Did you know that millions of animals are killed every day for household and cosmetic testing? The animals are forced to ingest or snort test samples, and at times chemicals are smeared in their eyes, skin, and mouth, to see if they will trigger adverse reactions. This practice is considered unnecessary, unethical, and barbaric. In fact, several campaigns have existed with the aim of putting an end to such tragic process.
Why Use Animals to Test Products?
Product testing on animals is conducted to make sure that the goods are harmless for human consumption. But some organizations like the Centre for the Validation of Alternatives (ECVAM) and the Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) are working together to alleviate traditional methods of product testing. Both the EU-based ECVAM and the US-based ICCVAM are responsible for approving product testing methods that do not require the use of rats, guinea pigs, and other species.
Types of Animal Tests
Acute Toxicity Testing
The process involves the administration of dangerous chemicals or products on animals via forced inhalation, forced feeding, or skin/eye contact. Among the side effects of this method include the following:
- bleeding from the genitals, nose, or mouth
- severe abdominal pain
In some cases, the subject dies after being exposed to high doses of toxic substances. Otherwise, they are killed after testing.
Eye and Skin Irritation/Corrosion Testing
Dating back to the 1940’s, this type of testing is carried out by dripping potentially dangerous substances into test animals’ eyes and skin which causes the following:
- bloody scabs
- cloudy or irritated eyes
- inflamed skin
The test is done on animals without any pain-relieving drugs. Most of the test subjects are rabbits whose skin and hair are entirely different compared to humans. Hence, many argue that the test is significantly unreliable.
Skin Sensitization Testing
In the previous years, a test called the guinea pig maximization test (GPMT) was used to study skin sensitization. The guinea pigs were injected with the test substance multiple times to detect and measure allergic reactions, such as:
- skin irritation
Today, researchers use local lymph node assay, also known as LLNA. During the test, the substance is applied to the ears of mice. Eventually, the mice are killed so the lymph node can be removed and the immune response studied.
In carcinogenicity tests, rodents are forced to inhale, ingest, or injected with a test substance. Sometimes, the test substance is spread on the creature’s skin. The animal has to endure the test for up to two years, before being killed, so that researchers can determine signs of cancer, such as:
- tumor formation and growth
- cellular abnormalities
However, a 2002 analysis of existing data found a lot of false positives and false negatives when using rodents to conclude carcinogenicity in humans.
Reproductive and Developmental Toxicity Testing
The test is used to determine if a product has an effect on the reproductive ability of an animal and on the development of the offspring. Researchers administer the test substance to rats a few weeks before mating through the gestation and fertility stages. Then, the growth, development, and survival of the offspring are examined.
Two-generation studies show an increase in the number of animals exposed to potentially harmful substances. The first generation of offspring from these developmental toxicity experiments is mated. The second generation of offspring is then observed to look for effects on fertility and toxicity.
Non-Animal Testing Methods
A growing number of companies have made the decision to employ non-animal testing methods. Some of these methods include:
- Reconstructed skin grown from human cells
- Predictive computer models
- Cell and tissue cultures
Non-animal testing guidelines are published each year by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD. The guidelines are internationally agreed upon and can be used by any laboratories, governments, and industries. They lay out new replacements to the old animal testing methods and offer replacements for previously required animal tests.
Companies That Don’t Test on Animals
More and more companies nowadays are no longer using animals to test for their household and beauty products. Some of these companies view their decision to stop animal testing as ethical, while others consider the move economical.
In the United States, there are still businesses that claim they are obliged to test their products on animals. Although some brands have already abandoned the idea of testing on animals, others have gone back to using the traditional method to market their products in countries like China. However, in the European Union and India, all companies are prohibited from testing their products on animals.