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The "alternatives approach" consists of developing and employing methods specifically designed as alternatives. The aim of the approach is to determine the extent to which alternatives can replace traditional uses of animals. This aim has an ethical and compassionate appeal that is being bolstered by recent scientific advances in developing alternatives (Stephens 1986b).

The importance of alternative methods in the history of biomedical research can be inferred from Nobel Prize awards in medicine or physiology. These awards are generally believed to recognize research "of the highest caliber, the most enduring influence, and the most importance to biomedical science" according to the National Academy of Sciences (1985). Before turning to an analysis of these awards, we should note that any comparison of the historical significance of alternative methods and traditional animal research is likely to be biased against alternatives for several reasons, including the acceptance of animal methods as the main paradigm of research, the historical paucity of ethical and compassionate concern for laboratory animals, and the newness of some alternative methods. Hence we should not expect alternative methods to have outshined traditional animal methods in the history of biomedical research.


This paper is an expanded version of an analysis presented in Alternatives to Current Uses of Animals in Research, Safety Testing, and Education. (Washington, DC: The Humane Society of the United States, 1986.)