By John Pranger
“The medical establishment has become the major threat to health.”
— Ivan Illich in Limits to Medicine: Medical Nemesis, the Expropriation of Health, 1976
Animals are used by pharmaceutical and chemical companies to test the toxicity of drugs and other substances, including cosmetics, household cleaners, and pesticides—and tobacco. This practice has been regularly criticized by doctors and scientists who maintain that animal testing is unscientific, erroneous, and a danger to human health. It merely performs an alibi function for corporations and governments, who hope to protect themselves thereby from legal liability.
This alibi function was confirmed by James D. Gallagher, then director of medical research for Lederle Laboratories, who complained in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1964: “Another basic problem which we share as a result of the regulations and the things that prompted them is an unscientific preoccupation with animal studies. Animal studies are done for legal reasons and not for scientific reasons. The predictive value of such studies for man is meaningless—which means our research may be meaningless.”
The biological variations between species make the results of experiments done on one species inapplicable to any other species, including humans. In addition to this, the various diseases which plague human beings either do not occur naturally in non-humans or they take on a very different form. Put simply, animals can never have human disease due to the basic biological fact that they are not human.
Cigarette smoking is a factor in many diseases, causing an estimated 443,000 deaths each year in the U.S. alone. Why are cigarettes still legal when they are proven harmful? Epidemiology has shown, for instance, that persons who smoke are far more likely to die of lung cancer than persons who do not smoke. Numerous large population studies have been undertaken, and there is not a single retrospective or prospective controlled study that has failed to show that cigarette smoking causes human lung cancer.
In stark contrast to the consistently positive findings linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer in humans, the results of decades of animal experiments are highly contradictory. Most animal studies have failed to show that cigarettes cause cancer.
Perversely, denying medical facts, researchers are forcing animals to inhale cigarette smoke to this day, no scientists having yet succeeded in causing the human type of lung cancer in animals. In 1975’s The Unseen Fight Against Cancer, Dr. Thelma Brumfield Dunn writes: “the induction of lung cancer by tobacco smoking has not been achieved. Almost every conceivable experiment has been devised to induce lung cancers in animals that would duplicate the lung cancers found in man. Chickens and dogs were made to smoke and to inhale, but no convincing lung cancers developed. Hundreds of mice spent a lifetime in smoke-filled rooms yet no increase in lung cancer was found.”
Because of animal studies’ failure to show that cigarette smoking causes cancer, wider and speedy acceptance of the cigarette-lung cancer theory has been seriously retarded, although it is firmly based on studies of actual human populations. Tobacco companies have used the legal alibi of animal testing to keep their products on the market and to frustrate all attempts at instituting meaningful regulation and public health measures. In 1993, the New York Times quoted sworn testimony of William Campbell, then president and CEO of cigarette manufacturer Phillip Morris USA:
Q: “Does cigarette smoking cause cancer?”
A: “To my knowledge, it’s not been proven that cigarette smoking causes cancer.”
Q: “What do you base that on?”
A: “I base that on the fact that traditionally, there is, you know, in scientific terms, there are hurdles related to causation, and at this time there is no evidence that -- they have not been able to reproduce cancer in animals from cigarette smoking.”
Animal studies are almost unbelievably contrived and crude. Dogs with erections (don’t ask how) were forced to inhale cigarette smoke. Most of the dogs failed to maintain an erection after the smoke was inhaled. In the Journal of Urology in 1987, researchers said this observation lent support to the clinical observation that smoking interfered with a man’s ability to maintain an erection.
Laughable or worrying? Why do we have to give our money to people who conjure up such mad science behind locked doors? Why does government continue funding animal experiments with our taxes in spite of their proven inability to cure or prevent disease?
Nearly a century of tormenting animals with cigarette smoke and what’s the upshot? 5.4 million Canadians are addicted to cigarettes—the leading cause of preventable death—and 45,000 Canadians die from smoking each year and that number is growing. When will the “scientists” be satisfied that smoking is unhealthy and that we don’t need their “confirmation” to know this?
John Pranger is the director of communications for the Animal Defense & Anti-Vivisection Society of British Columbia.