There are many reasons why animal testing is pretty problematic. In this article I discuss some of them.
Many unused animals
A lot of animals are bred for animal testing, but in the end aren’t used in any experiment. Often more animals are bred than are necessary for a specific experiment, as there always need to be extra animals available in case there’s a problem. It may seem like a good thing that these animals aren’t used in experiments, but they still live in captivity under pretty bad circumstances. In addition, after a while they have to be killed when it’s sure they won’t be needed for experiments, as it’s a legal requirement to reduce animal suffering as much as possible. This includes killing these animals and regularly replacing them with newly bred animals for new tests. In addition, for some research the test animals have to have certain characteristics, which means the bred animals that don’t meet these requirements are useless and are therefore killed. For example, for some studies, only female animals are needed, which means half of the animals being bred (all males) are just an unnecessary byproduct. These animals are often killed quite soon after birth. This is a legal requirement to prevent ‘unnecessary suffering’. In the Netherlands around half a million animals bred for experiments are killed every year without having been used in any research (on top of the the half a million animals that are used in experiments).
Alternatives often aren’t used much
While for some experiments there aren’t any alternatives yet, the alternatives that we do already have often aren’t being used nearly as much as they could. This often has to do with money and the attitude of the researchers. Most researchers have been trained for years in testing on animals and often have a lot of experience in this. Many of them don’t see a problem in using animals in experiments and aren’t very open to new technologies that can replace animal testing. This resistance to new alternatives from within means that in some experiments alternatives could be used but still aren’t being used. In addition, money also plays a role. In some cases alternatives can be considerably more expensive or require an initial investment in equipment. Researchers may also need to learn how to use these alternatives or new facilities are needed to work with these alternatives or to produce them on a sufficiently large scale. Therefore, it’s not surprising that integrating known alternatives is a very slow process, which means many animals suffer unnecessarily.
Inefficient regulations and lack of cooperation
The number of animals used in experiments could already be lowered considerably if countries would cooperate more. Now, new medicines and other new products or ingredients are being tested separately in many different countries. Nowadays, most European countries work together, meaning products only need to be tested once (which still involves a lot of animals), but most other countries have regulations stating that every new product needs to be tested in that country, regardless of whether the product has already been found to be safe through those same tests in other countries. Because of this, many products (medicines, cleaning products etc) are being tested in many different countries, each time requiring a big group of animals as the safety of a product can only be established by testing on a considerable group of individuals. Therefore, many animals could be spared if there would be more cooperation and agreements between countries so redoing the same tests in different places would no longer be necessary.
The results are usually not useful for people
Many different species of animals are used in animal testing. However, translating these results into useful implications for the human body or human situation remains problematic. To improve this situation, genetically modified animals are increasingly being bred and used for testing. By manipulating the DNA, animals can for example be made more sensitive to illnesses that they naturally don’t get or don’t get so easily. However, it still remains that results from animal testing often aren’t applicable to humans and therefore regularly aren’t very helpful in gaining more insights or developing medicines.
For part 5 on alternatives for animal testing, click here.
Animal Rights Nederland & België
Lawler, Andrew (2015). How The Chicken Crossed the World: The Story of the Bird that Powers Civilization. Duckworth Overlook, London.