Vivisection Or Science: A Choice To Make
By: Professor Pietro Croce, M.D.
On the Road to Damascus
I used to experiment on animals for many years. I had been obeying a stale
positivistic logic which had been imposed on me during my university studies
and which for a long time conditioned me in the following years.
"Scientific positivism, the only possible logic in medical and biological
But to assert that the human mind can have "only one possible logic" means
admitting that it is unable to look in more than one direction.
With my head filled with notions handed down by the professors, from books,
practice in hospitals in Italy and abroad, I tried to put my thoughts in order and
forced myself to arrange my convictions in logical sequence.
But it was like trying to assemble a jig-saw puzzle which had left the factory in
defective condition; the pieces did not fit together, producing distorted
images, separated by spaces which could not be filled and forming a mosaic
which at the least jolt fell apart, scattering in chaotic disorder.
I said to myself: there must be something wrong with medical thinking and
practice. The factor must be both fundamental and elementary, capable of
undermining its entire basis and vitiating everything built upon it: a
Vivisectionist thinking arises from empirical science, which reached its peak
in the last century and which postulates the choice and the construction of
"experimental models" with which to reproduce ad libitum (freely) those
phenomena to be researched.
As an example, two condensers charged positively and negatively with
electricity placed near together produce a spark. This is the experimental
model of a natural phenomenon, which is lightning.
But for the study of man, what is the appropriate model for his functions and
his malfunctions of his illnesses?
The solution seems obvious, but just for this reason it contains that deception
which threatens all those things that, at first sight, seem to be "even too
obvious". The proposition is made: "Let us take the animal as the
experimental model for the human being."
But here at once comes the first objection: "Which animal?" There are
millions of species of animal on the earth. So, which should we use? The
mouse? The dog? And why not the rhinoceros or the warthog?
In the physical and mechanical sciences the researcher projects and
constructs his experimental model with characteristics appropriate to the aim
he sets for himself each time.
In contrast, the researcher in biological sciences, assuming "the animal" to be
the model, is obliged to accept something offered to him "prefabricated" by
Nature. And it would indeed be a strange and improbable coincidence if such
characteristics were right for the ends in view.
Even the choice between different species of animal is illusory: actually one is
not even speaking of there being a choice at all, but of a kind of fishing blindly
among different possibilities in a haphazard way or, worse, according to
opportunistic criteria in deciding which animal is more or less convenient: the
mouse, the rabbit, the guinea pig are "convenient" because they are easy to
keep; cats and dogs because they are easily and cheaply obtainable:
everything except the one element which ought to be the deciding factor: an
animal having morphological, physiological and biochemical characteristics
applicable to man.
However, such an animal can only be man himself, or a chimera.
An experimental model of the human being does not exist. Every species, all
the varieties of animals and even individuals of the same species are different
from each other. No experimentation carried out on one species can be
extrapolated to any other, including man.
To suppose that such extrapolation could be legitimate is the main reason for
the failure and sometimes for the catastrophes, which are inflicted upon us by
modern medicine, especially in the area of drugs.
Too little is spoken or written about certain facts, partly in deference to a
science which purports to be the "savior of mankind" but more usually to
avoid provoking the huge economic and political interests which prop up this
For example, in August 1978 only Japanese newspapers reported the
appearance in Tokyo of 30,000 people paralyzed and blinded by Clioquinol.
The trial and sentencing of the firm, which produced the drug, was necessary
for us to be able to know about the matter indirectly.
Another example: some publications like "Il Bollettino d'Informazione sui
farmaci" (Drug Information Bulletin) of the Ministry of Health are not widely
The August issue 1983 tells us that:
"From 1972 to June 1983 the registration of 22,621 medicinal preparations has
been revoked" (i.e. the sale prohibited). Clearly, all those preparations had
passed with flying colors the animal experiments imposed by law.
But how many years must pass before it is realised that a medicine is
dangerous and how many have fallen victim to it in the meantime?
This question is answered by Professor Hoff, (Congress of Clinical Medicine,
Wiesbaden, 1976): "...6% of fatal illnesses and 25% of all illnesses are due to
Prof. Dr. Remmer of Tuebingen, at a meeting of German insurance companies,
said: "...in the Federal Republic of Germany about 30,000 deaths a year are
due to medicines".
Our demand for the abolition of animal experiments is not based on a love of
animals but a concern for the health of our fellow human beings.
Anti-vivisectionist thinking is much more scientific than the boasting of the
vivisectors who do not realize that they live and function in a medieval climate
of thought; besides, they are too lazy or too greedy to break loose from a
comfortable conformity and apply themselves to scientifically correct
methods, i.e. those methods which are wrongly called "alternative" and are
today largely obsolete, having been overwhelmed by a misleading
There are many "alternative" methods; about 450 have been counted.
However, their number is theoretically unlimited as every research endeavor
presupposes devising a method specific to that research, able to guarantee a
credible result, in harmony with scientific logic, repeatable ad libitum and
capable of satisfying the "criterion of falsification" all qualities missing from
the vivisectionist method.
Scientific progress is achieved only by small steps. We would prefer them to
be "tiny" steps, but sure ones. The vivisectors like to present animal
experimentation as a short cut to biological science without, however, having
noticed that such a short cut leads them in the wrong direction.
The claim that medicine must progress by "trial and error" is unacceptable. In
medicine, error means the sacrifice of one person or thousands of people. We
say deliberately "one or thousands" because for us "one" is of as much value
The vivisector says: "But we work for the benefit of the majority". NO. You
have no right to sacrifice anybody, not even one person, for the hypothetical
and entirely uncertain benefit of an indefinite number of "others" at some
unspecified time in the future.
The "criterion of falsification" expounded by Karl Popper (the Austrian
philosopher) asserts that a proposition is not scientific if it cannot also be
For example, the proposition "In a thousand years the sun will be
extinguished" is not scientific because nobody is in a position to demonstrate
that the event announced will not happen.
What do the terms "by chance" or "by coincidence" mean? We have no
difficulty in admitting that, for example, a substance poisonous for the dog
can be so also for man; but that may be a pure coincidence obeying the law of
probability, and, in accepting it, we commit an error which could claim victims
before we become aware of it.
There are, in fact, plenty of victims of modern medicine, so many, that learned
papers are written about iatrogenic illnesses, that is, illnesses caused by
doctors who seem to have forgotten the basic Hippocratic precept: Primum
non nocere (First, don't cause harm).
The notion of vivisectionist experimentation on man is not a macabre fantasy.
It is reckoned today to occur on a large scale. The vivisectors themselves are
clearly beginning to realize that to experiment on one species of animal in
order to extrapolate the results to another species (inter species
experimentation) is a methodological error.
They are therefore turning to intra speciem experimentation which means
experimenting on the dog to learn things about the dog, on the cat to learn
things about the cat... and on human beings to learn things about humans.
But this sophisticated variation of vivisection, despite its allure, does not
guarantee any more reliable results than those obtained by experimentation
inter species (between species).
"No animal species can be an experimental model for any other species" only
superficial judgment can be content with morphological similarities like saying
"the dog too, like man, has a head, two eyes... a liver, a heart, etc".
Just as crude and misleading is it to have recourse to certain behavioral
"If I crush the foot of a dog, it howls, if I crush the foot of a man, he cries out, if
I take the new-born infant away from a female monkey, she mourns, if I take
the new-born baby away from a human mother, she mourns."
These analogies exist and it would be foolish to deny them, but why do they
exist? Having a common root they are attributes of that unfathomable and
indivisible entity we call Life, an entity pervading the universe and possessing
the quality of immanence, manifesting itself in every being, be it a plant, a
worm or a man.
However, turning to the material components of the tissues of countless
animal species one needs to pause for a moment to consider the following:
can two species of animal be considered analogous when it is known that the
tissues of each species are made up of thousands of proteins (about ten
thousand) of which not one belonging to one of two species is identical to a
corresponding protein of the other species, and whose DNA
(deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules which transmit hereditary characteristics,
are all unlike each other in different species?
DNA molecules differ from each other in different animal species, by the length
of the chain of their double helix, by the number and arrangement of the
nucleotides of which they are made up.
The combinations, which one can hypothesize from mathematical calculation,
are billions of billions, that is, as many combinations as are possible bearing
in mind that there are about three billion nucleotides in human DNA.
A fundamental rule, to be strictly observed in each scientific experiment, is
that each experiment must be capable of being repeated. An experiment is
repeatable when it is carried out anywhere, at any time and by any researcher,
and always produces an identical result.
If that does not happen it means that there is something wrong. Either the
hypothesis is wrong or it is not demonstrable or the method used to
demonstrate it is flawed.
Now, the question is this: does the experimentation on animals (including the
human being) have the intrinsic characteristic of being repeatable anywhere,
at any time and by any researcher?
That certain types of behaviour should have a common root seems clear
when we pause to consider, without scientific bias, any living being: the
search for food, flight from danger, the reproductive urge and other kinds of
behaviour which we might for the sake of convenience term "instinct". These
are the fundamental attributes of the phenomenon Life.
Diversity between proteins and between other components (mainly
polysaccharides) of different species (animals and plants) is basic to all
phenomena in immunology, from allergies to organ rejection.
A false proposition is of this type: "Man can fly by waving his arms". This
proposition, however, contains within itself Popper's criterion of falsification,
because anyone can demonstrate its falseness.
On the other hand, a proposition of which nobody could ever demonstrate the
falsity is the following:
"In a thousand years the sun will be extinguished".
Alternative Methods: Alternative to What?
Are there alternatives to vivisection? Of course not. Then what is the point of
this book? And why is there widespread disgust at vivisectors? Why do
researchers in increasing numbers refuse to experiment on animals? And
what about the lawsuits brought against vivisectors and the court sentences
handed down to them?
This subject, too, like all expressions of thought, requires semantic definition.
There are no alternatives to vivisection, because any method intended to
replace it should have the same qualities; but it is hard to find anything in
biomedical research that is, and always was, more deceptive and misleading
So the methods we propose for medical research should be called "scientific
methods" rather than "alternative methods".
The vivisectors ask us: "What would you offer us instead of vivisection in
Instead of vivisection: nothing. Vivisection is a suppurating sore making
science ill, bringing it into disrepute, even with the general public.
The vivisectors should not ask: "What are you offering to science?" but more
honestly: "What are you offering to us?"
They would, of course, have to give up an easy way of acquiring academic
titles, having papers published, advancing their careers and making money.
They would also have to relinquish the chance of ingratiating themselves with
the powers-that-be by supporting one thesis one day or, as smoothly, it’s
opposite the next, by means of "irrefutable" experiments.
There are many ways of producing "irrefutable" facts in support of any
argument, using different kinds of animals: one just has to choose the right
Do we want to make someone fall asleep? Then let us give the person
morphine. Do we want to send the cat into a frenzy of excitement? Let us
give it morphine. But morphine has the same effect on the rat as on a human
being: it sends it to sleep.
Do we want to discourage people from eating parsley? Let us give it to the
parrot, which will probably be found lying stone dead under its perch the next
Should we wish to rule out penicillin as a therapeutic drug, we have only to
give it to the guinea pig which will be dead in a couple of days.
It is well known to writers of crime fiction that arsenic is poisonous, whereas
the sheep demonstrate that it is not because it can consume it in large
Strychnine, like arsenic a favorite weapon of murderers in crime novels, is
harmless to guinea pigs, chickens and monkeys in amounts capable of
causing convulsions in an entire human family.
Hemlock, well known through the death of Socrates and deceptively similar in
appearance to parsley, is eaten with relish by goats, sheep, horses and mice.
The truth is that all living organisms, animals and plants, are at the same time
marvelously like and marvelously unlike each other.
There is no contradiction here provided that one considers the matter from
different points of view.
All living organisms are marvelously alike, because all of them, from the
bacterium to man, have certain chemical compounds in common. It is
obvious that this should be so as everything that lives on the earth is derived
from the earth and cannot have more than the 92 elements that are to be
found in the world.
All living organisms are marvelously different from each other. The diversity is
not only between plants and animals, or between different species, but
individuals of the same species or race are different from one another.
But even if one were to content oneself with those few differences, how many
variations could there be in their combination?
A statistician could do the calculations. It suffices for us to say that possible
variations could be numbered in several billions. This is like saying that
probably among the four or five billion people who live on the earth no two of
them are identical.
Just like the saying, which runs: "There are no two leaves that rustle in the
same way." People are like leaves. All are sons of God. But are they all
equal? No, they are not.
At this point the vivisector enters the scene. He does not wish to know of
differences. He does not wish to know of differences between individuals and
he does not wish to know of differences between species.
Let us experiment on one species and we will know what will happen on
Obviously the vivisector does not express these things so explicitly. He does
not even believe them. However, he acts as if he believed them. Indeed, he
too knows that the results of experimentation on animals cannot be
extrapolated to man and also, strictly speaking, not even can the results of
experimentation on one group of humans be applied to all other groups.
The attitude of the vivisector towards animals is clearly contradictory.
The vivisector claims that:
Animals are fundamentally similar to man.
Animals are fundamentally different from man.
According to what he finds convenient for his thesis:
Animals are similar to man when it is convenient to claim that from animals
one can obtain knowledge for man.
Animals are different from man when it is convenient to believe that animals
do not suffer, are unaware, do not think, and therefore one can do anything
Morality simply does not come into the matter. A question naturally arises
here. Are the differences between animal species and individuals of the same
species, even at the bio-chemical level, as great as at the macroscopic level?
Not at all: to produce conspicuous effects, minimal bio-chemical differences
A mouse has given birth to a mountain. So now let us consider the following:
the various animal species are distinguished from one another (and from man)
not by only one difference in a single protein: all (or nearly all) proteins of one
animal species differ from those of another species.
Thus there are millions of proteins. And when one speaks of "protein" the
same applies also to "enzymes". And vivisectionists claim that animals all
behave alike in response to the same stimulus.
Drug testing uses the greatest number of animals, many millions in a year and
of many different species. And this experimentation is handsomely rewarded,
not only with honors and titles but also with cash.
Drug testing is carried out principally: to demonstrate that a particular drug is
not toxic, to demonstrate that the drug works.
That a drug may do no good matters little, at the most it could be considered
fraudulent. Almost always, moreover, it has a certain efficacy all the same, as
it pleases a lot of people hysterically anxious to consume medicines.
What one should worry about is that it should not be harmful, that is, not
For this reason toxicity tests are carried out on animals, but differences
between species, as those indicated in the preceding pages, are not taken into
Still less is another factor taken into account: toxicity tests are almost always
carried out on healthy animals whereas the medicine is given to a sick
But the illness by itself modifies the metabolism of drugs. For instance, fever
renders many drugs more toxic: diseases of the liver diminish the capacity of
the liver to neutralize dangerous substances; many kidney diseases slow
down the elimination of foreign substances like medicines and the products of
Immunopathies depress reaction to allergens. A congenital dismetabolism,
recognized or hidden, can render toxic a substance, which normally is
All these conditions do not exist in the experimental animal or they exist under
different aspects and with different consequences.
The majority of human diseases do not afflict any of the most known animals.
Then how can one demonstrate in the animal the efficacy of a drug intended
for a particular human illness?
If the illness does not normally afflict the animal we have to produce it
That is relatively easy in the case of infectious diseases, but it is only
apparently easy because there are many pitfalls.
"Toxic" is anything that shortens life or impairs its quality. The concept of
toxicity is, however, closely linked to quantity or "dose". Many drugs like
digitalis, strophanthin, atropine, are not toxic, on the contrary are beneficial, if
they are used in very small doses. Editors Note: Herbert M. Shelton would
take exception to the statement that drugs taken in small doses can be
"beneficial". See: Herbal Medicine: Phytotherapy
On the other hand, any substance, even the most necessary for life, is harmful
in excessive doses. Oxygen, for example, when breathed in at a pressure of
more than 20 atmospheres kills in a few minutes.
Natural foods (proteins, carbohydrates, fats) consumed in too great amounts
lead to obesity and so are "toxic". Obesity does, in fact, shorten life.
Apart from dosage, toxicity is linked to time. For example, hydrocyanic acid
(prussic acid) kills in a few seconds; arsenic (according to dose) in a few
hours or months; tobacco smoke in years. Thus we distinguish between
acute toxicity and chronic toxicity.
The term "laboratory animal" is vague. Any animal can be a laboratory animal,
but the choice is made according to practicality and cost rather than
according to "scientific" criteria.
If we should find out that the animal with bio-chemical reactions most similar
to those of man is, let us suppose, the rhinoceros, would the bulky pachyderm
become the most common laboratory animal?
In reality laboratory animals serve ends quite other than scientific ones: they
must be easily obtainable, cost little, be easily handled and, if possible, not
The error of studying an artificially created disease is compounded by treating
it with a drug, which, in all probability, in the animal will be metabolized in a
different way than in man. Indeed, different to the point that the animal could
die before the infection kills it, just as occurs with penicillin in guinea pigs.
Those who believe they can understand arteriosclerosis in humans through
animal experiments will feel rather annoyed, if not downright indignant, when
they examine the bio-chemical characteristics of arteriosclerosis.
The main culprit, cholesterin, in man is principally esterified by oleic and by
stearic acid; in the rat, mainly by arachidonic acid, an essential fatty acid.
A diet containing few calories is good for man but worsens natural
arteriosclerosis in rabbits.
Animals also make fools of us when, by using certain drugs to treat
arteriosclerosis, we seek to prolong our own life by shortening theirs.
One of these drugs is Clofibrate, which in some animals, apart from being
completely harmless, reduces the amount of cholesterol in the blood by about
20%: a resounding success which enabled the drug to be sold by the ton.
But how does it actually work in humans? In humans it not only reduces very
slightly the cholesterolemia, but also increases the incidence of heart attacks,
damages the liver, the gall bladder and gall duct, sometimes with fatal results.
Truly a splendid success.
Then there are those suffering from osteoarthritis. Why do our joints become
so grotesquely (and painfully) deformed?
Dogs, cats, sheep, pigs - let us attempt to mimic our lameness’s on these
animals. How can we do it? Joints beaten with hammer blows, injected with
irritating liquids, subjected to ionizing radiation, brutally dislocated.
What can't be done, when one wants to cause harm? One thing, however, is
incomprehensible: that the vivisectors should have such a poor
understanding of biology, such a crude conception of life, that they cannot
realize that these tortures cause nothing more than fractures, hemorrhages,
thromboses, contusions and inflammation.
All but an acceptable model of human osteoarthritis, which is a local
manifestation of a generalized illness of the collagen.
Nevertheless, the tortures continue. Why? Because the number of animals
used in the study of arthritis is in direct proportion to the amount of anti-
arthritic drugs, and to the profits deriving from them.
Our indignation is aroused less on account of the miserable victim of such
dreadful sadism than on account of the students who were indeed "horrified"
but did nothing to stop it.
Vivisection Or Science: A Choice To Make
By: Professor Pietro Croce, M.D.
First published in Italy in 1981 Republished in English (and updated and
expanded) in 1991, Translated from Italian by Henry Turtle in collaboration
with the Author.
About the Author:
Prof. Pietro Croce, MD is a luminary of medical science. Born in Dalmatia in
1920, he graduated at the famed University of Pisa, Italy. His curriculum
includes: Fulbright Scholarship, Research Department of the National Jewish
Hospital of Colorado University in Denver, Research Department of Toledo,
Ohio. Research Departmente of Barcelona, Spain. From 1952 and 1982, head
of the laboratory of microbiological-pathological anatomy and chemo-clinical
analyses at the research Hospital L. Sacco of Milan, Italy. A member of the
College of American Pathologists, he is also a prolific author of medical
books, scientific papers and press articles. He now lives in Vicenza Italy, with
his Swiss wife and their teenage son.