Technological Methods more Effective than Testing on Animals

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Animal Welfare, International

imagesThough the import and sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals is banned in the E.U., approximately 100 million animals are still used in other types of testing each year.

Testing products and pharmaceuticals on animals is not only unpopular, it’s extremely ineffective. Less than 2% of human illnesses are found in animals. And animal test results and human trial results agree less than 25% of the time and sometimes as infrequently as 5% of the time. 

The effectiveness of animal testing has historically been awful. Thalidomide, used as a sedative for pregnant women was considered safe after animal testing was conducted, but caused birth defects in over 10,000 children. Penicillin, aspirin, a vaccine for polio, and protease inhibitors for treatment of HIV were shown to be ineffective during animal testing, but are now known to be invaluable in human medicine.

Hundreds of chimpanzees were bred to be used in experiments dealing with HIV until it was discovered that Chimpanzees do not get sick when they contract the HIV virus and they do not get AIDS. The E.U. banned experimentation on great apes in 2010. However two countries, the United States, and Gabon, continue to test on apes. Nearly 1,000 chimpanzees are held in American laboratories. The majority of them are just warehoused there because the experiments on them have been completed.

And though considered by most to be man’s best friend, there are approximately 70,000 dogs in the U.S. in laboratories for product and pharmaceutical testing, despite the evidence that animal testing is far from accurate. The vast majority of these laboratory dogs are beagles. Dog breeders sell litter after litter to laboratories who prefer beagles due to their gentleness and docile nature. When the experiments are over, the dogs who survive are in most cases put to death.

A bill has been proposed in the U.S. called The Beagle Freedom Bill which would ensure that at least tax-payer funded laboratories offer test dogs and cats for public adoption through rescue organizations.

Alternatives to animal testing such as using human cells or computer-modeling techniques are more accurate than animal testing and certainly less cruel. But testing on animals has been the norm for so long, many researchers are slow to change even in the face of an obvious lack of result applicability.

The Wyss Institute in Massachusetts has created what they call “organs on chips” as an alternative to animal testing. These chips contain human cells that mimic function of human organs and have been shown to replicate human physiology much more accurately than animal experiments.

Because world governments have been slow to regulate animal testing, it is up to us as consumers to send the message to manufacturers that testing products on animals is ineffective and cruel and we will not buy products tested on animals.