Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends!
I thank you most sincerely for the opportunity to present,
here in London, my ideas concerning the necessity to abolish
all animal experiments. I am a biochemist and for the last
fifteen years have been in charge of the clinical pharmacology
department of an epilepsy centre in Germany. I am on the board
of the Vereinigung Artzte gegen Tierversuche, an association
of doctors opposed to animal experiments. I myself have never
been engaged in animal experiments, but through my work I
have come into constant contact with the problems and consequences
of animal experimentation.
Experimenting with animals is nowadays increasingly rejected,
mainly for moral or ethical but also for scientific reasons.
My field of work - epilepsy research - is a typical example
of tendencies and developments in modern medical research
towards dispensing with traditional animal testing. Even a
decade ago, it was claimed that epilepsy research could only
be carried out using the intact brains of living animals.
Today, experimental epilepsy research means largely neither
human nor animal experiments but in-vitro studies - that is,
research with nerve-cell or brain-tissue preparations.
Countless mice, rats, cats, monkeys and other animals have
been sacrificed in the last sixty years for experimental -epilepsy
research, in the last analysis without success. Medicine based
on animal experimentation is not, even today, in a position
to heal epilepsy but only, to a greater or lesser extent,
to suppress seizures. At the same time, the considerable side-effects
of the drugs must be reckoned with.
The first drugs used in the treatment of this disease, such
as bromides and phenobarbital (which latter is very important
even today), were not found as a result of animal experiments
but of self-trials and clinical observation. The few other
substances against epilepsy which are in current use were
the result of chance rather than the products of systematic
We have sought for decades to find further seizure-inhibiting
substances by using a whole series of excruciatingly painful
animal experiments. Artificial seizures have been produced
in mice, rats and cats with specific poisons, electrical shocks
or by surgical operations. Using these models, drugs were
sought which should favourably influence seizures. But these
artificial seizures are always monocausative imitations of
epileptic seizures and are hardly comparable with human epilepsy.
This is because seizures occur spontaneously in man, unpredictably
and mostly independently of external influences, being the
results of a multicausative pathogenic development. Genetic
factors and various environmental influences can also play
Hundreds of chemical substances have been found which affect
these artificially produced seizures in animals. But this
does not mean that one can predict which of these substances
may be successfully used for man. Only the human experiment
can show if a substance can be used clinically as an anti-epileptic
Using animal experiments, researchers have tried to predict
if an anticonvulsant substance results in side-effects or
damage in man. Even here, an answer can only be obtained from
the human experiment. Almost all clinical problems and side-effects
of anti-epileptic drugs have been first encountered in man
himself and have not been predicted by animal experiments.
Many drugs have had to be withdrawn because, contrary to the
results of animal experiments, they produced seizures in man
or else had serious and unacceptable side-effects on human
Countless neurophysiological details have been discovered
by using animal testing, but in the final analysis we do not
know which of these results are relevant for man. The ultimate
causes of epilepsy are largely unknown, despite decades of
As I have already mentioned, in-vitro methods are today increasingly
used in the field of epilepsy research. About a decade ago,
scientists began to study the seizure-inhibiting or -precipitating
effects of substances by using samples of mouse and rat brains
or cultures of their neurons. Today, human tissue is increasingly
used, obtained, for example, during operations to remove tumours
or during other brain surgery. This procedure has the advantage
that the results, unlike those from animal experiments, are
really relevant and can be much better applied to man.
I could report extensively on the lack of success of animal
experimentation in epilepsy research, about the problems of
carrying over results from animal experiments to human epilepsies
and about completely new diagnostic possibilities which were
not developed by animal experimentation, but I shall next
consider the problem of animal research in general terms.
I shall try to make it clear that the common concept of the
necessity for animal research is based on a series of myths,
fairy tales and legends, which are, finally, either totally
false or at least have no valid basis.
Modern society must, in its own interests, begin to question
these myths. It is not a question of having to live with a
necessary evil. I believe that man has a chance of survival
in this world ONLY if he succeeds in making peace with nature.
Man has increasingly exploited, misused and raped nature.
The consequences: our woods are to a considerable extent irreversibly
damaged; oceans and seas are becoming ever more polluted;
our natural environment is largely destroyed; climatic catastrophes
of an unimaginable magnitude threaten our world; and poisons
produced by man are eating holes in the protective ozone layer
of our planet. If man does not learn to live peaceably with
nature, he will cease to exist. Animal experiments do not
contribute to living in peace with nature - they are a brutal
declaration of war on nature. We exploit the weak, in this
case animals, with brute force, supposedly for our advantage.
The animal world cannot be a push-button service for our so-called
First of all, let it be made clear that we, the groups of
doctors against animal experimentation, do not wish to abolish
either science or medicine (as is sometimes maintained). Man
needs them in this present time more urgently than ever before.
But the medical sciences have landed up in a dead-end street.
Medicine today has become an organiser of the symptoms of
illness; it has forgotten that originally its most important
aims were the prevention and healing of disease. The cause
of the tragedy of medical science is a mechanistic view of
the world, in which concepts of soul, spirit and mind have
no further place, and man is nothing more than a sort of bio-machine
or a somewhat highly evolved mammal. But as long as medical
science studies man and his illnesses by always using an entirely
inadequate animal model, medicine cannot recognise or study
man's peculiarities and special features, especially that
fine interplay between body, mind and spirit, the disturbance
of which presents itself as illness.
A further clarification: we do not seek to replace animal
experiments by experiments with humans, as we are often accused
of doing. Groups such as DBAE reject animal experimentation
only because of its damaging effects on man; one of the most
important demands of these groups is the protection of man
from the risks of new and old chemicals or drugs, which can
certainly not be judged by animal research.
I want, together with you, to analyse these myths of the pretended
necessity of animal experimentation.
First myth: "Medical knowledge is based on animal experiments"
It is often claimed that true medical science had its beginnings
with the introduction of chemotherapy about a hundred years
ago. But this is false. There have at all times been excellent
doctors who really could heal, and there have been throughout
history famous medical schools where the art of healing really
was taught. The pillars of classical medical knowledge were
not animal experiments, although these were practised to some
extent even a thousand years ago; but the foundation of such
knowledge was the observations of healthy and sick men and
animals. Other pillars of classical medicine were a knowledge
of anatomy and extensive experience of pain-relieving drugs,
anaesthetics and remedies produced predominantly on a herbal
Even our recent medical knowledge is based to a considerable
extent on clinical experience and not on animal experimentation,
or at least animal testing is only used subsequently to support
confirmation of results. Not only have many successful therapeutic
substances based on herbs been found without animal research,
but so also have drugs such as acetyl salicylic acid (known
as aspirin, a fever-relieving drug) and phenobarbital (known
as luminal, an anti-epileptic drug). May I remind you that
the first modern anaesthetics, such as nitrous oxide (or laughing
gas), opium, ether and chloroform, were found at the beginning
of the nineteenth century without any kind of animal research.
Together with the recognised need for aseptic conditions,
these led to enormous progress in surgery in the second half
of the century, all without animal research. Most of the present
operative techniques were not developed from animal experimentation
but were based on clinical experience.
Second myth: "Only animal experiments have made
possible the fight against disease and thereby increased life
This myth is part of the standard repertoire of those who
support animal experiments, but it is false! The increase
in life expectancy has, above all, been caused by the reduction
in infectious diseases. The well-known British doctor of social
medicine, Professor McKeown, showed by extensive studies that
the reduction of infectious illnesses, and hence of infant
and child mortality, is due to improved sanitary conditions
and hygiene, as well as to improved and sufficient nutrition
and the limiting of the birth rate, and is not due to new
drugs and vaccines. Correspondingly, there is a very high
infant and child mortality rate in the developing world, due
to social problems, poverty and malnutrition and not to lack
of drugs or vaccines.
If we consider the so-called diseases of civilisation - and
they account for about 80 per cent of all deaths -we get the
impression that modern medicine is rather powerless in its
struggle. Fifty-two per cent of the population die from avoidable
chronic cardiovascular diseases, and 24 per cent die from
cancer - and this is an increasing tendency. Modern chemotherapy
has hardly been able to touch these diseases; decades after
the introduction of the first effective anticarcinogenic drug
cyclophosphamide, only a few per cent of all cases of cancer
are more or less curable, and this only with considerable
side-effects and damage. If, in the United States, the number
of deaths due to cardiovascular disease decreases, this will
be a result of the change in smoking habits but not of the
introduction of new drugs. Only research in to the actual
causes of diseases can influence common illnesses.
Furthermore, one has the impression that, on considering the
real main causes of death for today's mankind, medicine plays
only a very subordinate part, because medicine cannot influence
the cases of death from smoking, alcoholism and incorrect
nutrition in the industrialised world and from war, hunger
and social problems in the developing world.
Third myth: "Medical research is not possible
without animal experiments"
A few decades ago, the term "alternative methods"
was not known, and some years ago it was still pretended that
the LD50 toxicity test and similar brutalities were absolutely
necessary; scientists declared almost unanimously that animal
experiments were unavoidable, since only the "normal"
animal could show the effects of drugs. In the meantime, scientists
have become more circumspect: the pharmaceutical industry
constantly explains that many animal tests have already been
replaced, that the number of animals in experiments has now
been greatly reduced and that toxicologists can very largely
abandon LD50 tests. In many areas alternative methods, such
as in-vitro systems with test-tube methods using cell cultures,
micro-organisms and so on, have been worked out.
Today, in nearly all fields of medicine, in-vitro methods
are being used in addition to animal experiments. In some
areas scientists are still at the beginning; in others, as
for example in AIDS research, in-vitro methods have hitherto
had almost the only successes. The possibilities of the in-vitro
system are innumerable. They include the study of pharmacological
mechanisms, the evaluation of toxic risks, the genetic and
teratogenic effects of chemical substances, the study of pathogenic
mechanisms of viruses, the production of vaccines, its use
in cancer therapy, the development of test models for immunological
research and so forth.
This development shows that, under the pressure of public
opinion, the abolition of animal experimentation is possible
and, furthermore, that many experiments which were recently
declared to be an unavoidable part of modern medicine have
nonetheless been replaced in a matter of a few years. I am
absolutely convinced that the abolition of animal experiments
is possible, and in the foreseeable future will be achieved,
because medical science itself will recognise that animal
experimentation leads to a dead end.
Fourth myth: "Animal research is necessary because
the important diseases are not yet curable"
The fact that the important illnesses cannot be cured, or
even effectively influenced, by modern medicine shows how
little animal experiments can contribute to the elimination
of human diseases. Various severe disturbances, from cancer
to all the possible chronic and degenerative changes, can
without doubt be forcibly achieved in the animal model; but
they have nothing in common with the diseases of man, which
are caused by different multiple factors and., above all,
by disturbances of the fine interplay between body and mind.
As long as conventional medicine does not recognise that animal
research is not only not necessary but, on the contrary, represents
a complete block because of the totally different psychosomatic
conditions involved, any real development in medicine is unlikely.
This is scandalous, since today's medicine could, right from
the start, be in a position, due to its authority and influence,
to prevent most of the apparently uneliminable illnesses of
civilisation. After the decrease of infectious diseases in
the industrialised countries, the present physical and psychosomatic
diseases appear to be connected with factors which can, in
principle, be influenced. These factors are smoking, alcohol,
incorrect nutrition (with too much meat and fat), lack of
exercise, stress and so on. In addition to these, there are
factors which could be largely controlled by society, such
as toxic substances in the air and water, and dangers due
The logical consequences of the fact that most of the important
illnesses are not curable cannot be a further extension of
animal experimentation; it should rather be the investment
of considerable' effort towards prevention, control and research
into the causes of these illnesses. For example, three extensive
studies in Germany with vegetarian and meat-eating control
groups have demonstrated that healthier nutrition, without
meat, considerably reduces cancer risk, decreases the probability
of cardiovascular diseases and increases life expectancy.
Medical science is desperately looking for animal models for
the diseases of modern civilisation. But why do we need models,
when the causes of present-day illnesses are so obvious and,
above all, could so easily be influenced by reasonable health
Fifth myth: "Animal experiments are necessary
in the struggle against new and threatening diseases"
This myth ignores two basic points. First, the origin of the
typically new and threatening illness of AIDS is still not
definitely clear, but it appears increasingly plausible that
this disease originated in experimental laboratories. Sceptical
scientists hypothesise, especially in the field of cancer
research with retroviruses, a possible origin of the human
But another point is perhaps even more important: AIDS research
is a classic example of modern research to which animal experimentation
has made virtually no contribution. Relevant progress in AIDS
research is not based on animal experiments but on knowledge
of infectious diseases, on clinical observation of patients
and on in-vitro studies using cell cultures.
Sixth myth: "Risks from new drugs, chemicals
and vaccines can only be judged by animal experiments"
Many important drugs were found and applied to man before
the era of excessive animal research - with adequate precautions,
naturally. On the other hand, animal experiments have been
carried out for decades in order to judge the risks of new
chemicals and drugs, and for decades there have been numerous
examples of animal experiments whose results have not proved
sufficiently reliable. The many drugs which, in spite of excessive
animal research, have led to severe damage and even death
in man, and which have been withdrawn on the insistence of
the drug administration authorities, are proof of this. Of
course, after such a catastrophe it is maintained that inadequate
or incorrect animal experiments were carried out. But it is
essential that the drug-user should be protected beforehand,
since scientists can only afterwards tell which are the so-called
"correct" animal experiments. Scientists could test
thalidomide (or contergan) on as many rats or mice as they
wished; the teratogenic effect is observed, apart from in
man, only in the Himalayan rabbit or in special baboons. One
more example: about one third of all patients with diseases
of the kidneys, and who have to be dialysed or who have to
wait for a kidney transplant, have had their kidney functions
destroyed by pain-killing substances considered safe on the
grounds of animal research.
We must not forget that the final risk posed by chemicals
and drugs is always taken by man himself; but, inasmuch as
animal experiments give a false sense of security, man is
led to an incautious use of new substances, and the risks
Seventh myth: "Animal experiments cause no damage
Medical research and science based on animal experimentation
play an essential role in the problem of today's medicine,
in that it is in every respect undergoing one of the worst
crises in its history.
We have medicine producing experimentally developed super-achievements
but which is not affordable for most patients any more. We
have drugs which can, in animal models, eliminate various
intentionally produced defects; but most of these drugs cannot
cure the patients - or they definitely harm them - because
a chemically or operatively induced disturbance is quite different
from a human disease, which may be induced by psychosomatic
interactions and caused by multiple factors. Apart from this,
an ill human being, in all his individuality and complexity,
nearly always reacts quite differently from a healthy animal.
The absolute helplessness of today's medicine in face of the
shocking cancer mortality rate; its continuing powerlessness
in respect of cardiovascular diseases; its distressing failure
in the area of chronic illnesses, from arthritis through allergies,
asthma, auto-immune diseases, multiple sclerosis and up to
diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system
- all this is no accidental event, nor is it a particular
curse of fate. Here, the logical consequences of a one-sided
orientation on a wrong-model system are apparent - a model
system which has been developed and tested on the basis of
animal experiments but which can have only minor importance
It sounds paradoxical, but animal experiments stabilise today's
illnesses, because the hope of finding drugs by animal testing
destroys the motivation for self-initiative and for a basic
change in our way of life. As long as we hold on to the hope
of new drugs against cancer, cardiovascular diseases and so
on, not only we ourselves, but also our health systems, are
inadequately motivated to come to terms with the causes (such
as smoking, alcohol, wrong nutrition and stress) of these
Eighth myth: The animal does not suffer from experimentation"
The suffering of the research animal has already begun long
before the experiment, as it has been bred, kept and transported
under entirely abnormal conditions. There is no painless animal
research! How should toxicological experiments, in which the
animal is poisoned, sometimes more, sometimes less quickly,
be carried out without pain and agony? Animal experiments
in the area of toxicology, cancer research, surgery and radiation
research amongst others, are not conceivable without considerable
suffering on the part of the affected animals. Even today,
animal research causes enormous suffering, which usually does
not end till death.
Ninth myth: "Only experts are able to judge the
necessity, significance and importance of animal experiments"
The view that the layman, because of his lack of specialist
knowledge, cannot discuss animal experimentation explains
why experimenters could for decades practise animal research
relatively undisturbed. Even today, politicians, lawyers,
theologians, philosophers, but above all the average population,
have either no idea or a completely wrong one, of the suffering
and agony which the animals undergo in the field of animal
experimentation. But the barriers of silence have for the
last few years been increasingly broken down by the mass media.
Furthermore, essential changes have recently been accomplished.
Groups for the prevention of cruelty to animals are more and
more supported by experts critical of the system, and there
are now national and international medical associations which
reject animal research.
Tenth myth: "The abolition of animal experiments
is not possible"
This myth, which is repeated again and again by the defenders
of animal research, is one of the pillars of the conservation
of the animal experimental system. The belief that animal
research can at most be reduced to a "necessary extent"
but never totally abolished, leads to fruitless discussions
about the extent and degree of replaceable or dispensable
animal experiments and detracts from the basic problems of
the animal-research system.
The opportunity to abolish animal research is today greater
than ever before. The movement against vivisection is increasingly
becoming a part of the ecological movement, which is concerned
with the terrible damage which man in his arrogance has caused.
Critics of animal research, together with other ecological
groups, strive against the unlimited exploitation of nature
and understand our eco-system to be a very easily disturbed
and in many ways inter-connected system.
It is of the highest significance that the motivation of the
critics of animal experiments has changed. Whereas the animal
itself, and the pitiless treatment of it, was earlier the
focus of attention, critics of vivisection now underline the
fact that man damages himself most of all by the heedless
exploitation of animals. A medical system which is based on
animal exploitation, with all its consequences, means that
man is more and more removed from his declared and wished-for
aim - namely, the comprehensive healing of body and soul.
Is the abolition of animal experimentation possible? I do
not only believe it - I know it! Either man succeeds in creating
a new consciousness of the multiple network existing within
nature and then dispenses voluntarily with vivisection, gene
technology and the use of nuclear technology (because of its
enormous capacity for inflicting damage and danger), or nature
abolishes man, together with his animal experiments. Mankind
still has the choice! Man still has the possibility of stopping
the unlimited exploitation of our planet, with all its living
beings, and of abolishing vivisection in his own interest.
In conclusion: I am strongly convinced that animal experimentation
is not only a cruel and thus unethical method, but it is also
an unscientific method, which, in the interests of man and
animals, must be abolished as quickly as possible and replaced
by reasonable and humane methods.
Return to top
Back to list of speeches