For years, experts have known that animal experiments are unreliable, unnecessary, and often extremely cruel. Animals are physiologically different from us, and their bodies react to chemicals differently than ours do. Because of these differences, there have been numerous products and drugs that were tested on animals, declared safe, but that then went on to cause serious illnesses and even death in people.
Animal experiments are so unreliable and cruel that certain tests have been outlawed in the European Union, Israel, and India. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission regulate cosmetics and household products, and neither agency requires companies to test their products on animals. Despite this, and despite the physical differences between animals and people, many companies continue to perform cruel experiments on more than 100 million animals every year.
Here are just a few types of completely pointless experiments that are still performed on animals in the United States.
Over six million vertebrate animals are dissected every year in U.S. high schools. Frogs, pigs, and cats are the most common animals used for dissection, but sharks, rats, mice, rats, pigeons, snakes, rabbits, and other animals are also used. These animals often come from a variety of questionable sources. Many animals used in dissection are snatched right out of the wild, which can disrupt delicate ecosystems. Others, such as pigs, are typically acquired from slaughterhouses. Companion animals, including cats and rabbits, are often dishonestly adopted from animal shelters or “free to good home” ads.
Dissection is harmful to both animals and children. Cutting into the bodies of animals has been shown to desensitize children to the suffering of animals and other people. Further, the majority of published studies show that children actually learn better when alternates to dissection are used, so there is simply no good reason why dissection continues to be so widely practiced. There are currently several organizations that work with schools to provide excellent alternatives to dissection, allowing children to learn about animals without perpetuating an industry that harms them.
2. Toxicity Testing
Toxicity testing is used to determine the possible danger of exposure to chemicals by mouth, skin, or inhalation. The traditional and notorious Lethal Dose 50 Percent test (LD50), in which chemicals were administered to a large group of animals until 50 percent of those animals died, has thankfully fallen out of common use.
However, the LD50 test has been replaced by other lethal tests. In the Fixed Dose Method test, animals are still forced to ingest dangerous chemicals, but the test is usually halted when the animals show signs of suffering. These tests can still cause extreme pain, convulsions, and the loss of motor skills. As with many other chemical tests, all of the animals are killed at the end of the experiment so that their bodies can be examined for internal damage. We know that ingesting chemicals is dangerous. We don’t need to torture helpless animals to prove it.
3. The Draize Eye and Skin Tests
Many people are familiar with the Draize eye test, which involves physically holding rabbits down and placing various household and cosmetic products into their eyes to determine the effects. These products are often left in the rabbits’ eyes for 21 days or longer, resulting in extreme pain and even blindness. Less well known is the Draize skin test, which involves placing various chemicals onto shaved patches of animals’ skin to determine whether the substances cause permanent skin damage. These skin tests often result in ulcers and bleeding.
Common sense tells us that certain chemicals don’t belong in anyone’s eyes or on their skin. PETA’s 2013 Person of the Year, Ricky Gervais, had it right when he tweeted “Dear intelligent people of the world, don’t get shampoo in your eyes. It really stings. There. Done. Now stop f**king torturing animals.”
4. Maternal Deprivation Tests
In the 1960s, researcher Harry Harlow conducted a series of experiments at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in which newborn monkeys were taken from their mothers at birth and provided a cloth or wire surrogate “mother” instead. The experiment was designed to study the effect that maternal deprivation had on the baby monkeys. Not surprisingly, the monkeys displayed obvious signs of serious emotional deprivation and anti-social behavior.
Despite widespread criticism of the 1960s tests, Dr. Ned Kalin, the current psychiatry department chair at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, recently submitted a request to conduct further maternal deprivation experiments. The request was approved by the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, and will allow 20 newborn monkeys to be removed from their mothers are subjected to situations designed to cause anxiety. After one year, the monkeys will be killed so that their brains can be examined. It’s clear that all animals – human and non-human – need their mothers. We don’t need cruel maternal deprivation tests to show us that.
How You Can Help
Several nations have successfully outlawed certain types of animal experiments, and the United States can, too. Show that you do not support animal testing by purchasing products certified under the Leaping Bunny program or PETA’s Cruelty Free program. Let your representative know that you support the Humane Cosmetics Act, which would outlaw testing cosmetics and their ingredients on animals. Sign this petition calling for the halt of cruel maternal deprivation experiments, and work to get alternatives to dissection in your local schools. Animal experiments are inhumane, unnecessary, and unreliable, and with a little hard work, we can put a stop to them for good.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons