It’sWorld Week for Animals in Laboratories (April 18th to the 26th)and today is the World Day for Laboratory Animals—the perfect time to consider whatanimal experimentation means for the animals themselves, and for science.

While the social movement to end the use of animalsin experiments is a modern one, the notion that using animals in science andmedicine is morally wrong and scientifically questionable dates back almost asfar as the scientific method itself.

Charles Darwin in The Descentof Man argued: "There is no fundamental difference between man and thehigher mammals in their mental faculties," attributing to animals thepower of reason, decision making, memory, sympathy and imagination.

We knowthis to be true today more than ever.

A landmark 2011 study by theU.S. Institute of Medicine found that, “most current biomedical research use ofchimpanzees is unnecessary.”

A 2007 U.S. National Academies ofScience report looked at standard methods of testing the safety of chemicalsand concluded that, “Current [animal] tests … provide little information onmodes and mechanisms of action … and little or no information for assessingvariability in human susceptibility.” The government report advocated for new approach to toxicity testingbased on exclusively “computational biology and a comprehensive array of invitro tests based on human biology.”

In 2006, an article published inthe prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association found that even themost highly-cited experiments on animals rarely translate to humans.

Theauthors concluded, “patients and physicians should remain cautious aboutextrapolating the finding of prominent animal research to the care of humandisease … poor replication of even high-quality animal studies should beexpected by those who conduct clinical research.”

People justify the use of mice,rats, monkeys, dogs and other animals in harmful experiments by claiming thatanimals are so similar to humans biologically and psychologically, but thenthey ignore the ethical implications of those similarities.

Animals areintelligent, sentient individuals who have lives and interests of their own,suffer immensely in laboratories, and don’t want to die. Humans may be different from other animals,but that doesn’t make us more important.

So, what is the alternative?Thanks to modern technology, we now have several alternatives to animalexperimentation are in vitro tests based on human tissues, sophisticatedcomputational models, ethical research with human participants, and humanlikepatient simulators.

Researchers at Harvard University developed microfluidicdevices they call organs on a chip, which are effectively fully-functioningminiature human organ systems made from human cells and tissues.

For both ethical and scientific reasons, tormenting animals inexperiments is unjustifiable.