Before a product is released into the market, its biosafety level must be assessed. For centuries, animals have been the victims of the tests performed for various products or chemicals at different stages. But recently, individuals and organizations have developed a distinct eye for the beast of animal testing.
Hearing of phrases such as ‘cruelty-free’ is no longer unusual, but it is highly likely to underestimate what exactly happens during animal tests. As a way of driving more awareness and encouraging consumers to take a stand against animal cruelty schemes, we discuss every aspect of animal testing and what alternatives are available. Let’s get started;
What is an animal test?
It refers to any scientific procedure or experiment that involves subjecting an animal to conditions or substances which will inflict pain, distress, disability, or any suffering to an unknown extent. When you hear of laboratory animals, it may be possible to think they are well handled like your pet. However, the creatures are subjected to a lot of torture and, typically, death after the conclusion of the experiment.
Some of the exercises carried on the animals include forcefully feeding or injecting them with potentially hazardous chemicals, deliberate removal of different animal’s organs to cause harm, and exposing them to ionizing radiation. In some cases, the animals are forced to inhale poisonous gases and even subjected to terrifying conditions that are designed to evoke anxiety or cause depression. The impact of these tests on the animals’ lives can be quite disastrous.
Which animals are used in testing?
Different countries have different legislation on animal testing. To begin with, the definition of terms is quite variable. In Europe, the animal experiment regulations refer to ‘animals’ as mammals, amphibians, fish, birds, and other specific invertebrates such as octopuses. On the other hand, the United States animal test legislation does not include amphibians, fish, birds, mice, and rats in its definition of ‘animals.’ It may not seem significant, but it implies that anyone can experiment with any of the mentioned creatures in whatever manner they like without any legal permission. This means that a chunk of tests done will go undocumented as well.
Every year, millions of dollars are spent on breeding animals in different laboratories or other specialized facilities worldwide for the sake of experiments. It is shocking how such massive amounts can be invested in the cruel industry when several animal-friendly options are available. At Cruelty Free International, we believe that every creature, whether raised at home or bred in the lab, has a right to a comfortable life.
Heartbreaking stories of wild animals such as monkeys trapped in various parts of Asia, South America, and Africa for experimental purposes are not unusual. The young ones of these mammals are then exported to other laboratories around the globe to be subjected to inhumane procedures. It is only European countries that have banned the use of these animals in experiments.
Worse still, some of the domesticated animals such as horses, cows, pigs, and sheep are also being in some tests.
Level of suffering
From the documented reports in the EU, most researchers state that they subject their victims to moderate-severe suffering. Recent statistics show that 31 percent of animals used in testing in 2018 were exposed to extreme distress. In some experiments, the death rate of the animals is the parameter of interest. For instance, in botox regulatory tests, Lethal Dose 50 is the goal. Lethal Dose 50 implies the dosage that will kill half of the animals. The experiment involves injecting the lethal botox into the abdomen of several mice and setting them in a confined place to count the number of those that will die after three days. With hundreds of mice involved in a single test, the number of those that get killed this way runs in hundreds of thousands, if not millions.
When animals are being raised in the labs for these cruel tests, they are always locked in sterile cages. This restricts their movements, and most often, they are without company. Naturally, no animal would love to live in such conditions, and lab confinement can be the source of depression to these innocent creatures.
We understand that the safety of humans must be at the core of any science, even with advocacy for the abolition of animal tests. Below we discuss some of the options that can be used to replace animal testing;
Human and other animal cells can be manipulated to grow under various conditions in the laboratory. For example, scientists have managed to produce miniature human organs from cultures. This can be used in the evaluation of new therapies instead of animals. Innovations such as organs-on-chips have also proven very effective in assessing the physiological and pathological processes. Organ-on-chips mimic specific body organs and currently include the kidney, heart, lung, and gut. With technological advances, it is expected that these innovations will culminate in the creation of human-on-a-chip to make alternative testing even more accurate and quicker.
Talking of human tissue for testing may be another ethical debate. However, in this case, we consider only voluntary donation of healthy or diseased tissues for the sake of experiments. Biopsy materials collected during surgery can be reconstituted and used for testing instead of animals. Human skin models are currently employed in evaluating irritation instead of the cruel Draize test on rabbit skins.
Studies have shown that it is possible to replicate various aspects of the human body on computers. And models of different organs and systems like the heart and the digestive system have already been developed. These can be used to perform virtual experiments, and the results interpreted using analytical data and other existing information.
The study of human volunteers using non-hazardous techniques is another potential alternative that can be exploited to help save the animals.
Deliberate infliction of pain, distress, or suffering on innocent animals in the name of testing is a cruel practice that needs to be abolished. Instead, human safety can still be ensured by using the available alternative methods.