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Categories of Animal Experimentation






Meet the Animals

Categories of Experimentation

The Opposition to Experimentation

"for" Animals

Medical Experimentation
& Use

Military Experimentation

Educational Use

Israel's Complicity

Products & Charities




Because animals are used for many different ends in research laboratories, some categorization of animal experimentation is necessary.


Basic Versus Applied

The most elementary distinction is between basic and applied research. Basic research refers to any type of experimentation that does not have a practical or applied purpose. Typical basic research aims to characterize various physiological phenomena. While, in principal, basic research could lead to useful insights, and even find practical applications, it does not strive to fulfill these aims. Indeed, the underlying motive behind basic research is curiosity itself.


In contrast, applied research is designed to obtain a practical aim. For instance, all toxicity testing of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and household products is, in its nature, applied: it aims to investigate the potential hazards involved in exposure to the test substances, so that risk to humans (or other animals) could be minimized or completely avoided.


Contrary to popular belief, most animal experimentation in Israel and in other countries is basic, rather than applied. In other words, the driving force behind such experiments which take a heavy toll in terms of animal suffering is scientific curiosity, not the wish to advance human health or to conquer diseases.


Analogical Versus Homological Models

Another useful distinction is between cases where animals are used to model human conditions analogical models and experiments where animals are used as homological models, that is, to investigate actual animal diseases and characteristics. A case in point is feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). This agent harms the immune system of cats (humans can't be infected with FIV), and produces a gradual loss of immunity. When researchers study FIV in an attempt to understand the feline disease and to find a cure for it, they use a homological approach. When they use FIV-infected cats as a model for human AIDS, they use an analogical approach: they assume that the infected cats somehow model the acquired immune deficiency syndrome in humans.


Both analogical and homological models can be natural or artificial. Thus, researchers who are interested in finding a therapy for FIV can investigate naturally infected cats, but they can also take healthy cats and deliberately infect them with FIV. For convenience reasons, most animal research is artificial, and in this section, the terms "animal experimentation" and "vivisection" denote only the artificial, harmful use of animals, as opposed to clinical research in naturally diseased animals, where the aim is often to help not only animals in general, but the individual sick animal on whom the study focuses as well.