Two dogs looking up with an appeal of mercy from a cage of animal testing laboratory

Animal testing and experimentation.

Millions of primates, cats, dogs, rabbits, mice and other animals are poisoned, burned and killed each year in abusive and unnecessary animal tests. Learn more and discover how you can avoid supporting these cruel multi-billion dollar industries.

Credit: Ricky Kharawala

Animal testing and experimentation is one of the most extreme forms of legalised animal abuse in the world today. It is also one of the most hidden.

Tests can involve injecting animals with potentially harmful substances, using harsh chemicals to burn their eyes and skin, forcing animals to inhale toxic gases or even terrorising them in the name of ‘science’.

Most people would be shocked to learn just how prevalent animal testing is. From testing cosmetics and other household products to using animals in medical research, hundreds of millions of animals suffer in cruel and unnecessary experiments every single year.

Cosmetics, beauty and household products.

Dogs, cats, rabbits and many other animals still suffer pointless and painful procedures in the name of product testing. Some will undergo irritancy tests that cause severe chemical burns to their sensitive skin; others will be forced to ingest harmful chemicals that can lead to fatal poisoning.

These tests aim to measure the toxicity of the chemicals that make up cosmetics, cleaning products, drugs, pesticides, foods and even packing materials. To study the ‘effects’, animals are often left to languish for days without pain relief. This not only causes great suffering but reveals nothing about toxicity to humans.

Toxicity tests are not only cruel, they are completely unnecessary. The majority of ingredients commonly used in household cleaners or cosmetics have been safety tested years ago. And the differences in animal physiology means that even brand new ingredients can’t be accurately tested for human safety on anything other than humans.

Laws and regulations about product testing on animals vary in every country. And even if a ban on the practice is in place, it often doesn’t stop existing products and ingredients that have been tested on animals from being marketed and sold in the country.

Products that haven’t involved any animal testing will generally have a certification symbol on the label. Choose Cruelty Free has a comprehensive list of brands that don’t allow any animal testing. Or you can search for specific products here.

Using animals in medical research has become big business.

Today, animal research is a multi-billion dollar industry, encompassing the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, universities and government bodies.

There is also a significant industry providing support services to animal researchers, including the breeding or wild capture of animals to supply research institutions.

Hundreds of millions of animals are used annually in research and teaching around the world including primates, pigs, dogs, cats and mice. Many of these animals are denied any quality of life and will be subjected to some degree of pain and stress during the experimental procedure. In the worst cases, their pain and suffering will be extreme. Some animals are deliberately infected with deadly diseases and others will die or be killed when they are no longer needed.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation for many people is that using animals for medical research is not only largely ineffective but there are humane alternatives available.

Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals and the answer is: 'Because animals are like us.' Ask the experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are not like us.' Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.
Prof. Charles R. Magel
Credit: Action for Primates

Primate experimentation.

When a baby gorilla is born in a zoo it often makes news headlines — and upon the death of a captive gorilla, the community grieves. Yet, every day in institutions around the world, thousands of their primate cousins are hidden away to be used in cruel experiments.

Macaque monkeys, marmosets and baboons are common victims of the medical research industry. They are either bred for this purpose in special breeding facilities or taken from the wild where illegal poaching and habitat destruction have left some species critically endangered.

Cambodia, Mauritius and France are among the world’s biggest exporters of primates. The multi-million dollar industry supplies animals to research laboratories all around the world from the United States to Spain to Germany and Australia.

Tests on non-human primates can range from the cruel to the ridiculous and have included:

  • inducing brain, spinal and shoulder injuries
  • infecting animals with HIV and other viruses in drugs trials
  • terrorising marmosets with rubber snakes to test their fear response
  • forcing monkeys to live in isolation to monitor their anxiety and depression levels
  • overdosing baby marmosets with opiates
  • inducing potentially fatal diseases in pregnant baboons

For all our apparent similarities, the results of animal experiments on non-human primates cannot be directly applied to humans. This means thousands of primates are being abused and killed every year in research that is not only highly questionable but that has no clear direct benefit to human health and development.

A global trade in misery.

The import and export of primates for testing and medical research is a multi-million dollar industry.

The long-tailed macaque is the most heavily traded and abused of all primate species. Many are exported from large breeding facilities directly to laboratories. Others are trapped and taken from the wild. Removal from their family causes suffering and extreme distress – for those taken and those left behind.

And as is the case for all animals transported over long distances, conditions can be gruelling. The monkeys are crammed into tiny transit crates and forced to endure long and stressful journeys – destined for a life of deprivation and suffering far from home.

While some countries have policies against importing wild-caught animals, a lack of accountability throughout the importation process makes the policy almost impossible to enforce.

Alternatives to animals?

Testing on animals is not only unethical — it’s unnecessary. And ultimately, it’s animals who are paying the high price for humanity’s failure to utilise progressive, and readily available, animal-free tools for scientific and medical experimentation.

Many alternatives to animal testing have already been developed, particularly in the areas of toxicity testing and teaching. Developments have occurred most rapidly and effectively in countries where the use of animals is prohibited.

Alternatives may involve the same experimental goals, but using instead techniques that could include cell cultures or computer programs, or changing the experimental aim altogether – such as eliminating an animal-based experiment and replacing it with a clinical experiment involving humans.

The failure to use alternatives is too often caused by inertia, lack of funding, or a reluctance to deviate from previous methodology.

We live in a truly remarkable age — where 3D printers can restore mobility and dignity to people (and animals) who have lost their limbs, and research groups are well on their way to being able to ‘custom make‘ body parts and organs. It’s clearer than ever that animal experimentation should be relegated to the history books.

Humane Research Australia has a wealth of information detailing alternatives to animal testing — cruelty-free options that showcase human ingenuity, and compassion, at their best.