Animal experimentation according to modern scientific principles has been going on for over a century. The results in surgery, medicine, infectious diseases, pharmacology and other disciplines have been of enormous benefit to both animals and humans. They have also had cumulative affects of accelerating knowledge in many directions as one discovery leads to another.
The SAVC believes that animal experimentation has and will continue to form the basis of much veterinary and medical knowledge.
With rare exceptions, mammalian anatomy and physiology share many more similarities than differences. Responses in toxicity and efficacy trials are indeed reliable for screening products for possible use in humans and other animals. The same principles apply to surgical and diagnostic procedures, including modern imaging techniques.
The relief of human and animal suffering and the saving of lives far outweigh the relatively small sacrifices in animal experiments. As an example, many millions of humans and animals have been treated successfully for diabetes since the discovery of insulin by Best and Banting in 1921 and their experiments in animals. In this example the hormone involved and the responses to it are remarkably similar between the species. The same has been true for countless other experiments.
New knowledge often has the surprising result of being applicable to humans or animals in unpredictable and unforeseen ways. It may therefore be considered good in itself because of the options and possibilities it opens up. Animal experimentation that is directed at solving human problems also benefits animals because of the knowledge gained in technique, materials and use of medicines.
For these reasons the SAVC believes it to be irrational for veterinarians to deny a very large part of their present and future foundation of knowledge.
It is aware of the possibility of abuse and subscribes to the principles of the National Code on Animal Experimentation.
Adherence to this code will result in: -
No unnecessary or duplicated experiments;
Protocols that ensure the use of minimum number of animals with minimal suffering and sacrifice;
A transparency that ensures high quality ethical and scientific screening of proposals and monitoring of experiments as they are performed.
The SAVC also supports replacement of animal experimentation with alternative experimental technology whenever possible as well as refinement of animal experimental protocols to further limit suffering and sacrifice.
The SAVC is involved in initiatives to plan new legislation based on the National Code on Animal Experimentation which will include a regulating Council and institutional Animal Ethics Committees in all institutions which conduct experiments. Such committees will have mandatory involvement of veterinarians and animal welfare representatives.
(Published June 1997, courtesy of Dr P C Ardington)