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Animal testing is the use of non-human animals, for the purpose of testing chemical and other substances, to determine their safety and efficacy for use with humans. This topic is mired in controversy with supporters and opponents arguing over both ethical concerns and the effectiveness of the practice.

Testing of drugsEdit

Metabolism studiesEdit

Animal testing studies are performed to find out how drugs are absorbed, metabolized and excreted by the body when introduced in different ways such as, orally, intravenously or intramuscularly....

Safety studiesEdit

Studies are performed which gauge acute, sub-acute and chronic toxicity. Acute toxicity is studied by using a rising dose until signs of toxicity become apparent. Sub-acute toxicity is where the drug is given to the animals in doses below the level at which it becomes toxic for 4 to 6 weeks in order to discover such effects as the build up of toxic metabolites. Testing for chronic toxicity can last up to two years in two different species. The data gained from this period can be used to calculate the maximum tolerable dose (the dose where signs of toxicity are just beginning to occur).

Efficacy studiesEdit

To test if experimental drugs work, the appropriate illness is induced in animals using an animal model of the disease. The drug is then administered in a double-blind placebo controlled trial. This allows scientists to determine the effect of the drug and the dose response curve.


There is a contemporary debate regarding animal testing, and its moral implications, as weighed against benefits to humans. Testing advocates in medicine and industry argue that humans maintain an increasedly higher standard of living, as viewed from health concerns, in large part due to advances in health and manufacturing knowledge derived from animal testing. Animal rights activists claim that testing, in particular testing for commercial, non-medical substances, is excessive and unnecessary, causing a great loss of animal life for the diminished pursuit of producing non-vital, socially irrelevant products. Animal rights activists also criticize the effectiveness of animal tests.

Animal rights and animal welfare activists may broadly refer to all animal testing as vivisection, even for tests in which animals are not dissected.

See also: Vivisection and experimentation debate

Alternatives to animal testingEdit

Animal rights supporters, animal welfare supporters, scientists, doctors and even governments generally agree that animal testing should cause as little suffering to animals as possible, and animal tests should only be performed where necessary. Scientists and technicians involved in animal testing are particularly eager to shake off the image of being "mad scientists" who "torture animals for the sake of it", an image that some animal rights supporters attempt to perpetuate. The "three Rs" of Reduce (the number of animals used), Refine (animal procedures) and Replace (animal tests with non-animal tests) are used as the basis for animal testing codes of practise. In some countries, the three Rs are mandated by law. In other countries, many animal testing facilities voluntarily ascribe to this code to publicly demonstrate their ethical position.

There are a number of scientific studies and institutes committed to researching both complete alternatives to specific animal tests, and also improvements to existing tests to reduce the pain inflicted on animals or to reduce the number of animals killed. This is not just for the sake of ethics, but also because the research might improve the accuracy of tests or make them more time- and cost-efficient.

Some animal rights activists take this a step further and demand that all animal testing must be stopped immediately, even in cases where no alternative has been discovered.

Institutes researching animal testing alternatives and refinementsEdit


There has been a great deal of contemporary controversy over animal testing to determine the safety of cosmetic products to human consumers. In terms of being worth the sacrifice of animals, cosmetics are at the opposite end of the scale from cancer treatments. Many people feel it is immoral to cause harm or death to animals for the sake of human vanity and it is unethical to sell commercial vanity products based on the harm of animals.

"Cosmetic testing on animals" includes all of these practices:

  • Testing a finished cosmetic product (e.g. lipstick) on animals.
  • Testing individual ingredients of cosmetic products on animals.
  • Testing any combination of ingredients on animals.
  • Contracting a third-party company to perform any of the above tests.
  • Using a subsiduary or third-party company to perform any of the above tests in countries where animal testing is not banned.

Some cosmetics companies claim that their products are not tested on animals, despite using one or more of the latter four practices.

Reusing existing test data gleaned from historical animal tests is not generally considered to be cosmetic testing on animals, however the acceptability of this is inversely proportional to the recency of the data. Creating cosmetics with ingredients last tested on animals in 1985 is more acceptable than using novel ingredients last tested in 2003.

The animal tests themselves are mostly irritancy and toxicity tests. For example, the Draize test involves placing the substance under test into the eyes of rabbits. To test for skin irritation, rabbits and guinea pigs have their backs shaved of fur and "grazed" to make the skin more sensitive. The substance under test is then applied to the skin and the skin is observed for signs of redness, inflammation, weeping and/or scabs. During this procedure that animal may be prevented from moving.

Due to the strong public backlash against cosmetic testing on animals, most cosmetics manufacturers claim their products are "not tested on animals". However, they are still required by trading standards and consumer protection laws in most countries to show their products are not toxic and dangerous to public health, and that their ingredients are not dangerous in large quantities (such as when in transport or in the manufacturing plant). In some countries, it is possible to meet these requirements without any further tests on animals. In other countries, it may require animal testing to meet legal requirements. The United States and Japan are frequently criticised for their insistence on animal testing.

Some retailers distinguish themselves in the marketplace by their ethical and moral stance, and thus provide the consumer with great detail as to the ethical nature of their products. For example, see the Co-op's cosmetic testing site, which includes statements from all their suppliers as to the extent of their animal testing. See also the Body Shop's campaign against animal testing.

In 1998, the United Kingdom banned all animal testing for the purposes of safety provenance. Cosmetics manufactures may not use animal tests on either products or ingredients as proof. They may rely on existing toxicity data gleaned from past animal tests, but they may not conduct new tests. See the Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations for further details. Further to that, the UK Home Office refuses to issue any animal testing licenses for the purposes of cosmetics testing.

Cosmetic testing on animals is also banned in the Netherlands and Belgium. In 2002, after 13 years of negotiations, the European Union agreed to ban cosmetic testing on animals in 2009, with a ban on products still tested on animals being introduced by 2014. News reports allege France is the main reason behind the delays, due to the huge French cosmetics industry exerting lobbying pressure on the government. [1]

While some cosmetics manufacturers have genuinely stopped all animal testing of their products, others continue to test. Companies that continue to perform cosmetic testing on animals may falsely claim that they do not do this in their advertising and on their products.

For those cosmetics manufacturers that genuinely do not test on animals, they generally use the following for safety testing of their products:

  • Reliance on existing natural or synthetic ingredients, compounds and substances. These have already been extensively tested on animals in the past, and thus do not need to be tested again.
  • Avoiding novel ingredients or combinations of ingredients that have not fully been tested and may not be safe.
  • Testing on human volunteers.

This presumes that cosmetics companies are already using computer modelling and cell cultures to simulate human tissue, two techniques which are very useful in discovering problems early, but neither of which can yet fully replace live animal/human