancer research – a lucrative breeding program that supplies animals to many other institutions as well as UBC’s own investigators. UBC’s literature notes the pain and suffering accorded to these creatures bred to endure lifelong tumors as test subjects in a disappointing methodology. Dr. Albert Sabin reported that: “Inflicting cancer on laboratory animals has not and will not help us to understand the disease or to treat those persons suffering from it….” (Tony Page, ‘Vivisection Unveiled’, Jon Carpenter Pub., 1997)

Sadly, the public has fallen under the sway of established science and is of the opinion that research on animals is vital if progress is to be made against human disease and in order to the safeguard the products we use. What if we could point to instances where results obtained from experiments on animals were not only ineffective but even dangerous to human health? Such instances are numerous: the arthritis drug Vioxx was shown to have heart-protective effects on animals, yet went on to cause over 140,000 heart attacks and strokes world-wide; tobacco companies were able to prove that their products were safe as the dogs forced to inhale cigarette smoke in notorious smoking-dog experiments did not develop lung cancer; 92% of drugs tested by the massive dosing of animals fail the gentler human trials. Of the 8% of new drugs that are released onto the market, 50% fail and are ultimately withdrawn, but not until their devastating consequences have made their indelible stain on human patients. Species differences make basing human toxicology on medicine on animal-derived data hazardous at best. Conversely, countless beneficial therapies have been discarded or tragically delayed on the basis of their ineffectiveness in animal models. Penicillin, corneal transplants, the polio vaccine – all were delayed because they failed in experiments on animals.

“…the infliction of suffering on animals in medical research is not a biomedical evil,

necessary to save human lives, but a real betrayal of the scientific method”.

Jane Goodall, Ph.D.

Numerous relevant and progressive non-animal research methods – from computer modeling to human stem cells, from ‘microdosing’ to imaging techniques, advances in technology make the continued use of animals in scientific research an unnecessary and indefensible practice.

The ADAV Society of British Columbia through our Stop UBC Animal Research campaign is calling for an immediate ban on research involving the two highest levels of invasiveness. If you are disturbed by the thought of the suffering being inflicted on animals, at UBC or at any institution, and would wish to see your tax dollars reallocated to progressive, humane alternatives, go ahead: Ask the uncomfortable

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