Harmful experiments on animals have taken place in the name of increasing human knowledge for almost as long as scientific thought has existed, yet the practice is now outdated and has to stop. Thankfully, there is overwhelming evidence that animal testing is losing favor in the public eye. Already a number of countries have taken key steps toward reducing and even eliminating the practice. This is largely thanks to the activists and organizations that have worked tirelessly on the issue. Researchers have sought alternative and more effective methods of testing new drugs. Lobbyists have stood up to government officials and held them accountable. Though the outlook is bright, we can’t afford to stop now. We must redouble the pressure by educating our communities and taking positive steps toward ending the suffering of millions of animals.
Is Animal Testing Going to Stop?
After years of battles over animal use in research, animal testing is likely on its way out. Internationally, the animal protection movement has risen up to increase public knowledge and kickstart action against animal testing. Already a number of countries have taken key steps to ban or reduce the practice within their borders.
Already the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has committed to eliminating funding for projects containing mammal testing by 2035. The EPA primarily funds the testing of chemicals that are introduced into the environment such as pesticides and fertilizers. This is one of the largest ever commitments on animal testing from the U.S. government.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the world’s largest biomedical institution, has long been directed by the U.S. Congress to begin the phase-out of animal testing. The NIH, however, has made little progress toward achieving this goal. A recently introduce bill called the Humane Research and Testing Act of 2021 seeks to change that. If signed into law, the bill would create the National Center for Alternatives to Animals in Research and require that the NIH track the number of animals being used for research as well as their efforts to reduce that number.
Progress toward the elimination of animal testing is also evident at the state level, where eight states including California, Hawai’i, and Virginia have banned cosmetic animal testing. The United States is progressing by leaps and bounds toward a future free of animal testing, though it remains behind a number of other countries.
Israel has had a ban on animal testing for nonmedicinal cosmetics and household cleaning products since May 2007. In 2013, the country also placed a ban on the import and sale of cosmetics, detergents, and toiletries that had been tested on animals. Though the ban on sale and import does have some exceptions where there is no comparable alternative product, the ban is effective both on items and their ingredients.
Since the early 2000s, the European Union has had a ban on testing cosmetic products on animals. Since its initial passing, the ban has grown to include products with ingredients that have been tested on animals, and the import and sale of products that have been tested on animals. This ban is in place regardless of whether there is an alternative product available or not.
Bans have been passed or proposed in a number of countries on every continent including Guatemala, Argentina, Australia, and South Korea. It seems that people everywhere are recognizing the unnecessary suffering that animal testing entails.
What Happens if We Don’t Stop Animal Testing?
There are numerous downsides associated with animal testing. Not least of these is the suffering of animals. However, the problems don’t stop there: every year millions of dollars are spent pursuing research that will fail in animal trials even though the drug could be highly effective in humans.
Though the exact number of animals that endure testing every year is unknown due to a lack of reporting requirements, estimates suggest the number is in the tens of millions globally. The species that are most commonly used for research are mice, fish, and rats. However, a wide array of other species can also be found in labs including dogs, cats, apes, monkeys, horses, pigs, and sheep—just to name a few.
Animal testing is extremely wasteful. Every year the United States federal government invests about $15 billion into research that involves the use of animals as subjects. Only 10 percent of the drugs being investigated successfully pass the animal testing phase of research and are deemed safe enough to move forward.
Using animals as models for human drugs is highly ineffective. In fact, a recent industry report found that fewer than 1 in 10 drugs that enter clinical trials in the U.S., which typically include animal testing, will ultimately be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This is partly because a drug that is effective at treating a disease in mice or another animal will not necessarily treat the same disease in humans.
Who Is Trying to Stop Animal Testing?
There are a number of entities attempting to stop animal testing. These range from organizations to politicians and activists. Below is just a sample of individuals and groups working toward this end.
National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS)
The National Anti-Vivisection Society was founded in 1929 to help bring an end to the inhumane and torturous acts that were performed against animals in the name of science. Since then they have continued to advocate for animals in every kind of research from cosmetics and drugs to classrooms.
White Coat Waste Project
The White Coat Waste Project focuses on stopping animal research by ending access to government funding. Their team is made up of political strategists, scientists, advocates, and doctors that work together to hold government actors accountable for the wasteful nature of animal trials.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)
With more than 175,000 members, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has been advocating for alternatives to animals in medical education and research since its founding in 1985. Their mission is to improve human and animal lives through ethical and effective research and plant-based diets.
Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT)
The Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing is housed at Johns Hopkins and has an international branch in Germany. It supports the exploration, creation, and use of alternatives to animals in research, product testing, and education.
Congressional Animal Protection Caucus
The U.S. Congress has the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. The Caucus is nonpartisan and aims to educate the Members of Congress and their staff on the need for sensible animal protection legislation. Initiatives of the caucus members have included the introduction of legislation aiming to reduce animal testing.
What Can We Do To Stop Animal Testing?
Consider Leaving Your Body to Science
Perhaps one of the most impactful decisions we can make to aid both science and animals is to donate our bodies to science. Organs and tissues from an actual human body are invaluable for effective scientific research and medical education. Researchers have been able to make major breakthroughs for treating cancer, Alzheimer’s, and numerous other diseases because individuals made this vital decision. Donating our bodies also helps to ensure new medical professionals are ready to treat their patients effectively when they graduate as new doctors.
Donating our bodies to science also prevents the harmful impacts of burial and cremation on the environment. Burial—which involves introducing toxic chemicals including formaldehyde into the environment and placing the chemical-filled carcass on a slab of concrete—is worse than cremation. However, cremating a body takes a massive amount of fuel. In fact, the average cremation uses the same amount of fuel as two tanks of gas.
A key part of ending animal testing is making sure that our friends and family are aware of the issue. Having conversations with them helps to increase the number of people that are against animal testing. When people spend less money on products that have been tested on animals, that companies are more likely to stop the practice. An increase in the number of people speaking up about their distaste for animal testing can also translate into policy change at the state or even federal level.
Donate to Stop Animal Testing
There are a number of organizations that focus on eradicating or minimizing animal testing. Most of these are nonprofits that depend upon the donations of like-minded individuals to achieve their goals. Consider donating to one of the organizations listed above, or do some research to find a group in your community that shares the goal of ending animal testing.
Only Buy Cruelty-Free Products
Perhaps one of the most impactful things we can do to end animal testing is to purchase cruelty-free products. This demonstrates to companies that there’s a demand for cosmetics and cleaning supplies that have not been tested on animals, making them more likely to reduce, and eventually eliminate, animal testing on their products. There are a number of online lists of cruelty-free brands and products to help with making the transition. Many cruelty-free products also display a bunny logo that identifies products as not being tested on animals.
Speak Up About Classroom Dissection
As concern over animal welfare grows, so does alarm at animal dissection in classrooms. As of 2015, 24 states allowed students to opt out of dissecting animals for their biology classes in favor of more humane methods of learning about anatomy and physiology. Not everyone is aware of this growing trend toward more merciful classrooms, which is why we must advocate for the animals to educators, students, and schools in our communities and ensure that every student has the option to choose compassion.
The Road Ahead
Together we can end the suffering of animals in labs. The millions of animals that suffer in research labs every year around the world deserve better than to have their bodies used and discarded. The movement to end their needless suffering has been picking up steam over the last several years. Several countries have taken crucial steps toward reducing or eliminating animal testing within their borders. A number of organizations continue to pressure government officials, laboratories, and educators to stop causing so much unnecessary pain to animals. We must keep the pressure on by contributing in whatever way we can to stop animal testing.
Grace is a journalist who covers farming and agricultural policy, including how factory farms impact environmental and human rights in her writing. Her reporting has been published in Truthdig, the Good Men Project and Sentient Media. Born, raised and living near the Florida Coast, she holds her MS in Animals and Public Policy from Tufts University. She can be reached by email to [email protected].