Saturday, August 17, 2002


Strange bedfellows attend congress
Scientists, activists review study results
By Sandra Barbier
West Bank bureau/The Times-Picayune

The 500 scientists, researchers who conduct tests on animals and humane activists who attended a large, scientific conference this week in New Orleans may seem like strange bedfellows, but organizers of the event say times are slowly changing when it comes to using animals in research.

Participants at the Fourth World Congress on Alternatives to Animal Use in the Life Sciences shared the latest developments in the use of computers, tissues and other means, instead of living animals, in drug testing, medical research and product safety. They also discussed ethical issues, such as testing on highly intelligent nonhuman primates.

The five-day conference covered issues from the highly technical to ethical concerns.

Speakers included Dr. Ray Greek, an author of books on animal testing and an opponent of testing any human drugs on animals. Animals and humans are too different for the results of animal tests to be applied to humans, Greek said.

"Today, we are studying disease and drug interaction on the genetic and molecular level. It is at this level that evolution produces a dog versus a human," he said.

Differences even exist among humans, he said. Drugs have been approved after being tested on men, then found to have other effects on women.

"The big answer here is to increase your (human) trials," Greek said.

Dr. Andrew Rowan of the Humane Society of the United States, who was co-chairman of the congress, said animal testing generally provides some useful information. "It is not a black-and-white situation," he said. "The question is how much and is the cost in animal suffering worth it."...

..."We find that animal tests are being used as a ‘default mechanism' even though they are not validated" because of lack of a better method, he said.