Animals used in research
Many people are unaware that some cosmetics, foods and beverages, household products, personal care products, and medicines are tested on animals even though tests using animals are often unreliable or not applicable to humans. Nor do most people realise that animals are often tormented in experiments in universities or hospitals or in military training exercises.
The practice of experimenting on animals, or vivisection, has been around since ancient times. By the 19th century it was well established and as a result, in 1876, due to public outcry and the work of a few dedicated compassionate people the British Parliament passed the first anti-vivisection law, the Cruelty to Animals Act.
Unfortunately, the cruel practice of vivisection continues around the world with the British Union Against Vivisection estimating that worldwide on average 115 million animals are used and/or killed in the name of science every year. The United States is the largest animal testing country with over 100 million animals used annually in biological and medical research to study human disease, injury, development, psychology, and anatomy and physiology. Meanwhile, in 2009, the UK carried out over 3.6 million such tests (see http://rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs10/spanimals09.pdf). Europe as a whole used 12.1 million animals in 2005 (the latest figures available) with the UK, France, and Germany being the biggest users.
The most commonly used animals are mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, cats, and primates. Animals often suffer terribly in these studies. In an attempt to mimic human conditions, they are inflicted with diseases, traumas, and pain they would not normally experience.
“Monkeys are addicted to drugs and have holes drilled into their skulls, sheep and pigs have their skin burned off and rats have their spinal cords crushed. Tiny mice grow tumors as large as their own bodies, kittens are purposely blinded, and rats are made to suffer seizures. In archaic medical training courses, pigs and dogs are cut open and killed and cats and ferrets have hard plastic tubes forced down their delicate throats.” (www.peta.org)
The supplying of animals for research has created and entire industry which treats animals as tools rather than as thinking, feeling, sentient beings. Animals are intentionally bred for research or bought from auctions, pounds, shelters, ‘free to good home’ ads, or other random sources.
Commonly used tests include:
Toxicity Tests – in which animals are force fed substances until a predetermined percentage of them die. The symptoms of poisoning that the animals experience include diarrhoea, paralysis, convulsions and internal bleeding. At the end of the tests, all animals are killed.
Draize Eye Test – fully conscious animals are restrained whilst concentrated substances are applied to their eyes. Animals experience terrible, long-lasting pain with swelling, discharge, blistering and destruction of the cornea.
Draize Patch Test – unanaesthetised animals are immobilised in restraint devices. Their skin is then shaved until raw and the test product is applied. Resulting reactions include severe burns.
As well as being cruel, animal experiments hold very little scientific value. They not only hurt animals and waste money, but they can harm people by their unreliability. They are inhumane, outdated and often produce misleading results. Fortunately, alternatives to to the use of animals is growing every day. However, due to conservatism in the scientific establishment and bureaucratic hurdles, change is a slow process.
But you can help by encouraging your regulatory bodies to invest in alternatives to animal experiments, by letting your government know that you do not support the use of animals in experiments, and as a consumer, only purchasing products that are not tested on animals and by supporting humane charities.
Be a compassionate consumer. Vow to only buy products from companies that do not use animals and remember to ask when charities are asking for your donation, whether they spend their money on horrific experiments.