Some animal experiments are required by law, for example before a new pesticide or new drug can be sold to the public it must be tested on animals. However, the majority of animal experiments are not required by law.
Animal experiments are carried out for:
• Product Development
• Safety Testing
• Medical Research
• Basic Research
Animals are used in the development of new drugs, pesticides and vet products.
In order to find out whether a product (shampoo to oven cleaner) will irritate the human eye, a sample of it is dripped in one eye of a group of rabbits which are held in stocks. By observing the amount of swelling, corneal damage and inflammation of the eye over 7 days, a measure of irritancy is established. This test is extremely painful as rabbits have poor tear ducts so they cannot cry and wash substances out of their eyes like we can. No pain relief is given.
The following are examples of the most common types of Safety Tests performed on animals:
• The Draize test
These tests aim to find out how poisonous a substance is, either over the short term (acute) or long term (chronic). During these tests, animals are dosed with various quantities of the test substance in order to find out how much is needed to elicit a toxic response. Animals are damaged and killed to test the safety of new agricultural and industrial chemicals, food ingredients, household cleaning products, medicines and cosmetics. Toxicity testing is used to test all new substances that come into contact with people, animals and the environment.
• The Lethal Dose test
This is a crude poisoning test. The lethal dose: fifty test (LD:50) determines the amount of substance required to kill fifty percent of the animals used in the study. Many animals convulse, gasp for breath and die from suffocation, heart failure, or because their insides have been chemically burned or ruptured.
• Skin Irritancy tests
In order to ascertain whether they are harmful to skin, a substance is applied to the shaved skin of an animal and held in place by tape. When the tape is removed the damage to the skin is observed. The animals are rarely given pain relief as the substances burn right through the skin causing tremendous pain and suffering. Rabbits are the most common choice for skin irritation studies, and guinea pigs for skin sensitisation (allergy) studies.
• Inhalation tests Certain products give off fumes either naturally or when burned which can cause lung damage, breathing difficulties, neurological damage and even cancer. Animals are placed in sealed containers and are forced to breathe enormous quantities of gaseous substances until a certain percentage die. Many animals drown as their lungs fill with fluid.
Animals are used as ‘models’ for human diseases. Animals are infected with viruses and bacteria, brain damaged, have cancer cells implanted into them and are injected with known cancer causing chemicals to try and artificially create symptoms of disease. Drugs are then tried to see if they cure the animals’ symptoms.
Animals are now also genetically engineered. This means that scientists manipulate animals genes (adding or removing them) to create animals that have never existed naturally. Animals are deliberately bred to die with painful defects, cancerous tumours and illnesses that can then be studied. This is the fastest growing area of animal research and results in appalling animal suffering.
Surgical techniques intended for people are often first tried on animals. Organ transplants, open heart surgery, brain surgery and broken bone settings are all practiced on animals before transferring to humans.
Experiments to find out more about how animals' bodies work. This is also called 'curiosity-driven research' as it does not have any direct use or relevance. The information gathered may or may not be useful at some future time for further experiments.
There are two types of basic research: observational and invasive.
• Observational example:
investigating how rats react in a learning maze.
• Invasive example:
measuring activity in the brains of monkeys in order to learn how the brain functions.
• Military Testing
The military has a long history of animal experimentation. Tests have been conducted to better prepare soldiers for battle, to treat humans who have been injured in war, to develop more lethal weapons and to explore the effects of chemical, biological and nuclear agents on living organisms. Animals are subjected to nuclear radiation, poison, burns, rifle wounds, blood loss, temperature extremes and psychological stress tests – they are maimed, shot, irradiated, blown up and dosed and poisoned with chemicals and gases. Monkeys and cats have been force-fed LSD and other hallucinogens; explosives have been detonated on fully conscious goats; cats have been shot in the head; dogs legs have been broken and unanaesthetised pigs have been burned to the muscle with blow torches.
• Pain analysis
Levels of pain are measured in barbaric tests such as putting animals on hot plates or dipping their tails in boiling water. 'Non stop pain' can be created by injections of the chemical formalin.
• Psychology research
Animals are deliberately driven mad, starved, given electric shocks, brain damaged, deprived of sleep and taken from their mothers to see how this affects their behaviour. Stress is produced by dropping animals into tanks of water and forcing them to swim to stay alive. Epileptic fits are induced by electric shocks, flashing lights, loud noises and chemicals. Many have electrodes planted into their brains so that scientists can measure brain activity while they are abused in these ways.
• Behaviourial studies
Animals are also fed addictive substances in order to study addiction.
• Diet studies
Animals are starved or force fed food or ingredients etc
• Deprivation studies