The evening seminar about animal testing held yesterday (I wrote about it here) was really interesting, both the topics of the speakers and the questions from the audience.
Tuula Heinonen from FICAM, The Finnish Centre for Alternative Methods, talked about the problems with animal tests, why we need alternatives and some test methods that they are now developing in FICAM. Marianna Norring from the Juliana von Wendt Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments also talked about alternatives to animal testing and the purpose and goal of the fund. Marianna Lammi from Animalia talked about the history of animal testing, which I found very interesting and therefore want to share with you.
The most interesting part of the history of animal testing is that all the way from the start there has been movements both for and against animal testing. In the antique, Hippocrates was for research based on patient observation and human autopsies, while Galenos, the founder of vivisection, created a strong movement of using animals in research. In the 17th to 18th century Descartes came with his theory that animals are just machines without souls and therefore can’t feel pain, while Voltaire was strongly opposing the use of animals in research.
In the 19th century, during the period of industrialization, the area of medicine was developing and animal experiments became everyday life at the universities. However, there was also winds blowing in the other direction. In England, Frances Cobbe founded the first anti-vivisection movement, the organization that now is BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection).
During the first half of the 20th century came the first wave of animal experiments, because of infectious diseases, the world wars and laws such as the Therapeutic Substances Act, which made it compulsory to do test all medicines on animals. During this time the first laboratory for research on animals was founded in Great Britain. The second wave of animal experiments came later in the 20th century, when it became more common to test chemical and nuclear weapons, and the science of genetic manipulation got started.
Big things happened in the anti-vivisection movement during the 20th century as well. The first congress on prohibiting animal tests was held in 1909. The movement also got divided into two parts; a more radical stand and a more moderate one.
Today there is still a great reliance on animal testing as a research method since it is seen as something that “we have always done”, but also a rising interest in alternative methods because of different reasons. The movement against animal testing still have a lot of challenges to overcome before we can see a world where animals don’t have to suffer in the name of science or beauty.