This book is a sequel to another which I wrote earlier in the 1970's and which was published in 1976 under the title Painful Experiments on Animals. (Pratt, D.,1976). That volume described numerous biomedical experiments in American laboratories, mostly in New York State. It covered the subject of legal protection of animals (or lack of it), laboratory care, and briefly touched on some of the methods currently available as alternatives to the use of animals.

That publication is out-of-print. Since some of the research it documented is still current, this makes a second appearance in what has now become a selective survey of painful experiments throughout the past decade. But the present volume, unlike its predecessor, describes many experiments from other parts of the United States (not just from New York), and has much more to say about alternatives.

Others have written about alternatives to the use of animals but I think not as they are presented here. The late D.H. Smyth at the suggestion of the Research Defence Society of Great Britain produced in 1978 a book entitled Alternatives to Animal Experiments. (Smyth, D.,1978). This is a scholarly but very clearly written summary of many types of experiments (although no actual cases are detailed), with an equally lucid description of numerous non-animal alternatives. Anyone who wants a thumbnail sketch of procedures such as chromatography, mass spectrometry, radioimmunoassay, and the use of isotopes will find them simply outlined in Professor Smyth's book. Unfortunately, his advocacy of alternatives, if it can be called that, is so conservative that the book offers little hope or stimulation for the replacement of animals by technology.

A New Approach: Alternatives Matched to Specific Experiments

This writer, on the other hand, is convinced that there are many alternative methods which can be used to reduce the suffering of animals, or to eliminate them entirely from certain experiments. But instead of describing experiments and alternatives in general I have tried a new approach: namely, to describe specific experiments, with excerpts often in the experimenters' own words, and then to match these with specific alternatives whenever I have been able to find them. I hope this will give the reader something more concrete than a vague idea that somewhere the experimenter can find an alternative if he would only look for it. I also hope that it will challenge the scientist to think about what he is doing in causing pain, perhaps unnecessarily, to animals, and to investigate the alternatives suggested. If the suggestions are impracticable, or already out-of-date, I should very much like to hear about it, so that others can be explored. The important thing is to open up a debate, hopefully friendly, between the research community and its informed critics.

To Reduce Animal Suffering

Note that the title of this book is: "Alternatives to Pain." If you expect that all alternatives discussed here are designed to eliminate animals from experiments, you may be disappointed to find that some of them are the type which will not replace the animal but which will "merely" reduce the animal's suffering. "Merely" is in quotes in deference to the animal's feelings: I suggest that, to an animal in pain, the use of that word without such qualification would be an affront. It will be a happy day when all animals have vanished from the laboratory, but I don't expect that day to come soon, so rather than take an all-or-nothing approach to animal experimentation, I have included anything which seems likely to help the animal here and now, even if it's "merely" a device (cf.p.127) to facilitate transferring a monkey between cage and restraining chair - but with the ease of transfer helping to shorten the periods of prolonged chair restraint.

In any discussion of experiments on animals, someone is likely to inquire, "Isn't the animals' pain justifiable if it prevents equal or greater suffering in humans?" Richard Ryder says you can retort by "demanding to know how many human lives are worth laboratory extinction in order to save the lives of a thousand men who would otherwise die of disease." (Ryder, R., 1975). And what about those other moral dilemmas: Is there a justifiable war? Shall we condone capital punishment and harsh prison sentences if they are effective deterrents of brutal crimes? Et cetera. The ancient debate of whether the end justifies the means has never been resolved, so how can any useful purpose be served by applying it to the problem of animal experimentation? Apes are beginning to communicate with us through the sign language of the deaf. Dare we ask them for an opinion?

There are also those who feel that a particular effort should be made to prevent the use of animals in experiments related to cosmetics, drug dependence, defense research and other manifestations of human folly and vice. But if one accepts that animals should not be involved in what some people have decided are "worthless" experiments, does this not imply that it may be all right to use them in "valuable" research?

I feel that these subjective attempts to assess experiments on a scale of their supposed value to humans are a poor substitute for the humanitarian principle that objects to any experiments in which animals suffer. What pain means to an animal I have tried to imagine in my first chapter: "Aspects of Pain." What the animals actually are has, for me, been most perfectly expressed by Henry Beston:

"The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth." (Beston, H.,1976, p.25).

We Are All Part of the Problem

If one thinks of animals as Beston did, or with any feeling of respect mingled with compassion, it is easy to become antagonistic to the experimenters as page after page hits one with its burden of pain. A reviewer of my earlier book said I was "angry," and I suppose I was and still am. In a letter to the psychologist Roger Ulrich, I vented some of this feeling, adding that I was glad he had discontinued and in a sense repudiated the stressful experiments for which he had become known (cf.p.43). I was promptly rebuked by Dr. Ulrich: "Do you take or prescribe drugs?" he wrote. "If you do be damn careful what you say about anyone else harming animals because the moment you engage in either of those two behaviors you become a part of the problem of animal painful experimentation." (Ulrich, R.,1979a).

He is right. We are all guilty, if not as actual perpetrators, then as connivers through tacit approval or willful ignorance of what is going on. I can only say that I write in an attempt to diminish my ignorance and that of others, to subject my own and the reader's imagination to the animals' suffering, to search constantly for alternatives which may lessen that suffering and, to the extent that we can promote those alternatives, to help us all become less a "part of the problem."

Focus of the Book

In this book I have approached animal experiments in three ways.

First, as painful, sometimes agonizing experiences, which are going on all.around us and which should be described objectively, if possible in the words of the experimenter. Many people who consider themselves humane say: "Oh I can't bear to read about it." I fear that guilt, distaste, sloth and other emotions underlie the apparent humanity of that statement. While I realize that these feelings can create formidable resistance, surely there is no substitute for confrontation with the animals' pain. To accept the animals' sacrifice but to be willfully blind to the means by which it is procured not only renders one incapable of helping the animals, but, eventually must damage one's own self-respect.

Second, as already discussed, I have searched for alternatives and have matched them whenever possible with the experimental procedures. Under the heading "Alternatives" a complete listing of these will be found in the Index.

Third, I have criticized many procedures not just on humane grounds but because I believe them to be scientifically defective. These critical comments have been specifically directed to actual experiments as described by the investigators. I have also cited opinions of scientists who are themselves critical of certain experiments (cf. reference in Index to "Criticism of experiments by scientists").

A Major Scientific Flaw: Disregarding the Variables

Certain weaknesses in experiments have been noticed so often that it becomes apparent they have fairly broad application. For example, despite the attempts to mass-produce laboratory animals (like mice) so that they are genetically identical and have exactly the same nurture, most of the animals retain some individuality, and this increases as they are inevitably exposed to variations in environment. In time, new staff may take over, animals may fall ill, while other variables: food, temperature, bedding, lighting, cage-mates, handling, etc., may all skew the interpretation of experimental results. Two factors in particular which are often overlooked are pain and its companion, fear. Inadequate anesthesia and postoperative analgesia, rough handling and the nature of the procedure may all increase the animal's suffering and cause physiological reactions which can further distort the findings (cf.p.14 and Index: "Variables"). Yet rarely do experimenters evaluate these effects. Also, there is the fact that reactions of a mouse differ from those of a cat or human: thus there are interspecies as well as intraspecies variations. But perhaps the most important variable of all is the attitude of the investigator himself.

To illustrate: once the investigator has asked the question which the experiment is designed to answer, he starts hoping, and looking, for evidence which will confirm his hypothesis. The perfectly objective scientist should be equally keen to note evidence which disproves his theory, but so much has been invested intellectually, emotionally, and financially in the experiment by the time it is underway, that very often the experimenter focuses more on the regularities which tend to prove his thesis than on the irregularities (frequently caused by the above-mentioned variables) which might disprove or greatly modify it.

A favorite term of experimenters for laboratory animals, "tools of research," suggests where the trouble lies. For when a scientist picks up a rat in his laboratory, it is not the same as picking up a screwdriver, however much the experimenter may desire to isolate the animal from all that individualizes, "animates" or subtly influences it. If he persists in this attempt to ignore the animal's context, he becomes like Henry Beston's "man in civilization," who "surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion." (Beston, H.,1976,p.25). Roger Ulrich criticized behaviorists who only see an individual "inside a given envelope of skin" rather than as "the unique focal point of a network of relations." (cf.p.46). The investigator is also part of this network of relations, but he rarely recognizes himself there. John Lilly says that the latter deludes himself in thinking that it is possible to be the "objective non-involved observer." (Lilly, J. 1978, p. 87) .

Fallacies in Interspecies Comparisons

Scientists who have difficulty visualizing animals in any context other than the narrow confines of their laboratories nevertheless don't hesitate to project their findings -"extrapolate" them - to the human condition. Claims that humans will benefit from the research on animals often appear in ritual fashion at the end of a paper, like a sop thrown to the funding agency. No doubt the potential benefit to humans is also stressed in the grant application, witness Aronson and Cooper's request to the government to fund their sexual experiments on cats as a major contribution to the control of human "hypersexuality and hyposexuality" (cf.p.56). Unfortunately, the context in which such researchers visualize human problems and pathology is often as constricted as that in which they see animals. Or consider the astonishing claim in the Yale Alumni Magazine for Dec. 1976 that the experiments of Yale psychologists in which cats are electrically shocked through brain electrodes to attack rats "may help man to master his own violent instincts"! (cf.p.42). Another scientific fallacy lurks in the suggestion that a liability to cancer in humans may be extrapolated from a known susceptibility in inbred laboratory rodents, leaving out of account the diverse "promoter" enzymes which must necessarily start the process, which vary in different individuals, and which vary even more between species. (cf.p.84).

You and Me: Wild and Heterogeneous Animals

In fact, the animal experimenter often finds himself in a Catch 22 situation: the more he recognizes and attempts to reduce the variables in his animal models by developing inbred, carefully defined strains, and otherwise shields his subjects from the forces of the environment, the more his material diverges from the human who, as K.Z. Morgan suggests, "is a wild or heterogeneous animal living in many types of environment with various eating and drug habits, with many diseases and eccentricities, of various ages and so on." (Morgan, K.,1979, p.20).

Chapter Outline - and the Index

While I do not know how much animal experimentation is fruitless because of these difficulties, I think it is apparent that much of it is not only inhumane but scientifically out-of-date. This volume suggests numerous alternatives: sophisticated technology; microorganisms; human material – from cell culture to the "whole person"; gene splicing; and many others. As mentioned earlier, these alternatives will be found throughout the book matched with specific experimental procedures. After the opening sections on pain, the experiments are grouped alphabetically in chapters: Behavior – aggression, deprivation and stress experiments; Cancer; Immunology; Inhalation; Primates; Radiation; Surgical – burns, drum trauma and irritants of the digestive tract; Teratogen Testing; and Testing Biologicals – hormones and vaccines. Then follow two chapters on the testing of chemical substances, with a concluding section entitled, "Therapies of Tomorrow."

After the References comes the Index. As already noted, readers will find the alternatives there, listed under the above headings and under other categories of experiments mentioned in the text.

Names of organizations have occasionally been abbreviated; these are identified in the Index.

Chapter Two | Back to Table of Contents