Animal Testing: Looking Towards a Sustainable Future
Updated: Nov 19, 2022
Nalin Gupta, Solon High School, Solon, Ohio, USA
Summary: In recent years, animal testing has become a prevalent issue in the global health discussion of looking toward a more sustainable future. This paper aims to compare the testing policies of the United States to countries in Europe, Asia, Oceania, and Latin America. Ultimately, it can be determined that countries with less strict guidelines on animal use, such as the United States, should model their restrictions on the United Kingdom. However, because animal testing has proven to be beneficial for past diseases and drug development, outright banning testing on animals for drug and vaccine development may be detrimental. Instead, countries should aim to reduce unnecessary testing in cosmetic sectors by modeling their policies off of countries with well-established regulations. This promotes exploring alternative methods to animal testing and allows for greater protection of public health and worker safety.
In 2015, a striking 192 million animals were used globally for scientific purposes (Taylor, 2019). In response to this stunning statistic, the global community held countries such as China, Japan, the United States, and Canada responsible for a significant portion of this estimated figure.
Proponents for abolishing animal testing argue that such widespread usage of animals may waste critical resources and pose a severe risk to the protection of public health and worker safety. In defense of animal testing, however, previous use of animals for drug and vaccine development has been largely successful.
Animal testing has considerably improved our understanding of the anatomical features of different organisms and how chemicals interact with complex systems. With these ideas in mind, analyzing both perspectives regarding animal testing is critical.
Before analyzing the global policies of animal testing, it is imperative to understand the scientific and ethical dilemma using animals creates. According to Aysha Akhtar, a certified neurologist and president of The Center for Contemporary Sciences, laboratory conditions, such as artificial lighting, excessive noises, and restricted housing environments can yield high-stress levels in mice. This increased stress on tested animals may lead to "chronic inflammatory conditions and intestinal leakage, which add variables that can confound data" (Akhtar, 2015). Using animals in a laboratory raises a scientific concern and brings attention to the inhumane conditions many of these animals are subjected to.
However, despite these conditions potentially confounding data, animal testing has still provided considerable benefits to previous drug and vaccine developments. Roger Lemon, professor of neurophysiology at University College London, acknowledges the "major impact of research based on animals in diseases such as polio, kidney transplantation, and Parkinson's disease" (Lemon, 2005). Because animals have proven beneficial in several pre-clinical developmental phases of essential drugs and vaccines, it would be inefficient to eliminate all animal testing outright.
Instead, countries should look toward developing policies that strictly regulate the usage of animals in laboratories while promoting research facilities to explore alternative methods that can reduce animal reliance.
Currently, the United States has no direct law protecting animals from psychological and physical pain caused by laboratory research. The only established law by the United States is the Animal Welfare Act, which is responsible for overseeing and setting standards for the humane care of animals shown to the public, sold as pets, and used in research facilities ("Animal Welfare," 2022). However, this act has a significant pitfall in regulating animal use in laboratories; the Animal Welfare Act excludes the protection of most used laboratory animals – rats, mice, and birds – allowing research facilities to avoid reporting the number of animals they use ("Federal Laws," 2020). Similarly, the United States Department of Agriculture has been held responsible for overseeing animal use in laboratories; however, the department reportedly has only 100 inspectors to oversee more than 9,000 facilities ("U.S. Department," 2021). Collectively, this data on U.S. policies and restrictions exemplify that the U.S. has made little effort to regulate and ensure humane conditions for animal testing compared to its global partners' efforts.
Other countries worldwide seem to have stricter animal testing policies than the United States. According to Pauline Perry, a member of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 in the United Kingdom requires research facilities to obtain animal research licenses, carry out "cost-benefit assessments" to ensure a definite need of using animals, and adhere to the 3Rs of animal use (refinement, reduction, and replacement) (Perry, 2007). The United Kingdom and other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan have also banned animal testing on all domestically manufactured cosmetic products. Members of the Australian Government Department of Health claim that this effort to eliminate cosmetic animal testing is chiefly to ensure "the ongoing protection of public health, worker safety and the environment and minimal impact to business" ("Ban on," 2021).
From the perspective of lesser developed countries (LDCs) countries, Colombia has become one of the first LDCs to create strict policies on animal testing. The new Law 2047, which will act in full force in August 2024, will ban the import, export, and manufacture of all animal-tested cosmetic products ("Columbia has," n.d.).
Regardless of the level of development in these countries, nations such as the United Kingdom and Colombia have demonstrated that it is feasible to implement policies that reduce the reliance on animals.
While current alternatives to animal testing methods may not completely replace drug and vaccine developments, countries with minimal regulation on animal use should look to develop harsher restrictions on cosmetic testing. For example, modeling restrictions on United Kingdom policies would effectively reduce unnecessary testing in the cosmetic industry and develop more conservative practices of using animals in drug and vaccine development (through the required licenses and cost-benefit analyses). Ultimately, reducing animal testing will align with the goals of greater protection of public health, improving worker safety, and caring for living organisms.
Akhtar A. (2015). The flaws and human harms of animal experimentation. Cambridge quarterly of healthcare ethics : CQ : the international journal of healthcare ethics committees, 24(4), 407–419. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0963180115000079
Animal Welfare Act. USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services. (2022, January 12). Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalwelfare/sa_awa
Ban on the use of animal test data for cosmetics. Australian Government Department of Health. (2021, July 5). Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ban-cosmetic-testing-animals
Colombia has banned animal testing on cosmetics. Brigard Urrutia. (n.d.). Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://bu.com.co/en/noticias/colombia-has-banned-animal-testing-cosmetics
Federal Laws and Agencies Involved With Animal Testing. Animal Legal Defense Fund. (2020, October 29). Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://aldf.org/article/federal-laws-and-agencies-involved-with-animal-testing/
Lemon, R., & Dunnett, S. B. (2005). Surveying the literature from animal experiments. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 330(7498), 977–978. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7498.977
Perry P. (2007). The ethics of animal research: a UK perspective. ILAR journal, 48(1), 42–46. https://doi.org/10.1093/ilar.48.1.42
Taylor, K., & Alvarez, L. R. (2019). An Estimate of the Number of Animals Used for Scientific Purposes Worldwide in 2015. Alternatives to laboratory animals : ATLA, 47(5-6), 196–213. https://doi.org/10.1177/0261192919899853
U.S. Department of Agriculture. People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). (2021, June 17). Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-experimentation/us-government-animal-testing-programs/usda/