October 21, 2012 Humane Society International What is animal testing? What animals are used? What's wrong with animal testing? What's the alternative? If animal testing is so unreliable, why does it continue? Are animal experiments needed for medical progress? Read HSI's other FAQs about animal testing What is animal testing? The term "animal testing" refers to procedures performed on living animals for purposes of research into basic biology and diseases, assessing the effectiveness of new medicinal products, and testing the human health and/or environmental safety of consumer and industry products such as cosmetics, household cleaners, food additives, pharmaceuticals and industrial/agro-chemicals.
All procedures, even those classified as “mild,” have the potential to cause the animals physical as well as psychological distress and suffering. Often the procedures can cause a great deal of suffering. Most animals are killed at the end of an experiment, but some may be re-used in subsequent experiments. Here is a selection of common animal procedures: Forced chemical exposure in toxicity testing, which can include oral force-feeding, forced inhalation, skin or injection into the abdomen, muscle, etc.
Exposure to drugs, chemicals or infectious disease at levels that cause illness, pain and distress, or death Genetic manipulation, e.g., addition or “knocking out” of one or more genes Ear-notching and tail-clipping for identification Short periods of physical restraint for observation or examination Prolonged periods of physical restraint Food and water deprivation Surgical procedures followed by recovery Infliction of wounds, burns and other injuries to study healing Infliction of pain to study its physiology and treatment Behavioural experiments designed to cause distress, e.
g., electric shock or forced swimming Other manipulations to create “animal models” of human diseases ranging from cancer to stroke to depression Killing by carbon dioxide asphyxiation, neck-breaking, decapitation, or other means What types of animals are used? Many different species are used around the world, but the most common include mice, fish, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, farm animals, birds, cats, dogs, mini-pigs, and non-human primates (monkeys, and in some countries, chimpanzees).
Video: Watch what scientists have to say about alternatives to animal testing. It is estimated that more than 115 million animals worldwide are used in laboratory experiments every year. But because only a small proportion of countries collect and publish data concerning animal use for testing and research, the precise number is unknown. For example, in the United States, up to 90 percent of the animals used in laboratories (purpose-bred rats, mice and birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates) are excluded from the official statistics, meaning that figures published by the U.
S. Department of Agriculture are no doubt a substantial underestimate. Within the European Union, more than 12 million animals are used each year, with France, Germany and the United Kingdom being the top three animal using countries. British statistics reflect the use of more than 3 million animals each year, but this number does not include animals bred for research but killed as “surplus” without being used for specific experimental procedures.
Although these animals still endure the stresses and deprivation of life in the sterile laboratory environment, their lives are not recorded in official statistics. HSI believes that complete transparency about animal use is vital and that all animals bred, used or killed for the research industry should be included in official figures. What's wrong with animal testing? For nearly a century, drug and chemical safety assessments have been based on laboratory testing involving rodents, rabbits, dogs, and other animals.
Aside from the ethical issues they pose—inflicting both physical pain as well as psychological distress and suffering on large numbers of sentient creatures—animal tests are time- and resource-intensive, restrictive in the number of substances that can be tested, provide little understanding of how chemicals behave in the body, and in many cases do not correctly predict real-world human reactions.
Similarly, health scientists are increasingly questioning the relevance of research aimed at "modelling" human diseases in the laboratory by artificially creating symptoms in other animal species. Trying to mirror human diseases or toxicity by artificially creating symptoms in mice, dogs or monkeys has major scientific limitations that cannot be overcome. Very often the symptoms and responses to potential treatments seen in other species are dissimilar to those of human patients.
As a consequence, nine out of every 10 candidate medicines that appear safe and effective in animal studies fail when given to humans. Drug failures and research that never delivers because of irrelevant animal models not only delay medical progress, but also waste resources and risk the health and safety of volunteers in clinical trials. What's the alternative? If lack of human relevance is the fatal flaw of "animal models," then a switch to human-relevant research tools is the logical solution.
The National Research Council in the United States has expressed its vision of “a not-so-distant future in which virtually all routine toxicity testing would be conducted in human cells or cell lines”, and science leaders around the world have echoed this view. The sequencing of the human genome and birth of functional genomics, the explosive growth of computer power and computational biology, and high-speed robot automation of cell-based (in vitro) screening systems, to name a few, has sparked a quiet revolution in biology.
Together, these innovations have produced new tools and ways of thinking that can help uncover exactly how chemicals and drugs disrupt normal processes in the human body at the level of cells and molecules. From there, scientists can use computers to interpret and integrate this information with data from human and population-level studies. The resulting predictions regarding human safety and risk are potentially more relevant to people in the real world than animal tests.
But that’s just the beginning. The wider field of human health research could benefit from a similar shift in paradigm. Many disease areas have seen little or no progress despite decades of animal research. Some 300 million people currently suffer from asthma, yet only two types of treatment have become available in the last 50 years. More than a thousand potential drugs for stroke have been tested in animals, but only one of these has proved effective in patients.
And it’s the same story with many other major human illnesses. A large-scale re-investment in human-based (not mouse or dog or monkey) research aimed at understanding how disruptions of normal human biological functions at the levels of genes, proteins and cell and tissue interactions lead to illness in our species could advance the effective treatment or prevention of many key health-related societal challenges of our time.
Modern non-animal techniques are already reducing and superseding experiments on animals, and in European Union, the "3Rs" principle of replacement, reduction and refinement of animal experiments is a legal requirement. In most other parts of the world there is currently no such legal imperative, leaving scientists free to use animals even where non-animal approaches are available. If animal testing is so unreliable, why does it continue? Despite this growing evidence that it is time for a change, effecting that change within a scientific community that has relied for decades on animal models as the "default method" for testing and research takes time and perseverance.
Old habits die hard, and globally there is still a lack of knowledge of and expertise in cutting-edge non-animal techniques. But with HSI’s help, change is happening. We are leading efforts globally to encourage scientists, companies and policy-makers to transition away from animal use in favour of 21st century methods. Our work brings together experts from around the globe to share knowledge and best practice, improving the quality of research by replacing animals in the laboratory.
Are animal experiments needed for medical progress? It is often argued that because animal experiments have been used for centuries, and medical progress has been made in that time, animal experiments must be necessary. But this is missing the point. History is full of examples of flawed or basic practices and ideas that were once considered state-of-the-art, only to be superseded years later by something far more sophisticated and successful.
In the early 1900s the Wright brothers’ invention of the airplane was truly innovative for its time, but more than a century later, technology has advanced so much that when compared to the modern jumbo jet those early flying machines seem quaint and even absurd. Those early ideas are part of aviation history, but no-one would seriously argue that they represent the cutting-edge of design or human achievement.
So it is with laboratory research. Animal experiments are part of medical history, but history is where they belong. Compared to today's potential to understand the basis of human disease at cellular and molecular levels, experimenting on live animals seems positively primitive. So if we want better quality medical research, safer more effective pharmaceuticals and cures to human diseases, we need to turn the page in the history books and embrace the new chapter—21st century science.
Independent scientific reviews demonstrate that research using animals correlates very poorly to real human patients. In fact, the data show that animal studies fail to predict real human outcomes in 50 to 99.7 percent of cases. This is mainly because other species seldom naturally suffer from the same diseases as found in humans. Animal experiments rely on often uniquely human conditions being artificially induced in non-human species.
While on a superficial level they may share similar symptoms, fundamental differences in genetics, physiology and biochemistry can result in wildly different reactions to both the illness and potential treatments. For some areas of disease research, overreliance on animal models may well have delayed medical progress rather than advanced it. By contrast, many non-animal replacement methods such as cell-based studies, silicon chip biosensors, and computational systems biology models, can provide faster and more human-relevant answers to medical and chemical safety questions that animal experiments cannot match.
“The claim that animal experimentation is essential to medical development is not supported by proper, scientific evidence but by opinion and anecdote. Systematic reviews of its effectiveness don’t support the claims made on its behalf” (Pandora Pound et al. British Medical Journal 328, 514-7, 2004).See Also: American Flag Animated Gif
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Using animals in research and to test the safety of products has been a topic of heated debate for decades. According to data collected by F. Barbara Orlans for her book, In the Name of Science: Issues in Responsible Animal Experimentation, sixty percent of all animals used in testing are used in biomedical research and product-safety testing (62). People have different feelings for animals; many look upon animals as companions while others view animals as a means for advancing medical techniques or furthering experimental research.
However individuals perceive animals, the fact remains that animals are being exploited by research facilities and cosmetics companies all across the country and all around the world. Although humans often benefit from successful animal research, the pain, the suffering, and the deaths of animals are not worth the possible human benefits. Therefore, animals should not be used in research or to test the safety of products.
First, animals' rights are violated when they are used in research. Tom Regan, a philosophy professor at North Carolina State University, states: "Animals have a basic moral right to respectful treatment. . . .This inherent value is not respected when animals are reduced to being mere tools in a scientific experiment" (qtd. in Orlans 26). Animals and people are alike in many ways; they both feel, think, behave, and experience pain.
Thus, animals should be treated with the same respect as humans. Yet animals' rights are violated when they are used in research because they are not given a choice. Animals are subjected to tests that are often painful or cause permanent damage or death, and they are never given the option of not participating in the experiment. Regan further says, for example, that "animal [experimentation] is morally wrong no matter how much humans may benefit because the animal's basic right has been infringed.
Risks are not morally transferable to those who do not choose to take them" (qtd. in Orlans 26). Animals do not willingly sacrifice themselves for the advancement of human welfare and new technology. Their decisions are made for them because they cannot vocalize their own preferences and choices. When humans decide the fate of animals in research environments, the animals' rights are taken away without any thought of their well-being or the quality of their lives.
Therefore, animal experimentation should be stopped because it violates the rights of animals. Next, the pain and suffering that experimental animals are subject to is not worth any possible benefits to humans. "The American Veterinary Medial Association defines animal pain as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience perceived as arising from a specific region of the body and associated with actual or potential tissue damage" (Orlans 129).
Animals feel pain in many of the same ways that humans do; in fact, their reactions to pain are virtually identical (both humans and animals scream, for example). When animals are used for product toxicity testing or laboratory research, they are subjected to painful and frequently deadly experiments. Two of the most commonly used toxicity tests are the Draize test and the LD50 test, both of which are infamous for the intense pain and suffering they inflect upon experimental animals.
In the Draize test the substance or product being tested is placed in the eyes of an animal (generally a rabbit is used for this test); then the animal is monitored for damage to the cornea and other tissues in and near the eye. This test is intensely painful for the animal, and blindness, scarring, and death are generally the end results. The Draize test has been criticized for being unreliable and a needless waste of animal life.
The LD50 test is used to test the dosage of a substance that is necessary to cause death in fifty percent of the animal subjects within a certain amount of time. To perform this test, the researchers hook the animals up to tubes that pump huge amounts of the test product into their stomachs until they die. This test is extremely painful to the animals because death can take days or even weeks. According to Orlans, the animals suffer from "vomiting, diarrhea, paralysis, convulsion, and internal bleeding.
Since death is the required endpoint, dying animals are not put out of their misery by euthanasia" (154). In his article entitled "Time to Reform Toxic Tests," Michael Balls, a professor of medial cell biology at the University of Nottingham and chairman of the trustees of FRAME (the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments), states that the LD50 test is "scientifically unjustifiable.
The precision it purports to provide is an illusion because of uncontrollable biological variables" (31). The use of the Draize test and the LD50 test to examine product toxicity has decreased over the past few years, but these tests have not been eliminated completely. Thus, because animals are subjected to agonizing pain, suffering and death when they are used in laboratory and cosmetics testing, animal research must be stopped to prevent more waste of animal life.
Finally, the testing of products on animals is completely unnecessary because viable alternatives are available. Many cosmetic companies, for example, have sought better ways to test their products without the use of animal subjects. In Against Animal Testing, a pamphlet published by The Body Shop, a well-known cosmetics and bath-product company based in London, the development of products that "use natural ingredients, like bananas and Basil nut oil, as well as others with a long history of safe human usage" is advocated instead of testing on animals (3).
Furthermore, the Draize test has become practically obsolete because of the development of a synthetic cellular tissue that closely resembles human skin. Researchers can test the potential damage that a product can do to the skin by using this artificial "skin" instead of testing on animals. Another alternative to this test is a product called Eyetex. This synthetic material turns opaque when a product damages it, closely resembling the way that a real eye reacts to harmful substances.
Computers have also been used to simulate and estimate the potential damage that a product or chemical can cause, and human tissues and cells have been used to examine the effects of harmful substances. In another method, in vitro testing, cellular tests are done inside a test tube. All of these tests have been proven to be useful and reliable alternatives to testing products on live animals. Therefore, because effective means of product toxicity testing are available without the use of live animal specimens, testing potentially deadly substances on animals is unnecessary.
However, many people believe that animal testing is justified because the animals are sacrificed to make products safer for human use and consumption. The problem with this reasoning is that the animals' safety, well-being, and quality of life is generally not a consideration. Experimental animals are virtually tortured to death, and all of these tests are done in the interest of human welfare, without any thought to how the animals are treated.
Others respond that animals themselves benefit from animal research. Yet in an article entitled "Is Your Experiment Really Necessary?" Sheila Silcock, a research consultant for the RSPCA, states: "Animals may themselves be the beneficiaries of animal experiments. But the value we place on the quality of their lives is determined by their perceived value to humans" (34). Making human's lives better should not be justification for torturing and exploiting animals.
The value that humans place on their own lives should be extended to the lives of animals as well. Still other people think that animal testing is acceptable because animals are lower species than humans and therefore have no rights. These individuals feel that animals have no rights because they lack the capacity to understand or to knowingly exercise these rights. However, animal experimentation in medical research and cosmetics testing cannot be justified on the basis that animals are lower on the evolutionary chart than humans since animals resemble humans in so many ways.
Many animals, especially the higher mammalian species, possess internal systems and organs that are identical to the structures and functions of human internal organs. Also, animals have feelings, thoughts, goals, needs, and desires that are similar to human functions and capacities, and these similarities should be respected, not exploited, because of the selfishness of humans. Tom Regan asserts that "animals are subjects of a life just as human beings are, and a subject of a life has inherent value.
They are . . . ends in themselves" (qtd. in Orlans 26). Therefore, animals' lives should be respected because they have an inherent right to be treated with dignity. The harm that is committed against animals should not be minimized because they are not considered to be "human." In conclusion, animal testing should be eliminated because it violates animals' rights, it causes pain and suffering to the experimental animals, and other means of testing product toxicity are available.
Humans cannot justify making life better for themselves by randomly torturing and executing thousands of animals per year to perform laboratory experiments or to test products. Animals should be treated with respect and dignity, and this right to decent treatment is not upheld when animals are exploited for selfish human gain. After all, humans are animals too. Works Cited Against Animal Testing. The Body Shop, 1993.
Balls, Michael. "Time to Reform Toxic Tests." New Scientist 134 (1992):31-33. Orlans, F. Barbara. In the Name of Science: Issues in Responsible Animal Experimentation. New York: Oxford UP, 1993. Silcock, Sheila. "Is Your Experiment Really Necessary?" New Scientist 134 (1992): 32-34. Heather Dunnuck