GB No. 12, winter 1994


In the majority of cases our behaviour towards animals is barbarous. It is enough to look at the hundreds of dogs, cats, and hedgehogs run over by our cars. Pets are frequently turned loose by their owners, who have grown bored with them. Animals on the way to slaughter houses roar in pain at railway stations when drunken members of the escort break their legs so that it will be easier to kill them. "If a cow does not want to get on the lorry, they pierce her eyes with a burning-hot nail," says a farmer from the Nowy S1cz voivodeship. Animals are also tortured in university laboratories, maintains a professor working at one of the Polish Medical Academies. He chooses to remain anonymous.

"If someone wanted to find out what would be the results of cooking his own grandmother, should he be allowed to put her into boiling water?" It was George Bernard Shaw who asked this question once upon a time, when he reflected upon the limits of cognition in science. His question is still valid. picture

The majority of diseases people suffer from must be artificially induced in laboratory animals, which entails painful interference into the functioning of their organisms. "The freedom of science does not consist in treating harmless and sensitive beings like dead objects that can be ruthlessly exploited. Attempts to extend the limits of our science must end at a point where knowledge can be obtained only through suffering, pain, and death," say the members of the Associations of Doctors Against Experimenting on Animals, active in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and other countries. Not everyone is of the same opinion, however.

In microbiology they use the so called "complement." It is a protein component of human and animal serum. It is procured by taking blood from the hearts of guinea pigs. Doctors maintain that it is not possible to obtain it in any other way at the moment. The problem is how to carry out this operation in the least painful way for the animal. If it is performed well, guinea pigs tend to survive it.

An experienced person is able to collect 5-6 milliliters of blood by injecting the animal only once. The pain the animals suffer is horrible, admit doctors. Not everybody is willing to acknowledge this, however. In one Polish research institute a certain lady would make six to seven injections into the heart of a guinea pig, and she thought it was a normal thing. "She treated them as if they were potatoes," says a doctor who started working there many years ago.

If someone feels like looking through old bulletins issued by the Polish Academy of Science, he may come across an "interesting" collective work about the pathogenesis of shock. For the authors, the best subjects for demonstrating how to induce shock were dogs. Dogs were immersed to their waist in boiling oil, heated to a temperature of 180 degrees Centigrade. Then the symptoms of shock were recorded. But this was not enough. Other dogs, then, had their thighs crushed in a hydraulic press, without anaesthesia. This work, just like many others, was written more for theoretical than for practical purposes. Just one more publication.

Another scientist experimented on rabbits. His experiments consisted of transplanting treponema of syphilis onto the testicles of live rabbits. The rabbits were then castrated, and their testicles were made into a pulp for a suspension which was then transferred to another animal. Allegedly there was no other way. Living rabbits were spread on boards and sometimes everybody forgot about them. They would hang like that for several hours, sometimes with their heads down.

Orthopaedic surgeons perform experiments on dogs which consist in lengthening their bones. Nobody says they are unnecessary. Sometimes the animals are left in plaster and forgotten, because they are needed just for a PhD thesis or a thesis to qualify as an assistant-professor. Then the dogs are left to howl in the night. These dogs were lucky. Technicians took pity on them. After they had their plaster removed it turned out that they were being eaten by worms. Other doctors drilled holes in dogs' teeth in order to get to their crown pulp and apply some substance to destroy it. The pain was horrible.

A mouse is a little animal, but the pain it experiences is enormous. A certain pseudo-scientist read in some book that the most productive blood collection comes from the eye of a living mouse. In order to get the blood, of course, the mouse has to have its eye removed. Luckily, this researcher was sacked. The cosmetic industry contributes to the suffering of animals, too. Many examples could be given here. One is the testing of toxicity, usually involving rats or mice. An animal receives a certain amount of the tested substance. The substance may be added to the animal's food or the animal may be forced to swallow it with the use of a probe. Other substances are injected intramuscularly, intravenously, or into the animals' stomachs.

After several days the animals may have contractions, become paralysed, or display other reactions. In the end the animals are killed so that researchers can study the effects of the substance on the animals' organs and nervous system.

The conflict between the Kraków Association for the Prevention of Cruelty towards Animals and the Institute of Physiology of the Collegium Medicum of the Jagiellonian University we have already written about is still going on. The rector of the Jagiellonian Univerisity has not yet made any decision regarding this matter.

"We do not say that experiments on animals should be stopped altogether. What we are aiming at is painless and well-grounded experiments," say the members of the Association. Article 8 of the World Declaration of the Right of the Animal, passed by UNESCO in 1978, says "Experiments on animals -- medical, scientific, commercial and all others -- which involve physical and mental suffering are a violation of the animals' rights. In such situations alternative methods should be applied."

"What alternative methods does Professor Stanis3aw Konturek apply to make the lives of animals at his institute easier? We have not yet learned the answer to this question," say the members of the Association. Professor Konturek maintains in his letter to the rector of the Jagiellonian University that at his institute no pain is inflicted during experiments. In the case of operations anaesthesia is used. "We have not been allowed to find out if it is true," say the members of the Kraków Association for the Prevention of Cruelty towards Animals.

According to the opinion of Professor Stanis3aw Konturek, the rooms in which animals are kept have all the conveniences. They are the best in Poland. Dogs are well-cared for, not only on working days, and they are well-nourished. According to the inspector of the Kraków Association for the Prevention of Cruelty Towards Animals, who controlled the institute, the conditions in which the animals are kept are just basic and the constant care is limited to eight working hours. Then the animals are left alone.

Professor Stanis3aw Konturek maintains that animals used for experiments come from special breeding farms. Few of them are bought from individual owners. After experiments have been carried out they are drugged and after the post mortem their bodies are cremated.

"For the last eighteen months, the Lomna Institute of the Polish Academy of Science has not supplied any animals, and it is doubtful whether dog owners would prefer to give their dogs to the Institute rather than to an animal asylum. We suspect that they have been bought illegally," say members of the Association.

In a letter dated the 27th of April, 1992, written by the head of the Institute of Parasitology to the Kraków Association for the Prevention of Cruelty towards Animals, we read that "employees of the Medical Academy who came to collect dogs or ordered them on the phone did not demand any certificates for the animals until the letter dated the 6th of January, 1992. . . . Despite fears that the fact that the animals might have been kept under inhumane conditions will activate illegal suppliers, the manager of the farm, acting on the suggestion of his superiors, informed his customers that the Institute of the Polish Academy of Science would stop buying and selling dogs." The Association for the Prevention of Cruely towards Animals would have no more doubts if they were allowed to take photographs of the dogs during their control. It would then be possible to find out if these are the same dogs that were seen on their previous visit. The employees of the Association see different dogs each time. And they are different colours.

The basic principle of the world of science (in the West at least) is that experiments should be performed on animals of the same age, the same sex, the same weight, the same genetic constitution. Experiments should be conducted simultaneously. If the dogs are different, experimenting on them makes no sense. If drugs are tested on them, for example, their reactions might differ.

"In my opinion, taking photographs of the animals 'for show' is groundless, especially when they might be used for spreading evil propaganda about our research," wrote Professor Konturek to the rector of the Jagiellonian University. The professor maintains that in order to make identification of the animals easier and at the same time avoid the painful tattoo suggested by the Association, a photograph of each new dog could be included in the files.

"In the West a painless method of tattooing is becoming very popular. Including pictures of animals in the files might not be enough, since a picture might be exchanged together with the dog. Only its name and particulars would remain," say the members of the Association. "The tattoo would guarantee identification of dogs."

We might assume that the attitude of a doctor towards his patients would be the same towards animals. Unfortunately, many doctors treat our little friends with cruel thoughtlessness. Why does a doctor, instead of being a good doctor, want to be a scientist at all cost?

"Lenghtening bones, for example, means leaving one's area. It could be done by somebody else, a specialist in animals. But it is not like that, because such a gentleman has to prepare a certain number of works, he must be a great Mr. Professor or Mr. Doctor," says a famous doctor.

If certain experiments cannot be avoided, then they should be carried out. But a little imagination should be employed here. If someone indulged in conducting such experiments in the West as are carried out in Poland, he or she would be finished. There we observe a move from experiments on animals towards streak culture, which is much more expensive but gives much better results. If we examine cosmetics and drugs in this way, we can separate the toxic ones and start experimenting on animals in the next stage.

Few Polish scientists want to give themselves the trouble. The most usual method is the simplest one: will it die or not? "If you do not have a rancid brain and a heavy bottom, you can do a lot. Unfortunately, the majority of Polish scientists are lazy and choose the easiest way. Their perception of the examined object is very limited," maintains a professor at one of the Polish medical academies.

What is sick is first of all the system of management of science, which is more hierarchical in Poland than ever and more hierarchical than anywhere else, many scientists think. The sick thing is that you have to produce a certain number of works, publications. That is why the results of research are "pulled up" just like a Soviet scientist used to pull up a plant to see how much it had grown that day. The majority of scientific works have no thesis.

And scientists tend to forget that a doctor should first of all cure people.

Agnieszka Majewska
translation from Gazeta w Krakowie 2.10.93

GB No. 12, winter 1994 | Contents