The Cruelty and Waste of Vivisection
Vivisection has been defined as “The act of cutting into or dissecting the body of a living animal, especially for scientific research.” (The word is derived from the Latin, vivus, for alive, and the English section, which means cut). The term has come to mean any harmful or invasive technique used on animals in experimentation or dissection.
The dictionary’s definition of vivisection, however, does not begin to describe how hundreds of millions of animals are used in science every year, let alone capture the physical pain, deprivation and emotional distress experienced by animals who are cut up, poisoned, burned, irradiated, gassed, shocked, dismembered or genetically designed to suffer. Nor does it reflect the tragedy of each individual life—however short and brutal—caged in an artificial environment which deprives them of experiencing life as nature intended. Millions of animals—primates, dogs and cats, rats and mice, rabbits, pigs, horses, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and yes, guinea pigs—are sacrificed in basic and applied research, for the safety testing of products, to be bred or harvested from the wild to be killed and cut up for dissection, and as living factories of byproducts to be used as ingredients in drugs or laboratory experiments.
NAVS opposes the use of animals in scientific research and product testing for both ethical and scientific reasons. Vivisection is cruel. It is an outdated and inadequate methodology that can produce invalid, often misleading results. It wastes money and resources and sidetracks meaningful scientific progress.
The use of animals for scientific purposes has been debated for centuries—seemingly pitting the pursuit of knowledge and human health against compassion for animals. Society has allowed vivisection because people have been convinced that it was a “necessary evil” and the only way to find cures for human diseases and to make drugs, cosmetics and other products safe. Secrecy and security have ensured that people are unaware of what happens behind the laboratory doors or wrongly trust that the laws intended to prohibit cruelty to animals include protection for animals used in research.
Defenders of animal experimentation argue that nonhuman animals are enough like humans to make them scientifically adequate models of human diseases or to test treatments or the safety of products. They also contend that other species are different enough from people to make it ethically acceptable to use them in experiments. NAVS argues that it is the way that humans and nonhuman animals are similar that provides the basis for the ethical objection to vivisection. Perhaps the English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, said it best when he asked, “The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But can they suffer?”
There is little doubt that some breakthroughs in the past were made by experimenting on animals, but the questions being asked of science today are more complex and society has grown in its respect and appreciation for other sentient creatures, due in large part to studies of their behavior and intelligence. Sophisticated technologies available today and under development promise new and better avenues for investigation. Many of these approaches offer human relevance and insight in ways that animal models have not, and cannot, provide.
How NAVS Helps
If people could witness what is done to animals in the name of science, they would share our outrage and impatience with the all too slow rate of progress in ending these practices. Since 1929, NAVS’ response to this cruel, archaic, wasteful and unnecessary practice is to work towards the advancement of science without harming animals. We look to science to inspire, to inform, to heal and to help solve the world’s problems. Science is about discovery and exploration. Science replaces ignorance and superstition with knowledge. But scientific investigation that exploits innocent animals as objects to use and abuse, causing unspeakable suffering and death, is not progress. We know that every animal is amazing in their own way—intelligent, social, complex—designed by evolution to be the best at what they do and deserving to be treated with respect. Investing in more humane methods of scientific inquiry will lead to better science.
NAVS is a respected leader of advocates for animals and better, more humane science. We are dedicated to ending harmful, flawed and costly animal experiments through the advancement of smarter, human-relevant research and the promotion of animal-friendly changes to laws and policies:
- We work with respected scientists to advance modern, human-relevant scientific methods that replace the use of animals through our support of the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) and other promising collaborations with the scientific community.
- NAVS’ Advocacy Center empowers supporters to take action that promotes greater protection for animals through the legal/legislative and policy-making processes.
- We provide innovative teaching tools and resources that replace animal dissection while enhancing education in the life sciences. NAVS also provides incentives to encourage young scientists to pursue careers that advance science without harming animals.
- NAVS’ Sanctuary Fund provides emergency financial assistance to support animals retired from laboratories and those threatened by natural and man-made disasters.