“Animal Model Research: The Apples and Oranges Quandary”


Photo by Flickr user Novartis AG

Faunalytics has brought attention to Kenneth Shapiro’s paper “Animal Model Research: The Apples and Oranges Quandary” published in 2004 in ATLA questioning the scientific validity of animal models for biomedical and psychological research.

Based on a host of background research, the author lists three ways that animal models fall short in terms of validity:

1. An animal model is never finally or fully validated.
2. Even an animal model for which some degree of validation has been demonstrated is not necessarily a contribution to understanding or treatment effectiveness.
3. Most animal models in biomedical and psychological research are not validated, even in the limited sense described.

With these three statements in mind, the author remarks that it is vitally important to understand animal models “a) in actual practice; b) as presented in the media and white papers by animal research advocates; and c) as they are supposed to work.” According to the author (and, it should be noted, many anti-vivisection advocates) there is a disconnect among these three.

If the animal models have limited validity, “the animal model is limited to a hypothesis generator. It is a locus of discovery not a locus of justification.”

Given that those hypotheses can be generated through a variety of alternative models (such and computer and mathematical models), and given that using animals implies virtually all the time a violation of their basic rights, there is still less reasons to use them in science.

Read the rest of the summary on Faunalytics and the original paper here.