Ahead of World Day for Laboratory Animals on Monday April 24th, animal advocates Queen guitarist Brian May and actor Peter Egan are supporting calls by the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) for the use of animals in research to be replaced with modern alternatives as animal tests are misleading and fundamentally flawed, causing both animal and human suffering.

National Anti-Vivisection Society Campaigns Director Vice President Tim Phillips said: “This World Day for Laboratory Animals we urge governments, researchers and industry to commit to the replacement of misleading animal tests with advanced alternatives. Modern methods are safer, more accurate, and better for animals and people.”

Downton Abbey and Unforgotten actor Peter Egan, said: “Governments and researchers must embrace advances in science and technology and reject misleading and harmful tests – better for animals and people.”

Save Me Trust founder and Queen guitarist Dr Brian May said: “Testing medicines on animals is a fundamentally flawed practice. Non-human animals react differently from humans to drugs and chemicals. Many advanced methods are now available to replace the use of animals in research, methods which are tailored not just specifically to humans, but to specific genetic groups. This renders testing on animals not only unethical and cruel, but inferior in its efficacy to the new methods. We believe it’s time for Government regulators to catch up with the science, and free thousands of animals from a degrading and often painful life and death.”

Examples of animal suffering in the UK

At University of Newcastle, two female macaque monkeys underwent three surgeries for devices to be implanted into their hands, brains and spines. Recording chambers were fixed to their skulls and electrodes inserted into their brains; parts of their spinal bone were removed, a recording chamber screwed into their backs and electrodes inserted into their spinal cord. A chemical was injected into their brains to paralyse their hands. Electrical currents were then sent into their spines to see the effect on their arms and hands as they tried to grasp objects. The workers placed pieces of food in front of the monkeys when their hands and arms were paralysed and measured their ability to pull a lever to get the food reward. The paralysis lasted several hours.

Despite other scientists showing that primate research is unnecessary, with the same level of information obtained from human volunteers using techniques like MEG scanning, researchers such as Roger Lemon at the Institute of Neurology continue their painful experiments. A study of this work by NAVS documented the horrific suffering of these intelligent, emotional primates and that these experiments have continued for 40 years, while Lemon also carries out the research in humans, using methods that do not cause such pain and suffering.

The failure of safety testing

Animals are burnt, blinded, scalded, poisoned, mutilated, starved and have substances forced down their throats so the products we use every day can be called “safe”. Everything contains ingredients tested on animals, from food additives to cleaning agents, and garden pesticides to medicines.

Studies by the NAVS have revealed dogs being force-fed weed killer during safety tests, the dose pushed down their throats and into their stomachs through a rubber hose; the NAVS has also documented the same suffering to test drugs, with dogs experiencing foaming at the mouth, vomiting, bleeding from the gums and diarrhoea.

The fundamental flaw of using animals for safety testing, and other forms of research, is species differences. With each species responding differently to substances – with an animal’s age, diet, sex, even bedding material also affecting results – animal tests can never reliably predict potential human effects. As a result they can delay scientific progress and lead to human tragedy.

Drug BIA 10-2474 was trialled by Biotrial in France, on behalf of Portuguese pharma company Bial. Just days after being given the drug, the six male volunteers in the highest dose group were hospitalised. Four volunteers displayed neurological symptoms, with at least one losing all his fingers and toes; one of the six volunteers died a week after receiving the dose. No comparable effect had been seen in monkeys, dogs, mice and rats given high doses of the drug over long periods. Some monkeys were estimated to have received around 75 times the dose given to the volunteers.

There are disturbing similarities between BIA 10-2474 and another drug trial tragedy, the subject of BBC drama documentary ‘The Drug Trial: Emergency at the Hospital’. In a trial for TGN1412, volunteers suffered multiple organ failure as the drug triggered an uncontrollable immune response. One volunteer was hospitalised for three months, another had their fingers and toes amputated, and all are likely to suffer permanent damage to their immune systems and live with the danger of developing cancer, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Advanced non-animal technologies provide the solution. Methods such as micro-dosing and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) allow ultra-low, harmless doses of new drugs to be safely studied in human volunteers.

Computer modelling, a range of scanning techniques, sophisticated cell and tissue culture including organs-on-chips can also be used to study the human condition. It is vital that governments and regulators drive research towards these modern techniques that benefit people.

Find out more here.

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