Nathaniel P. Morris and I share a common background, and his insightful commentary rang true for me (“Humanity in the animal research lab,” Op-ed, July 25). As a Harvard graduate and former animal researcher — I used dogs for heart research — I too experienced the unavoidable cruelty, the detached gallows humor, and the ethical dilemma Morris described.
But I learned something else that was critical to my decision to forgo animal experimentation, and this may ease Morris’s lingering doubts. I learned that my animal experiments, and indeed those of my colleagues and other basic scientists, were neither necessary nor reliable when studying human diseases and treatments.
Over the quarter century since I switched to human-relevant cardiovascular research, the cumulative evidence that animal experimentation is a failed paradigm has led to a sea change in the study of human diseases. Now federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Institutes of Health as well as nongovernmental organizations such as the Institute of Medicine are advocating for scientifically superior human-based research.
The recent NIH decision to retire nearly all federally owned chimpanzees from research is an example of how far we have advanced.
So I say to Morris: Your instincts are correct. There is a better way, and step by step we are getting there.