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Vivisection is Experimentation on Living Animals


Vivisection is experimentation on living animals. It is any scientific experiment or test in which a live animal is forced to undergo something that is likely to cause them pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm.  Animals used in laboratories are deliberately harmed, not for their own good, and are usually killed at the end of the experiment.

Animal experiments include:

  • injecting or force feeding animals with potentially harmful substances
  • surgically removing animals’ organs or tissues to deliberately cause damage
  • forcing animals to inhale toxic gases
  • subjecting animals to frightening situations to create anxiety and depression.

Vivisection in Ireland

In Ireland, painful experiments are allowed under the S.I. No. 543/2012 - European Union (Protection of Animals used for Scientific Purposes) Regulations 2012. This new law implements a historic new EU Directive (2010/63/EU) and replaces the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876 (as amended): it is – on paper at least - the biggest reform of animal experimentation regulation in Ireland’s history. However, we will have to see how it is enforced to assess if it really leads to reductions in animal harm in Ireland’s laboratories.  With the new law, responsibility for regulating animal experiments has passed from the Department of Health to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA). It has been Irish Government policy for several years not to permit experiments on primates.

Latest government statistics show that over 87% of animal experiments are done without any anaesthetic. In experiments involving surgery, the animal is usually anaesthetised during the operation, but in most of these cases the animal is allowed to recover for observation, and severe suffering often occurs at this stage. Irish and EU law allows for experiments that ‘involve severe pain, suffering or distress’, with a loophole that permits experimenters to allow the animals to endure this for a long period of time without respite.

Over the past few years in Ireland, most experiments have been to test batches of cosmetic botulinum toxin products, controversially evading a supposed ban on testing cosmetics products on animals. These have involved the most severe types of tests – Lethal Dose 50% - where animals are injected with the poison and then some allowed to deteriorate and die without being put out of their misery. This illustrates one of the fundamental political problems that causes animal suffering – trivial commercial interests are seen by the Government as justifying the most appalling cruelty.

International vivisection

Rats, mice, frogs, cats, dogs, monkeys and many others are used for vivisection. Some animals are bred especially for laboratories, others are trapped in the wild. In some countries stolen pets and strays are used. As well as its use in 'pure' research, vivisection is used in developing new surgical procedures, testing new drugs, conducting psychological experiments, and in toxicity testing of innumerable household, agricultural and other products. Most international cosmetics companies still test on animals, even though the practice has been outlawed in the EU. Live animals are also used in testing weapons, in space research, in vehicle safety testing and for many other purposes.

Often vivisection is very painful, both physically and mentally. Animals are locked away, often alone, in cages awaiting their turn to be poisoned, burned, blinded, injured, mutilated, starved, force-fed, sent mad, irradiated, given cancer, infected with diseases, turned into drug addicts and subjected to all kinds of painful procedures, often ending in death. Every hour at least 13,000 animals die in the world's laboratories.