Question: Are there alternatives to animal testing?
Ingrid Newkirk: I think when people defend animal testing, they either are a person who is doing it themselves who doesn’t wish to be questioned; or it’s a natural fear that people have of, “Oh my god. They can only be using animals for these important, life saving procedures. And if we don’t there’s nothing else.” So it’s born out of just not understanding. I used to inspect laboratories for the government many years ago, and what I saw there I think would turn the average person’s stomach – including animals left unattended with the sutures that have come out of their stomachs overnight and who had died. That’s just a waste of a life. That’s just a waste of government funds.
That’s not going to get us anywhere. That’s just sloppy. There are millions upon millions of animals used every year. It’s not just a few. And it’s not carefully handpicked projects that are going to save human lives. They’re used in all sorts of frivolous experiments. Child abuse experiments, we know about child abuse. You should put the money into helping prevent child abuse, not into recreating it in monkeys. Alcohol, drug abuse. Try getting into a treatment center. If you don’t have the private money, you can wait six months or a year.
Yet there is a boatload of money being given out by the federal government that goes to people to make animals into cocaine addicts, to smoke tobacco, all these sorts of things – to become alcoholics. So we need to take some control, and I think what happened in the beginning is that research has thought, “Oh lay people are too afraid to question us. We can just say these blanket statements – ‘Trust us. I’m a doctor.” You know, “Trust me, I’m a doctor’” – and people would go away because they would feel they couldn’t question. So many exposes have come out – and not just of cruelty, and there is enormous cruelty. On our web site we show the world’s largest testing lab. And this is for floor polish for septic tank cleaner who have monkeys they’re forcing into plastic shoes, prying their jaws open. The monkeys scream. They shove tubes down their nose, down their throats. The monkeys are in agony. They throw them against the steel of their cages where they live in this noise for all their lives. And the technicians abuse them, make fun of them, stick bottles in their mouths for fun. I’m not even talking about that. Just the worth of the experiments.
It’s the 21st century. Even when we have in the past, for example, killed rabbits for pregnancy tests, we don’t need to do that anymore. We have in vitro test tube methods. We have human data banks. We have high speed computers that can put that human data together, which is how we got the latest cocktail of AIDS drugs – not from these old fashioned animal tests, but from using the technology we have today to give us answers quicker. So I think we need to get away from this grant dependent business of continuing to use animals because we did for hundreds of years, and pay attention to biotechnology; to non-animal technology; to the human DNA which is sequenced on the web. The world is open to us. We can’t cling to this old fashioned, cruel methodology.
Recorded on: November 12, 2007