American Anti-Vivisection Society
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|Sue A. Leary|
The American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) is an organization created with the goal of eliminating a number of different procedures done by medical and cosmetic groups in relation to animal cruelty in the United States. It seeks to help the betterment of animal life and human-animal interaction through legislation reform.
The American Anti-Vivisection Society was founded by Caroline Earle White in 1883 in Philadelphia. The group was inspired by Britain's recently passed Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. The Society began with the goal of regulating the use of animals in science and society. After a few years, the intention switched from regulation to the complete abolition of vivisection in scientific testing. The first two members – Caroline Earle White and Mary Frances Lowell – worked with their husbands in the Pennsylvania Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA), yet felt that their capabilities extended beyond what the PSPCA had to offer and, in 1869, founded the Women’s Branch of the PSPCA (today known as the Women’s Humane Society).
The first American animal testing facilities were opened in the 1860s and 1870s, much to the dismay of animal rights pioneers. Caroline White traveled to London to meet with Frances Power Cobbe, the woman who led the Victoria Street Society and had the Cruelty of Animals Act passed. Caroline White returned in 1883, full of ideas after speaking with Cobbe, and transformed the WBPSPCA into the American Anti-Vivisection Society. After two years the group was trying to have legislation passed, proposing the Bill to Restrict Vivisection, which was defeated. After gaining a bit of exposure, many in the medical field began siding with the AAVS. Since then, the group has consistently worked on educating the public on issues regarding animal cruelty as well as worked with the U.S. Federal government in passing legislations for animal rights.
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The biggest concern of the American Anti-Vivisection Society is the implementation of vivisection in medical testing. Vivisection is any experiment conducted on a subject that is still living at the time of the procedure and, omitting technicalities and procedure failures, still alive afterwards. However, with any experimentation there comes trial and error. Also, the benefit of an experiment is unknown. Since, by and large, the anti-vivisection movement is a moral struggle it is hard to define in concrete terms. Scientists argue that their testing could possibly better all of mankind and often claim that it is more important to risk the lives of animals if it means the betterment of the human race. Anti-vivisectionists argue that most vivisections are unnecessary and true work should be done with cell and tissue samples, seeing as vivisection is an outdated form of experimentation to begin with. George Bernard Shaw states that, “as a vivisection is experimental, it is not always or even often certain that the result of an operation will save any suffering at all.”
There is a great debate between anti-vivisections and scientists regarding the merit of these scientific experiments. As the anti-vivisection movement stemmed from compassion towards animals (as it still does today), there is another aspect. It is what Dr. Pietro Croce describes as the “new anti-vivisectionist,” a person whose reasoning for disbanding vivisection comes from medical and scientific viewpoints, in that there is an actual danger with using animal tested drugs on humans. As Dr. Croce states, “an experimental model of the human species does not exist.” Meaning simply that one cannot expect results derived from testing on animals biologically different from humans to be truly representative of something beneficial to humans.
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Various racketeers engage in something widely unheard called pound seizure. This is when someone takes cats and animals from the pound, sometimes even the pounds themselves, and sell the animals to various testing facilities. Animals are even required to be released to dealers after an allotted time at a pound. This is seen as a substitute for euthanasia in many places and was, for a time, considered an ethical replacement. However, as the animals in a pound that are healthy and non-aggressive are the ones most valued by laboratories for testing, they are also the ones most likely to be adopted by families. The AAVS argues that since these animals could go to good homes instead of testing facilities, there should be bans and restrictions placed on pounds for supplying dealers with these animals. Many states are beginning to enforce legislation to restrict and ban pound seizure. Washington, D.C. passed legislation to ban pound seizure on August 4, 2008.
Considering that animals which undergo testing are not human, many of them have to be genetically altered in order to simulate human ailments. When these animals are altered, the group who created them are able to obtain a government patent for that animal. So far, 660 animal patents have been granted to various testing facilities for the creation of new animals that are bred to have specific human ailments. The AAVS has created Stop Animal Patents campaign and have already overturned two animal patents – rabbits bred with bad eyesight to simulate dry eye and beagles bred with lung infections.
A more recent concern of the organization is that of animal cloning. Animal cloning has a 1 to 4 percent success rate, meaning that 96 to 99 percent of animals attempting to be cloned die or are never fully created. In January 2008 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “concluded that meat and milk from cow, pig, and goat clones and the offspring of any animal clones are as safe as food we eat every day.”
The organization’s earliest publication was a magazine created in 1892 entitled the Journal of Zoophily. The magazine informed its readers of recent vivisection and animal welfare issues, “encouraged readers to support humane education, and informed members about the society’s latest legislative ventures.” The publication changed its name a number of times, from The Starry Cross in 1922, the A-V in 1939, and resting finally with AV Magazine some years after that. The AAVS has had radio programs, such as “Have You a Dog?” as well as occasional spots and commercials on radio and television.
Education is one of the focal points of the AAVS and its mission. From the organization’s birth, the aspect of education has remained strong, not only in just informing the public as to what vivisection and other such medical procedures were, but also in teaching children about properly treating animals. Teaching humane treatment of animals not only helps interspecies relationships, but also creates a betterment of ideology towards all creatures. As animal rights activist Joseph Covino Jr. writes, “a kid who’s raised to acknowledge no injury or injustice in mistreating or doing violence to a cat or a dog can never be counted on to think anything wrong in mistreating or doing violence to anything weaker than himself – his own kid maybe.”
Animalearn was created in 1990 and is the AAVS’ educational department. The group intends to illustrate how science and biology can be taught in schools without actually using animals, like with dissection in the classroom. Animalearn conducts free workshops with educators nationwide to show how to teach science without the use of animals, as well as trying to incorporate animal-rights, in concept and practice, into the curriculum and educational environment of the school setting. The group has created what they call the Science Bank which is a program of “new and innovative life science software and educational products that enable educators and students to learn anatomy, physiology, and psychology lessons without harming animals, themselves, or the Earth.”
- Santoro, Lily. "History of the American Anti-Vivisection Society".
- Shaw (1951), p 1
- Croce (1999), p 4
- Croce (1999), p 12
- "CVM and Animal Cloning".
- Covino (1990), p 5
- "About Animalearn".
- Covino Jr., Joseph (1990). Lab Animal Abuse: Vivisection Exposed!. New Humanity Press.
- Croce, Pietro (1999). Vivisection or Science? An Investigation into Testing Drugs and Safeguarding Health. Zed Books.
- Shaw, George Bernard (1951). Shaw on Vivisection. Alethea Publications.
- The American Anti-Vivisection Society - official site
- Animalearn - official site
- Ban Pound Seizure - official site
- End Animal Cloning- official site
- Cosmetic Testing Companies - guide to cosmetic testing facilities
- No Pet Cloning- official site
- Stop Animal Patents- official site
- FDA Cloning - more detailed information on the FDA's animal cloning policy