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Misconceptions

Some misconceptions circulate about animal research. Here, you will find answers to the most common ones. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. You can also visit the English website, Speaking of Research, which will give you a lot of information around the subject and offers a regularly updated RSS feed.

Misconception No4: “Drugs cause accidents because of animal research."

Accidents caused by drugs (iatrogenic) are overwhelmingly subsequent to known side effects that occur because of inadequate or erroneous dose. Drugs are powerful and active products. They must always be taken cautiously, especially among vulnerable people. The WHO (World Health Organization) reminds it on its website.

Sometimes an unknown side effect is uncovered in patients in spite of the previously conducted studies (in vitro studies, animal research and clinical trials). Indeed, despite the high quality of the studies and the ongoing efforts of researchers and administrations worldwide, the zero risk doesn’t exist. The reason for that is the almost infinite variability in a population (see Drug safety). That is why we created pharmacovigilance that collects and disseminates as quickly as possible important information related to drug use.

Misconception No3: "Alternative methods can replace animal research."

Alternative methods (eg. in vitro and in silico models) can’t replace animal research.

Animal research studies an animal, a complete autonomous living organism. In vitro methods only study one part of an organism (often animal, rarely human) kept alive in an artificial environment. In silico methods used computer programs to predict the behaviour of parts of the body. Obviously these methods are fundamentally different. They all provide information but can replace each other.

These differences become evident, for example, when transposed to the study of a computer: animal research would study the whole computer turned on, in vitro would foccuss on the individual components of the computer placed on a table, and in silico methods would look at its construction plans. None of these methods alone would be enough to understand how a computer works and how to fix it. All are necessary.

Misconception No 2: "Morality is not compatible with animal research."

Animal experiments respect morals even if, like most human activities, it has a positive (scientific and medical progress, human and animal health) and a negative spin (animal casualties and sometimes pain).

Morality is observed when human values are involved in the choices and the decisions. This means that the positive aspects should be verified and optimized, that the negative parts should be justified and minimized and that both sides must be compared before anything happens. It is exactly on this basis that ethics committees work and that regulations are built on. The new European directive of 2010 requires an ethical review before all animal studies can start (Article 38).

Misconception No 1: "Animal research doesn’t participate in medical progress."

Important progress was made in hygiene and nutrition that enabled in the past to improve human health without animal testing. However, once that was achieved, only scientific knowledge acquired partly through animal research allowed for a better prevention and treatment of diseases.

This becomes evident when we look at the Nobel prizes of medicine that celebrate the most important advances in the medical field of this last century, and notice that the vast majority have relied on animal research. This has been the case again in 2014.