Animal Aid

BRED TO SUFFER - Introduction

Photo by Iain Green

Animal Aid's Bred to Suffer report looks at animals as models for human disease, the physical and chemical manipulation of animals in experiments, the problems with transgenic animal disease models, and the other options that are available to medical researchers.

We humans suffer from a multitude of diseases and disabilities; some inherited, some induced by our lifestyle or environment, some acquired through infection and others just appearing spontaneously or through accident or injury.

The major causes of premature death in the western world are often called 'diseases of civilisation'; meaning that they are attributable to our modern lifestyle of poor diet, lack of exercise and environmental pollution. The 'big three' are heart disease, cancer and stroke.

The major causes of death in the 'developing world' are still infectious diseases and malnutrition; both being a consequence of poverty and inadequate living conditions, including lack of food and clean water.

In the West, we no longer suffer (in such numbers) from diseases of poverty, such as TB, cholera, typhoid, diphtheria and dysentery, thanks entirely to improvements in our housing, sewerage, water supply and diet. (1,2)(3)

Sadly, though, we seem to prefer to become ill and then look to high-tech medicine for a cure. There is no shortage of patients to study and learn from, but in a catastrophic neglect of reason, we turn to animals for answers instead. Forgetting the biochemical and physiological differences between animals and ourselves, which have led to so many drug disasters (4)

So how is disease induced in animals?

Animals are either physically or chemically damaged to produce some of the symptoms of the disease or, increasingly, they are bred with a specific genetic defect, which causes them to display one or more characteristics of the disease. Usually this involves 'knocking out' a gene, or inserting one from a human or another animal: the resulting animal is thus 'transgenic'. We will begin by looking at physically-induced 'models' and then go on to consider transgenic models and the particular problems they face.

In the first main section of Bred to Suffer we look at physical/chemical manipulation in medical research - including cancer and AIDS research.


  1. T McKeown, The Role of Medicine, Blackwell 1979
  2. The Lancet, 12th August 1978 p354-55
  3. CS Muir and DM Parkin, British Medical Journal, 5th Jan 1985 p5-6
  4. Thalidomide, a tranquiliser pronounced safe by animal tests, caused terrible deformities in over 10,000 children born to mothers prescribed the drug in the 60's. Opren, an arthritis medicine marketed in 1980 after safety tests on monkeys and other animals, was withdrawn in 1982 after it had killed 61 people and caused over 3,500 severe reactions. Rezulin, prescribed to diabetics until March 2000, killed 391 people and necessitated many more liver trans plants; an effect not demonstrated in animals. There are many, many more examples: see for further information.

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