Animal testing has been around for centuries, especially during the period of technological progress. However, as science progresses into the unknown, the issue of testing for medicinal or cosmetic products on animals has become an ethical concern. As Professor Charles R. Magel described it, the main concern emerges when you ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals and their answer is: ‘Because animals are like us.’ Ask the experiments why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘Because the animals are not like us.’ Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.’
Animal experimentation can be divided into four areas: biomedical, medical, agricultural research and safety testing.
The main objective in biomedical research is to research about living organisms. As a result, animals are used in universities and research facilities, where institutions use animals to educate and experiment. However, biomedical research branches off into three categories: genetic engineering, physiological research and psychological research. Nevertheless, these three areas of biomedical research involve the process of anaesthetising animals and control an aspect of the animal, whether it would be their genes or their eating choices. As a result, these animals are subjected to distress.
This aspect of research involves testing for medical purposes, whether scientists are studying specific diseases to testing vaccinations. However, the dilemma centres around the fact that animals are physiologically different from humans, thus making these tests misleading. Furthermore, according to 2006 statistics (quoted by VICE news), nine out of ten experimental drugs still fail clinical studies on humans after successful lab and animal testing. Nevertheless, meeting EU and US standards requires testing medicines on two species of animals, further exacerbating the issue.
The aim of this field of research focuses on increasing the production of animal products such as wool or milk production. To prevent compromising productivity, research facilities require intensive housing systems. However, the concern centres around the ethics of genetic engineering and cloning as animals are used to increase the production of natural resources and their ability to breed.
To ensure human safety, chemical products such as shampoo, cosmetics and cleaners are tested on animals. This field of research is notorious for animal cruelty as testing requires poisoning animals, the most common example being the Draize rabbit eye test, where substances are injected into the eyes of rabbits, resulting in pain.
Due to the extensive use of animal testing, this lucrative industry has resulted in the National Institute of Health using $10 billion to fund projects that involve animal experimentation as of 2015. This is reflected in the 3.9 million animal-related experiments that were conducted in Great Britain in 2016 alone.
According to Cruelty Free International, animals used in the UK range from:
- Mice (1.2 million experiments)
- Rats (238,841 experiments)
- Birds (14,997 experiments)
- Rabbits (15,431 experiments)
- Guinea pigs (26,186 experiments)
- Monkeys (3,569 experiments)
- Dogs (4,932 experiments)
- Cats (190 experiments)
- Horses (8,948 experiments)
- Sheep (47,904 experiments)
- Pigs (5,358 experiments)
- Fish (286,600 experiments)
Furthermore, the issue extends to genetically engineering and breeding animals purely for experimentation purposes. An example of this is the pricing of New Zealand White Rabbits, reaching $352 each, or purebred beagles costing $1,049 and the cost of primates reaching more than $8,000.
Nevertheless, alternatives to using animals for research purposes are currently in development. These methods are used in countries that prohibit animal experimentation. At the moment, testing without animals require using techniques that include using computer programs to model cell structures or conduct experiments in lab dishes. At the moment, the Biomedical Primate Research Centre is in the process of developing alternative ways by mimicking an entire monkey purely based on cells. However, this area lacks in funding or institutions are reluctant to change methods, limiting the development of alternative methods.
Moreover, countries are slowly discussing legislations for banning animal testing. The following map shows the current progress of countries following a cruelty-free policy:
However, your help is required to ensure cruelty-free methods in scientific research. As consumers, you can help by signing a pledge to Animals Australia to not purchase products tested on animals. Spread the word with your friends and relatives. You can also sign the petition to pressure companies such as Palmolive and Colgate to stop animal testing. Furthermore, you can start using cruelty-free and vegan products as a way to promote anti-animal testing. You can find the list of companies that don’t test here. On the other hand, you can also find the list of companies test here.
For those in Australia, register for the Million Paws Walk, where thousands of people and their dogs will walk to show their support for animal cruelty on the 20th May. Since this event is hosted by RSPCA, companies such as The Body Shop and Cruelty Free International are sponsoring this event.
Furthermore, The Body Shop and Cruelty Free International is hosting a petition where they aim to reach 8 million signatures. Help support their cause by signing their petition and swapping to use their products to support cruelty-free products. These signatures will be presented to the UN General Assembly in 2018.
You can also increase awareness on animal experimentation by promoting World Day for Animals in Laboratory Animals on 24th April. Use the hashtag #ForeverAgainstAnimalTesting to promote this cause.
The National Anti-Vivisection Society also supports cruelty-free policies. Visit their website to find out more on how you can take action at a state, federal and national level.
Animals Australia, ‘Animal Experimentation’
Cruelty Free International, ‘Facts and Figures on Animal Testing’
National Anti-Vivisection Society, ‘The Animal Testing and Experimentation Industry’
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, ‘Companies That Don’t Test on Animals’, Beauty Without Bunnies Program, last updated 6th February 2018
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, ‘Companies That Do Test on Animals’, Beauty Without Bunnies Program, last updated 23rd April 2018
Roes, T., ‘Experimenting on Animals: Inside The Monkey Labs,’ VICE News, uploaded 7th July 2015
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