Animal testing

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Animal testing or animal experimentation (including conducting surgery on living organisms for the purpose of observing internal structures, known as vivisection) is, controversially, the use of living animals in scientific experiments, including genetics, neuroscience, psychology, and developing cosmetics, and investigating the safety and efficacy of medical treatments.

Sciencific opinion[edit]


Despite difficult ethical questions bound up in changing definitions of personhood, the common consensus of the scientific community is that animal research is an effective and necessary method of scientific inquiry. It is an important step in determining the safety and efficacy of medical treatments before they are tested on humans. Proponents claim animal testing saves many human lives. For example, animals were the first recipients of open heart surgeries as the procedure was perfected; they suffered a near-100% fatality rate. That rate decreased over the course of two more rounds of experiments until by the fourth group it was zero.[1]

Another thing that makes animal testing more efficient than human testing is that the former are much more controllable — the scientists are able to know their genetic predispositions, their eating habits, and basically everything about them — along with the animals being genetically identical[2] in some cases. A common criticism is that the animals suffer. However, suffering alters the animal's hormone levels, which can severely damage the research, so they are usually handled in the best way possible so that they are calm, comfortable, and healthy.[3]

Notwithstanding consensus on the usefulness of animal testing, scientists endeavor to reduce the number of animals used and, where possible, replace the use of living animals altogether. A growing industry in computer modeling is attempting to create digital systems that can be an effective alternative, but this research has many decades to go until it can take the place of conventional animal models.[4]

Historically, most pharmaceuticals were not tested on female lab rats, (or, for that matter, on female humans, for reasons that had varying degrees of legitimacy), however, as of 2013 the NIH began developing programes to encourage a better sex balance in test animals and cells. [5]

Animal testing can help preserve endangered species. Baylor College of Medicine used mice and rabbits to study a virus that was killing young elephants to develop a possible vaccine.[6] Scientists in the US, created a successful Ebola vaccine for wild chimpanzees by experimenting on captive chimps.[7]

Drawbacks to testing[edit]

The main drawback to animal testing is whether conclusions drawn apply equally or to some degree to humans. Drug companies with vested interests may happily over-extrapolate animal studies, while PETA and other groups play this point to death, often severely underestimating the efficacy of animal testing and ignoring the examples where it works well. The reality is somewhere in the middle where animal testing is extremely useful, but the results should be treated with some caution. Animal experimentation never guarantees the safety of human medicines, but the models often give very big hints and are suitable as a starting point; if it doesn't kill a rat, dog or chimp after a massive over-dose, it is very likely that it is safe to give a pill to a human, for example.


Experimentation on higher mammals is tightly regulated, the European Union banning experimentation on great apes in 2010.[8] Similar laws exist for rare species threatened by extinction, and with regulation generally tightening for great apes and other closer cousins of us. Only GabonWikipedia allows chimpanzees to be used in experiments[9] with the US, in 2015, now protecting chimpanzees as endangered animals.[10] The US retired the use of all chimpanzees for research purposes in 2015.[11]

In the United States, the "Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals," a protocol at least adopted in part by most academic institutions, recommends conditions for the humane keeping, feeding, and euthanasia of animals used in experiments.

Some countries require a license to experiment on animals, including the United Kingdom,[12] which requires the submission and approval of a protocol and justification that no other reasonable test can be performed.

Licensure is then strictly supervised in the UK.[13][14]

After Brexit, animal welfare groups are highly concerned that the UK will loosen its animal welfare laws. Animal testing has sharply increased after Brexit.[15] In 2017, animal testing in the UK fell by 5%.[16]

The image of scientists just coming along and torturing animals for shits and giggles is just NOT how it happens. That being said however, the standing regulations intended to legally ensure the well-being of test animals may come across as surprisingly condensed.

The Animal Welfare Act was signed into law in 1966. It is the only Federal law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals in research. [17]. Conveniently for scientists, mice and rats (the most used animals in medical research) are excluded from this law, among others.[18]. Thus, there are no protections in place for these animals, meaning scientists involved legally can "do whatever they want to them".

Required animal testing[edit]

In the United States, before a new experimental drug can be tested on human subjects, it must first be tested on animal subjects to ensure its safety. Any human that was going to use the drug is also an animal testing it, so an animal test is inherent and unavoidable anyways.

By legislating for systematic and controlled laboratory animal testing, the legislation is practically also against random and uncontrolled human experimentation.

Animal rights protests[edit]

Main article: Animal rights

Despite the many potential benefits of animal experimentation, many animal rights activists are actively opposed to it and protest any use of animals in research, claiming it is a form of speciesism and therefore morally unjustifiable. They argue that the claims that animal testing has significant benefits for humans and animals are not justification enough for animal testing to take place. Their argument is that since humans are not used for "the greater good" in these tests, equally sentient animals should not be either, emphasizing the similar abilities to feel pain and emotions. The argument from marginal cases is often put forward in cases like this. The difference in intelligence between animals and humans they view as irrelevant, as in certain cases, some young babies or severely cognitively disabled people may be less intelligent than the animals that are being used in experiments, but nobody would argue that they should be used for scientific research instead of the animals because they are less intelligent.[19][20][21]

A number of animal activists, however, will resort to extremist measures to achieve their goal of ending animal experimentation and, as a result, end up becoming their own worst enemy. Extreme acts of opposition range from sabotage of research facilities, physical attacks on individual researchers and their families, and even murder and arson.[22] This makes it very easy for pro-vivisectionists to persuade the public that animal activists are too crazy and violent for any sane person to take seriously. Marketing efforts by animals rights activists are often accused by vivisection supporters of using appeal to emotion by showing pictures of cruelty to animals in labs (claiming the most shocking pictures are horribly out of date) and that they are focusing especially on "cute" ones most associated with being pets, such as dogs, cats, and rabbits, though largely ignoring that rats and mice (which don't have as good of PR managers) are the more commonly studied. They will also claim activists of ignoring the fact that scientists make great efforts to keep research animals in humane conditions and to minimize suffering. Violent activism requires additional security measures for scientists and their animals, as well as researchers refusing to speak about what they do and where they do it for fear of attacks.

If PETA and the ALF get their way and animal testing is banned, it will only be banned in the places where they have strong influence, such as the US and Europe, where regulations already prevent unnecessary suffering of animals, though of course ALF would argue any suffering, especially for cosmetics, is unnecessary. As animal testing is essential, if banned in one place, it would just move to another; specifically a place without such regulations. Evidence for this can be seen in child labor being employed in countries other than where it is banned. Places that have banned child labor no longer have much in the way of textile industries, but child labor still exists, therefore it shouldn't be banned (according to this "logic").

However, successful legislative change has occurred in Europe where in 2013 it was made illegal to sell cosmetic products tested on animals within the European Union, even if testing was undertaken outside of the European Union. [23]

Potential alternatives to animal testing[edit]

Alternatives to animal testing have attempted to better match human physiology and typical environment humans inhabit. These technologies are continuing to be developed and may, in future, be a viable alternative to animal testing.

In-vitro testing[edit]

The growth of human tissue in an in vitro environment has been achieved. This has been useful in many cosmetic tests by using cultivated skin cells to test the reaction its reaction to certain chemicals.[24]

In-silico modelling[edit]

Use of computer modelling has also been put forward as an alternative to animal testing. Many computer models are very accurate though it is likely that many researchers and consumers would be unwilling to trust findings based on assumption rather than experience.

Use of volunteers[edit]

Testing on a being that is able to consent does appear to have a more ethical basis for experimentation. However, there have been catastrophic failures in human drugs tests in the past when not properly undertaken. Ingesting a 'microdose' of a chemical followed by very close observation of changes in a volunteer's metabolic rate or brain function has been suggested as a possible precursor to large scale human trials that could replace animal testing.


Many simulators can mimic living, injured or dying humans. This would largely be applied in education, potentially as an alternative to dissection in some cases. The use of 'Traumaman' is an example of a simulator which is used for emergency medical training. [25]

See also[edit]


  1. PBS NOVA:Pioneers of Heart Surgery
  2. either clones or functional clones, the latter of which are highly inbred animals (typically mice) that have very minimal genetic variability
  4. to balance sex in cell and animal studies. Includes link to NIH public announcement.
  6. Learn How Animal Research is Helping Elephants and Other Endangered Species National Association for Biomedical Research
  7. Ebola vaccine success highlights dilemma of testing on captive chimps to save wild apes University of Cambridge
  8. EU rules on Animal Testing Ban use of Great Apes The Independent
  9. The Endangered Lab Chimp Science
  10. US government gives research chimps endangered-species protection Nature
  11. NIH to retire all research chimpanzees Nature
  12. Animal testing and research GOV.UK
  13. UK regulations on research using animals University of Oxford
  14. Animal experiments in the UK BBC
  15. Concern over animal testing laws after Brexit, as new figures reveal sharp spike in live monkey experiments The Independent
  16. UK animal experiments fall by 5% - annual figures BBC
  17. [1]
  18. [2] Section 2132(g)
  19. [3]
  20. [4]
  21. [5] Question 4
  22. .The Guardian:Animal Liberation Front bomber jailed for 12 years