Lascaux Cave ArtAnimals used as a Source of Food

The hunting of animals for the consumption of meat by humans and human pre-cursers, can be traced back to 30,000,000 years BC (Andrews, Peter; Martin, Lawrence (1992) "Hominoid dietary evolution."). Palaeontological evidence for this includes marks found on animal bones and early tools such as hammer stones used for smashing bones in order to get access to the marrow. There is also evidence to indicate that meat was the primary source of nutrition at this time, rather than consumption of vegitation. There is controversy amongst palaeontologists whether early human precursors relied on meat that had been killed by other predators or was actively hunted by man.

As the climate changed to a colder environment, however, there was a significant shift towards a more balanced herbivorous diet (ie both vegetables and meat.)

Homo sapiens emerged around 110,000 years BC and this coincided with the Last Ice Age.  The dramatic change in climate had a significant effect on how man coped with maintaining food supplies and the use of animals. The ready source of meat became less reliable and humans needed to develop more sophisticated methods of hunting their prey and maintaining a safe storage of supplies. The change in temperature also encouraged humans to rely on their animal kills as a source of other products besides food, – such as: animal skins and hides for clothing, horn and bone for sharp points (needles or arrows), fat for tallow candles, and hooves for glue.

Although fire had been discovered at an earlier time its use became more widespread.

At around 35,000 years BC Homo sapiens became a more "behavioural" species and there was an explosion of stone and bone tools, cave paintings and other artwork (Eaton, S. Boyd; Shostak, Marjorie; Konner, Melvin (1988) The Paleolithic Prescription: A Program of Diet and Exercise and a Design for Living.). The artwork clearly demonstrates that humans were now hunting their prey and processing their food. The management of land and animal was developing into a more sophisticated means of controlling livestock for food consumption and other products.

By 9000 years BC sheep, goats, cattle and pigs were being domesticated.

Appendix (5) presents the volume of livestock slaughtered each month in the UK during 2015/16.

Domestication of Animals

The hunting of animals for a source of meat and other products is dependent on the luck of the chase In order to secure a regular supply of fresh meat it was essential for sheep, goats and other livestock to be herded.

It is believed that the oldest domesticated animal was the dog. This may have arisen because of wolves roaming close to the dwellings of Stone Age people who left butchered remnants littering their camps. 

The oldest fossil of a pet dog was found in the 1970s in the Altai Mountains of Siberia.  It has been dated at around 33,000 years BC. DNA analysis of the Siberian fossil skull strongly indicates a close relationship to the modern domestic dog, rather than to Wolf, and this alone provides strong evidence of planned breeding, - ie domestication.

Another possible fossil of a domesticated dog was found in a cave in Belgium at around the same time and is of a similar age.

As settled village and community life developed the domestication of other animals by man slowly extended to other species such as cattle and pigs, at about 7000 years BC. It is believed that the ox may have been bred by humans in western Asia and the pig was first domesticated in China.

The first use of animals for pulling loads, such as ploughs, can be traced to Mesopotamia in about 3000 BC. Appendices (1) and (2) presents a list of draught animals and estimated dates when they were domesticated for the purpose of pulling.

GalenAnimal Testing

There is considerable documented evidence that animal testing dates back as far as the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. Galen (Right), a Greek physician, is known as "Father of Vivisection".

Galen was a prominent doctor, scientist and philosopher in the Roman Empire. He firmly advocated the principles of the four humours (yellow and black bile, blood and phlegm) as did many other famous physicians at that time including Hippocrates. Such theories were not challenged and discounted until about 1300 years later. His writings and anatomical illustrations are well documented and establish that he dissected animals (such as pigs, goats and monkeys). Another famous scientist, Aristotle, was also associated with vivisection and advancements in medical science.

Biomedical research has been overwhelmingly influenced by vivisection. The development of Dublin zoo in Ireland was initiated by the medical profession in order to study animals, including vivisection. Throughout history and since the time of Galen many notable scientists have used animals for biomedical research.

Below is a list of experiments that have been conducted on live animals and which are considered to represent critical advances in medical science:

  • 1660s. Robert Boyle (noted especially for his scientific discoveries of physics) carried out a number of experiments on a wide range of live animals to demonstrate the value of air for respiration.
  • 1880s. Emil von Behring demonstrated the effects of diphtheria in guinea pigs. It provided and established the relevant evidence of a successful extraction and isolate of the toxin.
  • 1921. Otto Loewi carried out experiments on the beating hearts of frogs to establish the importance of chemical synapses between neurones. He demonstrated the value of the vagus nerve in controlling heart rate.
  • 1921. Fredrick Banting carried out experiments on live dogs to demonstrate that isolates of pancreatic secretion could be used to control diabetes. This initial experiment was an essential step that John Macleod made to determine the isolation and significance of insulin in the 1950s.
  • 1940s. Jonas Salk experimented on a rhesus monkeys to isolate different forms of the poliovirus. These studies enabled a vaccine to be produced. Albert Sabin used animal hosts, such as monkeys, to develop a live vaccine against polio which became available in 1955 for public vaccination programmes. The table in Appendix 3 illustrates the dramatic impact of developing and deploying a vaccine against Polio in England in the 1950s, and which relied on these live animal experiments. A similar picture applies to all other areas of the World where a comprehensive Polio vaccination programme was introduced.
  • 1940s. The use of lithium in guinea pigs enable John Cade to demonstrate the anticonvulsants properties of this drug. This drug is still used as the first line therapy for manic depression.
  • 1950s. Corwin Hinshaw and William Feldman showed that streptomycin could be used to cure tuberculosis in guinea pigs.
  • 1970s. Armadillos were used for cultivating leprosy bacteria, which were then translated into antibiotic treatments for human clinical trials. In 2004 it has been estimated that over 400,000 cases of leprosy existed.
  • 1996. Dolly the sheep was born and confirmed the first successful cloning of a mammal. This enabled advances in our understanding of genetic manipulation and cellular mitosis and meiosis.
  • Organ transplant techniques and developing a better understanding of tissue rejection have been developed based on use of live animals.

Guide DogsService Animals

Guide dogs for helping blind people are perhaps the most familiar example of a service animal. The earliest evidence for their use for this type of work has been documented in murals found in the Roman remains of Pompeii in Italy.

The first well-documented systematic training of guide dogs for blind people took place at the National high hospital in Paris in 1770.

Dogs trained to support war veterans suffering from PTSD were deployed during WW2. The book ‘A Dog Called Hope’ describes the moving story of how a dog helped to change the life of a war veteran suffering from depression.