Animals in Research

While some specific research questions may be adequately addressed using cell cultures, tissue studies or computer models, research with animals continues to be critical for the advancement of human health. Disease processes are typically complex, involving multiple physiological processes and multiple organ systems. That is why many research questions can only be answered through detailed study of a whole living system, and why alternative research tools such as computer models can complement but not fully replace research with animals.

This also explains why, during the past century, virtually every major advance in medical knowledge and treatment involved research using animal models. In fact, two-thirds of Nobel Prizes in Medicine awarded since 1901 were won for discoveries that required the use of animals.

Animal research has saved lives, extended life expectancy, and improved the quality of life for both humans and animals by enabling scientists to conduct critical experiments that identified ways to prevent, treat, and cure disease. Future medical progress depends on this continued research.

To understand the impact that animal research has had on all our lives, consider these examples from Americans for Medical Progress showing what the world would be like without it:

  • Polio would kill or cripple thousands of unvaccinated children and adults this year.
  • Most of the nation's 1 million insulin-dependent diabetic individuals would not be insulin dependent – they would be dead.
  • Sixty million Americans would risk death from heart attack, stroke or kidney failure from lack of medication for high blood pressure.
  • Doctors would have no chemotherapy to save the 70 percent of children who now survive acute lymphocytic leukemia.
  • More than 1 million Americans would lose vision in at least one eye this year because cataract surgery would be impossible.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people disabled by strokes or by head or spinal cord injuries would not benefit from rehabilitation techniques.
  • The more than 100,000 people with arthritis who each year receive hip replacements would walk only with great pain and difficulty or be confined to wheelchairs.
  • The 7,500 newborns who contract jaundice each year would develop cerebral palsy, now preventable through phototherapy.
  • There would be no kidney dialysis to extend the lives of thousands of patients with end-stage renal disease.
  • Surgery of any type would be a painful, rare procedure without the development of modern anesthesia allowing artificially induced unconsciousness or local or general insensitivity to pain.
  • Instead of being eradicated, smallpox would continue unchecked and many others would join the two million people killed by the disease.
  • Millions of dogs, cats and other pets and farm animals would have died from anthrax, distemper, canine parvovirus, feline leukemia, rabies, and more than 200 other diseases now preventable because of animal research.