Nick Anthis at The Scientific Activist had a great post yesterday on the fallacies in an article from the UK Guardian detailing a peer-reviewed publication on replacing animal research with in vitro and computational models. As much as all scientists would wish this were true, there are simply no replacements for animal research in many areas, as noted by PZ Myers.
One of my favorite sources for promoting the factual necessity for animal research (and exposing extremist groups for attacks on scientists) is the Washington, DC-based, Foundation for Biomedical Research. The poster above is one of their products, a 25th anniversary printing of a classic message (available for only $10 at their webstore.).
While I no longer conduct animal research directly, I know that none of my in vitro work will ever make it to human clinical trials unless animal studies are done. No matter how elegant the hypothesis or wizardry in the design of a drug molecule, the ultimate question from colleagues is, “But does it work in an intact biological system (an animal)?” No drug makes it to market without extensive animal testing and this is a requirement of federal drug regulatory agencies worldwide.
In basic research, federal grant guidelines in the US now include a very seriously-reviewed section on the justification of the need and number of animals used for a project together with the precise methods to be employed to minimize pain and suffering. Inattention to detail in this section can cause a grant to be delayed or not funded at all. Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) provide a second level of animal use regulations and justifications that are sometimes so extensive, my colleagues say it is easier to complete the paperwork to do a human clinical trial than an animal study.
In any case, I simply wanted to draw your attention to the Foundation for Biomedical Research as an excellent source for information on the need for and benefits of animal research.