Animal testing

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Beagle being used to determine the toxicity of an industrial gas.

Template:NPOV Animal testing is the use of non-human animals in experiments. These may be for the purpose of testing certain substances to determine their effect on humans, or to test medical or psychological hypotheses. The topic is mired in controversy with supporters and opponents arguing over both ethical concerns and the effectiveness of the practice.

The term "vivisection" is now often used to describe all animal experiments, although it originally only referred to those that involved cutting live animals. Many dictionaries and encyclopedias now use the term "vivisection" to mean any kind of animal experiment that causes suffering, whether it entails cutting or surgery or not, although those who experiment on animals dislike this trend as they feel that "vivisection" is an emotive term (Croce, 1991).


Testing of drugs

Metabolic studies

Animal testing studies are performed to find out how drugs are absorbed, metabolized and excreted by the body when introduced in different ways such as orally, intravenously, intraperitoneally or intramuscularly.

Safety studies

Studies are performed which gauge acute, sub-acute, and chronic toxicity. Acute toxicity is studied by using a rising dose until signs of toxicity become apparent. Sub-acute toxicity is where the drug is given to the animals in doses below the level at which it becomes toxic for 4 to 6 weeks in order to discover such effects as the build up of toxic metabolites. Testing for chronic toxicity can last up to two years in two different species. The data gained from this period can be used to calculate the maximum tolerable dose (the dose where signs of toxicity are just beginning to occur).

Efficacy studies

To test if experimental drugs work, the appropriate illness is induced in animals using an animal model of the disease. The drug is then administered in a double-blind placebo controlled trial. This is intended to allow scientists to determine the effect of the drug and the dose response curve.


There is a contemporary debate regarding animal testing, and its moral implications, as weighed against the perceived benefits to humans. Testing advocates in medicine and industry argue that humans in some parts of the world maintain an increasedly higher standard of living, in terms of their health, in large part due to advances in health and manufacturing knowledge derived from animal testing. Animal welfare advocates may say that testing, in particular testing for commercial, non-medical substances, is excessive and unnecessary, causing a great loss of animal life and inflicting suffering for the diminished pursuit of producing non-vital, socially irrelevant products, like perfumes, cosmetics, and cleaning products. Some animal rights advocates say that animal experiments infringe the rights of animals and are never acceptable, even if they do benefit humankind. [1] (

Undercover investigations have found examples of animal abuse and even sadism in laboratories that claim to adhere to animal-welfare legislation. For example, punching puppies in their faces ("It's a Dog's Life", 1997), simulating sex acts whilst taking blood samples from animals ("It's a Dog's Life", 1997), making monkeys "dance" and screaming at animals in order to invalidate blood-pressure tests ("Covance Uncovered", 2004).

In February 2005, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), while applying for a judicial review of the legality of laboratory practices in the UK, told a British court that internal documents from the University of Cambridge in England, an animal-testing site where primates are used, showed that monkeys who had the tops of their heads sawn off to induce a stroke were left alone after the procedure for 15 hours overnight with their brains exposed and no veterinary care, because staff only worked 9-5. Some of the monkeys were found dead in the morning. The BUAV judicial challenge follows a 10-month undercover investigation by BUAV into three research programmes at Cambridge in 1998. [2] (,3604,1407818,00.html)

There is also controversy about the scientific validity of animal experiments, with many doctors and scientists claiming that they give misleading results which waste experimenters' time and result in unsafe drugs and products harming humans (Ruesch,1989). Many medical drugs have dangerous side-effects that were not predicted by animal experiments. [3] ( Americans For Medical Advancement is one group dedicated to ending animal testing.

Alternatives to animal testing

Animal rights supporters, animal welfare supporters, scientists, doctors and even governments generally claim to agree that animal testing should cause as little suffering to animals as possible, and animal tests should only be performed where necessary.

The "three Rs" of Reduce (the number of animals used), Refine (animal procedures) and Replace (animal tests with non-animal tests) are used as the basis for animal testing codes of practise. In some countries, the three Rs are mandated by law. In other countries, many animal testing facilities voluntarily ascribe to this code to publicly demonstrate their ethical position.

There are a number of scientific studies and institutes that are researching both complete alternatives to specific animal tests, and also improvements to existing tests to reduce the pain inflicted on animals or to reduce the number of animals killed. This is claimed to be not just for the sake of ethics, but also because the research might improve the accuracy of tests or make them more time- and cost-efficient.

However, those who argue that animal experiments are inherently unscientific argue that these facilities are simply there to perpetuate the myth that animal experiments are necessary for human health, and reassure the public that steps are being taken to find "alternatives" to what seems to many people to be an abhorrent practice [4] ([5] ( They claim that these institutes are set up and funded, with what is argued are trivial amounts of money, by businesses that have a vested interest in the continuation of animal experiments [6] ([7] ( They also claim that the idea of "alternatives to animal experiments" is meaningless. They say that it is impossible to find a technique that produces the same results as animal experiments because, as one ex-animal tester put it, "it is hard to find anything in biomedical research that is, and always was, more deceptive and misleading than vivisection" (Professor Croce, 1991, p. 21).

Institutes researching animal testing alternatives and refinements

Cosmetic testing on animals

There is a great deal of controversy over animal testing to determine the safety of cosmetic products to human consumers. Many people feel it is immoral to cause harm or death to animals for the sake of human vanity.

Cosmetic testing on animals includes all of these practices:

  • Testing a finished cosmetic product (e.g. lipstick) on animals (see below for examples of toxicity tests);
  • Testing individual ingredients of cosmetic products on animals;
  • Testing any combination of ingredients on animals;
  • Contracting a third-party company to perform any of the above tests;
  • Using a subsidiary or third-party company to perform any of the above tests in countries where animal testing is not banned.

Some cosmetics companies claim that their products are not tested on animals, despite using one or more of the aforementioned practices.

Re-using existing test data gleaned from previous animal testing is generally not considered to be cosmetic testing on animals; however, the acceptability of this is inversely proportional to how recent the data is. Creating cosmetics with ingredients last tested on animals in 1985 is more acceptable than using novel ingredients last tested in 2003.

The animal tests themselves are mostly irritantcy and toxicity tests. For example, the Draize test involves placing the substance under test into the eyes of rabbits. To test for skin irritation, rabbits and guinea pigs have their backs shaved of fur and "grazed" to make the skin more sensitive. The substance under test is then applied to the skin and the skin is observed for signs of redness, inflammation, weeping and/or scabs. During this procedure that animal may be prevented from moving, by use of a metal harness, slightly bigger than the animal itself.

Due to the strong public backlash against cosmetic testing on animals, most cosmetic manufacturers claim their products are "not tested on animals". However, they are still required by trading standards and consumer protection laws, in most countries, to show their products are not toxic and dangerous to public health, and that the ingredients are not dangerous in large quantities (such as when in transport or in the manufacturing plant). In some countries, it is possible to meet these requirements without any further tests on animals. In other countries, it may require animal testing to meet legal requirements. The United States and Japan are frequently criticised for their insistence on animal testing.

Some retailers distinguish themselves in the marketplace by their ethical and moral stance, and thus provide the consumer with great detail as to the ethical nature of their products. For example, see the Co-op's cosmetic testing site (, which includes statements from all their suppliers as to the extent of their animal testing. See also the Body Shop's campaign against animal testing (

In 1998, the United Kingdom banned all animal testing for the purposes of safety provenance. Cosmetics manufacturers may not use animal tests based on either products or ingredients as proof. They may rely on existing toxicity data gleaned from past animal tests, but they may not conduct new tests. See the Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations ( for further details. Further to that, the UK Home Office refuses to issue any animal testing licenses for the purposes of cosmetics testing. However, an illegal laboratory raid in 2004 exposed evidence that, due to a legal loophole, the LD50 test is still used on every batch of botox "anti-wrinkle" preparations [8] (

Cosmetic testing on animals is also banned in the Netherlands and Belgium. In 2002, after 13 years of negotiations, the European Union agreed to ban cosmetic testing on animals in 2009, with a ban on products still tested on animals being introduced by 2014. News reports allege France is the main reason behind the delays, owing to the huge French cosmetics industry exerting lobbying pressure on the government. [9] (,11917,1021527,00.html)

While some cosmetics manufacturers have genuinely stopped all animal testing of their products, others continue to test. Companies that continue to perform cosmetic testing on animals may falsely claim that they do not do this in their advertising and on their products — or choose not to state either way.

For those cosmetics manufacturers that genuinely do not test on animals, they generally use the following for safety testing of their products:

  • Reliance on existing natural or synthetic ingredients, compounds and substances. These have already been extensively tested on animals in the past, and thus do not need to be tested again.
  • Avoiding novel ingredients or combinations of ingredients that have not fully been tested and may not be safe.
  • Testing on human volunteers.

This presumes that cosmetics companies are already using computer modelling and cell cultures to simulate human tissue, two techniques which are very useful in discovering problems early, but it is claimed by those who wish animal experiments to continue that neither can yet fully replace live human or non-human animal tests.


  • Professor Croce M.D., (1991) Pietro, Vivisection or Science - a choice to make BETA Tipografica s. r. l.:Rome
  • "It's a Dog's Life" (1997) Countryside Undercover, Channel Four
  • "Covance Uncovered" (, 2004
  • Ruesch, Hans (1989) 1000 Doctors (and many more) Against Vivisection Civis: London
  • "Lab monkeys 'scream with fear' in tests" (,3604,1407818,00.html) by Sandra Laville, The Guardian, February 8, 2005nl:Dierproef

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