PCRM 2005: The Year in Review: Humane Research and Education
Trying to study human health by experimenting on animals is not just cruel—it’s bad science. In the past year, PCRM has continued to work tirelessly to reduce the use of animals in research and education by using two strategies: advocating for the use of humane and more effective non-animal methods, and conducting our own research, both into the problems of animal tests and into alternatives. In 2005, PCRM helped save thousands of animals from being used in ethically and scientifically problematic experiments.
In February, PCRM cardiologist John Pippin testified before the Food and Drug Administration about how reliance on misleading animal tests led to the Vioxx debacle. And in July, he testified at the Institute of Medicine, outlining three promising alternatives—gene-based methods, tissue engineering, and microdosing—that could help eliminate the use of animals in testing drugs. Other PCRM scientists testified at government hearings, served on government committees, and shared information about alternatives in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Nature, the British Medical Journal, the New Scientist, and other prestigious publications.
New Views on Animals
PCRM’s Jarrod Bailey, Ph.D., published a comprehensive review of scientific research on birth defects, finding that animal testing is little better than a coin toss when it comes to predicting whether a substance will cause human birth defects. After examining studies of 1,400 drugs and household chemicals, Dr. Bailey found that tests predicted effects in humans only about 50 percent of the time. His work was published in the European journal Biogenic Amines.
PCRM research scientist Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D., tackled the problem of animal experiments from another angle. An ethologist by training, Dr. Balcombe educates the scientific community about the surprisingly harsh stresses that animals undergo even in seemingly benign laboratory conditions. He shared findings from two recent studies—one to be published in early 2006 in the journal Laboratory Animals—at several conferences, including the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities annual fall conference in Washington, D.C. His new book on animal emotions, Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good, is due out in May 2006.
PCRM also drafted a petition requesting that the U.S. government make the use of validated alternatives to animal testing mandatory, as it is in Europe. And, together with the Institute for In Vitro Studies, PCRM held a workshop in July in the Washington, D.C., area to study alternatives to animal use in toxicity testing.
Legal Action as an Advocacy Tool
Last year, PCRM also publicized problems with animal tests by taking several perpetrators to court. One lawsuit, filed against Merck & Company, Inc., argued that the company was negligent for relying on tests on animals to assess the safety of its painkiller Vioxx, which caused thousands of deaths. The Associated Press, Bloomberg, and dozens of other media outlets picked up the story, helping to inform the public that animal testing is not just cruel, but can endanger human health.
In April, PCRM filed suit in the Ohio Supreme Court, demanding the release of secret video footage from an Ohio State University class nicknamed “Cruelty 101.” During the class, students conduct gruesome experiments that aim to mimic human spinal cord injuries by exposing the spines of mice and then dropping weights on them. PCRM filed its lawsuit under the Ohio open records law after the university ignored numerous requests for video footage and documents pertaining to the class. More than 300 neurologists have joined PCRM in calling for an end to the class; the lawsuit remains undecided as of this writing.
An Agent for Change
Under the direction of senior toxicologist Chad Sandusky, Ph.D., PCRM made major progress in an ongoing campaign to reduce the number of animals used in the U.S. government’s chemical toxicity testing programs. In these tests, required by the Environmental Protection Agency, researchers poison animals to try to determine the toxicity of various chemicals for humans. PCRM’s legal experts have filed lawsuits, which are proceeding through the courts, to try to stop the program. Meanwhile, PCRM research staffers have saved many animals by pushing Dow and other chemical companies to avoid unnecessary tests.
PCRM also continued its efforts to educate charitable givers about how to ensure their donations go to health charities that don’t test on animals, both through the Humane Charity Seal program and other avenues. Humane Seal coordinator Kristie Stoick, M.P.H., worked with donors who wanted to help victims of the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina direct their money to groups that don’t test on animals. And PCRM kept up its campaign to educate the public about the March of Dimes’ disturbing use of donors’ money to fund useless birth defect experiments on monkeys, kittens, and other animals. PCRM activists handed out more than 40,000 leaflets to March of Dimes supporters in 175 cities.
While our goal of reducing—and ultimately, eliminating—the use of animals in medical research and education is immense, we are heartened by our growing ability to effect positive change. We look forward to an even more successful year in 2006.