Our forbears suffered and died prematurely from a host of diseases, the names of which are scarcely known today by Canadian children.
These advances came about because of biomedical experimental research using animals.
But despite the advances, we still do not know what causes such diseases as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, osteoporosis, Lou Gehrig's disease and schizophrenia.
Experiments test ideas, which in turn must be tested and confirmed. About 3,000 research projects led up to heart operations. Vaccines, drugs, antibiotics, new surgical skills or nutritional knowledge come only from biomedical research - and biomedical research must use animals.
Scientists constantly invent and adapt many ways to do research, such as analytical equipment and methods, diagnostic tools, cell, tissue and organ cultures and computer modeling.
These methods have led to a 40% reduction in the numbers of animals used in research in the last 30 years but they cannot eliminate animal research entirely.
While components of a study can be carried out in isolated ways, nothing can stimulate the complex cascade of integrated events that go on in the living animal body. All the systems - blood, nerves, muscles, hormones, enzymes - must work together. Slight flaws created disease. One cannot study high blood pressure or diarrhea in a test tube.
Historically, animal extremists have a dismal record in their opposition to the use of animals in biomedical research. They opposed the work of Lord Lister, the father of antiseptic surgery. They maligned Koch and Pasteur, the founders of microbiology and immunology. They campaigned against the rabies, anthrax and dog distemper vaccines. They harassed Banting for using dogs in his diabetes research and protested his Nobel Prize for the discovery of insulin.
Now animal extremists run campaigns against using animals and oppose the use of animals in AIDS and vision research. Vision research has given sight to millions of people who have glaucoma, cataracts, and detached retinas.
It is biomedical research that protects people and animals from the cruelty and ravages of disease.
Animals and humans share about 300 known diseases. Veterinary and human medicine are branches of one science and they use the same research methods. There are more vaccines available for animal diseases than human diseases.
More than 91% of animals used in medical research at the University of Western Ontario in 1989 were mice and rats, specially bred, in many varieties. Of the rest 1.3% were rabbits and 4.6% were guinea pigs; 1.3% were pigs (used mainly in surgical research, including transplantation) and frogs, less then 1%.
Dogs and cats together compromised 0.7%. They were abandoned animals acquired from pounds and used mainly in non-recovery experiments, which means the animals die under anesthesia, as they would in the pound.
The Ontario Animals for Research Act requires that pounds make dogs and cats, which would otherwise be killed at the pound, available to registered research institutions.
Ten to 20 million abandoned dogs and cats are killed every year in pounds and shelters in North America. Research requires fewer than two per cent of these animals that would die otherwise, die uselessly, in the pound.
Animals not used:
About half of all medical research at UWO does not involve the use of animals.
Three international declarations and codes decree that no research can be done on human beings until other tests, including animal studies, provide reasonable presumptions of safety and efficacy.
All research using animals has to pass the scrutiny of the director of veterinary sciences (a fully trained vet) and an hierarchy of many animal-care committees, with lay representatives on them, involving in all, more than 50 people.
Many members of Parliament, provincial legislators, service clubs, teachers and other members of the public tour the animal-care facilities at Western on a regular basis.
There is no other use of animals that is so regulated, carefully conducted and inspected. Veterinarians and trained lab animal workers look after the animals. Anesthetics and analgesics are mandatory.
But these high and evolving standards of care do not meet with the approval of animal extremists and never will because they do not want any use of animals. They would have you believe that medical research involves "sadism" "cruelty" and "torture".
There is a vast difference between animal rights supporters who are opposed to all use of animals and everyone else who believes in the wise use of animals. In effect, the extremists deny or downgrade the unique value of human life and ignore the contribution to the control of animal diseases.
The constant pressure for more regulation and legislation is their tactic for research strangulation en route to their ultimate goal to end all use of animals.
In the last decade, in Britain and the United States especially, and in Canada, there have been increasing violent attacks on biomedical research - involving arson, vandalism, break-ins, thefts, death threats, and targeted harassment of individual scientists - thus seriously impeding the progress of research.
Universities, hospitals and research institutions have spent millions of dollars on security systems, money from general funds directed away form lecture rooms and libraries and patients needs. The clandestine Animal Liberation Front (ALF) has been declared a terrorist body in Britain, the US and Canada.
Philion Miracle: Every modern medical and surgical procedure, drug and vaccine has involved the use of animals to some degree. The miracle of Joey Philion's recovery form dreadful burns, which, a few short years ago, would have killed him, is the result of work on pigs to learn how to treat burns.
The arguments against animal use in medical research have changed little in 120 years.
- What would have happened had those arguments been accepted then?
- Which of the remarkable advances in control and cure of disease would we have been willing to forgo?
- What ignorance about nutrition would we have wanted to maintain?
Every time we seek help from a vet, doctor, hospital, pharmacist or nutritionist, we are the beneficiaries of knowledge accumulated through a great many experiments using animals.
Medical research is the only hope for millions of Canadians (and their animals) afflicted with debilitating, devastating, painful and fatal illnesses.
It is a sad reflection on our time that it is easier for the animal rights movement, through their pirating of emotions, to raise money to attack medical research than it is for the scientists to obtain money to do that life-giving research.
Protect and support medical research - it could save your life and that of your pet.