Why Do Humans Still Experiment on Animals?

Photographs of animal use from the Coulston Foundation, a former animal testing laboratory.

Humans have long debated the ethics of animal testing. Despite the fact that Europe (the world’s largest cosmetic market), Israel, and India have already banned animal testing for cosmetics, to this day animals are still used for the testing of safety products, makeup, chemicals, and medicine all over the world.  

Over 100 million animals including dogs, cats, monkeys, mice, and rats are burned, poisoned, abused, and crippled in labs in the U.S. each year. They are deliberately made sick with toxic chemicals, infected with diseases, and live in barren cages until they eventually die. 

Why Is Animal Testing Bad?

Animal testing is bad because of the suffering that it causes to nonhuman animals, who cannot consent to their bodies being exploited and tested on by humans.

Debates Over Animal Testing

Many are against animal testing because they argue that it is outdated, cruel to animals, dangerous, and unreliable. Many people support animal testing because they believe it is necessary for advancing science and the wellbeing of humans. 

Animal Testing Is Unreliable

Human and nonhuman animals differ in many ways, so the results produced by animal experiments often don’t accurately predict human responses. Drugs that are tested on animals also have low rates of success—92 percent of experimental drugs that work safely in nonhuman animals fail in human clinical trials because they are too dangerous or ineffective. 

Animal Testing Is Dangerous for Humans

Animal testing can be detrimental to humans as well. There have been many trials on humans that went badly because their assumed risk was low due to previous testing on animals, but which turned out to be detrimental to human health.

For example, Vioxx, a drug used to treat arthritis, was found to be safe for monkeys and five other animal species. Yet it’s estimated to have caused around 320,000 heart attacks and strokes and 140,000 deaths worldwide. A clinical trial of a Hepatitis B drug, which was first tested on animals, had to be stopped because it caused severe liver damage in seven patients, five of whom died. Another drug trial in France in 2016 resulted in the death of a volunteer and left four others with severe brain damage. The drug was intended to treat a wide range of conditions and was previously tested in mice, rats, dogs, and monkeys. 

Human volunteers that were testing a new monoclonal antibody treatment in the U.K. in 2006 suffered a severe allergic reaction and nearly died. The testing on monkeys at 500 times the human dose completely failed to predict any dangerous side effects. 

Animal Testing Is Dangerous for Nonhuman Animals 

It is obvious that animal testing harms nonhuman animals first and foremost. Mice, rabbits, rats, and guinea pigs are routinely subject to skin and eye irritation tests conducted by dripping chemicals into their eyes or rubbing them onto their shaved skin, without any pain relief. The use of the eye for toxicity testing is known as the Draize test. This toxicity test can lead to scarring, blindness, and death. It is one of the most commonly used toxicity tests alongside the LD50 test. Both are infamous for the intense pain that they inflict on their subjects.

The LD50 test is used to test the dosage of a substance that is necessary to cause death in 50 percent of the nonhuman animal subjects within a certain amount of time. To do this, researchers hook the animals up to tubes that pump large amounts of the test product into their stomachs until they die, which may take days or even weeks of prolonged suffering. Animals often suffer from vomiting, paralysis, convulsion, internal bleeding, and diarrhea during this time. Since death is the goal and required for the study to conclude, no euthanasia is used. 

Animals Are Biologically Different

Although we share many traits with nonhuman animals, such as the capacity to feel pain and experience a wide range of emotions, there are many things that separate us. Nonhuman animals don’t contract many human diseases such as HIV, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, major types of heart disease, and certain types of cancer. In fact, only one-third of substances known to cause cancer in humans has been proven to cause cancer in nonhuman animals. Additionally, an analysis of over 100 mouse cell types found that only half of the DNA responsible for regulating genes in mice could be matched with human DNA. 

Many drugs affect humans and nonhuman animals differently. Take aspirin, for example. It is toxic to many animals including cats, rats, and mice, but is safe for most humans. We wouldn’t be able to buy it in pharmacies if it had been tested using current animal testing standards. 

Animals Feel Pain

Did you know that the mice, rats, reptiles, birds, and amphibians used in labs are exempted from the minimal protections of the Animal Welfare Act? Before their deaths in labs, animals may inhale toxic fumes, be immobilized in restraint devices for hours, have holes drilled into their skulls, have their skin burned off, or have their spinal cords crushed. 

It has been proven that nonhuman animals feel pain. Evolutionary biologists like Marc Bekoff are clear that all mammals share basically the same nervous system, chemical transmitters, perceptual tools, and emotional states, which all contribute to the experience of pain.  Even if we can’t know whether mammals feel pain exactly as we do, this doesn’t mean they don’t experience it. 

German Lopez also writes for Vox, “In the wild, hurt animals nurse their wounds, make noises to show distress, and even become reclusive. In the lab, researchers found that animals, like chickens and rats, self-administer pain relievers (from special machines set up for tests) when they’re hurting. And in general, animals tend to avoid situations in which they’ve been hurt before—indicating a memory and awareness of previous pain and threats.”

Many laboratories that use animals are not required by law to provide veterinary care or pain relief, to consider or search for alternative methods of testing, or to be inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or any other entity. 

Facts About Animal Testing

  • The registration of a single pesticide requires over 50 experiments and studies on up to 12,000 animals. 
  • According to the National Institutes of Health, 95 percent of drugs tested on animals ultimately fail in human trials. 
  • Of all the animals forced into animal testing, 60 percent are used in biomedical research and product safety testing. 

Why Should We Stop Animal Testing?

Animal testing is unsafe for humans and nonhuman animals, unreliable, inefficient, and outdated. The suffering that animals unwillingly endure in our experiments and tests is unnecessary and cruel. 

How to Stop Animal Testing

The first step toward stopping animal testing is spreading awareness of what it really entails. Many people are unaware of the pain that animals go through. Animal testing is not the only option for testing chemicals and medicines, so alternative options should be considered and used. 

In addition to spreading the word, you can avoid purchasing household cleaners, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, or makeup that has been tested on animals. There are so many brands (especially when it comes to makeup) that are cruelty-free and reject animal testing. 

Alternative Ways of Experimenting

Scientists are now able to use human cells and tissues, computer modeling, 3D printing, robots, and more for experiments. These technologies are better for everyone and typically more accurate, less expensive, and faster than animal testing. 

What’s Next?

Human beings can spare the death and torture of millions of innocent nonhuman animals each year by ending animal testing and using alternative methods instead. We can make a difference by being aware of which products were tested on animals and by consciously buying cruelty-free products.

Lastly, we can speak up when we learn about animal cruelty happening in labs. Don’t be afraid to tell your favorite brands that test on animals about the horrors of animal testing and demand that they ditch animal testing and implement alternative methods instead. You can sign this petition by the Humane Society of the United States to stop cosmetic companies from testing on animals in the U.S. by reintroducing the Humane Cosmetics Act. Although nonhuman animals have their own voices and personal experiences, we must amplify their voices and advocate for an end to animal testing around the world.