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It’s Time To End Animal Testing

The World Day for Laboratory Animals took place on Monday (April 24). A day to shed light on the dire effects of animal tests and discuss the adoption of alternative methods. It is a damning annual reminder that using animals in experiments is outdated, unwanted, and entirely unnecessary. This article will provide valuable insight into the facts surrounding animal testing, and some alternatives that could be used in healthcare going forward.


Protests recently took place outside the Houses of Parliament in London, demanding the abolition of animals in testing. Animal rights activists held signs in front of governmental buildings; some read: “This is not about science, it’s about profit” and “Free the beagles”. Generally, the U.K. has pretty strong laws concerning animal welfare compared with other nations, clearly not when concerned with the innocent beings in laboratories, however.

Animal testing refers to using live animals for scientific experimentation, inflicting deliberate physical pain and psychological suffering. In the medicine and beauty fields, animal testing is a multi-billion dollar industry, and in 2020 with the urgency to discover a vaccination for COVID-19, the industry became even more lucrative.

Using animals in scientific experiments in the U.K. can be traced back to the 1600s and even earlier in other countries. It was not until 1986 when the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act became law, monitoring, but not eliminating, the use of animals in tests. Any establishment wishing to facilitate animal experiments must gain a licence and be subject to a harm/benefit analysis, where they must prove the tests are beneficial for the greater good of humanity. Sadly, animals in labs are exempt from the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The Numbers

Many people are unaware of the sheer number of animals subjected to laboratory testing. For some context, in 2015, over 192.1 million animals worldwide were used for science. That same year 207,724 dogs were tested, with the U.K. being in the top 10 countries to utilise dogs. Quite a shocking statistic considering how many Brits have pet dogs at home and love them like their children.

Many universities across the U.K. conduct animal tests, most of which are paid for by the taxpayer, yet in 2021 90% of these tests were carried out voluntarily, not because the law required it. In 2021, the U.K. also facilitated 2,795 tests on a range of monkey species, 90% of which were imported from either Asia or Africa.

Such cruelty is difficult to comprehend when you witness monkeys housed in U.K. zoos, with keepers often warning and educating visitors of their plights; from the illegal wildlife trade and the international pet trade, seemingly never mentioning the animal testing trade.

Despite outcry from animal welfare activists, animal charities, and well-informed scientists, there has not been much reduction in the number of tests. In the EU, from 2017 to 2018, there was only a 2% decrease, and on average, in the past two decades worldwide, there has only been a 1% decrease from each year to the next.

Dangerous for Humans

Two common misconceptions about animal testing are that it is the only option and it works well. Both of which are simply untrue. In fact, 92% of medicines tested on animals later fail in humans.

In the 1990s, the anti-inflammatory drug, Vioxx, was tested on monkeys before being introduced to treat arthritis. The tests suggested it was safe to be rolled out into society; more than eighty million prescriptions were given out in a five-year period, earning its manufacturer, Merck$2.5 billion

However, since being scrapped in 2004, research has highlighted that this drug caused 140,000 heart attacks and more than 60,000 deaths worldwide. A harsh lesson that animal tests are not reliable.

Furthermore, the drug, Fialuridine, passed all necessary animal tests and was swiftly moved onto human clinical trials. Developed to treat hepatitis B, it worked efficiently in a range of animals, but in the 1993 human trials, seven individuals went into liver failure, of which five later died.

Just because some medicines work faultlessly on animals it does not mean they will function the same on humans. Dr. Richard Klausner from the U.S. National Cancer Institute said: “The history of cancer research has been the history of curing cancer in the mouse. We have cured mice of cancer for decades and it simply didn’t work in human beings.”

Alternatives in Healthcare

Not using animals in tests does not equate to using humans. With today’s scientific and technological advances, a number of alternatives are in development or have already been developed but are yet to be widely adopted.

In laboratories, scientists can develop human cells. They can “coax cells to grow into 3D structures, such as miniature human organs, which can provide a more realistic way to test new therapies.”

A 2008 study by the U.S.-based company MatTek found that cell culture testing is much more accurate than animal testing when finding potential skin irritants. Out of 25 chemicals cell culture tests identified all 25 irritants successfully; however, when tested on rabbits only 15 were identified successfully.

Scientists can study healthy and unhealthy cells now, and obviously, studying actual human cells provides more reliable data. Volunteers are able to donate their cells after surgeries or can opt to donate their cells after they have died. Studies using brain tissues from post-mortems have actually highlighted vital leads on the effects of diseases such as Parkinson’s.

The Human Tissue Roundtable in the U.S., comprised of 23 experts, said that: “Research using human tissues instead of animals is critical to advancing medical research and drug development.” Scientists are assuring the public that animal testing is not the most accurate, so why is it still happening?

Likewise, with vast technological advancements, virtual models of organs have been developed. Using much pre-existing data, scientists can make predictions about the effects of certain chemicals and use this to carry out online experiments where no living being will be harmed.

Experts at Oxford University found the reliability of this method was better than animal testing. They also proved that conducting research using virtual models was much cheaper than experiments involving animals, with results getting published much quicker too.

Makeup Industry

While animal testing for medicinal purposes is controversial, most can probably agree that the use of animals for testing cosmetics is unacceptable. The beauty industry is not as glamorous as many brands would have their customers believe. With all of the natural, safe, and vegan products available on the market, it raises questions of why animals are still having tests performed on them and what sort of harsh chemicals people are putting onto their skin that they need testing for anyway.

While official figures are difficult to determine, estimates reveal that China uses more than 300,000 animals in cosmetic testing annually. Merely a couple of years ago, China demanded that in order to sell cosmetics there, brands must test all cosmetics on animals. However, they have since begun to relax their laws by exempting some products.

We can drastically improve the lives of so many animals simply by being more mindful of where we spend our money. As actress, Emma Watson once said: “As consumers, we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.

It’s time to end animal testing

Decades of research into illnesses such as various cancers, diabetes, and dementia have still not provided cures; perhaps it is now time to branch out and make other research methods internationally recognised.

When professionals working in the industry are telling us animal testing is not reliable, its continued existence raises suspicions that governments and pharmaceutical companies are profiting from it.

With so many alternatives, all of which are safer and cheaper for the taxpayer, it is clear that animal tests ought to be forbidden going forward.


Edited by: Whitney Edna Ibe

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