Timeline for Failure

While scientists in the 21st century are increasingly speaking up about flawed animal experiments, the knowledge that animal experiments are inherently flawed is not new.

The below statements, spanning the twentieth century, show that the failings of animal research have always been apparent.

1920s - 1950s

“Work on [the polio vaccine] was long delayed by the erroneous conception of the nature of human disease, based on the misleading experimental models of the disease in monkeys.”

 - Dr. Albert Sabin, inventor of the polio vaccine, testifying on April 26, 1984 before the House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Hospitals and Health Care, Committee of Veterans Affairs, serial no. 98-48.


"The methods of assessing toxicity in animals are largely empirical and unvalidated... It is urgently necessary to know whether the tests as in fact conducted have sufficient predictive value to be justifiable, or whether they are a colossal waste of resources to no good purpose."

- Professors Laurence, McLean and Weatherall, writing in the introduction to their book, Safety Testing of New Drugs - Laboratory Predictions and Clinical Performance, ed. DR Laurence, AEM McLean & M Weatherall, publ. Academic Press, 1984.


“Surely not even the most zealous toxicologist would deny that epidemiology, and epidemiology alone, has indicted and incriminated the cigarette as a potent carcinogenic agent, or would claim that experimental animal toxicology could ever have done the job with the same definition.”

- Dr. Michael Utidjian, writing in Perspectives in Basic and Applied Toxicology, p 309-329, ed. Bryan Ballantyne, publ. Butterworth, 1988


“Extrapolating from one species to another is fraught with uncertainty…For almost all of the chemicals tested to date, rodent bioassays have not been cost-effective. They give limited and uncertain information on carcinogenicity, generally give no indication of mechanism of action, and require years to complete. [They are] rarely the best approach for deciding whether to classify a chemical as a human carcinogen.”

- Dr. Lester Lave, of Carnegie Mellon Univ., and Drs. Ennever, Rosenkrantz and Omenn, writing in Nature, Vol 336, p 631, 1988


“The standard carcinogen tests that use rodents are an obsolescent relic of the ignorance of past decades.”

- Philip Abelson, Editor of Science. Science (1990), Sep 21, p 1357.


“Scientists have been modeling ischemic stroke in animals for over 150 years and have devised many ingenious methods to try to mimic the human condition.  … While the use of these experimental models has provided much information about the methods of producing and potentially treating cerebral ischemia and infarction in animal species, the relevance of most of these data to the human condition remains dubious.”

- Wiebers DO, Adams HP Jr, Whisnant JP.  Animal models of stroke: are they relevant to human disease? Stroke. 1990 Jan;21(1):1-3.


“We always have a battle on the issue of what to do with the animal data.”

- Dr. Edward Stein, Health Scientist, US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Brinkley, 1993).


“So much evidence has accumulated that chemicals frequently have wholly different effects in animals and humans that officials throughout government and industry often do not act on the studies’ findings.”

- Brinkley, Joel, New York Times, “Many say lab-animal tests fail to measure human risk,” March 23, 1993, p A1


"It is impossible to give reliable general rules for the validity of extrapolation from one species to another. [This] can often only be verified after the first trials in the target species [humans]. Extrapolation from animal models. . . will always remain a matter of hindsight."

- Handbook of Laboratory Animal Science , Volume II: Animal Models  Svendensen and Hau (Eds.) CRC Press 1994 p6.


“The history of cancer research has been a history of curing cancer in the mouse … We have cured mice of cancer for decades, and it simply didn’t work in humans.”

- Dr. Richard Klausner, National Cancer Institute, LA Times, May 6, 1998.


 “Animal tests were neither needed, nor used, to explore the ability of the protease inhibitors to block the growth of the AIDS virus. In this case, the target actions was already well-understood and could be evaluated before the clinical trials using computers, cell culture and biochemical assays.”

- Bennett M. Shapiro, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Basic Research, Merck & Co. Inc, NJ, Positive Nation, December 1997/January 1998.


"I can't tell you what it is that those [chimpanzee] studies have given us that has really made a difference in the way we approach people with this disease [HIV/AIDS]."

- Thomas Insel, MD, former director of the Yerkes Regional Primate Center as quoted in  The Scientist 13[16]:7, Aug. 16, 1999.