Animal Testing

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"PETA Kills Kids to Save Rats." That was the banner held up outside the PETA Millennium Gala by a handful of protesters. It is misleading:


Most animals killed in laboratories are not dying in tests for drugs to combat life threatening illnesses. Millions, for example, suffer and die  for cosmetic company profits every year. 

The primates currently confined at the Yerkes Institute for research on their sharing behavior are not saving lives.

Dogs are still killed in tests on tobacco. And in case anybody still thinks it is a good idea to smoke during pregnancy, monkeys at the federally funded Oregon Regional Primate Research Center are confined in small, barren metal cages, while their fetuses are exposed to nicotine. The baby monkeys, once born, will be killed and examined.

Then there are the endless maternal deprivation studies. There is a sad joke amongst animal rights advocates:

"How many baby monkeys do we need to take away from their mothers in order to prove that maternal deprivation is detrimental to development?"

"As many as NIH (National Institutes of Health) will pay for."

The millions of animals killed in attempts to find a cure for obesity related ailments is one of the saddest ironies. Hundreds of human studies have shown the lower incidence of diabetes, high blood-pressure, and heart disease amongst vegetarians. One rarely meets a fat vegan. Yet the government grants millions of tax payers dollars each year to animal research on obesity and obesity-linked diseases. At the same time that government subsidizes the meat and dairy industries. It's as if having found out that smoking causes cancer, instead of urging people to quit, they sought treatments to alleviate the effects of smoking while increasingly subsidizing the cigarette companies.

Further, every year drug companies bring out new drugs that need not work any better, or even as well, as current drugs on the market. They are introduced only because the patent has run out on  older drugs, which are therefore no longer lucrative for the drug companies.  The new drugs might be almost identical to those already on the market -- working perhaps for 12 hours instead of eight hours. Every time one of the copycat drugs is released, thousands of animals die in laboratories to fulfill the testing requirements.


One can fight against animal testing without calling for a universal ban on it today, with no alternatives in place. There are points on which any reasonable compassionate person, animal advocate or not, would agree. We could  call for an immediate end to animal testing for trivial and ethically questionable purposes, a ban that would save the majority of laboratory animals, many millions per year. We could insist that a sizable chunk of the budgets of those companies that do medical testing on animals be used to continue to develop and refine in vitro and other methods of testing. We could ensure that in vitro methods now available are used wherever possible and that more are developed. Meanwhile all results of tests should be made public immediately, so that the same test is never done over and over by competing companies unwilling to share information. Sadly, the Chemical Manufacturers Union is currently opposing a petition that would compel chemical manufacturers to disclose existing toxicity and exposure data on HPV chemicals.

In an ethical world, profits cannot justify unnecessary suffering.


 There are human safety concerns about testing on animals. Results are unreliable. Though we have much in common with other animals, our systems are not identical. According to the United States General Accounting Office, 52% of the new drugs marketed between 1976 and 1985 caused adverse reactions that were not predicted by animal studies (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99 - "Animal Testing"). Time magazine, February 23, 1962, stated that Thalidomide was released "after three years of animal tests." There was no indication of the severe birth defects it would cause in humans. The discovery of penicillin, however, was made without the use of animals. We should be thankful that the animal tests the researchers were later required to perform on this drug, before its release, didn't include tests on guinea pigs - Penicillin kills them.

An article in the 6/24/02 issue of Insight Magazine tells us: "Of 11,000 anticancer chemicals developed in mice, none help humans. While 5 milligrams of botulinum kills man, 10 grams has no effect on dogs or cats. The differences can be both unknown and very great, researchers say. Some animal tests indeed have led to erroneous conclusions: that smoking is noncarcinogenic and that benzene is safe, for instance."

Between 1998-2000, ten drugs were recalled in the United States because of side effects that occurred almost exclusively in women. Dr Ray Greek explains, "This means that tests on men cannot predict what a drug will do for women so how can a monkey/dog/rat etc predict anything?"

For more information on the Scientific arguments against using animals in biomedical research, take a look at "Sacred Cows and Golden Geese" in the Recommended Reading Section. And check out 


The details of some common animal tests would be shocking to most decent people. Let us work to make sure they know the details of the Draize Eye Irritancy Test: Rabbits are used because they have no tear ducts, which would shed tears to wash out or dilute the chemicals (and ease the pain.) The rabbits heads are immobilized in stocks so that they cannot rub their eyes. Their eyes are held open by the use of metal clips. Concentrated solutions of expected irritants are dripped into their eyes. The tests can last for weeks. After the tests, the rabbits are killed. Such tests bring us new improved cosmetics and household cleaners. Recently a bill was considered that would ban the Draize test, replacing it with approved non-animal testing methods; Companies such as Proctor and Gamble lobbied successfully to defeat it.

The Farm Bill that passed in 2002 included an amendment that would permanently deny rats, mice and birds, who are 95% of research subjects, any form of protection under the animal welfare act. Legislators were assured by those lobbying the bill that adequate protection was already in place. However the April 19, 2002 Washington Post reported on an undercover video shot by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals at the University of North Carolina: 

"The video seeks to undercut that assurance. In one scene, a researcher cuts open the skulls of squirming baby rats to remove their brains without first numbing the animals in a bucket of ice -- a shortcut that the researcher concedes on tape is a violation of the experimental protocol. 'I don't put them to sleep,' he tells the undercover technician. 'Maybe it's illegal, but it's easier.'


The public must learn that animals are largely unprotected in our laboratories, most of them suffering in tests that are not curing cancer or saving kids. We must do what we can to spread the word about the state of the biomedical testing industry and the good news about the non-animal tests becoming available.

For those who argue that lives have been saved by testing on animals, I think Jane Goodall has the most poignant response. She was confronted by a woman who said that her daughter was only alive thanks to experimental work on dogs. Goodall told the woman that her own mother was alive thanks to a pig's valve in her heart. She said that she felt incredibly grateful to that pig, and she asked the woman, "Don't you feel grateful to the dogs who saved your daughter? Wouldn't you like to support efforts to find alternatives so that no more dogs, or pigs, need be used in the future?"