Top 10 Reasons Animal Testing Should Be Banned
Whether or not products for human use should be tested on animals before proceeding to full scale human trials is one of the most emotive subjects ever to be debated. People on both sides of the fence have very strong views. Some argue that there is no price to be put on human suffering and that the benefits of animal testing outweigh the negatives (indeed there is a Listland list that sets out the various arguments in favor of animal testing). Other people feel, very strongly, that there is no possible justification for the suffering caused by animal testing and that it is, in any event, an outdated and inaccurate method of evaluating drugs for human use.
We have taken the opportunity to list here, in answer to the other list on this site, the 10 reasons why the author of that article is wrong and why animal testing is not only cruel but also inefficient, expensive and dangerous. After reading this article we hope that you will agree with us that it is time to end this outmoded, appalling practice for good.
10Animal Testing Causes Unimaginable Suffering
Do you have a pet? Many families either own or aspire to own a pet dog or a cat and many of those who cannot know friends or family members who do. Of course there are people who are not pet owners either because of pressures of work and accommodation requirements, allergies or because they just do not want the responsibility but even the most animal phobic of people will be able to understand (and often view in friends) the close bond that exists between a human and their pet.
People who spend time with animals know that they experience the same range of emotions as people. They are capable of love, joy, sadness and grief and above all, they are capable of suffering. Most mammals will need some form of contact, either from a human or from another animal, in order to enjoy their life to the fullest. Like humans, they need access to fresh air, exercise and comfort.
Animals used in testing often undergo procedures that result in terrible pain and trauma – examples include being forced underwater for long periods of time without warning or being infected with diseases which are allowed to progress too far before the animal is euthanized humanely. Some research facilities pay little attention to the care and welfare of test subjects which can lead to distressing incidents such as when animals break their legs on cages or are scalded to death in horrible accidents.
9Animal Testing Is Cruel And Debases Humanity
At the end of the Second World War it was discovered that the Nazis had used Jews and other people that they regarded as ‘subhuman’ for medical testing. There have been some attempts to use the data in the past but the overwhelming response is that to do so would be to minimize the suffering of those who were subjected to the appalling experiments and tortured so dreadfully.
While we would in no way want to conflate the suffering of animals in test laboratories with the horrors of the holocaust – a planned genocide – it cannot be denied that animals used in labs do suffer.
As you can see from point 10 (above) many animal testing facilities give little care or thought to the way in which animals used for testing are treated. It is comforting to think of mice, rabbits or dogs being kept in decent cages and enjoying good food until the time comes for them to do their job and submit to tests but the reality is that this is not the case.
The people who work in these laboratories are not automatons, they are living breathing human beings who go home to their families at the end of the day and who may even have pets of their own yet they are debased, made to behave in a manner that is less than desirable by the system in which they are forced to work to make their living. And it is not only those who work in these facilities (and whose presence there is, at the least, voluntary) who are debased, but indeed everyone who uses the drugs and cosmetics that result from the testing.
The US and much of the western world are majority Christian nations and as such, this forms the basis of a collective morality. The old testament of the Bible tells us to have regard to the lives of animals. It is not just Christianity which requires us to have regard to the welfare of animals – it is an important tenet of Hinduism and Buddhism (and many other religions as well).
8Most Animals Used In Tests Are Not Covered By The Animal Welfare Act
Many people in favor of animal testing claim that stories of cruelty are old and out of date and that safeguards such as the Animal Welfare Act are in place to ensure that the animals used in testing are well treated. At first glance the Animal Welfare Act looks as though it would provide good protection in that it sets out minimum standards of accommodation and access to water as well as access to pain relief.
Sadly the Animal Welfare Act is cold comfort; of the 26 million animals used for testing in the US every year only 5% are covered by the terms of the Animal Welfare Act. Animals that are not covered include birds, fish and rodents.
Even in tests that involve animals that are covered by the Act breaches are distressingly common. It is all too easy to stick our heads in the sand and believe that our cosmetics and pills were ethically tested but are you happy to use products tested on chimpanzees who were kept awake and aware of what was happening to them during painful and frightening procedures? Are you happy to be (indirectly) responsible for the distress to mother and baby as young chimps are torn from their mother’s arms? We condemn the slaughter and mistreatment of these amazing animals for meat or land in the wilds of Africa but condone their torture on our own shores.
7The Results Of Animal Tests Are Not Reliable
Animals are not people! No matter how much loving pet owners will enjoy anthropomorphizing their pets or how we admire the intelligence of elephants, whales, dolphins and primates it is an unavoidable fact that we are very different and our bodies and minds work in a different way to those of even our closest living relatives. It is instructive to note that over 90% of all substances tested in animals (and that appear promising at first glance) fail clinical trials.
Those in favor of animal testing point to the fact that many test subjects, like rats and mice, have short lifecycles which enable them to see how a medicine or other substance will behave over a lifetime. This premise is, however, deeply flawed; our lives are so long that there is more time for side effects to show in a human than in a rodent. Not only that but while they are similar to us, sharing a large percentage of our DNA we are not, as a professor at Johns Hopkins University is fond of saying ‘70kg rats’. We differ from them too much, on a cellular, metabolic and anatomic basis and that makes animals a poor testing subject for substances designed for human use. Indeed they are such a poor substitute that they often have to be subjected to nasty, painful procedures simply to ensure that they can be used as a subject for the test.
6Many Animal Tests Are Horribly Flawed And Inaccurate
In order for animal based research to be of any benefit it should comply with the rigorous standards expected of scientific studies. Sadly not all animal testing is as rigorous as human trials. This is a major concern because if the research is flawed so are the results which can lead to them being invalid. In 2009 a peer reviewed study of 271 studies undertaken with animals (rats, mice and primates). The results were shocking; the objective of the tests was clearly set out in less than 60% of the studies. More than 85% of the studies failed to use procedures such as randomization or blinding in selecting the animals used for the trial and at least 30% of the studies described their methodology or set out their results in a way that measured errors or validity in a verifiable way.
The potential for problems caused by such inaccuracies is clear. In one famous case animal trials of a potential stroke drug had looked very promising. When the drug progressed to clinical trials it failed, it simply did not work. When the reasons were investigated it appeared that the animal tests may not have robust enough, with no blinding or randomization meaning that there was potential for cherry picking of statistical outliers (tests which include no reported randomization are 5 times more likely to render a positive result than those that are conducted against rigorous guidelines).
While it is inevitable that some potential drugs will fail it is appalling that animal lives are sacrificed in such as lazy and inefficient way. They gave their lives for nothing!
5The Results Of Animal Tests Are Not A Direct Analogy For The Impact On Humans
The results of animal testing simply do not translate from animal to human very well. Scientists have used animals to study all sorts of human scourges, not least cancer, for many decades but these diseases still ravage the human population causing pain and distress wherever they appear. The sad thing is that we can cure many of these diseases in animals. We have been able to cure cancer for decades and even stop the progress of HIV, just not in man.
While some cancer curing drugs based on animal tests are currently the subject of human trials there are, as yet, no advances. In one well publicized case genetically modified mice were used to test potential cures for ALS (with some success) only for it to be discovered that the researchers had been concentrating on the wrong genetic mutation. It also appears that mouse livers process proteins in a very different way to human livers. How many more body organs operate differently at a genetic level!
What this shows us is that animal testing is simply not a good proxy for tests in humans, if that is the case surely it is not ethical to use them, not just because it causes the animals pain and suffering but because substances which appear safe may be authorized for human testing without researchers realizing that they are, in fact, deeply dangerous.
4The Results Of Animal Tests May Lead To Potentially Life Saving Or Improving Drugs Being Ignored For Human Use.
As we have seen (above) animal tests are not a reliable indicator that drugs will be effective on humans. The problems work both ways; just as some drugs work in animals but fail to live up to expectations in clinical trials so some drugs that work in humans have little discernible effect on animals or even appear dangerous leading to nasty side effects in the animal hosts that might not transfer to their human equivalents.
Aspirin, a wonder drug that not only treats pain in humans but may prove to be beneficial to those suffering from stroke and heart attack is dangerous to some animals while penicillin, were it to have been tested on guinea pigs, would have been written off as toxic. One of the drugs used to treat organ transplant patients almost did not make it to clinical trial because it did not do well during animal testing.
3Animal Testing May Lead To Researchers Believing That Dangerous Substances Are Safe For Human Use.
Perhaps one of the best known failures of animal testing was the thalidomide tragedy of the 50s and 60s. The drug was used to treat morning sickness in pregnancy but resulted in a worldwide tragedy. Over 10,000 babies were born with heartbreaking defects, mostly a malformation and underdevelopment of their limbs and many others miscarried or were stillborn.
Thalidomide had been tested extensively over a large number of different animal species including various rodents, dogs, armadillos and pigs and had passed through clinical trials successfully (with experts noting that it caused defects only occasionally and then at high concentrations). Of course human trials do not (and cannot ethically) involve pregnant subjects. Thalidomide is still used today as a treatment for leprosy (although more effective treatments exist and are preferred because of thalidomide’s tendency to cause defects) but it is not advised for use in pregnancy.
Although pro testing campaigners say that the tragedy shows the need for more extensive animal testing of new drugs the reality is that no amount of animal testing could have predicted the effect thalidomide has on human pregnancies. The only way of establishing this would be in vitro testing on human tissue.
Thalidomide is not the only instance of a terrible and tragic failure of animal testing. In 2006 clinical trials in London went badly wrong when a drug that had proved safe in animals caused 6 men to become seriously ill with reactions that left their ‘brains on fire’ and requiring treatment for organ failure. More recently in January 2016 a man died in a French drugs trial. The drug had passed all animal testing stages and was undergoing trials to establish dosage tolerances for humans.
2Animal Tests Are Hugely Expensive
Animal tests are hugely expensive to run. Animals have to be housed, fed and cared for and financial provision needs to be made for the staff to do this in addition to the costs of the research staff themselves. The welfare regulations and inspection regime which should (but are not always (see above)) adhered to also add an extra layer of costs. Not only that but animal trials are relatively slow and can take up to 5 years in the case of cancer tests for rodents (tests which do not translate well to humans, (see above)). The end result is that an animal trial can cost up to $4 million per tested substance.
Animal testing is big business, worth over 480 billion Euro in the European Union (and this is only 28% of the world market). Over 6 million animals suffer in tests there every year but these tests lead to no more than 12 new products every year, many more clear animal trials but fail in the human clinical stage of the process. Just 12 products for 6 million lives lived in misery and billions of Euros spent. It is a very poor return.
Alternative tests are now available (see below) which provide fast, accurate results for a fraction of the price of animal testing.
1There Are Now Alternatives To Animal Testing That Render Its Use Obsolete
We have already seen that animal testing is hugely expensive and the results of trials are not an accurate prediction for how a substance will react within a human test subject.
While we may, at one stage in our development, not had any choice but use animals as proxies to test the safety of new substances before human trials we no longer need to rely on these old and outdated methods, recent years has seen a step change in the technology available to us rendering animal testing obsolete.
It is now possible to use human cell cultures to study drug reactions in vitro (ie in petri dishes and test tubes). This is much cheaper than animal testing and much more accurate as it shows how a drug interacts with human as opposed to animal cells. One of the best example is recent developments in the field of toxicity testing. For many years the toxicity of substances was tested by a method that called for an increasing amount of a substance to be administered to a population of test animals until 50% of them died. This was both cruel and distressing and often irrelevant as animals will react differently to some substances than humans. This cruel LD50 has been replaced by an in vitro alternative using human cells – cheap, humane and much, much more accurate. With the advent of powerful processing computers we are able to model the human metabolic system down to the molecular level and use this to establish how drugs and substances interact with human biological systems. Even more exciting developments are in the pipeline including ‘microfluidic chips’, computer chips that are lined with cells to recreate human organs.
Improvements have been made in the field of cosmetics testing as well. For many years rabbits were used to test whether a substance would prove toxic to human skin. Rabbits were not an ideal substitute for humans but suffered nevertheless suffered through these cruel tests. These days cosmetics companies are able to test their products on a revolutionary skin replacement caked EpiSkinÂ®.
Animal testing is a hugely emotive subject. The chances are that we or the people we love will need medical treatment at least once in our lives and we will hope that the products are safe for human use. There may have been a need for testing in the past but as we have seen in this article new alternatives are now available. Traditional animal tests are expensive, inaccurate and poorly structured. They often fail to predict how substances interact with humans leading, sometimes, to tragic results when these products are cleared for clinical testing. The tests also cause great pain and suffering to the animals.
It is completely unethical for us to use animals to test substances for use in humans in circumstances in which their use has absolutely no practical benefit at all and this, together with the points raised in this article, is the key reason why animal testing should be banned.