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Research Animals - History

testing hls vivisection

Early Times

Vivisection on animals and humans dates back to at least the ancient Greeks and Romans. During the third and second centuries B.C. human bodies were vivisected and dissected at the medical school in Alexandria, Egypt, by Herophilus and Erasistratus. Historians believe that more than 600 living criminals were subjected to vivisection. Human dissection and vivisection were generally forbidden throughout the rest of Egypt and in the Roman Empire due to moral concerns.

Galen (circa 130–200) was a Greek physician who moved to Rome and administered to gladiators and emperors. (See Figure 5.4.) He frequently practiced vivi-section on animals, particularly goats, pigs, monkeys, oxen, and dogs. Although Galen made some important anatomical discoveries, such as the importance of the brain and the presence of blood inside arteries, he did not grasp the role of the heart in blood circulation. Modern historians believe that Galen relied too much on animal models. One of his most famous misconceptions involved the rete mirabile. This is a network of blood vessels found in some hoofed animals, but not in humans. Galen mistakenly assumed that humans also had these blood vessels.

Galen wrote extensively, and his teachings formed the basis of Western medical science well into the Middle Ages. The Catholic church frowned upon human dissection and vivisection during this period, meaning that only animals were available for anatomical study, though some adventurous souls still used humans in their research. (See Figure 5.5.) Few advances in medical science were made until the 1500s, when the Belgian doctor Andreas Vesalius (1514–64) challenged many of Galen's ideas. (See Figure 5.6.) Vesalius began to uncover the mysteries of blood circulation after performing FIGURE 5.4
Galen. The Library of Congress.
autopsies on human corpses. He also practiced vivi-section on animals and wrote about its importance in the study of anatomy. Vesalius was followed by British physician and anatomist William Harvey (1578–1657). (See Figure 5.7.) By performing animal vivisection and dissecting the corpses of executed criminals, Harvey discovered the true role of the heart in pumping blood throughout the body.

The Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Centuries

In the seventeenth century, a new philosophy was introduced by French philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650). (See Figure 5.8.) Descartes and his followers believed that animals were unthinking, unfeeling machines. This allowed researchers to perform all manner of experiments on live animals without any moral concerns. In 1764 these practices and ideas were criticized by French philosopher François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694–1778). (See Figure 5.9.) Voltaire noted that vivisection uncovered organs of feeling in animals, proving that animals were not machines, but sentient (feeling) beings. Later in the century, British philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) summarized his thoughts on the subject: "The question is not, Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?" (See Figure 5.10.)

Italian anatomist Mondino de' Luzzi (circa 1265–1326) presides over a human dissection in the early fourteenth century. The Library of Congress.

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, philosophers debated the moral issues involved in animal vivisection. According to historians, the poor and working-class people of the time opposed animal vivisection because they associated it with the dissection of human corpses. The unclaimed bodies of poor people and criminals were often turned over to medical colleges for dissection. There were also well-publicized cases of grave robbing and body snatching to supply researchers with human corpses. These events horrified the common people and made them suspicious of scientists and doctors engaged in medical research.

The nineteenth century also witnessed organized efforts from animal welfare organizations to achieve legislation against animal cruelty in the United Kingdom and United States. The Cruelty to Animals Act was passed in Britain in 1849 and amended in 1876 torestrict FIGURE 5.6
Andreas Vesalius. The Library of Congress.
the use of animals in research. In December 1875 the Society for the Protection of Animals Liable to Vivisection was founded by Frances Power Cobbe (1822–1904). It was later called the Victorian Street Society. In 1898 Cobbe founded the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, an organization still active as of 2005.

Vivisection was also fought by welfarists in the United States. In 1871 Harvard University founded one of the first vivisection laboratories in the country, despite opposition from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Various antivivisection groups were founded, including the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) in 1883 and the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) in 1896. (Table 5.1 provides a list of some of the major U.S. organizations involved in advocating or opposing the use of animals in scientific research over the years.) The new antivivisection groups tried, unsuccessfully, to outlaw the practice of vivi-section. Legislation was passed during the 1890s that outlawed repetition of painful animal experiments for the purpose of teaching or demonstrating well-known and accepted facts.

The First Half of the Twentieth Century

In December 1903 writer Mark Twain (1835–1910) published a short story called "A Dog's Tale" in FIGURE 5.7
William Harvey. The Library of Congress.
Harper's Magazine. The story was written to protest cruelty to animals and their use in research. It is told from the viewpoint of a dog that lives with the family of a scientist. The dog saves the family's baby from a nursery fire but later sees her own puppy blinded and killed during an experiment performed by the scientist to impress his friends. Although some critics condemned the work as overly sentimental, animal welfarists of the time were pleased that it brought public attention to the issue of animal experimentation.

In 1906 Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act (PFDA). The original act did not require any type of testing to ensure that a product was safe or effective. This would change after some tragic events occurred. According to Professor Susan Wilson-Sanders of the University of Arizona, many Americans were injured, sickened, or even killed by unsafe potions, "snake oils," and patent medicines sold by entrepreneurs during the early decades of the twentieth century ("Mrs. Brown's Sad Story: A History of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act,", accessed FIGURE 5.8
René Descartes. The Library of Congress.
June 9, 2005). Some of these products contained incredibly toxic substances, such as dinitrophenol, a compound used to make explosives.

During the 1920s and 1930s, hair dyes containing an aniline compound called paraphenylenediamine became popular. It was well known that aniline compounds were harmful to the eyes, but a cosmetics company introduced a brand of mascara called Lash-Lure containing these chemicals. Doctors reported thousands of eye injuries caused by the product, and even a few deaths after patients suffered serious infections. Many states banned the use of aniline dyes in personal-care products. Wilson-Sanders reports that Lash-Lure contained twenty-five to thirty times more aniline than the amount commonly used in hair dyes.

Other popular cosmetic products of the time that caused injury were called Anti-Mole, Berry's Freckle Ointment, Bleachodent (a teeth whitener), Dr. Dennis's Compound, Koremlu cream, and Dewsberry Hair Tonic. These products contained high concentrations of acids or other toxic chemicals. Whisker dyes marketed to men contained dangerous levels of silver or lead acetate. A popular depilatory (hair removal cream) contained rat poison.

Doctors lobbied Congress throughout the 1930s to crack down on dangerous drugs and personal products sold to Americans, but they were opposed by powerful FIGURE 5.9
Voltaire. Public Domain.
marketing groups. In 1937 nearly 100 people (mostly children) died after drinking a product called Elixir of Sulfanilamide containing sulfa drugs dissolved in diethylene glycol (antifreeze). The public was outraged and pressured Congress to strengthen the original PFDA and include cosmetics. The Pure Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (PFDCA) was passed in 1938. It contained a requirement for animal testing.

Wilson-Sanders notes that the first tests were conducted on rats and could last less than one month. The testing requirements were gradually amended to include different species and to last for longer time periods. By 1957 drug testing had to be performed on rats or dogs for up to six months. By the 1980s testing was required to last twelve to eighteen months. Testing on pregnant animals was instituted in the 1960s following the thalidomide tragedy. Thalidomide is a drug that was widely prescribed in Canada and Europe during the late 1950s to treat nausea in pregnant women. More than 10,000 deformed babies resulted. Although the drug had been extensively tested on animals, it had not been tested on pregnant animals. New guidelines for testing the effects of drugs on animal reproduction and fetus development were incorporated into the PFDCA.

Jeremy Bentham. The Library of Congress.

The Second Half of the Twentieth Century

Historians note that the antivivisection movement subsided with the advent of World War I (1914–18) and did not resurge until the 1960s. One of the driving forces behind the movement's rebirth was the story of Pepper, a Dalmatian who disappeared from her family's backyard in Pennsylvania in July 1965. The family tracked the dog to an animal dealer in New York, but he refused to return the dog. The family enlisted the help of the Animal Welfare Institute, the Pennsylvania State Police, and New York Congressman Joseph Resnick, but they were too late. Pepper had been sold to a hospital in New York City that conducted an experiment on her and euthanized her.

The story was widely publicized and led to public outrage. Bills were introduced in the House and Senate calling for animal dealers and laboratories to be licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and required to meet certain humane standards of care. During the debate, which took place during 1965 and 1966, Democratic Senator Warren Magnuson (1905–89) of Washington said, "We do not think we can allow the needs of research, great as they may be, to TABLE 5.1
Major organizations devoted to issues involving animal research, founded from 1883 to 1992
SOURCE: Created by Kim Masters Evans for Thomson Gale

Founding date Organization Stated mission
1883 American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) Devoted to legally and effectively ending the use of animals in science through education, advocacy, and the development of alternative methods to animal use.
1895 New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) Works to expose and replace animal experiments in laboratories and classrooms with ethically and scientifically responsible modern research methods.
1929 National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) Goals include ending the use of animals in research, product testing, and education; educating the public about the cruelty and waste of vivisection; and encouraging development of non-animal methodologies.
1950 American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) Advances responsible care and use of laboratory animals to benefit people and animals.
1965 American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) Voluntary accreditation organization founded by veterinary and scientific groups to promote uniform animal-care standards.
1974 Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) Group dedicated to furthering research and promoting ethical ideals within the research community.
1979 National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) Provides the collective voice for the scientific community on national policy involving animal use in research, education and product safety testing.
1981 Johns Hopkins University Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) Funded by the Cosmetics, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association to research alternatives to animal testing.
1981 Michigan Society for Medical Research Non-profit science education organization that supports biomedical research and the judicious use of animals in research.
1985 Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) Advocates alternatives to harming animals for educational or research purposes.
1986 The Scientists Center for Animal Welfare (SCAW) A non-profit educational association of individuals and institutions involved in research. The group's goal is to promote the welfare of animals used in research, testing, and educational programs.
1991 Americans for Medical Progress (AMP) Non-profit organization devoted to protecting society's investment in research by promoting public understanding of and support for the appropriate role of animals in biomedical research so that scientists are able to continue their quest for cures and improved methods of treatment for illness, injury and disease.
1991 Ethical Science & Education Coalition (ESEC) Educational affiliate of the NEAVS that works to protect the rights of students who decide not to dissect or otherwise use animals in a harmful way.
1992 Center for Laboratory Animal Welfare (CLAW) Affiliated with the Massachusetts SPCA, this organization advocates alternatives to animal testing.

promote either the theft of a child's pet or the growth of unscrupulous animal dealers." The bills were opposed by strong lobbying groups and were in danger of failing, until a story ran in the February 1966 issue of Life magazine.

"Concentration Camps for Dogs" was the story of a police raid on a dog dealer's facility in Maryland. The story included horrific photographs of abused dogs kept in filthy cages until they could be sold to research laboratories. According to the article, the dogs were to be sold at auction for thirty cents per pound. The offices of politicians were flooded with letters. Editorials appeared in major newspapers around the country calling for federal legislation.

A few months later, Congress passed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966. It called for the licensing of animal dealers and regulation of laboratory animals. The original act applied to dogs, cats, primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits. In 1970 the act was renamed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and amended to cover several other warm-blooded animals. A year later, the USDA decided to exclude rats, mice, and birds from coverage under the act, arguing that the department did not have the staff needed to regulate the huge numbers of such animals involved. The USDA has also noted that most of these small animals are used at research institutions that have other oversight protections in place to regulate their use.

The 1975 publication of Australian philosopher Peter Singer's book Animal Liberation brought more coverage to the use of animals in scientific research. The book included disturbing photographs and descriptions of animals being subjected to all sorts of painful procedures for questionable purposes. Singer argued that the pain and suffering inflicted on the animals was too high a moral price to pay for scientific research.

In 1976 animal activist Henry Spira (1927–98) led a campaign protesting research at the American Museum of Natural History on the effects of castration and mutilation on cats' sexual behavior. The campaign was hailed as a success by activists after the museum halted the research a year later. Spira then turned his attention to the testing of cosmetics on animals, particularly the Draize test, in which chemicals were put into the eyes of rabbits.

Spira formed a coalition of animal welfare and antivivisection groups to educate the public about animal testing of cosmetics. In full-page advertisements in major newspapers, Spira accused major cosmetics companies of being cruel to animals. Public response was immediate. Several companies, including Revlon and Avon, announced their intention to cease animal testing and find new alternatives. In 1981 the Cosmetics, Toiletries, and Fragrance Association funded the founding of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. By the end of the 1980s, Revlon and Avon had ceased animal testing.

In 1985 Congress amended the Animal Welfare Act to require that researchers minimize animal pain and distress whenever possible through use of anesthesia, analgesics (painkillers), and humane euthanasia. New requirements were added regarding the physical and psychological well-being of dogs and primates used in research work. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, animal welfare groups petitioned and sued the USDA to add mice, rats, and birds to the animals covered under the AWA, but were unsuccessful. In 1990 AWA coverage was extended to horses and other farm animals.

Scientists engaged in animal research watched with concern as animal welfare and antivivisection groups launched aggressive publicity campaigns against them. In 1979 the National Association for Biomedical Research was founded in Washington, D.C., with the mission of "advocating sound public policy that recognizes the vital role of humane animal use in biomedical research, higher education, and product safety testing." In 1981 the Foundation for Biomedical Research and the Michigan Society for Medical Research (MISMR) were founded with similar goals.

These organizations work to counter claims by animal rights activists that animal research and testing are cruel practices with little to no scientific value. For example, the MISMR says that animals have played a major role in the work of at least eleven Nobel Prize winners since 1975. (See Table 5.2.) RDS: Understanding Animal Research in Medicine is an organization based in the United Kingdom that represents the interests of British researchers conducting animal research. On its Web site, RDS maintains a timeline of the major medical and veterinary breakthroughs of each decade that were achieved through animal testing.


In 1981 a little-known organization called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) gained national prominence through an exposé on paralysis experiments on monkeys at the Institute of Behavioral Research in Silver Springs, Maryland. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by Dr. Edward Taub. It involved depriving monkeys of sensory input into their spinal cords in order to give them denervated arms, or arms in which the nerves were not active. The monkeys gnawed and licked their arms, producing wounds. Taub hired a young man named Alex Pacheco to work as a laboratory assistant. Unbeknownst TABLE 5.2
The role of animals in Nobel Prize-winning research
SOURCE: "The Important Role of Animals in Nobel Prizes," Michigan Society for Medical Research, 2004, (accessed March 17, 2005)

1975 Monkey, horse, chicken, mouse
Interaction between tumor viruses and genetic material.
1979 Pig
Development of computer assisted tomography (CAT scan).
1981 Cat, monkey
Processing of visual data by the brain.
1988 Mouse, chick, snake
Nerve and epidermal growth factor.
1995 Fruitfly
Genetic control of early embryonic development.
1998 Rabbit
Regulating blood pressure with nitric oxide (NO).
2000 Sea slug
Signal transduction in the nervous system.
2001 Sea urchin
Key regulators of the cell cycle.
2002 Nematode (worm)
Genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death.
2003 Dog (preliminary studies)
Discoveries concerning Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
2004 Mouse
Discovery of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system.

to Taub, Pacheco had cofounded PETA the year before. Pacheco photographed the monkeys, then reported the lab to authorities. A subsequent raid led to the filing of animal cruelty charges against Taub.

The incident came to be known as the Silver Springs Monkey Case. Although the charges against Taub were eventually dropped, the publicity made PETA famous. The monkeys were confiscated, and Congress forced the NIH to cease the research. This was viewed as a major triumph by people involved in antivivisection and the growing animal rights movement.

In August 1992 the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992 (Public Law 102–346) was enacted against "animal enterprise terrorism." The law prohibits "causing physical disruption to the functioning of an animal enterprise." Three types of animal enterprises are defined:

  • Commercial or academic enterprises using animals to produce food or fiber or for agriculture, research, or testing
  • Zoos, aquariums, circuses, rodeos, and other legal sporting events
  • Fairs and similar events designed to advance agricultural arts and sciences

Offenses that can be charged under the act include using the mail to cause physical disruption at animal enterprises and stealing, damaging, or causing the loss of property used by animal enterprises. Property includes animals and records. People who cause or who conspire to cause economic damages in excess of $10,000 can be fined and/or imprisoned for up to one year. Aggravated offenses include causing serious bodily injury or death to another person during physical disruption to an animal enterprise. These offenses have penalties ranging from ten years to life in prison. The act also states that restitution can be demanded to cover any loss of food production or farm income associated with an offense and the cost of repeating any experiments that were interrupted or ruined.


PETA continued to use infiltration and secretly obtained photographs and videotapes to publicize the realities of animal research. In 1996 and 1997 the group conducted an eight-month undercover investigation at a Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) facility in New Jersey. HLS is a major target of antivivisection groups because it is one of the largest contract companies conducting animal research. A PETA member began working at HLS and secretly collected documents, photographs, and videotapes that PETA used to file a formal complaint against HLS with the USDA. PETA also released some of the material to the media.

HLS countersued PETA, claiming that the materials were obtained by illegal means and that PETA had violated the Economic Espionage Act and the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. In December 1997 a mutual settlement was reached in which PETA agreed to turn over all records taken from HLS and cease for five years trying to infiltrate HLS property. A gag order was put into place forbidding PETA from publicly discussing information it collected during the case, excluding the information that it had already released to the media.

In 1999 a new animal rights group calling itself Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) began using radical and violent means against the HLS headquarters in the United Kingdom. Cars were firebombed and company executives were assaulted outside their homes. Several activists were arrested and jailed for violent crimes.

SHAC began targeting companies providing HLS with services, funding, and equipment. Banks, brokerage houses, and investment companies with ties to HLS were picketed and flooded with threatening letters, faxes, and e-mails. Employees were harassed and sometimes assaulted. Their homes were vandalized. The intimidation tactics were effective, as numerous companies decided to sever their business ties with HLS. By 2002 no commercial bank in the UK would loan money to the company. According to an article in the New York Times, the company's stock dropped in value from $3 per share in 1993 to six cents a share in 2002, even though the company was making a modest profit (Alan Cowell, "Scene Shifts in Fight against British Testing Lab," January 22, 2002).

In 2002 the company moved its stock market listing to the United States. The New York Times reported that HLS was taken over "on paper" by Life Sciences Research, a company set up by HLS and incorporated in Maryland. This arrangement allowed HLS to take advantage of U.S. privacy laws that protect the identity of certain investors. An American arm of SHAC known as SHAC USA was formed and continues to lead an intimidation campaign against HLS and companies that do business with it. In 2005 SHAC USA's Web site said that the group uses an array of tactics "from protests, to letter writing, to phone blockades, publicity stunts, and direct action." SHAC USA also notes that underground activists associated with the Animal Liberation Front support SHAC USA by conducting "economic sabotage and live liberations from HLS and the lab's breeders."

The Web site provides a near daily listing of "direct actions" taken against the employees of HLS, its suppliers, and customers. During late January and early February of 2005 these actions included splattering homes with paint, filling locks with glue, breaking windows, setting off smoke bombs in offices, and harassing company executives on vacation and at church. Activists claim they followed the son of the CEO of one of HLS's pharmaceutical clients to school and handed out leaflets to the boy's classmates accusing HLS of torturing animals.

HLS defends its company's practices. In 2005 the company declared on its Web site that it is "committed to providing the highest levels of animal husbandry and welfare." The Web site also noted that in 2003 HLS was accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) and is one of only a few contract research organizations in the world to be accredited. The AAALAC is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 1965 by scientists and veterinarians engaged in animal research. In 2005 the AAALAC's Web site noted that "accreditation demonstrates a willingness to go above and beyond the minimums required by law, and assures the public that the institution is committed to the responsible use and treatment of animals in science."


Mainstream antivivisection and welfarist groups have condemned the violent tactics used by radical activists and instead wage public relations and political campaigns against the use of research animals. One of their primary targets has been the Coulston Foundation (TCF), a primate breeding and research facility operated by toxicologist Fred Coulston in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The facility began operations in 1980 and at one time housed as many as 650 chimpanzees, making it the largest captive chimpanzee colony in the world.

Some of the chimps came from the U.S. Air Force, which had been using them in space flight research. Others came from various government and academic institutions. TCF conducted numerous experiments on the chimps during the 1980s and 1990s with funding provided by the National Institutes of Health. Areas of research included HIV, hepatitis, and herpes-B viruses, as well as spinal cord experiments. The president of the animal protection group In Defense of Animals (IDA) accused Coulston in a September 17, 2002, news release of using primates as "hairy test tubes." Coulston was quoted in a New York Times article as saying that he wanted to raise primates "like cattle" to harvest their blood and organs for medical research (David Berreby, "Unneeded Lab Chimps Face Hazy Future," February 4, 1997).

IDA began investigating TCF in 1993 after claims surfaced that the facility was not providing proper care for its primates. Information on IDA's Web site in 2005 charged that TCF repeatedly violated AWA regulations, but was staunchly defended by NIH bureaucrats. As of 2002, TCF had received more than $40 million in government funding.

The AWA violations stemmed from the deaths of several primates from heat stress, water deprivation, and improper surgical techniques. TCF was also cited by the USDA numerous times for housing and care violations and lack of qualified veterinarians. It was fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for serious human safety violations and was in trouble with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding its animal testing procedures. During the late 1990s, TCF's regulatory problems were accompanied by severe economic problems. Government auditors found that TCF was deep in debt and had depleted funds that were intended to provide lifelong care for some of the primates.

In September 2002 the TCF facility closed, on the verge of bankruptcy after it could not acquire additional government funding. Coulston contacted Dr. Carole Noon, director of Save the Chimps, an organization that had formed a small, well-respected chimp sanctuary in southern Florida. Save the Chimps raised millions of dollars, donated by various animal welfare groups, to buy out TCF. Custody of TCF's remaining 266 chimpanzees and sixty-one monkeys at the facility was turned over to Save the Chimps. Some of the money raised was used to modify the cages and living space at the New Mexico facility until the Florida sanctuary could be expanded. In 2003 two baby chimps were flown to the sanctuary. They were joined in January 2005 by three adult chimps from the TCF facility. All TCF chimps were expected to be moved to the sanctuary by the end of 2005.

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about 7 years ago


We eat and drink hardly anything but processed food, get fat, get diabeties and other problems, them use chimps to solve it.

We smoke cigarettes or breathe in other peoples' smoke, get lung problems and more, then torture animals.