Carrying posters of mutilated animals, anti-vivisectionists Wednesday challenged the public to stop perceiving scientific researchers as "gods in white coats" and recognize them as "grant-hungry scientists," whose animal experiments are misleading and dangerous when applied to humans.
"In the 200 years that man has been using animals as models for himself, he has yet to cure a single disease not even the common cold," said Margaret Ann Sutton, a spokeswoman for Animal PAWS (Protection & Welfare Society). The organization sponsored the protest in front of the University of Utah vivarium in commemoration of World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week, being observed by anti-vivisectionists nationwide.In the vivarium, however, Dr. Jack Taylor, director of animal resources, had a different message. He said claims that there has been no benefit from animal research are totally false.
"Every day in this facility I see research done here go right over to the University Hospital, where it's applied to infants and others who would die otherwise.
"There are literally thousands of examples like that," Taylor stressed.
But the protesters, ready to "take on researchers on their terms scientific terms," strongly disagree.
"Man is using over 100 million animals in this country every year. He spends over $355 billion on health care, and what has he achieved?" Sutton asked. "Heart disease still kills over 300,000 people every single day. Cancer strikes one out of three individuals. More people are dying of diabetes than in 1900 22 years before the discovery of insulin."
Sutton, wearing a T-shirt with the message "A laboratory animal never has a nice day," emphasized that the anti-vivisection movement opposes animal experiments "because of their damage to human health" a statement Taylor strongly rejected.
"The public needs to be aware that if these people are successful in convincing enough people to stop animal experimentation, then we are all going to suffer," he said.
Taylor emphasized that curbing animal experimentation would mean no more research into artificial joints, ligaments and ophthalmology, just for starters. "And solving the problem of blindness is second only to cancer and heart disease in this country," he said.
The U. researcher said there are examples, such as in England, where animal research has been curtailed, "and indeed advancement of medical science has been hindered."
But the protesters are unmoved by such statements.
"Our goal as anti-vivisectionists is not to replace pets seized from animal shelters with purebred animals, or replace our closest relative, the monkey, with mice and rats," Sutton said. "Nor is it to replace monkeys with aborted human fetuses.
"Our goal is to discontinue the exploitation of all beings by the research and scientific community."
A second, larger anti-vivisection rally, sponsored by the Humane Society, will begin at 9:30 a.m. Friday in front of the U.'s Marriott Library.