Vivisection: a methodological error

                                                                                                                               Gianni Tamino

Vivisection stems from a mechanistic vision of nature, which assimilates humans to  machines, presuming it would be possible to find out how they work, only by knowing the mechanical relationship between their parties. In this perspective, the animal-machine becomes a model for the human-machine. This logic is based on a principle of a precise correspondence between man and animal, but every biologist knows that different species have several similar anatomical, physiological and metabolic characteristics, but, at the same time, several very different features: each animal is a model only of itself.

Moreover, animals used for experiments are “artificially” selected animals, kept in cages without the stimuli that are necessary to develop their self-defense. Each result obtained by experimenting can give us data pertinent to its species (perhaps), but we do not know if what occorre with that species will also occurr with human.

We will know whether or not there is correspondence between man and the animal used in an experiment only after testing the same substance on humans.

Man is the therefore the real guinea pig.

However, when discussing the validity of different medical and biological theories, scientists often cited the proof of animal studies. In this context,  experimenters can find evidence to support any theory by using different types of animals. To make an example: scientists used  animal experiments to prove and also to deny the carcinogenic property of smoke.

Researchers have access to better methods than animal testing: epidemiological studies, clinical trials, clinical observations supported by laboratory tests, in vitro cultures of cells and tissues, autopsy studies, endoscopic examination and biopsy, images investigative methods.

Furthermore, there is molecular epidemiology, an emerging science that links the genetic, metabolic biochemical epidemiological data to the incidence of diseases, and toxicogenomics, a research method, based on "DNA arrays" to monitor the expression of genes, which allows to observe in which way a particular chemical substance alters the function of genes within a cell.

Finally, it is good to remember what Thomas Hartung, German pharmacologist and toxicologist at Constance University, stated in an article on Nature (2009), entitled "Toxicology for the twenty-first century": "Only a radical renewal of toxicological testing will allow us to tackle next challenges for the care of health and the protection of the environment", highlighting the non-predictability of animal experimentation.