The use of animals in experiments is so endemic that “guinea pig” is used as an alternative term for “test subject.” But underlying this ubiquity is a set of processes that harm animals unnecessarily: rats force-fed drugs designed to induce tumors, monkeys kept in tiny cages with chemicals irritating their skin and beagles euthanized without any anesthesia.
Critics say many of these experiments are unreliable and even unnecessary.Advocates for reduced animal testing recently earned a win: the FDA announced December 2022 that it would no longer require animal tests prior to approving a drug for human trials.
What Is Animal Testing?
Animal testing, sometimes called in vivo testing, is a process of determining if certain medications, vaccines and cosmetics are safe for humans by first experimenting with them on animals. Animal testing is common in most countries and has been used in some forms throughout much of human history.
Cosmetic testing is a process of using animals to test any cosmetic product before human use, such as makeups, lotions, creams, fragrances, oils or facial masks.
Testing for Medicine
Medical testing involves using animals to examine new drugs, research biological systems, investigate genetic factors, delve into animal psychologies or test out surgical strategies. Nowadays, drugs are the most common form of medical testing on animals.
The History of Animal Testing
Animal testing is a long-documented practice, with some of the oldest instances dating back to around 300 B.C. in ancient Greece. Yet while animal testing was widespread in the form of vivisection and practice for operations, it wasn’t until the 20th century that medicines were commonly tested on animals. In fact, several laws were passed in this period, including the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in the U.S., that encouraged or mandated the use of animals in testing before human consumption.
What Types of Animals Are Used in Animal Testing?
Common invertebrates used in animal testing include fruit flies and nematode worms. Unfortunately for these animals, no federal protections exist to minimize their pain or suffering in the U.S.
There’s truth in the common phrase “lab rat” — 95 percent of animals used in animal testing are mice or rats. Dogs, cats, pigs, monkeys, other primates, rabbits and sheep are all used in addition to rodents.
How Many Animals Are Used in Experiments Each Year?
This is a difficult question to answer, because the U.S. Department of Agriculture only counts certain species of animals in its annual review of animal testing. Mice and rats specifically bred for testing purposes are not counted because they do not fall under the U.S. Animal Welfare Act.
However, it’s been estimated that at least 50 million animals are used in the U.S. every year. The real number is unknown and may be higher. Worldwide, exact numbers are unknown, but some estimate the number to be around 200 million experiments per year.
What’s Wrong With Animal Testing?
Is Animal Testing Painful?
Some researchers attempt to reduce the pain for animal test subjects, but many do not. According to the USDA animal usage summary report, roughly 8 percent of animals were experimented on with no measures taken to ensure pain reduction. This report does not take into account animals that do not fall under the Animal Welfare Act, so the real number is unknowable and likely much higher.
Even animals protected by the Animal Welfare Act are often subjected to levels of pain that are hard to comprehend. Of all surgeries on animals, 40 percent do not report using anesthesia, and drugs are often force-fed to animals. Animals are also often killed after the experiments are completed, long before the end of their natural lifespan.
Are Animal Testing Results Reliable?
Animal tests do not catch all possible side effects before drugs move to a later phase of testing. According to a 2004 report from the USDA, 92 percent of medicines that pass an animal testing phase will not proceed to market, and a major cause of this failure is safety problems that were not predicted by animal tests. More recent reports from scientists estimate an even higher number of 96 percent.
There are a variety of reasons why animal tests are considered unreliable. According to a 2015 review in the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, these include the effects of laboratory conditions; the different ways that diseases impact animals and humans; and the differences in physiology and genetics across species, all of which lead to inaccuracies. Due to such factors, a breakthrough meta-analysis published in Alternatives to Laboratory Animals in 2015 argued that a lack of toxicity of a drug in any of the five species most commonly used in animal testing — dogs, rats, mice, rabbits and monkeys — was not able to indicate the likelihood of a similar lack of toxicity in humans. In other words, animal tests don’t work.
Advocates for animal testing often argue that the complexity of a living organism — the organs, circulatory system and genetic regulation — will affect drugs in a way that single tissue samples cannot. This argument fails to account for the fact that nonhuman systems are very different from human systems, which leads to inaccuracy.
Animal testing can also lead to banning drugs that would benefit humans. For example, tamoxifen, a drug used to treat breast cancer, can cause tumors in rodents. If this drug had been tested on animals in early phases of research, it is likely the benefits of tamoxifen would have remained untapped.
Is Animal Testing Cruel?
Due to the combination of low accuracy and high amounts of pain, it is difficult to argue that animal testing is not cruel. Animals such as rats, mice, dogs and chimpanzees are burned, poisoned, crippled, starved or abused in other ways via drugs, confinement or other invasive procedures.
Animals like these are sensitive to pain, emotionally empathetic and capable of forming social bonds. But to the researchers in charge of them, they are nothing more than tools.
Is Animal Testing Archaic?
Due to the inaccuracy of animal testing, voices have arisen to criticize its outdated methodology. Not only is animal testing an old-fashioned practice that hasn’t been brought into the 21st century, but evidence shows it is likely holding back medical research.
Is Animal Testing Wasteful?
Because of the inaccuracy of animal testing, many scientists and experts argue that its existence is inherently wasteful. British doctor Ian Roberts writes that “biased or imprecise results from animal experiments may result in clinical trials of biologically inert or even harmful substances, thus . . . wasting scarce research resources.”
Is Animal Testing Illegal?
Cosmetics testing has been banned in 42 countries and 10 U.S. states (California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Louisiana, New York and Virginia). New York’s ban on cosmetic testing goes into effect in January 2023, which makes it possible that more states will continue to follow their lead.
No countries currently ban medical animal testing, but this may soon change. This year, Switzerland held a referendum on medical animal testing. A large Swiss pharmaceutical lobby campaigned against the initiative, which was ultimately unsuccessful. But the fact that animal testing went from untouchable fact to subject of a national debate sparks doubt about its continued acceptance in the future.
Aren’t There Laws To Protect Animals Used in Experiments?
There do exist some laws to protect animals, such as the U.S. Animal Welfare Act. However, this law does very little to protect animals from pain, and doesn’t even count rats and mice as protected animals.
Cosmetic testing is far more controversial in the public sphere and therefore more heavily regulated. It is almost entirely banned in the European Union and other countries, including Guatemala, Colombia, India, Taiwan and the U.K. The U.S. has no federal cosmetics ban.
Why Are Animals Still Used in Experiments?
Despite the lack of sustained evidence for animal testing’s usefulness, and the possibility of cheaper alternatives (as discussed below), animal testing seems to be used far more often than it should be. Why?
First of all, the pharmaceutical industry has maintained a clear interest in preserving animal testing, and only very rarely review evidence about its actual usefulness. Another issue is scientific tradition and established practice. Scientists are likely to cite historical precedent as a reason for selecting an animal model, as opposed to the model’s similarity to human systems or effectiveness in predicting toxicity, according to a 2019 paper in Alternatives to Animal Experimentation.
Should Animal Testing Be Banned?
Calls to ban animal testing because of its ineffectiveness and cruelty have been getting louder in recent years. Entire conferences are held to discuss alternatives to animal testing, and many petitions and campaigns are igniting across the world. These voices don’t just originate from the animal liberation movement, either. Prominent scientists, pharmaceutical bosses and concerned citizens are joining the chorus.
Alternatives to Animal Testing
Thankfully, there exist several alternatives to animal testing, some of which have become more popular and common in recent years.
In Vitro Testing
In vitro testing is a process of conducting an examination in a test tube using tissue samples.
Real human tissue samples, which can be ethically donated to science as a result of surgeries or after death, are viable alternatives for testing localized drugs. For years, research has indicated that various in vitro methods can hypothetically outperform animal testing (and cost less too), although this form of testing is likely best used for understanding toxicity within a single organ or organ system, not the entire human body.
A new human tissue testing method has emerged recently that shows promise. An in vitro skin testing model called h-CLAT recently entered use in Europe and Japan, paving the way for more techniques that don’t require animal experimentation.
In Vitro Modeling Systems
Another form of in vitro testing involves a synthetic model that can replicate human systems. While less accurate, this method is cheaper and far easier to source, although it is best used for simpler human organs like the skin. One example, the EpiDerm technology, is already widespread for cosmetic purposes. This method is currently not used for large-scale medicinal approval, but instead to test if certain people are at risk for certain diseases.
Of all the alternatives, scientists are most excited about computer modeling techniques. Advanced computer modeling, sometimes called in silica testing, can create complex models of human body systems, even accounting for irregularities like prior diseases, as well as a vast array of genetic and demographic information.
And they work better than animal models. A 2018 study found an accuracy rate of between 89 percent and 96 percent, while a 2017 study estimated the accuracy rate of one method of analysis at 96 percent: in both studies the computer models beat the animal testing experiments.
Research Using Human Volunteers
Using human volunteers seems a bit dystopian, but science has progressed a long way since the unethical days of the 20th century. For starters, in some recent drug testing human volunteers only receive a microdose of the drug and are monitored in the presence of medical professionals to ensure safety. This microdosing method is promising, but still needs more research. Other forms of human volunteer research include the safe use of fMRI imaging, which has been shown to be very effective.
Of course, ethics regarding human volunteers are critical. Scientists and researchers must take great caution not to compel participants into doing something unsafe and must mitigate risks as much as possible. Using human volunteers is also best done after one other method, like computer modeling, has been completed to mitigate risk.
Animal Testing Facts and Statistics
- The majority of animals used in animal testing are exempt from the Animal Welfare Act because they are rats or mice.
- Rats have great memories and demonstrate empathy for other animals.
- Every year, the NIH spends nearly $20 billion on animal testing-based research.
- A majority of Americans disapprove of the continued use of animal testing.
What You Can Do
Consumers who want to avoid products tested on animals can look for a “vegan” or “cruelty-free” label when purchasing cosmetic products. They can also voice their support for policies to improve animal welfare in the medical industry like the FDA Modernization Act 2.0, which passed the U.S. Senate earlier this year.
Each year, it is estimated that more than 50 million dogs, cats, monkeys, rabbits, rats and other animals are forced to endure painful experiments in the U.S. These animals are deliberately sickened with toxic chemicals or infected with diseases, live in barren cages and are typically killed when the experiment ends.How many animals die from animal testing a year? ›
Each year, more than 110 million animals—including mice, rats, frogs, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, monkeys, fish, and birds—are killed in U.S. laboratories for biology lessons, medical training, curiosity-driven experimentation, and chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics testing.How are animals dying from animal testing? ›
Forced chemical exposure in toxicity testing, which can include oral force-feeding, forced inhalation, skin or injection into the abdomen, muscle, etc. Exposure to drugs, chemicals or infectious disease at levels that cause illness, pain and distress, or death.How many animal tests go wrong? ›
1. More than 90% of basic scientific discoveries, most of which are from experiments on animals, fail to lead to human treatments.How many mice die a year from animal testing? ›
Approximately 70,000 dogs are used in laboratory experiments in the United States each year. More than 95 percent of the dogs are Beagles. More than 100 million mice and rats are killed by workers in laboratories throughout the United States each year.Are animals always killed after testing? ›
Animals are typically killed once an experiment is over so that their tissues and organs can be examined, although it is not unusual for animals to be used in multiple experiments over many years. There are no accurate statistics available on how many animals are killed in laboratories every year.Does animal testing hurt animals? ›
Each year, it is estimated that more than 50 million dogs, cats, monkeys, rabbits, rats and other animals are forced to endure painful experiments in the U.S. These animals are deliberately sickened with toxic chemicals or infected with diseases, live in barren cages and are typically killed when the experiment ends.What animals are tested on the most? ›
Animals In Science
Twenty-two percent of all regulated animals used in labs are guinea pigs, by far the most used animal in research and testing, followed by rabbits (17%) and hamsters (11%).
Animal research has also been integral to the preservation of many endangered species. The ability to eliminate parasitism, treat illnesses, use anesthetic devices, and promote breeding has improved the health and survival of many species.Why is animal testing painful? ›
Experimenters force-feed chemicals to animals, conduct repeated surgeries on them, implant wires in their brains, crush their spines, and much more. After enduring these terrifying, painful procedures, animals are then usually dumped back into a cage without any painkillers.
Animal Studies Do Not Reliably Predict Human Outcomes
Both obvious and subtle differences between humans and animals, in terms of our physiology, anatomy, and metabolism, make it difficult to apply data derived from animal studies to human conditions.
Although humans often benefit from successful animal research, the pain, the suffering, and the deaths of animals are not worth the possible human benefits. Therefore, animals should not be used in research or to test the safety of products.How many rabbits killed in animal testing? ›
Many Rabbits Suffer in Pointless Experiments
More than 148,000 bunnies are abused in U.S. laboratories every year. Rabbits used in experiments are kept inside small cages and never get to see sunlight or breathe fresh air.
With the help of our members and supporters, PETA works globally to expose and end the use of animals in experiments.Where is animal testing illegal? ›
As of December 2022, ten states (California, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Virginia) have passed laws banning cosmetics animal testing.Is all animal testing cruel? ›
Due to the combination of low accuracy and high amounts of pain, it is difficult to argue that animal testing is not cruel. Animals such as rats, mice, dogs and chimpanzees are burned, poisoned, crippled, starved or abused in other ways via drugs, confinement or other invasive procedures.Are monkeys still used in labs? ›
Using monkeys in research. Tens of thousands of monkeys - mainly macaques and marmosets - are used in research and testing around the world each year. In the UK, around 3,000 monkeys are used a year. Much of this use is to develop and test the safety and effectiveness of potential human medicines and vaccines.Who started animal testing? ›
Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar), an Arab physician in twelfth century Moorish Spain, introduced animal testing as an experimental method for testing surgical procedures before applying them to human patients.How cruel is animal testing facts? ›
Over 100 million animals are burned, crippled, poisoned, and abused in US labs every year. 92% of experimental drugs that are safe and effective in animals fail in human clinical trials because they are too dangerous or don't work.What do they test on if not animals? ›
According to Cruelty Free International, alternative methods to animal testing could include cell cultures, human tissue, computer models, and of course, even human volunteers.
The most common breed of dog used for experiments are beagles, but not because scientists view them as the best model for human disease. Rather, beagles are convenient to use because they are docile and small, allowing for more animals to be housed and cared for using less space and money.What country is top in animal testing? ›
We estimate that the top 10 animal testing countries in the world are China (20.5 million) Japan (15.0 million), the United States (15.6 million), Canada (3.6 million), Australia (3.2 million), South Korea (3.1 million), the United Kingdom (2.6 million), Brazil (2.2 million), Germany (2.0 million) and France (1.9 ...What animal testing has cured? ›
Virtually everyone alive today has benefited from the medical advances made possible through animal research. Polio, smallpox, diphtheria, cholera and measles are no longer major threats to public health in the United States. Sophisticated diagnostic tests mean early treatment of cancer and heart disease.How many animals survive testing? ›
Only 3 Percent of Animals Survive Lab Experiments.Is animal testing done on dogs? ›
On average, more than 60,000 dogs are used in experiments each year in the United States. In 2021, laboratories reported having approximately 43,000 dogs in their possession, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).Why do people test on animals? ›
Animal studies conducted in the laboratory allow scientists to control factors that might affect the outcome of the experiments. This includes factors like temperature, humidity, light, diet, or medications.Why don t companies stop animal testing? ›
Companies use the fact that the products have been tested—rather than the actual test results—to support the claim that they are conscientious. In most cases, companies settle out of court, preferring to pay off the injured consumer rather than bring the unreliability of their testing practices to light.Do scientists believe in animal testing? ›
Animals are needed in research to develop drugs and medical procedures to treat diseases. Scientists may discover such drugs and procedures using research methods that do not involve animals. If the new therapy seems promising, it is then tested in animals to see whether it seems to be safe and effective.What religion is against animal testing? ›
In Hinduism, many animals are venerated, including the tiger, the elephant, the mouse, and especially, the cow. Mahatma Gandhi is noted for his compassion to all living things; he advocated against animal experimentation and animal cruelty.How many rats are killed for testing? ›
The body count is unavoidable; an estimated 100 million lab mice and rats or more are killed every year in U.S. labs for the sake of science. While some of the bodies are creatively repurposed as snacks for birds in sanctuaries, most are frozen and incinerated with the rest of the biological waste.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has noted that 95 percent of all drugs that are shown to be safe and effective in animal tests fail in human trials because they don't work or are dangerous.Are monkeys used for animal testing? ›
Monkey. The most-often used monkeys in medical research are: Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), Cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis) and Marmosets (Callithrix jacchus). Monkeys currently make up only 0.1% of the animals used in research in Great Britain.How many animals are abused each year? ›
Each year 115 million animals, including dogs, cats, mice, rats, and monkeys, are all abused in the name of science.How is shampoo tested on animals? ›
"Typically, animal tests for cosmetics include skin and eye irritation tests where chemicals are rubbed onto the shaved skin or dripped into the eyes of rabbits; repeated oral force-feeding studies lasting weeks or months to look for signs of general illness or specific health hazards, such as cancer or birth defects; ...Are vegans against animal testing? ›
Vegans are often defined as anyone who does not eat any food derived from animals and does not use any animal products. This means that they are also often opposed to the use of animals for research and testing of medicines, vaccines, and medical devices.What 5 states have banned animal testing? ›
State bans on animal testing - what they do and what they exempt. More US states are moving to ban animal testing of cosmetics. Nine states now have bans: California, Nevada, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Maine, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Louisiana.Is animal testing expensive? ›
Animal tests are time-consuming and expensive, limiting the number of chemicals that can be tested. Animal tests cost a lot of time and money. For example, it takes a about a decade and $3,000,000 to complete all of the animal studies required to register one single pesticide with the US Environmental Protection Agency ...Does the FDA still test on animals? ›
FDA no longer requires all drugs to be tested on animals before human trials In a victory for animal rights advocates, drugmakers can take their products to human clinical trials using alternative testing methods that don't involve animals.How many rats die a year from animal testing? ›
Whether an experiment will end successfully may be uncertain, but one thing is always guaranteed: death of the lab rodents. The body count is unavoidable; an estimated 100 million lab mice and rats or more are killed every year in U.S. labs for the sake of science.Do 95 out of every 100 drugs that pass animal tests fail in humans? ›
Because animal tests are so unreliable, they make those human trials all the more risky. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has noted that 95 percent of all drugs that are shown to be safe and effective in animal tests fail in human trials because they don't work or are dangerous.
Mice and rats make up approximately 95% of all laboratory animals, with mice the most commonly used animal in biomedical research.Do only 3 percent of animals survive animal testing? ›
As it turns out, the vast majority of animals - 97 percent - are killed at the end of experimentation. Just a small fraction of animals, 6,286 in total, were returned to nature or to their habitat. Of those returned to their natural habitat, 893 were cows, 750 were fish and 45 were bats.Is animal testing illegal in the US? ›
As of December 2022, ten states (California, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Virginia) have passed laws banning cosmetics animal testing.Why is animal testing so bad? ›
Animal experiments prolong the suffering of humans waiting for effective cures because the results mislead experimenters and squander precious money, time, and other resources that could be spent on human-relevant research. Animal experiments are so worthless that up to half of them are never even published.Why should animal testing be banned? ›
Humans are harmed because of misleading animal testing results. Imprecise results from animal experiments may result in clinical trials of biologically faulty or even harmful substances, thereby exposing patients to unnecessary risk and wasting scarce research resources.Why do most animal testing fail? ›
Animal Studies Do Not Reliably Predict Human Outcomes
Both obvious and subtle differences between humans and animals, in terms of our physiology, anatomy, and metabolism, make it difficult to apply data derived from animal studies to human conditions.
Experimenting on animals is always unacceptable because: it causes suffering to animals. the benefits to human beings are not proven. any benefits to human beings that animal testing does provide could be produced in other ways.What is an example of animal testing gone wrong? ›
Experimenters Castrated Monkeys and Regrew Their Testicles
Experimenters castrated five young monkeys, chopped their testicles into tiny pieces, and then regrew these organs on their backs in an attempt to produce viable sperm. It's as disturbing as it is sadistic – and these monkeys weren't the only victims.