What attracts the attention of customers in the cosmetic aisle? Is it the scent of a perfume or the affordability of a shampoo? Or do consumers think about the animal testing behind these products to guarantee their safety for human use? It is unlikely. Our society fails to acknowledge that many drugs, cosmetics, and household chemicals undergo extensive testing on animals before being sold in stores, causing harm and sacrifice to these animals.
Animal testing involves using animals in experiments and development projects to evaluate the toxicity, dosing, and effectiveness of test drugs before conducting human clinical trials (Webster). Nonetheless, this explanation lacks comprehensive information. Animal testing encompasses a broad spectrum of experiments that can range from non-harmful to harmful and potentially fatal. Despite humans being responsible for researching, manufacturing, and marketing these products, consumers often remain unaware of their origins. To meet safety regulations and obtain approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), thorough scrutiny and investigation of these products must be consistently performed.
The significance of human health and life is highly valued in different cultures, leading individuals to take significant actions to enhance their well-being. However, a crucial question arises regarding whether humans possess the right to determine the value and health of animals’ lives. Merely having control over animals does not justify animal testing as it is evident that animals lack the ability to communicate or express their opinions, thereby making informed consent impossible. Consequently, this practice is deemed unethical. Hence, it is crucial to prohibit harmful animal testing due to its inherent immorality. Despite arguments suggesting that animal experimentation is essential for scientific advancement, there are viable alternatives accessible for conducting tests.
An estimated 100 million animals are used in experiments every year. Around 75% of these animals are chosen for medical research, while the rest are used to test over-the-counter products like cosmetics and food supplements. The range of animal species involved in these experiments is wide and includes mice, rats, frogs, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, monkeys, fish, and birds. Some animals undergo tests involving chemicals, drugs, food items and cosmetics in U.S. laboratories. Additionally, others are involuntarily used for biology lessons and medical training purposes. Although not all animals die during the experiments, many suffer emotional or physical disabilities due to the harshness of the trials or their living conditions (Thompson). Among this total number of 100 million animals used for experimentation purposes approximately eight million experience some form of distress. Reports suggest that at least 10% of these animals do not receive any pain relief medication (PETA).
The main uses of animals in tests are in the fields of biomedical research, product testing, and education. These experiments involve various activities such as force-feeding, exposing the skin and eyes to irritation, and inhaling chemicals. Some studies use an “LD50” test in which animals are given a substance until approximately half of them die from its poisonous effects. This results in the death of hundreds, or even thousands, of animals. Another test called the Fixed Dose Test administers a set dose to a group of animals until visible signs of poisoning appear, rather than causing death. However, at the end of the study, all animals are sacrificed and examined. In the Inhalation Test, animals are made to breathe in spray, mist, or smoke forms of a substance. They may have the product sprayed heavily around their head and body, wear an inhalation mask on their face, or be placed in a sealed chamber. Once again, all animals are killed and examined after the experiment concludes (PETA).
The animals used for research are sourced from various locations. Some animals are obtained from Class A sources, which consist of companies specifically breeding animals for research purposes. These animals are genetically pure and free from parasites, making them more expensive than others. However, the majority of animals come from Class B sources, including shelters, pounds, or puppy mills. They can also be excess animals from zoos or wild-caught creatures. The trapping of animals for biomedical research has become so widespread that it has caused some species to near extinction. For instance, the capturing of wild rhesus monkeys in India has resulted in the complete eradication of entire populations. Moreover, the transportation conditions for wild monkeys caught in Africa and Asia are harsh; they are crammed into crates with limited food and water supply, leading to numerous tragic deaths.
Another aspect of animal testing involves the living conditions. The animal is relocated to an unfamiliar cell, unable to anticipate the new environment. Isolated in small, bare cages without stimulation or socialization, animals often exhibit signs of insanity or develop repetitive and psychotic behaviors. Typically, the cheapest Class B animals are obtained as they are more accustomed to humans and easier to handle. These animals are treated roughly, coerced, and subjected to physical abuse, marking only the beginning of their distressing ordeal (SAAW). The only respite from their solitary confinement occurs when they are forcibly removed from their cages, leaving them terrified. They endure forceful tube insertions into their noses and stomachs, undergo open brain surgery, receive painful injections, and are exposed to cancers and diseases. At times, they are restrained without anesthesia or pain relief.
The benefits of animal testing are apparent in its ability to ensure product safety for humans and advance therapeutic practices. For instance, toxicity testing has enabled poison centers to aid parents when a child ingests a harmful substance. Previously, humans served as the initial test subjects for new drugs, leading to numerous accidents. Consequently, the government required drug companies to conduct tests on animals. Scientists have worked towards minimizing animal use in experiments and alternative testing methods have helped reduce the number of animals involved. Nevertheless, completely eliminating animal testing is currently impossible due to the intricacy of human biology (Mur).
Despite ensuring product safety, animal testing cannot always be directly compared to humans and assume similar outcomes. Diseases artificially induced in animals differ from those occurring naturally in humans, and the biological differences among animal species further decrease the likelihood of correctly interpreting and applying results to humans. Former National Cancer Institute Director Dr. Richard Klausner stated that curing mice of cancer for decades did not work in humans. This demonstrates that some animal effects do not correlate with human effects. Although numerous HIV/AIDS vaccines were successful in nonhuman primate studies, by 2010, almost 200 preventive and therapeutic vaccine trials failed to demonstrate benefit in humans. For instance, an AIDS vaccine that proved effective in monkeys failed in human clinical trials as it did not prevent AIDS and potentially increased susceptibility to the disease.The Independent newspaper reported that a study proved the ineffectiveness of testing HIV vaccines on monkeys before humans. Additionally, PETA states that 92% of drugs tested on animals and in a petri dish fail Phase 1 of human clinical trials, which assess the drug’s reaction, effectiveness, and side effects.
Animal testing, once the primary method for medical and scientific research, now faces viable alternatives. Despite this, many find it hard to believe these alternative methods can replace traditional testing. The “3 Rs” – reduction, refinement, and replacement of animal use – promoted the idea of minimizing the number of animals used in experiments, minimizing pain and distress to animals, and utilizing non-animal alternatives whenever possible. Regulatory agencies in the United States and Europe have recently approved a different type of replacement test involving the use of synthetic skin called Corrositex. This synthetic skin can be used instead of animals to test chemicals for skin corrosivity. In addition, in vitro testing with human cell-based skin in a test tube or petri dish is used for toxicity screening of drugs, chemicals, cosmetics, and consumer products. A recent development includes an in vitro method that resembles a human immune system for testing the safety and effectiveness of HIV/AIDS vaccines.This in vitro method, according to PETA, is faster and more efficient than animal tests. It can also be utilized to test vaccines on the immune systems of multiple human populations simultaneously. These humane tests are a replacement for cruel tests that involve injecting substances into animals’ stomachs, lungs, and eyes, as well as applying chemicals onto their raw, shaved skin. An alternative that is often overlooked involves using volunteers who have given consent to be tested on. Additionally, actual human skin remaining from surgeries or donated cadavers can be employed to measure the rate of chemical absorption through the skin.
There is an ongoing discussion about whether animal experimentation should continue, which has sparked public debate. Over the years, there have been both supporters and opponents of animal testing. Some argue against it due to ethical concerns and advocate for a ban, while others believe it is necessary for human safety. However, many view subjecting animals to harmful tests without their consent as cruel and unethical. In our society that prioritizes human health above all else, it raises questions about the rights humans have to harm or manipulate animals for trivial reasons like avoiding skin irritation from a shampoo. The control over animals does not justify animal testing; it is completely unethical and should be prohibited. Fortunately, scientific advancements now provide alternatives such as in vitro experimentation, synthetic skin models, and voluntary participation of humans in clinical studies. If humans are entitled to the right to life, shouldn’t animals also have the same right?