With World Lab Animal Day coming up on April 24th, there is no better time to highlight the efforts being made to progress animal-free research. As more consumers become aware of the issues facing animals, they are demanding cruelty-free alternatives to the products that they purchase every day. In fact, 57 percent of people voted “not tested on animals” as the most important label on beauty products, according to a recent Nielson survey.
In response to this growing trend in cruelty-free products, companies are seeking out alternatives to animal testing that are both effective and accessible – even the EPA is exploring non-animal testing options for their pesticide research.
Adding to the rising tide of non-animal research technology is Australia’s Lighthouse Laboratory. This medical research-based not for profit organization is founded on the principle of stopping “human hurt, without hurting animals.” Their efforts include raising funding and government recognition to provide viable non-animal options for research and testing.
Graeme Tucker, the founder, executive chairman, and scientific director of Lighthouse Labs launched this amazing organization due to his personal goal to find a cure to neuroblastoma, a form of cancer that typically affects children under two years of age. Wanting to find a viable cure for this horrific disease, without bringing harm to any other living creature, Tucker saw a need for innovation in the research space. Since Lighthouse Labs was established in 2003, it has made significant strides towards becoming the world’s first animal-free research facility.
While you might think that an effective research facility that produces results for the medical industry, without torturing animals to find the “perfect shade” of lipstick, would be welcomed by the public with open arms, Lighthouse Labs has had to overcome several obstacles.
“Animal welfare groups opposed to experiments on animals have largely been at loggerheads with officials and industry in favor of exploiting animals for human benefit or, some might argue commercial gain,” Tucker explains to One Green Planet.
The arguments against animal research in Australia, as in many other countries, usually focus on scientific and ethical points. While these issues are important, Lighthouse is shifting the focus to investigate the bias and conflicts of interest within Australia’s government that are preventing change.
“Past experience to develop a facility at public research establishments was repeatedly denied or excluded – because of Lighthouse’s animal free policy – notably with concerns that Lighthouse might draw public attention to the issue – and polarize support to the point of bringing about the demise of animal experiments,” says Tucker.
Rather than confronting the issue of animal testing head on, officials continually chose to just wipe the entire matter under the rug. If people are not aware that horrific tests are being conducted on animals, they will not protest or push for alternatives. While this is one part of the problem at hand, Tucker also addresses the fact that when alternatives are not made available to the public, they are also off limits for companies and research facilities. Even if these industry leaders wanted to do away with testing, they would not be permitted to do so.
Equal Opportunities for Animal-Free Testing
In Tucker’s view: “Irrespective of the scientific and ethical debate the public and the researcher should have the opportunity to choose which method of research they may wish to support or partake in – and by virtue of this point a dedicated platform establishment is crucial.”
If the public had the option to do away with animal testing, the large majority would. But when they are systematically denied an alternative, change is impossible.
“To remedy this situation Lighthouse is utilizing equal opportunity values and legislation as a tactic to break the current status quo,” explains Tucker. It sounds complicated, but the premise is rather simple.
“Lighthouse is seeking to enable equal opportunity of choice for animal free medical research. In particular, enabling a facility for animal-free research and enabling the public and the researcher to be able to choose which method of research they may wish to support or partake in.”
Confronting these conflicts can help fight against the discrimination that animal advocates in Australia, and around the world, face when fighting against animal testing.
Campaigning for Progress
Organizations like Lighthouse Laboratory are paving the way for progressive animal-free testing technologies. Not only are they campaigning to change the government’s stance on animal-free testing, but they’re also working to develop the science that would replace these cruel, antiquated testing methods. Lighthouse is currently exploring the possibility of working with post-graduate students using communal research equipment and partnering with public academic institutions to find new, innovative solutions.
Lighthouse is currently running a crowdfunding campaign, to help establish their own research facility and comprehensive education program. At the same time, Tucker is running a social media campaign to help raise awareness for animal testing on the Lighthouse Laboratory Facebook page. You can participate by liking and sharing this page. You can also help Tucker reach his goal of establishing equal rights for animal-free testing by signing his petition here.
Work like this brings animal-free testing into the public eye and brings us one step closer to a world that will no longer see animals as research subjects, but will instead see them as feeling individuals just as deserving of freedom as humans.
Lead image source: Flickr