Countless monkeys, dogs, rats and other animals are burned, blinded, cut open, poisoned, starved and drugged behind closed laboratory doors every year for convenience, for economic reasons and because of old habits. Not only are animal tests extremely cruel, they are also completely inaccurate because of the vast physiological variations between species. Animal studies teach us nothing about the health of humans because human reactions to illnesses and medications are completely different from the reactions of other animals. Other species absorb, metabolise and eliminate substances differently than humans do. The truth is that testing on animals is just plain bad science which harms humans and other animals alike.
Alec Baldwin, Grace Slick, Andy Dick, Linda Blair, Rue McClanahan, Alicia Silverstone, Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney are among the many notables who have stated their opposition to the use of animals for experimentation. “Vivisection is bad for both humans and animals”, says Grace Slick. “Using animals to extrapolate information for humans is stupid science.”
Vivisection is the practice of experimenting on live animals. Many vivisectors come to India because, in their own countries, they cannot get away with doing the type of animal testing they can here. Every year, research facilities across India – including the Animal Research Centre, the Patel Chest Institute, the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), just to name a few – squander valuable time and resources as well as millions of rupees conducting experiments on monkeys, dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, mice and other animals.
Although the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experimentation on Animals (CPCSEA) – which was created under the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 – is supposed to help implement good laboratory practices and ensure that animal testing is carried out under proper conditions, animal research in India is notoriously riddled with problems. Many pharmaceutical companies do not employ full-time veterinarians to take care of animals on a day-to-day basis or caretakers to look after the animals at night. Most of the procedures are performed by students. Housing conditions are bleak because many laboratories do not provide animals with air conditioning, proper lighting, or hygienic water bottles, cages and food.
The UK-based National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) issued a report on Indian animal testing based on a review of Indian research papers in the international scientific literature and CPCSEA’s inspections of 467 laboratories. NAVS found key faults in the animal testing industry in India and concluded that years of scientific research in India have been invalidated by poor scientific procedure, poor laboratory practices and a lack of appropriate animal care.
PETA US has conducted many undercover investigations in laboratories. Every time it does, physical abuse and neglect are documented. Animals are yelled at, hit, left to suffer after surgery without any painkillers, crammed into small cages, denied veterinary care and more. In India, one of the largest animal suppliers, the National Centre for Laboratory Animal Sciences (NCLAS) in Hyderabad, supplies approximately 50,000 animals to laboratories every year and to 175 institutions in India, including pharmaceutical companies and educational institutions. Both NCLAS and the NIN have been under fire from animal protection organisations for years for not maintaining basic animal welfare standards. According to The Hindu, NIN has kept monkeys, who are highly social, in solitary confinement for up to 12 years.
A few years ago, PETA and the CPCSEA rescued a monkey named Paro and 36 others from Pune’s National Institute of Virology (NIV) after uncovering horrid conditions. Unable to provide even one record for any of the animals it used, NIV had confined most of its monkeys to tiny cages for more than a decade, and some had been disfigured or paralysed from confinement and abuse. Some monkeys were missing fingers and teeth, while others – who had gone insane from years of intensive confinement – spun in circles around their cages.
In June 2002, members of the CPCSEA inspected the dog-housing facilities of Delhi’s Ranbaxy Laboratories and found that most of the animals were suffering from dermatitis, infectious diseases and defects that resulted from inbreeding. At AIIMS, primates were housed in old, rusty cages, and they were inappropriately grouped for their social behaviour patterns. Scientists at AIIMS have not submitted required final reports for nearly half of the 339 projects which they completed between 1991 and 2000.
The most significant trend in modern research in recent years has been the recognition that animals are rarely good models for the human body. Studies have shown time and again that researchers often waste lives – both animal and human – and precious resources by trying to infect animals with diseases which they would not normally contract. As Dr Richard Klausner of the US’ National Cancer Institute admitted, “The history of cancer research has been a history of curing cancer in the mouse. We have cured mice of cancer for decades, and it simply didn’t work in humans”.
In many cases, not only does animal testing hurt animals and waste money, it also harms and kills humans. For example, thalidomide, Zomax and DES were all tested on animals and judged safe, but they had devastating consequences for the people who used them. Animal testing wastes time, too, by leading researchers in the wrong direction. Dr Albert Sabin, who developed the oral polio vaccine, cited in testimony at a US congressional hearing that his work had been “delayed by an erroneous conception of the nature of the human disease based on misleading experimental models of the disease in monkeys”. Similarly, 150 years of drug tests on animals have produced 25 drugs to combat strokes – none of which work in humans. Each false lead generates more fruitless studies, which eat up more time and money while humans and animals suffer.
Almost all important developments in health are attributable to human studies, including anaesthesia; bacteriology; germ theory; the stethoscope; morphine; radium; penicillin; artificial respiration; antiseptics; the CAT, MRI and PET scans; the discoveries of the relationships between cholesterol and heart disease, between smoking and cancer and between diet and other illnesses; the development of X-rays and the isolation of the virus which causes AIDS. Animal testing played no role in these and many other developments.
It is not surprising that those who make money from animal testing insist that nearly every medical advance has been made through the use of animals. But as many innovative companies and scientists today are proving, there are always alternatives to the use and abuse of animals. Clinical trials, the use of human volunteers, case studies, autopsy reports and statistical analyses permit far more accurate observation – as well as the use of actual environmental factors related to human disease – than is possible with animals who are confined to laboratories.
The world’s most forward-thinking companies and scientists have moved on to more humane, cutting-edge methods of studying disease. The National Cancer Institute now uses human cancer cells – taken by biopsy during surgeries – to perform first-stage testing for its new anti-cancer drugs. This practice spares the lives of the millions of mice whom the institute previously used every year and gives the institute a much better shot at combating against cancer.
Pharmagene Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company in England, uses sophisticated computer technologies which show the effects of chemicals on the human body. US-based Physiome Sciences has developed software programmes which simulate the human body’s organs and processes. These software programmes are so advanced that they can be used to predict the effects of drug therapies for a variety of diseases.
TOPKAT, a software package available in India, allows researchers to predict chemicals’ oral toxicity as well as their degree of skin and eye irritation. Faster, cheaper and more accurate than animal tests, TOPKAT is now used by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US as well as by the US Army. Also available in India is a CD developed by JIPMER which has been specially designed and prepared to replace all animals used in undergraduate courses in pharmacology, medicine and veterinary science.
Even though no law in any country requires cosmetics or personal-care products to be tested on animals, many companies around the world choose to subject animals to painful tests in which substances are dripped into their eyes, smeared on their skin, sprayed in their faces or forced down their throats. Two of the most common animal tests are eye irritancy and lethal dose tests.
In eye irritancy tests, chemicals are dripped into the eyes of albino rabbits, who have no tear ducts, which makes them unable to cry to wash away the toxic chemicals. The animals are usually immobilised in stocks, and only their heads protrude. Their eyelids are held open with clips. After placing the chemicals in the rabbits’ eyes, laboratory technicians record the damage to the eye tissue, which can include inflamed irises, ulceration, bleeding, massive deterioration and blindness. Often, the rabbits receive no anaesthesia during the tests. Many rabbits break their backs as they struggle to escape the pain.
In acute toxicity tests, increasing amounts of detergent, eyeshadow and other products are force-fed to rats, mice, rabbits, guinea pigs and other animals until a certain percentage of them are poisoned to death. The infamous Lethal Dose50 (LD50) test is the most common form of animal-poisoning study. It is used to determine what concentration of a substance is needed to kill 50 per cent of a group of animals.
Animals who receive the highest doses endure severe abdominal pain, diarrhoea, convulsions, seizures, paralysis and bleeding from the nose, mouth and genitals before they finally die. PETA has video footage of rabbits whose tender skin has been eaten away by corrosive substances, rats in death throes after huge amounts of soaps have been pumped into their stomachs and dogs who cower alone in box-like cages.
These extremely cruel tests often produce inaccurate or misleading results. The scoring of eye damage in irritancy tests is highly subjective. Different laboratories – and even different tests within the same laboratory – often yield different results. Plus, rabbits’ eyes are anatomically and physiologically different from humans’ eyes and tend to react more strongly to chemicals.
Like eye irritancy tests, lethal dose tests are unreliable and have too many variables to give accurate results. One international study, which examined the results of rat and mouse LD50 tests for 50 chemicals, found that these tests were able to predict toxicity in humans with only 65 per cent accuracy.
So why test on animals? Some critics have maintained that data from animal testing are only used to defend companies against consumer lawsuits, which leaves consumers vulnerable to unsafe products marketed by unscrupulous, greedy companies.
With so many sophisticated non-animal product tests now available, companies have no excuse for continuing to torment animals. Instead of measuring how long it takes a chemical to burn away the cornea of a rabbit’s eye, manufacturers can now drop that chemical onto donated human corneas. The Irritation Assay System, a simple test-tube procedure, spares millions of animals from horrific eye- and skin-irritation tests. Human skin cultures can also be grown and ordered for irritancy testing. All these and dozens more tests now in use today are cheaper and faster than animal tests and more accurately predict humans’ reactions to products.
In addition, companies can use computer and mathematical models. They can also choose to use ingredients and chemicals which have already been proved to be harmless and are known to be safe.
In 1996, the Bureau of Indian Standards made the use of animal testing for cosmetics optional. The European Parliament recently voted in favour of imposing a ban on the sale of all new cosmetics products which have been tested on animals. “Those products should no longer be sold”, said Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, the German Socialist member of the European Parliament who authored the legislative bill which imposed the ban. “Alternative methods must be applied and used …. Eventually, this should lead to a full ban on sales of all products where animal testing was used.” The ban will also apply to all imports of animal-tested cosmetics. In an effort to impose a similar ban in India, PETA has written numerous letters to the Ministry of Environment & Forests and the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. PETA’s suggestion was endorsed by the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Luckily, times are changing, and roughly 800 manufacturers of cosmetics, toiletries and household products – including profitable and innovative industry leaders such as Revlon, Avon and Clinique – have stopped tormenting animals in painful, useless tests.
Consumers can help end animal testing for good by buying only products which have not been tested on animals. Click here for lists of companies which do and which do not test their products on animals. Please keep in mind that these lists are not exhaustive. If in doubt, please contact PETA or the company concerned. If the company does not reply, it is often an indication that the company continues to test on animals, despite the available alternatives. If you have purchased products from a company which tests on animals, please return the products with a letter demanding your money back and stating that you will not purchase the company’s products until it stops abusing animals.
I believe it is a serious moral problem that your children are taught to cut up animals.
– Pat Graham, mother of Jennifer Graham (the student who first turned the US dissection industry on its head when she refused to dissect in 1987)
Dissection is murder. It is unfair and immoral for teachers to force us to mutilate our friends.
– Neil Joshipura, student
With all the violence our children are exposed to these days, the classroom should be a peaceful place, secure and comfortable. We have the responsibility as teachers to lead our children away from violence and pain. Dissection is an endorsement of pain. It does not teach respect for life; it teaches disdain for life.
– Cindy Zacks, biology teacher
Many schools still use dissection to teach courses in biology, anatomy and other life sciences. Every year, millions of frogs, cats, dogs, pigs, worms, mice, rats, rabbits and fish are killed for use in classroom dissections. Breeding facilities which supply animals to schools take animals from their homes, and some even use stolen or abandoned companion animals.
Animals used by the dissection industry suffer terribly before they even reach the classroom. CPCSEA inspectors have found guinea pigs, rabbits, mice, hamsters, rats and other animals kept in unhygienic rooms in small cages without sufficient food, water, air or light. Animals are handled by untrained staffers, and sick and injured animals – who receive no treatment – are kept with healthy animals.
While working undercover inside one biological supply house, PETA US investigators documented that employees were embalming cats and rats while they were still alive. Frogs were held by their hind legs and slammed headfirst onto a hard surface to kill them. Animals who are used for dissection are sometimes improperly euthanised and are still alive when they are dissected. First-year veterinary students have confirmed that every year at least one buffalo calf has his or her throat cut and is then dissected.
Animals used for dissection are often embalmed with formaldehyde or a chemical derived from formaldehyde – a preservative linked to cancer of the throat, lungs and nasal passages as well as a variety of other health problems. In addition to the potential for harmful physical effects on individuals, there are important psychological issues to consider. Dissection desensitises students to animal suffering by teaching them that animals are nothing more than classroom tools. In his last interview before his death, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer said that his fascination with death and dismemberment began when he dissected animals at school. Such reports are common because the dissection of animals reinforces violence towards others.
Frogs are the most commonly dissected animals. Frogs are able to eat their own body weight in insects every single day, so removing frogs from the ecosystem disrupts nature’s delicate balance, which results in increased crop destruction and the spread of diseases such as malaria. In the years before its ban on the frog trade, India was earning $10 million per year from frog exports, but it was spending $100 million to import chemical pesticides to fight against insect infestations. Several species of frogs are now endangered in India because so many were taken from the wild.
While there was a time when dissection and the use of live animals in the classroom went unchallenged, PETA has campaigned to ban dissection by writing letters to the University Grants Commission (UGC) and to all the universities in India. PETA has urged these institutions to replace dissection in zoology courses with humane, non-animal methods which are both more effective and readily available. Recently, PETA achieved a partial but crucial victory when the expert committee set up by the UGC to consider banning dissections recommended doing away with dissections by students at the undergraduate level. So far, many progressive universities, including
Despite the decisions by these progressive universities, many educators continue to push students to participate in dissection, which is a cruel, archaic, environmentally destructive and meaningless ritual. Alternatives, which range from anatomically correct models of human organs to sophisticated computer programmes, are readily available. One popular alternative, the Compu Series, developed and sold by the Chennai-based Blue Cross, allows students to digitally dissect everything from “Compufrogs” and “Compurats” to “Compuroaches”.