Questions & Answers
Why do we test cosmetics?
Adequate testing of each and every product available today is a moral and legal obligation to the public. Every day, your family uses cosmetics—deodorant, perfumes, and makeup—that have been tested on animals. These tests ensure that the shampoo you use every night, the lipstick your mom wears, and the shaving cream your dad shaves with are all safe.
We should all remember the circumstances that led to animal testing of consume products. As recently as a few decades ago, people were routinely subjected to products that hadn’t been tested and weren’t safe. Use of these products led to serious illness and injury, including blindness and death.
Since more people are exposed to cosmetic products on a daily basis than drugs, it is extremely important that these products are safe in order to prevent tragic consequences. In order to protect human life, almost every type of product requires stringent testing. It’s not enough to know that a product is safe for its intended use, however; we must also consider ways a product could be accidentally used. We have to make sure products will not cause harm years after their use.
Are researchers using more and more animals every year?
The number of animals used in research has actually declined in the past 20 years. As technology advances, researchers are able to rely on computer models and other methods instead of animal testing. Some estimates show a reduction in animal use as high as 50 percent. Since 1967, the number of cats used in research has dropped 66 percent.
Do the experiments cause pain to the animals?
The animals who are helping us unlock the mysteries of disease treatment deserve the very best possible care. Because of this, the scientific community advocates the highest quality of animal care and treatment. Also, a well-treated animal, one without disease or pain, will provide more reliable scientific results—the goal of all researchers.
The use of animals in research is strictly controlled, particularly regarding potential pain. Federal laws, including the Animal Welfare Act, regulate the elimination and alleviation of pain, as well as other aspects of animal care such as caging, feeding, exercise, and psychological well being.
In order to guarantee the best possible treatment, each institution that uses animals must establish a animal care and use committee (the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, or IACUC), which oversees, inspects and monitors every potential experiment. This committee includes members of the scientific community, an outside member of the public and a veterinarian. The IACUC oversees, inspects, and monitors every potential experiment to help ensure optimal animal care.
Why use animals at all?
There are striking similarities between the physiological systems of humans and various species of animals. Much of what we know about the immune system has come from studies with mice. Research on dogs has provided a great deal of information about the cardiovascular system.
Don’t forget, too, that animal research helps other animals. Vaccines for parvovirus in dogs and feline leukemia in cats were possible through animal testing. Research on animals has also provided methods to bring some species back from the brink of extinction.
Without animal research, virtually every medical breakthrough of the past century would not have been possible. Thanks to the animals used in research, we have discovered vaccinations for polio, how to transplant organs, how to transfuse blood, how to deal with patients involved in serious trauma , such as a car accident. Research has shown us how to prevent cancer and heart attack through nutrition and exercise. The creation of insulin for diabetics, hip replacement surgery, dialysis for kidney patients, all have come from animal research.
How can we be sure that lost or stolen pets are not used in research?
While some research requires that dogs and cats are used, the vast majority of laboratory animals are rodents specifically bred for research. Most of the dogs and cats needed for research are also bred for that purpose.
Since state laws and local policies prevent many animal pounds and shelters from providing dogs and cats to research facilities, animal dealers are the primary source for the other half of the animals scientists require. These dealers must be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and must adhere to Animal Welfare Act standards of care. Both dealers and research facilities can obtain dogs and cats only from specified sources and must comply with detailed record-keeping and waiting-period requirements. In addition, USDA conducts unannounced inspections of dealers and research facilities for compliance to help ensure research animals are not missing pets.
How can we learn from medical research using animals and help humans?
There are many similarities between humans and various species of animals. For example, much of what we know about the immune system has come from studies with mice, and much of what we know about the heart and lungs of humans has come from studies with dogs.
New drugs, devices, and procedures must receive legal approval before being given to humans. Research on animals provides much information necessary to predict how a new drug or procedure will affect a human. It is important to be able to gauge how a new drug or procedure will affect a whole biological system before using it on humans. This is critical for scientific as well as ethical reasons. Laboratory animals are an important part of the research process. In fact, virtually every major medical advance of the last century is due, in part, to research with animals.
Why do veterinarians, who are supposed to take care of sick animals, work with researchers who do experiments on them?
Veterinarians realize that the results of animal research improve the health of animals as well as humans. Many advances in veterinary medicine are the direct result of animal research; some research has even helped save certain species from extinction. Veterinarians also act as advocates for research animals, making sure they are healthy and comfortable.
Why is it important to conduct product safety tests on animals when “cruelty-free” products are available?
The term "cruelty-free" is often misleading, misused, and misunderstood. Since federal law mandates that each product on the market undergo stringent testing, the companies that use the "cruelty-free" label either contract out for the animal tests or use products and ingredients already deemed to be safe through animal testing.
It is important to remember the circumstances that led to safety testing of all new consumer ingredients and products, particularly cosmetics. As recently as several decades ago, consumers were subjected to products that were not adequately tested prior to use, resulting in reports of permanent harm, including blindness. Product safety testing ensures that products are safe when used as directed and provides information for poison control centers and emergency room physicians in the event a product is misused. Adequate testing of products is both a moral and legal obligation to the public. The use of animals in product safety testing provides a whole, living system that can reflect how certain substances will react in or on the body.
Researchers using animals in tests are required to follow strict federal guidelines about the care and health of every animal used in the project. These guidelines forbid the misuse or ill treatment of any animal, and demand that animals be kept from suffering as a result of any experiment. Cruelty is not a part of any animal research project.
What happens to animals once an experiment is completed?
The majority of research animals must be euthanized so researchers can study their tissues and answer important questions about disease. Animals involved in experiments that do not require tissue for study may take part in additional experiments. However, except in rare circumstances, federal regulations do not allow an animal to be used in more than one major surgical procedure.
Do we really have the right to experiment on animals? What about their rights?
The use of animals in research is a privilege that must be carefully guarded to ensure human and animal relief from the specter of disease and suffering. To ignore human and animal suffering is irresponsible and unethical.
Nearly every major medical advancement of the 20th century has depended largely on research with animals. Our best hope for developing preventions, treatments and cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's, AIDS and cancer will also involve biomedical research using animals.
In fact, research on animals is in many cases an obligation. According to the Nuremburg Code, drawn up after World War II as a result of Nazi atrocities, any experiments on humans "should be designed and based on the results of animal experimentation." The Nazis had outlawed animal experimentation but allowed experiments on Jews and "asocial persons." The Declaration of Helsinki, adopted in 1964 by the 18th World Medical Assembly and revised in 1975, also states that medical research on human subjects "should be based on adequately performed laboratory and animal experimentation."
It is crucial to distinguish between animal rights and animal welfare. The scientific community supports animal welfare, which means guaranteeing the health and well-being of these animals.
Don’t people choose careers in medical research using animals because it is an easy way to receive funding dollars and make high salaries?
No. Most researchers could make more money in other careers. People choose to go into research because they want to find answers to complicated questions. Animal research is often a vital step in finding the answers.
In reality, research dollars are scarce and are becoming more so, with approximately two-thirds of all worthy projects that seek grant money going unfunded. Animal research itself is and will continue to be very costly. Making sure animals are housed, fed, watered and appropriately cared for requires technical and veterinary staff dedicated to the science of laboratory animal medicine. Animal research is vital to continued progress in science and human and animal health. The payoff for animal researchers is not money but the treatments and cures that benefit both humans and animals.
Why are increasing numbers of animals sacrificed for research?
Although the number of mice used in medical research has increased in recent years because of their use in genetic research for diseases, the number of most kinds of animals used in research has actually decreased by 20%-50% in the past 20-25 years, due in part to the replacement of some animals with non-animal testing and the improvement of research techniques.
Why are increasing numbers of animals used in repetitive experiments?
Repetition of some experiments must occur for a variety of scientific reasons. The validation of data is critical to minimize or discover potential error. Experiments must be repeated to account for even the slightest change in variables such as dosage, temperature, and weight.
Why can’t alternatives, such as computer models and cell and tissue cultures, replace animals in medical research?
Computer models and tissue cultures are often used in conjunction with animal testing. However, a computer simply can’t mimic the complexities of an entire biological system. That’s why animals are used.
Computer models and cell cultures can be used to determine toxic levels of substances early in the experiment, but final tests must be done on a living animal. Even the most sophisticated technology cannot mimic the complicated interactions among cells, tissues, and organs that occur in humans and animals. Scientists must understand these interactions before giving a new treatment or substance to humans.
For more information on alternatives to animal testing, see the following sites:
Why do drugs and other substances undergo animal testing?
You never give a second thought to the safety of the products you use daily, such as shampoo, household cleaning supplies, and toothpaste, because animal testing has deemed them safe for human use.
Without testing, we would not know what to do in case of accidental ingestion or exposure to household cleaners and chemicals. Research conducted on these products helps doctors treat patients who have been accidentally exposed to potentially harmful substances.
Testing protects animals and the environment, as well. Through animal testing, we learn how to safely use products near pets, livestock, and animals in the wild. Information on accidental misuse or overdosing designed to protect humans also protects animals. Testing also tells us whether chemical spills and other accidental exposures will harm the environment.