The issues of animal testing are layered, many, and emotionally charged. I’m starting out this series of essays on animal testing with some rudimentary data. Numbers don’t lie, although they vary depending on the source.
A little back ground:
Animal testing, also known as animal experiments and in vivo testing, is the use of non human animals for experimentation. It is estimated that between 100 – 150 million vertebrate animals, including mice, rats, birds, fish, rabbits, guinea pigs, farm animals, dogs, cats and non-human primates, are used in animal testing annually worldwide. This staggering number does not reflect the millions of vertebrates in the United States that are excluded from the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)*, and therefore not required to be reported. Additionally, between 50 - 100 million invertebrate animals are used in animal experiments annually.
Animals are tested for the safety, and efficacy, of products to humans. In fact, the EPA and the FDA require animal testing for the marketing of industrial chemicals, vaccines and drugs. While it reports that animal tests have an appalling 92 percent failure rate in predicting the safety and/or effectiveness of pharmaceuticals.
They do not require animal testing for cosmetics or household products. Ironically, human testing is often required post animal testing – indicating a certain degree of distrust of the accuracy of animal testing.
Animals are either killed during experiments or subsequently euthanized. The majority of laboratory animals are “purpose bred”. A smaller number are wild caught or supplied by class B dealers, who obtain them from auctions, news paper ads and some animal shelters (pound seizure). Animal testing is conducted by universities, government agencies, the military, corporations and contract research organizations (CRO)s, which contract test for industry.
Animal testing includes: eye irritancy and skin corrosivity/irritation, typically performed on rabbits; acute toxicity and reproductive & developmental toxicity, typically performed on rats and mice; repeated dose toxicity, performed on non rodent species such as dogs. There are many other types of tests performed daily around the world.
There are few recognized alternatives to animal testing. Of these few, in vitro (a non-living organism) is used as well as tissue obtained from slaughterhouses. Episkin and Epiderm are artificial human skin that can replace some animal tests in a fraction of the time and cost. Animal testing is often still conducted in conjunction with the alternatives mentioned.
* The AWA is a federal law which over sees animal testing. Rats, mice, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish are expressly eliminated from all safeguards.