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Interview with Doctors Against Animal Experiments

To mark World Animal Testing Day on April 24, we are featuring an interview with Claus Kronaus, Managing Director of Doctors Against Animal Experiments. We are also including the organization in our 10% animal welfare campaign this month.

1) Can you briefly introduce yourselves and your organization? Ärzte gegen Tierversuche e. V. has been in existence since 1979 and is a nationwide association of doctors, vets and scientists who reject animal testing on ethical and scientific grounds. The association is also open to all people as supporting members.

We are committed to modern, humane medicine and science without animal testing, which focuses solely on humans when dealing with human-related issues and in which research into the causes and prevention of diseases and the use of animal-free research methods are paramount.

The most important arguments against animal testing are (there is also a short video):

  1. Animal experiments are painful, lengthy, expensive - and nonsensical! For example, the human relevance in basic research, which accounts for around 50% of officially reported animal experiments, is far less than 1%, ergo the error rate is 99.x%.
  2. We live in the 21st century, send people into space - and also have modern, human-oriented and very efficient research methods. One example is so-called "multi-organ chips", on which human mini-organs grown from skin cells, for example (for which the Nobel Prize was awarded in 2012), are placed as a system with blood circulation (we have produced an animated video to better illustrate this).
  3. The annual federal and state funding (= our tax money!) for animal experiments vs. animal-free research is grossly misallocated in Germany: 99.x % (at least 4 billion euros as a guaranteed lower limit) for animal experiments, and therefore only a measly 0.y % (currently a maximum of 27 million euros) for the high-tech research described in 2.
If you look at arguments 1 and 3, it becomes clear that we are investing 99.x% of our funding in research that is long outdated and produces a 99.x% error rate in addition to a great deal of animal suffering. This is a real scandal and would lead to the dismissal of the people responsible in the private sector!

Animal experiments provide false results and thus prevent better medicine for us humans; they are not only unethical towards the senselessly tortured and dead animals, but also towards sick people hoping for a cure. A concrete example: Human depression research is being carried out in Mainz using fruit flies. Yes, you read that right! The little creatures are tortured (shaken for hours), mutilated (wings cut off) and then it is seen whether the "joyless" behavior induced in this way changes by administering antidepressants. It is therefore not really surprising that no significant progress has been made with these drugs for several decades. The suffering caused by depression is known to be immense, and many sufferers commit suicide. And we have to tell these poor people that we are researching their illness with flies - unbelievable! The motto for our work is therefore: In the interest of people and animals!

Our job is to bring the above messages to light. We write scientific articles, maintain databases, organize congresses, give lectures, give interviews, produce films, conduct campaigns, take to the streets and talk to passers-by, create material for schoolchildren and teachers, take legal action in cases of abuse, advise companies and universities, award research prizes and hold public debates with animal experimenters. And, of course, we talk to politicians, because we need laws that are adapted to the 21st century and our findings.

Our work is very personnel-intensive, as we employ scientists who have to be constantly up to date to collect and process the findings from all over the world in order to increase the already overwhelming burden of proof against animal testing. We now have 16 permanent employees, a 5-member volunteer board and a further 3 volunteer doctors on the extended board. Of the total of 8 board members, 6 are currently practising doctors - as befits our association's name.

Of course, the many volunteer members who are involved in our 18 local working groups, our 5 topic-related working groups and/or as scientific speakers are very important to our work. For the first 30 years, our association was limited to doctors, scientists, etc., but since 2009, anyone is welcome to join us as a supporting member. We currently have a total of almost 3,500 medical/scientific members (approx. 1/3) and supporting members (2/3).

In our work in Germany, we come up against a very well-organized and - thanks to our tax money - financially strong opponent who has a lot to lose and is therefore fighting tooth and nail to preserve animal testing. As described, there is a huge amount of money in the animal testing system, and it is also much easier to climb the scientific career ladder with animal testing. In contrast, we finance ourselves purely through donations, membership fees and discounts. (Anyone interested in our figures should refer to our transparency page in accordance with the requirements of the "Transparent Civil Society Initiative".)

In Europe, people talk more openly about animal testing and its abolition, which is why we are also strongly represented there. We are a member of the "Eurogroup for animals" and an "expert" there on the subject of animal testing. We are also represented on the board of the "European Coalition to End Animal Experiments" and can play an active role there. But beyond Europe, there are scientific allies all over the world with whom we are in regular contact; the realization that animal experiments are a scientific anachronism is a global one - fortunately!

Personally, I am firmly convinced that we can and will abolish animal testing; it is only a matter of time. There are no viable arguments for animal testing! This truth, combined with the enormous possibilities of animal-free research, which have only just begun to be exploited due to a lack of funding, will prevail, just as many other truths have prevailed in human history. Our most important success to date is certainly that the public debate about animal testing is becoming more and more intense and the aforementioned truth is becoming more and more obvious. In 2016, the lobby initiative "Understanding animal experiments" was founded to counter the growing pressure, and intensive written and verbal debates have been taking place ever since.

One of our biggest, tangible successes for me is our NAT database (Non-Animal-Technologies, www.nat-datenbank.de), which has been public since July 2020. This is the only one of its kind in the world so far, which shows how successful the work of the animal testing lobby has been so far. We collect animal-free research methods from all over the world and make them easily available to all interested parties. For example, approval authorities can look up whether an animal-free method already exists for a particular issue and, on this basis, reject animal experiments for good reason. The financing of this database was ensured by Nutri-Plus and its customers, among others, for which we would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts and "in the name of humans and animals"!

2) What is a typical working day like for you? I'm best speaking only for myself here, because we have so many different tasks that there is no such thing as a "typical" daily routine. As Managing Director, I'm also involved in all our areas of activity and can hopefully give you a good feel for our work.

I am now 54 years old and have had to deal with many different and difficult issues in my professional career before ÄgT. What's more, I have - strangely enough - always had to deal with development work; there was rarely any routine. But my job at ÄgT is now by far the most difficult and complex, because we are fighting against animal testing in ALL areas of human life and that requires a lot of know-how and a constant willingness to learn.

I usually set myself various topics for the day and write them down on a piece of paper. That used to work well, but at ÄgT the plan is regularly thrown overboard. We are now contacted from everywhere and asked for advice or people want to support us. We are particularly pleased that more and more companies are inquiring about animal-free research. This diversity and complexity is a welcome expression of a very positive development overall, but we have to accept that not everything we had planned could be dealt with in the evening. Instead, there were other, highly topical and very important developments that we had to respond to.

So my job is mega exciting - but also mega exhausting. In addition to the complexity, there is always the feeling of being on the edge and having to deal with human abominations. You have to learn to deal with this feeling of facing senseless cruelty and not being able to stop it immediately. I've managed to do this quite well so far, because I always tell myself that it's not me who is responsible for the animal experiments, but others, and that my job gives me the opportunity to do my best to stop animal experiments as soon as possible.

Our job - not only in times of coronavirus - is primarily desk-based and computer-based. It involves a lot of knowledge and we use the achievements of the computer age.

3) What projects do you want to realize in the near future? Our website www.aerzte-gegen-tierversuche.de/de/helfen/kampagnen provides an overview of our campaigns.

One important campaign that is currently a particular focus in the 2021 federal election year is "End animal testing. NOW!" We are calling on the German government to finally draw up a scientifically sound phase-out plan - as the Netherlands, for example, has long since done. Among other things, toxicity tests on animals for medicines, chemicals etc. are to be abolished by 2025. In this context, we demand that the political parties include the phasing out of animal testing in their election manifestos. Such a campaign is always a "bouquet of flowers" of actions, e.g. giving lectures, writing letters (or having them written), collecting signatures, Twitter campaigns, actions on site - e.g. the Bundestag building in Berlin, etc.

For cost reasons, we have rarely done campaigns like the one we did in Berlin in December, where we put up posters about the exit campaign in Berlin subway stations for two weeks. Thanks to our last donation doubling campaign in December 2020, in which we again received great support from Nutri-Plus, we have received a budget that will enable us to intensify our public relations work in this federal election year and carry out more such campaigns. For example, there will be further poster campaigns in selected cities, such as the one in Berlin, supported by on-site campaigns by our local working groups. In this way, we want to sensitize people to the issue of animal testing - many will be confronted with the cruel topic of "death in the laboratory" for the first time through such a poster and can spread our messages as multipliers. In addition to posters, there will be other "advertising" campaigns that are still in the planning stage - let us surprise you.

Another big topic for 2021 is our "Herbert Stiller Award", named after our founding father and endowed with 20,000 euros. The prize is made possible by the donation of an individual, Florian Buchner, for a specific purpose. As already criticized above, the catastrophic funding of animal-free research is one of the main reasons why its potential has not yet been fully exploited. Although our prize can only be a relatively small contribution in the context of a large research project, it sends out a strong signal. By awarding the prize, we want to set an example for research, politics and the public and show that this modern research needs more support.

With the Herbert Stiller Award, we are honoring new (!) research projects that are purely human-based, i.e. do not involve animals at all. The prize is future-oriented and is intended to provide the final impetus for implementation. In 2019, the prize was awarded for the 8th time since 2011 - and, exceptionally, even twice, with Nutri-Plus again playing a major role as co-sponsor.

4) How will you use the donation from Nutri-Plus' 10% animal welfare campaign? We run so-called doubling campaigns twice a year, in May and December. Without these campaigns, we would not be able to carry out our labor-intensive work. The contribution from Nutri-Plus should go into the budget pot for the May doubling and thus at least double.

The principle of such a doubling campaign is simple: every new donation or new membership received during the campaign period is doubled, i.e. increased by a contribution of the same amount from the doubling budget. In the case of membership, the annual contribution counts. If the budget is not used up, the unused portion is forfeited - which fortunately has never happened. We are confident that we can make the most of the donation from Nutri-Plus for our work.

5) How can our customers continue to support you? One of the most important forms of support is membership, which, as already mentioned, is available to everyone. A supporting membership costs 36 euros per year or 3 euros per month. For doctors, scientists and the like, it is 72 or 6 euros. Every additional member strengthens our voice, increases the pressure we can exert on politicians, etc. and makes our work easier every day!

As a member, you have many opportunities to get actively involved. For example, you can become a member of one of our local working groups, which initiate information stands, vigils and demonstrations. And, of course, support our campaigns, e.g. by collecting signatures.

Otherwise: Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, share and comment on our posts there so that even more people become aware of us. Here are the links to find us:

https://www.aerzte-gegen-tierversuche.de
https://www.facebook.com/aerztegegentierversuche
https://www.instagram.com/aerztegegentierversuche/
https://twitter.com/KeinTierversuch
https://www.youtube.com/user/NeinZuTierversuchen?app=desktop

Very often I hear from people I talk to that they can't listen to the subject of animal testing because of the cruelty and would therefore rather just donate. That's completely OK and totally understandable! And we really appreciate every euro donated. You can find the donation form at https://www.aerzte-gegen-tierversuche.de/de/helfen/spenden, where you can easily donate online or via PayPal. Of course, you can also make a bank transfer to our account at GLS Bank:

IBAN: DE48 4306 0967 4126 7406 00; BIC: GENODEM1GLS

6) And as a final question: Did you already know Nutri-Plus and our products before you found out about the fundraising campaign? Some of my colleagues already knew about Nutri-Plus via Facebook and had already ordered products. Unfortunately, I myself only found out about Nutri-Plus through my work and my support; however, I am also very sparing on social media. However, once the contact was made and I got to know the Nutri-Plus products, I was thrilled. In my "younger years" I was very active in the gym and back then I fell for all the advertising claims that you absolutely have to eat animal protein in order to be successful in weight training/bodybuilding. I was already a vegetarian at the time, but I occasionally used convenience products in addition to quark, eggs etc., without much success. How nice it would have been for me over 30 years ago if Nutri-Plus had already existed! I would probably have been more successful - but that is of course pure speculation?

In any case, it is the fulfillment of a childhood dream for me that today there are people like Patrick Baboumian and companies like Nutri-Plus who have dispelled the nonsense I believed back then. I sincerely wish Andreas Kesseler and his team continued success!!!