On Laboratory Animal Day Let’s Switch to 21st Century Technologies

According to AIA’s scientific adviser, Dr Andre Menache, Covid-19 offers us a golden opportunity to get rid of the ‘animal model’, a concept that belongs to the 20th century, and to focus our efforts on the species in question, namely humans. He says that rather than experimenting with ferrets, monkeys or mice, it would be more intelligent – and far more scientific – to invest in high-performance technologies of the 21st century.

Out of ten medical drugs that have successfully passed the required tests on animals, nine will fail in clinical trials involving humans (due to lack of efficacy or to side effects not seen in animals). This represents a 90% failure rate or a 10% prediction rate based on animal tests. We don’t have time to waste on these outdated methods in the search for a vaccine for Covid-19. Regulations need to change to reflect this and adapt to modern alternatives to animal testing.

Dr Andre Menache BSc(Hons) BVSc MRCVS is a veterinarian who advises extensively on animal welfare matters.  He is director of Antidote Europe, based in France, a patron of Quaker Concern for Animals and a patron of and scientific adviser to the Animal Interfaith Alliance.   He has been president of Doctors and Lawyers for Responsible Medicine (UK) and general manager of The Federation of Animal Protection Societies in Israel.  He currently provides scientific support to several grass roots organisations. His full article can be read here.

Celebrating Animals on ‘Earth Day’

As we celebrate this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the Animal Interfaith Alliance and its member faith-based animal advocacy organisations will be thinking, not only about climate change, but also about the wonderful animals that are so fundamental to our unique planet.

Every day so many of these animals are abused in factory farms, laboratories, in entertainment and in the wild. This is the year, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, that we started paying the price for our “tyrannical anthropocentrism”, as Pope Francis described it. This is the year that planet Earth started fighting back. This is the year that the abuse of wild animals in horrific wildlife markets caused the global pandemic which is killing humans.

This is the year when we must reflect on our abuse of the animal creation and start becoming the good stewards we were meant to be for the Earth and all its inhabitants. This is the time to end our tyrannical anthropocentrism and to love, cherish and protect all the animals we share Earth with.

Faith Groups Write to the UN Calling on Them to Take Decisive Action to Prevent Further Pandemics

The Animal Interfaith Alliance (AIA) has written to the United Nations on behalf of its sixteen faith based animal advocacy member organisations, calling on them to take decisive action to prevent further pandemics.  The letter, addressed to Antonio Guterres the Secretary General of the UN, is here:

Your Excellency António Guterres
Secretary-General of the United Nations
United Nations
405 East 42nd Street
New York
NY, 10017

9th April 2020

Your Excellency António Guterres,

Call for the United Nations to take decisive action to prevent further pandemics.

On behalf of the faith based animal advocacy organisations listed below, the Animal Interfaith Alliance, their umbrella organisation, commends the United Nations on its current efforts in tackling the global pandemic caused by the outbreak of Covid-19.

The major faiths, to which these organisations are associated, have over 4 billion followers worldwide.

It is scientifically established that Covid-19 is just one in a series of epidemics that have been caused by our abuse of nature and, in particular, our abuse of animals. These include the influenza pandemic of 1918, rabies, HIV, Lassa fever, Ebola, Nipah, MERS, SARs, bovine TB, H1N1 Swine flu and H5N1 avian flu. We outline further details of how these epidemics were caused by the abuse of animals here:

Governments have failed to learn the clear lessons from these previous epidemics. Had those lessons been learned, the current pandemic, which is destroying so many lives through death and economic collapse, could have been prevented.

We call on the United Nations to do everything in its power to ensure that governments around the world learn from this pandemic and put measures in place that mitigate against the risk of future pandemics occurring. These measures include:

– A worldwide ban on wet markets;
– A worldwide ban on the wildlife trade;
– A worldwide ban on the use of animals in traditional medicine;
– A worldwide ban on factory farming – all farming should be practised to a minimum of RSPCA Assured/Freedom Food standards;
– A worldwide ban on the long distance transport of animals;
– A ban on the use of all animals in entertainment with zoos held to World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) standards;
– The promotion of non-animal based sources of nutrition (which will promote the health of the world’s population);

In order to implement these measures we would recommend that the United Nations works in association with organisations such as the World Organisation for Animal Health (the OIE), the International Coalition for Animal Welfare (ICFAW) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to advise on animal welfare standards.

As this is a critical and urgent issue, our members would very much appreciate a considered response to our letter.
Yours sincerely,

The Animal Interfaith Alliance, on behalf of the following 16 faith based organisations:

The Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals
Animals in Islam
Bhagvatinandji Education and Health Trust
Catholic Concern for Animals
Christian Vegetarians and Vegans UK
The Christian Vegetarian Association US
Dharma Voices for Animals
The Institute of Jainology
The Jewish Vegetarian Society
The Mahavir Trust
The Oshwal Association of the UK
Pan-Orthodox Concern for Animals
Quaker Concern for Animals
The Romeera Foundation
The Sadhu Vaswani Centre

The Young Jains

Inger Anderson – UN Environment Chief

Iyad Abu Moghli – UN Environment Programme – Faith for Earth

Copies to media

Corona Virus and Animal Testing – by Dr Andre Menache

Animal Testing & Covid-19

The Coronavirus pandemic called COVID-19 is an important opportunity to reassess the way we do medical research. Faced with this viral tsunami, scientists have not had time to find one or more animal species to serve as a ‘model’ to study this disease in the laboratory.

In the case of seasonal flu, doctors have well-known ways to lower rates of infection, such as vaccines and antiviral drugs, which can decrease the severity of symptoms and the duration of the disease. But faced with an emergency situation, researchers decided to test new treatments directly on patients. It should be noted that these are not untested medical drugs but rather drugs used for other diseases, or else different combinations of drugs already on the market.

This kind of human experimentation is called a ‘clinical trial’. Its purpose is to assess the efficacy of a treatment following the approval by ethics committees and the informed consent of the patient. A clinical trial is normally preceded by several ‘preclinical’ steps to assess the toxicity and efficacy of a new treatment. One of these steps is animal testing. This regulatory requirement dates back to the Nuremberg Codes of 1947 and is still the norm in national and international legislation today. Yet, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, out of ten medical drugs that have successfully passed the required tests on animals, nine will fail in clinical trials involving humans (due to lack of efficacy or to side effects not seen in animals). This represents a 90% failure rate or a 10% prediction rate based on animal tests.

It is interesting to note that scientists closely involved in the search for a treatment or a vaccine against COVID-19 also recognise the fact that animal tests are unreliable to predict human reactions. Let us quote some of them. According to Tal Zaks, medical director of Moderna, a successful biotech company in the United States: “I don’t think proving this in an animal model is on the critical path to getting this to a clinical trial” (1). Barney Graham, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) also in the United States notes that standard laboratory mice do not catch this new Coronavirus, as humans do (2). Finally, Karen Maschke, editor of the journal Ethics & Human Research, pointed out that animal studies are often poor predictors of what will work in humans (3).

Of course, making a new vaccine is not without risk. This is the reason for using evidence-based technologies, as demonstrated by ‘personalised’ medicine and vaccines. Indeed, doctors and researchers note that we are not all equal to the risk of infection by this virus. Why are children far less susceptible than the elderly, for example? Crucially, the clinical information that is being collected constitutes the best data to develop personalised treatments and vaccines, more effective and with fewer side effects than conventional treatments.

This is a golden opportunity to get rid of the ‘animal model’, a concept that belongs to the 20th century, and to focus our efforts on the species in question, namely humans. To try to reproduce a human disease in an animal is a perversion of science, a complete misunderstanding of the complex system that we are and of the different complex systems that make up our organism, such as the immune system. Each animal species is a complex system and therefore cannot serve as a model for another. Even among humans, there are important differences between children and adults, men and women, in terms of susceptibility to COVID-19. Rather than experimenting with ferrets, monkeys or mice, it would be more intelligent – and far more scientific – to invest in high-performance technologies of the 21st century.

One example is the ‘MIMIC’ (Modular IMmune In vitro Construct). It is an in vitro model of the human immune system (4). “The information you get from this type of test is far and beyond what you’d get out of a mouse study,” says Michael Rivard, vice president of corporate development at VaxDesign, “both because it’s humans and because you can see the effect across a spectrum of genotypes” (5).

Advanced in vitro technologies (such as MIMIC, ‘organs on a chip’ and others) must aim for a prediction rate of 85 to 90 % in order to be accepted at the regulatory level, whereas the ‘animal model’ achieves a prediction rate of only 10% according to the FDA. A testing strategy based on a battery of in vitro tests using human material would be far more relevant than pursuing animal tests. It is time to change the current paradigm in biomedical research if we want to preserve our health in the face of emerging diseases of the 21st century. Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic will help us to question some of our outdated scientific practices as well as the obsolete regulations that still impose them.


Researchers rush to test coronavirus vaccine in people without knowing how well it works in animals


Researchers rush to test coronavirus vaccine in people without knowing how well it works in animals


Help Ban Wet Markets

Animal Equality have today launched an international campaign calling on the United Nations to demand an immediate global ban on all wet markets.

Please sign their petition here and share it widely.

Animal Equality have investigated wet markets in China, India and Vietnam.  The footage in the video is from a wet market in Wuhan, China, where Covid-19 is thought to have originated.

Wet markets get their name, in part, from the floors that are soaked in blood – the blood of animals such as crocodiles, porcupines, deer, bats, chickens, goats and cats and dogs.

There are no animal welfare or hygiene regulations in place and, despite the documented dangers to public health and extreme cruelty to animals, wet markets remain legal.  They are hell on earth for animals and have now posed a global threat to human health globally.

Covid-19 is not the first deadly virus to emerge from humanity’s misuse of our fellow sentient creatures, and, if we do not learn from our mistakes, it will not be the last. All past pandemics have originated from animals being eaten or taken from their natural environments. These include the influenza pandemic of 1918, HIV, Lassa fever, Ebola, MERS, SARS, Nipah, swine flu H1N1, avian flu H5N1 and Covid-19.  When we steal animals from their natural environments and confine them in unnatural conditions, we can tear viruses loose from their natural hosts to whom they do no harm. They then need to seek new hosts to whom they can be harmful, such as humans.  Further details are here.

In Memory of Jon Wynne-Tyson

Extended CircleWe are very sad to hear of the passing of Jon Wynne-Tyson on 26th March 2020, aged 95.

Jon was a stalwart of the animal rights movement, a vegetarian and a Quaker who was Patron of Quaker Concern for Animals and a trustee of Compassion in World Farming.  Jon was a great writer who set up his own publishing company, Centaur Press.  He wrote The Civilised Alternative (1972) and Food for a Future (1975) but he is probably best known for The Extended Circle: A Dictionary of Humane Thought (1985) in which he collates quotations from many famous people in history to make the case for extending our circle of compassion to include animals.

I was introduced to Jon about 10 years ago by Richard Ryder and was lucky enough to visit him on several occasions at his home in West Sussex when travelling to RSPCA meetings.  He was a delightful, kind man and a perfect host.  I shall miss him very much.

AIA President Richard Ryder was a close friend of Jon and says, “Jon played an important role in establishing the modern Animal Rights movement that has been so successful in getting over 60 pieces of animal protection legislation passed in Britain and the EU over the last 40 years. In 1977, at the RSPCA’s Animal Rights Conference at Trinity College, Cambridge, he came forward as an enlightened publisher of its proceedings (Animals’ Rights – a Symposium ed Paterson and Ryder, pub. Centaur Press 1979) and therefore helped to put the whole new movement on a firm and public footing”.

More can be read about Jon on the Quaker Concern for Animals’ website here.

R.I.P. Jon and thank you for your great contribution to humanity’s progress.

Barbara Gardner