Despite the large role animal experimentation plays in medical research at the University, C. Ray Greek, a scientific advisor for the National Anti-vivisection Society, argues such research is ineffective.
“Scientifically it is not valid. You cannot extrapolate from one species to another,” Greek said.
Howard Rush, interim director of the University”s Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine, said the University performs research on approximately 150,000 animals per year. “Ninety-five percent of the animals are rats, mice, fish and frogs,” he added.
Greek cited various incidents in medical history when the application of animal data proved futile.
“There are far too many examples of good medications like penicillin that were delayed from release due to harmful effects in animals,” Greek said.
Greek also blamed animal models for delaying the release of the polio vaccine as well as convincing early medical researchers that smoking was non-carcinogenic.
While Greek finds animal testing to be ineffective, he has no ethical qualms about using animals in research.
“I am not opposed to it. What I am saying is that when the medical community tells you that we use chimps because they share 99 percent of our genes, I say that is a fallacious argument,” Greek said. “We share 58 percent of our genes with bananas and no one is testing heart disease drugs on bananas. Very small differences in animal systems can be of profound significance.”
At a lecture last Thursday sponsored by the Michigan Animal Rights Society, some audience members expressed skepticism about Greek”s contentions.
In the question and answer session following the lecture, one audience member questioned whether Greek had any statistical evidence to support his claims, saying he had provided only anecdotal evidence.
“Yes I do, but I changed my slides and won”t bother to look for them right now,” Greek said.
Greek mentioned his book “Sacred Cows and Golden Geese The Human Cost of Experiments on Animals,” which he co-authored with his wife, as having “over a thousand references” to support his point.
Greek further said that animal right”s activists should not only “oppose animal experimentation on ethical grounds.”
Michigan Animal Rights Society, Kristie Stoick, LSA senior, agreed. “I think Dr. Greek is right in saying people aren”t going to be reached just by saying animal experimentation is unethical. It is important to educate people about sound science as well,” Stoick said.
Rush said he sees animal experimentation as a viable research model among a variety of models.
“Any investigator who is doing research is looking for the best model. You can use a cell culture, organ-culture, computer simulations, or animals. Animals are just one form of models used in studying disease,” Rush said.