According to EU regulations, companies and institutions can’t test on animals without getting special permits. They require both a permit for the institution and separate permits for every new research that involves testing on animals. A special committee reviews every request for animal testing and judges the necessity of these experiments.
EU regulations also state that animals used for experiments need to be treated and looked after as well as possible. Pain should be minimized and anesthesia should be used whenever possible when this won’t have disturb the experiment. Unfortunately, because of the way this may effect the experiment, anesthesia isn’t used much. Animals are also required to have housing that is appropriate for their species and where they can behave as naturally as possible. This can be done by giving animals plenty of space, the right climate (temperature, light etc) and by designing the cages specifically to be suitable to a specie’s habits.
This all sounds pretty good, but in reality these rules don’t work very well. They’re quite similar to rules for animal agriculture where unnecessary harm should also be prevented and animals should be housed in a suitable environment and treated well. Unfortunately, these rules are open to many different interpretations that leave a lot of room for unnecessary suffering. With animal testing, as with animal agriculture, animal welfare is limited by the budget, which means a lot of space and good living conditions aren’t affordable. In addition, it’s hard to measure objectively how much stress and pain animals experience and to judge whether this is preventable or acceptable. Even under the best of circumstances and with the best of intentions, it’s not possible to house and keep animals for testing in a way that is free from pain, discomfort and stress. Unfortunately, practicalities such as limited money, space and time mean that the way animals are housed and treated is far from ideal. In addition, there’s always the pain and suffering during the actual experiment.
Furthermore, the animals are almost always killed at the end of the experiment and this needs to be done in a humane way. Some are put down with lethal injection which is arguably quite humane, but other methods definitely are not. Gassing, breaking the neck or beheading are also common ways to kill animals used in experiments. We all know that gassing is far from a painless death and with the other methods it’s doubtful they are humane, especially when procedures like beheading won’t always go well at the first attempt. In the Netherlands, gassing is considered ‘light pain/lack of comfort’ by the industry itself, so when they consider that to be only mild suffering, we can only guess how much suffering is caused by moderate or high pain procedures.
Animal Rights Nederland & België
Lawler, Andrew (2015). How The Chicken Crossed the World: The Story of the Bird that Powers Civilization. Duckworth Overlook, London.