Both supporters and non-supporters of animal testing have valid arguments. Proponents of animal testing say animal research has provided valuable medical advancements. People against animal testing say it’s actually hindered our research.
When I first learned about animal testing several years ago, I uncovered page after page of misinformation about these experiments—from both sides of the argument. There’s a lot of false information out there regarding vivisection, or live animal testing.
I’m here because what I’ve come to learn about animal testing—despite the distortion I’ve encountered—is that there are legitimate, unemotional reasons these experiments need to stop.
Here are five of them.
1. There Are Other Ways to Test Drugs
Although live animal experiments have long been considered the “gold standard” of testing pharmaceutical drugs, the effects of tobacco smoke, and beauty products, there are other ways to test these products.
These alternatives include:
- In-vitro testing. Consists of testing human cells and tissues in a test tube. The National Center for Biotechnology Information claims this method has the potential to replace entire animals for use in science. It’s cheaper by hundreds of thousands of dollars in some instances and considered to be more accurate than animal tests.
- Microfluidic chips. These chips allow researchers to essentially build their own chips to determine how drugs interact between different tissues in the body, although some researchers claim this is only for preliminary research and that animal testing should ideally follow.
- Microdosing. This method allows researchers to test substances in humans at doses so low they would only produce effects on the cellular level, which scientists could then study. Current regulations dictate that animal testing be used before human testing for microdosing, but this method has the potential to curb animal experiments and cost significantly less.
- Artificial human skin. These include EpiDerm, EpiSkin, and SkinEthic. EpiSkin is actually owned by L’Oréal, a company that currently tests on animals. Their method consists of 3D reconstructed tissue models from actual human skill cells leftover from surgeries and circumcisions to provide scientists with a method for chemical, pharmaceutical, and skin product testing. These models are considered to be valid replacements for animal testing. Many companies like L’Oréal are investing in more reliable alternatives to vivisection.
Some of these models are currently used in conjunction with animal testing, but all have the potential to replace animal testing at some point in the future.
2. Drugs That Pass Animal Tests Have an Insanely High Human Failure Rate
Over 92% of drugs that pass animal experiments fail human trials, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In some cases, these drugs go on to kill thousands of people. It’s estimated that the failure number is closer to 94%.
Why is this?
There are many reasons, one of them being that human diseases are difficult to replicate in animals. Animals do not model diseases the same way humans do. They don’t have the same symptoms, the same side effects, or even get many of the same diseases that humans do.
This makes conducting research and obtaining accurate and reliable results laborious, costly, and difficult. If strokes need to be artificially simulated in animals, how are we accurately able to test effective drugs on them?
This high failure rate isn’t just wasteful—it’s hindering us from securing treatments that actually work.
3. The Majority of Animals Are Not Protected
Even for the animals the act does protect, such as dogs, cats, monkeys, and rabbits, the Animal Welfare Act doesn’t hold up. Animals are essentially able to undergo any experiment, and for those that the act doesn’t protect, anesthesia is optional.
This is because the goal of the Animal Welfare Act is primarily to set minimum care standards for how the animals are housed at the research facility, not to protect them from the experiments themselves.
4. Animal Testing Has Prolonged Human Suffering
There are many substances that are toxic to humans that have been consistently proven to be safe in animals. This inaccurate research has led to humans being exposed to carcinogens and other toxins for decades longer than necessary.
Animals did not have the same reactions to arsenic, benzene, asbestos, and cigarette smoke that humans do. Furthermore, scientists have easily found cures to the diseases these substances can cause, such as cancer, but they don't work in humans. There are also many pharmaceutical drugs that have been proven to be safe in animals that people quickly realized were toxic to humans.
For example, the drug Propulsid, used to treat acid reflux in children, caused children to die from abnormal heart rhythms while animal studies had shown the drug was safe. Only after it caused 300 deaths was it removed from the market. This is one of many examples of drugs that have killed people as a result of “reliable” animal research.
5. Animal Experiments Are Unethical
While it’s true that cosmetic animal testing continues around the world (except for in Europe, Israel, and India), the majority of animal suffering happens as the result of medical experiments.
I would still argue that, even for medical research, these experiments are unethical. Let me be clear—I’m not against animals dying. I’m a proud omnivore. Everything dies eventually. What I am against is needless suffering.
The animals used in these experiments are prevented from living how they would in nature, exposed to toxic substances, unnecessary surgical procedures, are addicted to drugs, forced to inhale cigarette smoke, and are euthanized at the end of their suffering.
Even the way these animals are housed can be considered unethical, as social animals are isolated, nocturnal animals are forced to be in light 24/7, and their cages are often not designed to be comfortable, but rather convenient for researchers. These abnormal living conditions—including their unnatural diet, lack of socialization, and restriction of basic instincts—cause the animals distress even without experiments.
Despite all the successes animal experiments have offered humanity, it’s time for these experiments to take a backseat when it comes to medical and cosmetic research. With other more affordable and accurate alternatives available, investing in these methods can help replace an outdated practice that’s unreliable, dangerous to humans, and inflicts needless suffering on creatures that are all too similar to us.