Animal research essential until alternatives are found

The Editorial in this month’s (May) issue of Nature Immunology (9, 445; 2008) describes how academics are responding to escalating violence by extremist animal-rights groups by working proactively to prevent the harassment and harm of scientists. Some of these violent incidents, and the scientific community’s reactions, have been previously discussed at Nautilus.

The Nature Immunology Editorial points out that measures passed by the UK Home Office in July 2004 and the US Congress in late 2006 classify as a criminal offence the use of force, violence and harassment against people and institutions engaging in animal testing. Unfortunately, the Editorial continues, “these measures have apparently done little to dissuade fringe animal-rights activists groups….. Perhaps not understood by extremist organizations is the fact that the creation of suitable alternatives to animal testing would be welcomed by many academics, most of whom are frustrated with the enormous financial and administrative burdens associated with animal research.” A few encouraging efforts are under way (see Nature Correspondence from 20 March 2008 issue, for example), but “for the foreseeable future and until technological advances provide suitable alternatives, animal research remains essential to biomedical research into understanding and combating human disease.”


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    Andre Menache said:

    The replacement of animal experiments depends to a large degree on political will and not simply on technological innovation. A non animal replacement to the rabbit pyrogenicity test was developed in 1988, but will be officially adopted by the European Union only in 2010.

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