In 1933, one unlucky cosmetics company caused the death of an even less lucky woman with a mascara they produced, as well as injury and blindness in many other users.
In 1937, a pharmaceutical company of equally bad luck accidentally fed a toxic strep-throat remedy to the world that killed hundreds of people.
Understandably, these cases led to the regulation of safety tests to be carried out before any chemicals go to market – this includes food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and cleaning products, among others. This came in the form of the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, which required all drugs to be tested on animals.
In 1966 the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) swooped in to regulate the treatment of laboratory animals, and is still used today as a standard. Unfortunately for rats and mice, they are not considered as ‘animals’ in the AWA, and therefore are not covered by the Act’s requirements of humane care.
The issue of what is ‘humane care’ is interesting, considering that despite this act, cats (and kittens), dogs (and puppies), rabbits, chimpanzees and many other animals are still subjected to mutilation and infection every day. This is called vivisection; where living creatures are operated on for the purpose of scientific research, particularly when they are dissected or cut open. But even when we put aside any moral or ethical considerations, animal testing is still pretty pointless. It is expensive, time consuming and not altogether that reliable. This renders the entire process highly inefficient.
For one thing, other species of animal are biologically very different to humans. What works to cure human disease in a bunch of guinea pigs, isn’t necessarily going to help in humans. As an example, check out any information on the drug Vioxx, which was shown to be safe on rats and mice, but went on to cause heart attacks, strokes and even death in humans and has since been withdrawn from the market.
An article on adapt.org puts this in perspective: ‘After talking with several veterinarians… I asked them, “When you were in vet school studying feline leukaemia, which animal did you study upon?” They all replied, “Cats.” I asked them why they didn’t use dogs for feline leukaemia research. They replied that studying dogs for feline leukaemia didn’t make too much sense scientifically. I then asked why dogs, cats and other animals are used for human leukaemia research. Their silence revealed the scam.’
Furthermore, John J. Pippin of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) explain that there are ‘significant and immutable differences among and within animal species (including humans) regarding anatomy, physiology and drug metabolism.’4 This includes chimpanzees, even despite sharing most of our DNA with them.
Another point in favour of not testing on animals, is that there are several more reliable alternatives which are already being used or are currently being developed. One of these methods is to grow live human skin cells in a lab. This would obviously be more effective, as the skin cells used to test the product come from the same species as those going to use the product. This is just one of many alternatives, others including 3D printing technology, human clinical studies, in vitro (e.g., in a test tube) research, in silico (computer-based) techniques and advanced imaging methods, to name a few.
So why, with all of these cheaper, more reliable and more ethical alternatives, do scientists and doctors still test on animals? Probably because it has been done that way for so long.
Remember Grace Hopper, American computer scientist and pioneer, and US Navy rear admiral, and her poignant quote: “The most dangerous phrase in the language is: ‘we’ve always done it this way’.”
It is up to us as consumers to make educated decisions regarding the products we buy and where they have come from. There are plenty of resources online which can help us to make conscious decisions, such as leapingbunny.org and even choice.com.au. If you are unsure about a certain product, do a quick google search and check out what the company has to say about animal testing.
At Flash, we are proud to clean windows with products that are not tested on animals.
Image: Warren Photographic