Pulling the Plug on Animal Testing

Pulling the Plug on Animal Testing

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Petition to
The United States Department of Agriculture and

Why this petition matters

Started by Marie Landrette




       The use of animal testing has become the standard for the vast majority of research fields worldwide and dates to the 17th century. There are two types of animal experiments, basic (the science of the animals themselves) and applied (the development and testing of products, drugs, vaccines, and chemicals). It has been argued for centuries that live animal testing is necessary in medical research and product development. It is a controversy that has been challenged since the 1800’s when animal activists argued that these tests were inhumane and against the rights of animals. It was again challenged in the late 1900’s when it was believed to be proven by scientists that animals could experience emotions and pain. With the results of studies done on animals being inconsistent, it is being questioned if animal testing is satisfactory for scientific purposes. Today, this controversy continues as alternatives have been found, yet they are still not being utilized or enforced. Although some may argue animal testing is necessary, animals should not be used in research studies because of the harm done to animals, the unreliable test results, and the alternatives available.

Depending on the purpose of research, common side effects found in animals from testing are painful wounds, blindness, neurological damage, and more commonly death. Toxicity testing is done on all medications, chemicals, food additives, and household cleaners. The product is either force fed, inhaled, or applied to the animal. Tests like the LD50 test measure the amount of a chemical needed to result in a 50% mortality rate in the test subjects. This is how the toxic level is measured in products and medications. Another toxicity test is the Ocular and skin irritant test which measures the irritation level of a product on the skin and eyes of the animal. This test is known for causing lesions, burns, and even blindness. A different yet cruel test is the swim test, which measures the effectiveness of depression and anxiety medications on rodents when dropped into an inescapable tube of water and then observed with how long it takes for them to drown. Animals being used in scientific research studies for medical advancement and the possible cures of human disease like cancer, HIV and AIDS are infected with these diseases to mimic the use of pharmaceuticals on humans. The majority of these tests have failed and resulted in permanent neurological damage, death by toxicity, or death by disease in the animal.

 Other forms of experiments with animals have been studied to help different fields of research. For example, one study involved removing infant chimps from the mothers right after birth and placing them alone in a cage with “wire mothers.” These mothers were fabricated dolls one of which was made of wire that provided food and one covered in cloth that provided nothing. The purpose of this test was to study mother deprivation, which was done by evaluating the infant’s affection between the figures with and without food to identify the source of affection. The study proved the infants would spend the majority of the time with the cloth mother and it was a true sign of affection not food based, something that was already concluded centuries ago from human infants. Another portion of this study was to scare the chimps by putting strange objects in their cages, to which the chimps reacted by covering their face and cowering in the corner of the cage. This entire study was to evaluate if chimp’s had emotions like fear and love, both to which the chimp reacted with such. After separation from the mother, the infant is then observed to record emotional, social, and behavioral development issues. This study resulted in the chimps never being released back into the wild, as the lack of social interaction proved to cause a disturbance in natural behavior and several deaths were reported when they were attempted to be returned. The deaths were said to have happened because having been raised in captivity the chimps lacked the normal animal instincts. The conclusion of this study not only showed animals are capable of feeling emotion, but that they need their mothers as much as we do.

It is estimated that 115 million animals a year are used for the purpose of scientific research in the U.S. alone. Most of these animals are often killed at the end of the study and the remainder are left suffering from permanent handicaps. This number is only estimated since 95% of the animals used are exempt from the reporting requirements of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This law unfortunately does not protect animals such as rats, mice, birds, and fish. According to The Animal Welfare Act signed into law in 1966, it requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial sale, use in research, or those exhibited to the public. However, to keep research costs low, habitats in labs often lack in size, stimuli, and social interaction which results in unethical stress for the animals. Animals are often bred by animal suppliers from genetically engineered species to supply the research industry, making their only purpose of living to be a subject of testing.

 Luckily, in 1985 the 3Rs were introduced by Dr. William Russet and Rex Burch to minimize the cruelty involved in animal research. The 3Rs are defined in three steps, the first is refinement, which is to use humane methods to reduce stress, pain, and overall improve the animal’s welfare during testing. The second is reduction, this is to find alternative means of testing and minimizing the use of live animals. The third is replacement, meaning to replace or partially replace the use of animals in testing. Government sponsored research and the liabilities that come with mandatory approvals are main reasons why live animals are still being used for research today. For centuries, this inhumane process has been known and there has been no other signs of enforcement or change to the standards of animal research.

In a 15-year study the number of animals used in U.S. research has doubled. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for positive test results. It has been said that 5 out of 5,000 preclinical substances will be passed to human testing only to find that 1 out of 5 would be considered to be marketed. On the same note, a study recently published found that 82% of animal tests failed to predict harmful side effects in medications approved for human use. A conclusive study recorded by the F.D.A on 454 drugs evaluated on animals and then approved for use on humans found that over half of these drugs were removed from the market and restricted with the concern of death or severe injury. This raised concern, as adverse drug reactions in humans are one of the leading causes of death and millions of hospitalizations in the U.S. with over 125,000 deaths annually. Studies have shown the unreliable results from animal tests have delayed the possible development of solutions to human healthcare. For example, in a study of 195 methods proven to prevent or delay Type 1 diabetes in mice, all 195 methods were proven unsuccessful in humans. Results from another study concluded that out of a total of 90 HIV vaccines, approximately half worked in non-human primates, but failed on all 20,000 human volunteers.

These failed tests come with hefty price tags, not only for the patients and animals, but the taxpayers as well. Evaluating a new chemical can cost an upwards of $1.5 million dollars and may take years to complete. Several factors are behind the high number of failed predictions, some of which are biochemistry differences, biological variability, and the lack of human risk factors in animals. A vast majority of publications discussed the effects on test results from stress factor variables seen in research labs such as housing, inadequate socialism, and improper handling of the animals. These factors cause changes in the physiological, hormonal, and immune system responses which can alter the test results, but this has not yet been proven. A big problem within the research industry is bias within the test or the findings, as these opinions often keep the negative conclusions from being published. A recent introduction to a method called blinding will help reduce any bias in the field during an experiment. This method is used on the accessors (the people who observe the animals) and consists of concealing what the treatment and condition of the animal is, leaving any opinion or expectations aside.

In the last decade multiple scientific analyses have shown animal base research rarely translates effectively into human healthcare. Recently, with the rise in questioning of animal use in research, toxicologists and scientists have experimented with alternatives to live animals and have had success in multiple methods. One method is the use of in-vitro methods which consist of scientifically culturing animal and human cells within a glass container with no need of any harm to either live subject. Another method is in-silico testing which is based on simulation of tests performed on computer created molecular designs to represent that of a human or an animal. There is also Micro dosing which allows these studies to be evaluated on the proposed beneficiary by giving such small doses it will not affect the host but can be found in the blood or plasma at a concentrated level to measure toxicity.

The last 30 years has seen a rise in the use of in-vitro testing and in the research for alternatives by many scientists and toxicologists. For research studies to avoid more biased arguments, it is common for negative test results to remain undisclosed in published medical journals. This leads to duplicated failed studies leading to unnecessary harm done to animals and humans and a waste of time and money. Animal testing consists of expenses often not mentioned like the cost of animals, feed, shelter, and then calculate in the cost of equipment, where a mouse treadmill could cost around $10,000 dollars.

The benefit-cost ratio is being reconsidered in fields of research due to the incline of failed tests and the new findings with alternatives. Chemical companies have begun seeking alternatives to live animal testing to improve predictability of test results, decrease costs and losses, and to gain approval by society. One example is, some chemical companies would have used animal skin to evaluate the product’s corrosivity, but recently a new alternative was developed called Corrositex. This alternative consists of layers mimicking those of skin and evaluating how long it takes for the chemical to corrode through each, and the degree of damage caused by the chemical. The use of Corrositex allows the company to avoid animal use and still meet mandated testing requirements. This alternative also proved faster, affordable (at $100 a test), and had promising predictable results. The use of animal alternatives has been approved by the government for certain research as it has been proven to produce the same if not better results when compared to live animal tests. There are other alternatives in the testing stages today of which many look to be good candidates based on publications of statistically significant results in each specimen.

            Although scientists deem it necessary for animal testing in research and product development, it should be replaced by other methods because of the avoidable harm done to the animals and patients, the unreliable test results and their consequences, and the proven success of using alternatives. The controversy of animal testing from a bias standpoint is that of an opinion, as we as a society choose what is justifiable and what is not when it comes to the risk-benefit factor. However, the scientific side of this argument is in the results. Not only has the use of animals been proven unreliable and unsafe to both the animals and humans, but it has also caused an adverse effect by slowing down studies for advancements in the research of human health care. The focus of research should be redirected to find scientific solutions to the variables between the test subjects and the intended beneficiary of the product. Finding promising alternatives is the key to cease the need of live animal testing and get the world of research on a path to true advancement of healthcare in humans. By eliminating the use of animals in research we are not only saving the lives of millions of animals, but also those of our family and friends by preventing any further delay in human health care development.


This is an original piece written by Marie Landrette

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434 have signed. Let’s get to 500!