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Science On Trial
by Dr Robert Sharpe
The subtitle of this latest book by Robert Sharpe is The Human Cost of Animal Experiments, and that cost is great indeed. Drawing on extensive research, Sharpe, formerly a Senior Research Chemist at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London, presents a powerful body of evidence and argument to demonstrate that, far from being scientific, animal research is methodologically flawed, and has retarded advances in human health.
The advocates of animal experimentation have mounted a sophisticated public relations campaign to justify the use of non-human animals as surrogates for human studies in a "controlled" environment, a claim rebutted by Sharpe. He reveals that the choice of animals is usually governed by factors such as cost, ease of management, and reproductive rates. Hence mice and rats, who scarcely resemble humans are the most popular choice.
The book offers a wide range of empirical examples of the misleading results, false positives and missed opportunities arising from research based on a "logical fallacy". Millions of animals have been sacrificed for no apparent purpose, while research applicable to human beings has been ignored, often for decades. Animal studies attract a disproportionately large percentage of research funds compared with research of direct relevance to humans.
For instance, forty years ago a famous study of the smoking habits of British doctors revealed that the chances of lung cancer increased with the number of cigarettes smoked. These findings were ignored in favour of animal studies in which, after fifty years of trying, scientists were unable to induce experimental cancers in animals by forced inhalation, feeding, or injection into the lungs.
Benzene, arsenic and alcohol were correlated with human cancers long before animal studies were begun. In fact, in the case of arsenic, its suspected carcinogenicity was noted as far back as 1809. Workers in the metallurgical and other industries using arsenic were contracting cancer, but not until the 1980s were scientists able to induce cancer in experimental animals. [Which of course is a form of cancer dissimilar to the human cancer.] This was 180 years after arsenic was first suggested as a human carcinogen.
Sharpe concludes that it would be nice to think that science could put its own house in order, "but in reality it will be an informed and determined public who finally provide the incentives for change. For all our sakes - Let's Liberate Science!"
Reviewed by Margaret Setter in the Nov-Dec '94 issue of MEDI-TATION, the newsletter of the Medical Consumers Association of NSW.
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