ForceChange Educational Series: Animal Testing

More than 115 million animals, worldwide, are used for experimentation and biomedical research every year. In the US alone, 70,000 dogs are used for research testing every year, of which 96% are beagles because of their docile temperament and trusting nature. In Great Britain last year, 3.9 million experiments were conducted on animals. Even with the loud uproar from animal rights groups and global petitions, animal testing is still big business, with billions of dollars up for grabs for universities and other medical researchers annually. In June of this year, NARS makeup announced that they would start testing on animals because they want to branch out into the Chinese market where animal testing is a requirement.

Why are animals used for scientific research?
There have been some major successful results from animal testing such as finding treatments for multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, and the vaccine for polio was originally tested on monkeys. Scientists now have a better understanding of how the human brain works in regards to memory, addiction and even treatment for stroke victims thanks to studies using animals. But, while these are all invaluable findings, animal testing is far from foolproof. 90% of studies that pass the animal testing stage and move on to human testing fail. Among many other reasons, there is a great disparity between animal diseases and human diseases, as well as our physiological and genetic makeup.

Non-Animal Testing Methods
Luckily, science has advanced beyond the need to test on animals for most studies anymore. These new methods are not only more humane, but the findings lead to safer and more effective products and drugs for humans than those found through animal testing. Some of these new methods utilize new technology to replicate human skin to test for skin corrosivity and irritation, or can replicate human organs or an entire system of organs. Products like EpiDerm, EpiOcular, Corresitex, and DPRA tests are just a few of the new and cutting edge methods for non-animal testing. These are extremely effective for testing makeup and beauty products, an industry known to widely utilize animals for testing. Science is constantly pushing forward to find better and more reliable ways to perform scientific research that doesn’t involve testing on animals.

Cosmetic and Household Product Testing
Currently, the European Union, Israel, Norway, and India have banned the sale of cosmetics or any cosmetic products from being sold in their country, while some countries like the United States and China actually have laws requiring animal testing for some products. The accuracy of these tests are proving to be less accurate than non-animal methods, yet they are a continued practice. Acute toxicity testing, which often leads to severe abdominal pain, seizures, or paralysis, among other reactions, before they eventually die or are killed, are only able to predict toxicity in humans at a 65% success rate, while non-animal testing methods have shown 75%-80% success rates. Beyond providing less reliable results, most of these animals are not provided any pain relief medication while being routinely tested for skin and eye irritations that often leave ulcers, cause bleeding and can even lead to blindness. The Environmental Protection Agency in the United States requires all pesticides (weedkillers, lawn fertilizers and antimicrobials) to be tested on animals, including dogs, and the US Food and Drug Administration has similar requirements for drugs and chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in processed foods. And China requires animal testing for skincare and makeup products in order to be sold in their country.

Animal Testing Offenders
While Canada recently began to take steps to ban cosmetic testing on animals, they are still one of the top ten offenders in the world along with the United States, Japan, China, Australia, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Taiwan and Brazil. There are still major brands that continue to test on animals. These brands include Clinique, Estee Lauder, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Bayer, and Pfizer, to name a few. And unfortunately, because of the loose regulations regarding packaging, products can be falsely labeled as cruelty-free or inaccurately state that their products have not been tested on animals.

What can you do to help stop animal testing?
The most important step you can take to help stop animal testing is to know your products. Make sure all of your beauty and household products are cruelty-free. Check with online resources such as PETA’s database of cruelty-free products or ChooseCrueltyFree.org.au. Also, stay informed and inform others because knowledge is power. Donate your body to science through charities such as Anatomy Gifts Registry or the International Institution for Advancement of Medicine, and donate your money to organizations dedicated to putting a stop to animal testing worldwide such as PETA or the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Finally, foster or adopt lab animals from organizations like Freedom Beagle Project who have made it their mission to rescue lab animals from all around the world.

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