Top positive review
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best book on the subject--clear, cold-blooded logic
on July 13, 2003
This book stands virtually alone as a well-reasoned defense against vivisection (a.k.a. animal research). The authors make no appeals to emotion. They do not deny that animal research is sometimes cruel. However, compassion and cruelty have nothing to do with their argument.
Greek and Greek-a medical doctor/ veterinary team-argue that animal research hurts people. They point out the countless ways in which animals differ from humans. Veterinarians know that, although the same drugs are used in multiple species, these drugs behave differently and achieve different results in different kinds of animals. Mammals are alike only on the level of gross anatomy. Biochemically, even rats and mice differ enormously, to say nothing of humans and mice.
Tracing the history of western medicine, Greek and Greek show how animal models for disease became part of the expected protocol. They show how these models have hindered doctors and scientists far more than they have helped. They point out that nearly all major breakthroughs in medicine have been initiated not by study in animal models, but by autopsy and clinical studies. Careful observation of human beings by doctors and caretakers has, time and again, led to medical breakthroughs which are later "confirmed" or "substantiated" by animals research. The vivisectionists then claim the laurels for these discoveries when the animals were, in fact, superfluous. Greek and Greek also point out the tremendous harm that animal models have caused. Such models lead to a sense of false confidence that drugs will not be harmful or that the risk is low. In fact, the recall rate for drugs is 50%. Fifty percent have adverse, unexpected side affects after they are loosed on a population that has trusted in animal models. 50% is the toss of a coin! Millions upon millions of dollars are poured into animal tests yearly.
In addition, animal models have slowed the recall of harmful drugs. Thalidomide is one of many examples. This drug causes hideous birth defects in humans, but no birth defects in rats, mice, most rabbits, guinea pigs, and other animals. Doctors realized that the drug was causing birth defects and warned the company, but thalidomide could not be recalled until an animal model was found in which the drug caused birth defects! So thalidomide remained on the market, causing children to be born with flippers, until an obscure species of rabbit was found who also produced deformed kits when given the drug. Only then could thalidomide be recalled!
Greek and Greek show how the idea of the animal model is based on greed and bureaucracy, not good science. They explain that, while scientists of the past were primarily wealthy people doing a hobby they enjoyed, today's scientists are required to continually produce statistically significant results in order to keep their jobs. Just to graduate with a PhD requires a candidate to perform meaningful research. Under these conditions, the temptation to reach for something quick, easy, and difficult-to-disprove are enormous. Rats and mice fit the bill. They breed rapidly, are easy to house, and it takes a long time to show that the result of research in rats does not actually have any useful application for human beings. Clinical students in human beings, on the other hand, can take decades. In addition, human beings are far less corporative than rats, and there are limits to what you can legally do to them and what they will allow you to do. The catch, of course, is that clinical studies in human beings actually produce useful results, whereas animal models very often lead nowhere. Yet university professors anxious to keep their jobs and young students desperate to get their degrees continue to reach again and again for cheap and easy research models. In addition, huge companies manufacture expensive equipment for miniature surgeries on rats, dogs, cats, birds, mice, monkeys, goats, guinea pigs, rats, and all manner of other beasts. These creatures require all manner of housing, some of it vary expensive, and human-type surgeries on them require very specialized and expensive instruments. Animal models are a multimillion dollar industry.
With today's technology, even many clinical studies could be circumvented by using invetro methods. Human cells can be cultivated on a Petri dish or in a test tube and then exposed to various drugs. There is no reason to keep using the clumsy and inaccurate barometer of four-legged creatures.
Greek and Greek fill much of their book with one example after another. Their research is superb. I began the book as a skeptic and ended it as a believer. I have a degree in biology, and I could find nothing wrong with their research. I passed the book on to one of my college biology professors. He was impressed and decided to start including the material in his ethics course.
Whether you are a member of the medical community or merely a consumer, I strongly recommend this book. Whether you agree with all of the Greeks' conclusions or not, they certainly make some valid points and have taken pains with their research. Read the book.