Rabbits immobilized in wooden stocks with ulcers in their eyes; baby seals being clubbed over the head, and the infamous shock treatment. Broach the subject with an individual and odds are that they have witnessed footage of one or all of the aforementioned practices and are appalled by the cruelty. Appalled yes, willing to stand up and voice their thoughts... not often. There is one significant reason for this unwillingness by some to stand up for the rights of our fellow inhabitants of this planet, personal convenience. We are systematically cutting down the last forest that provides their shelter to farm cattle; we dump toxic chemicals and sewage into the waters in which they live; we wear the tusks of the last few of their species on our arms, and we pour cosmetic products into their eyes, rectums or vaginas to determine the harmful effects they might cause on humans, even though the physiological differentiation between humans and the animals they use is durastic. On a daily basis most people do not see their own degree of unintentional support towards this global dilemma, but when compiled on paper one must question how mankind can, with conscience, commit these acts which shame us as human beings. Animals possess the same kinds of feelings and emotions as human beings, and without anesthesia, they are subjected to the pain as well. Mankind often fails to give animals the respect and rights they deserve, they are treated as lifeless, unfeeling scientific specimens and items that we may manipulate at our own convenience and for vanity's sake.
Laboratory research involving animals is cruel and merciless treatment of helpless creatures. No law requires that cosmetics and household products be tested on animals. Nevertheless, by six o'clock this evening, hundreds of animals will have had their eyes, skin or gastrointestinal systems unnecessarily burned or destroyed (Sequoia, 27). Two of the most famous animal tests are the Draize, or eye irritancy test and the LD50, Lethal Dose 50. The Draize test is performed almost exclusively on albino rabbits, such as the Florida White, because they are cheap, docile, and are not "equipped" with tear ducts to wash away the chemicals. During the test the rabbits are immobilized in a stock with only their head protruding and a solid or liquid is placed in the lower lid of one eye of the rabbit; substances vary from mascara to aftershave and even oven cleaner. The rabbits eyes are clipped open and observed at intervals of 1, 24, 48, 72 and 168 hours. It is important to note that, during this test, anesthesia is rarely used. Reactions include inflammation, ulceration, rupture of the eyeball, corrosion and bleeding. Some of these studies continue for weeks, and all the while no measures are made to reduce suffering or treat the rabbits.
Survival, however, will only lead to an entirely new set of tests, such as the skin irritancy or the LD50. Lethal Dose 50 refers to the lethal dose that is required to kill 50% of all animals in a test group of 40-200. Animals are force fed substances through a stomach tube, forced to inhale a substance, or have the substance applied to their rectum or vagina. These tests continue until half of the test animals die. During these tests animals will often endure excruciating pain, convulsions, loss of motor function, seizures, vomiting, paralysis and bleeding from every open orifice in the body. Any animals who somehow manage to survive these particular tests are subsequently destroyed (Sequoia, 29). There is also a Lethal Dose 100 test that determines the amount of a test substance required to kill 100% of the test animals. Ironically, results of these tests are rarely, if ever, used in situation of actual human poisoning.
The skin irritancy test, similar to the eye irritancy test, is where an animal, most commonly a rodent, has a highly concentrated solution of a chemical in question applied to their skin. Their skin is then observed for signs of irritancy, such as redness and blistering. In some cases, the irritation can be so bad that the product actually burns through the skin.
Not only are these tests cruel, but the results are unreliable and unnecessary as scientific evidence. As with the aforementioned Draize test; rabbits eyes are not the same as human eyes - there are profound differences, mainly the absence of tear ducts. In addition, different species react differently to various substances; substances that fail to damage a rabbits eyes may be toxic to a human. For example, nicotine is lethal to humans at 0.9mg/kg, but lethal dose value of nicotine in dogs are a staggering 9.2mg/kg, in pigeons 75mg/kg, and in rats, 53mg/kg (PETA Factsheet). Another example, results from experiences which exposed a variety of animal species to cigarette smoke led researchers to believe that smoking did not cause cancer. Because of this, warning labels on packs were delayed for years and cigarette manufacturers still use animal data to question the harmful effects of their products. The drugs Oraflex, Selacryn, Zomax, Suprol and Meritol produced such adverse side effects in humans, including death, that they were removed from the market, though animal experimentation had predicted them all to be safe. One of the few studies that examined the differences in species reactions, found only that 5-25% correlation between harmful effects in people and the results of animal experiments (Heywood, R.). The question of why such tests continue must be raised. The truth of the matter is easy, traditional and readily funded. Whatever the reason may be, animal research has accorded a certain level of prestige; this has important economic implications, and funding agencies often favour these projects (Sequoia, 85). In essence, it can all be traced back to the notion of convenience raised earlier in our research - mankind has a tendency to seek out the fastest and easiest way to formulate an answer, for the cheapest cost. Sadly, it seems animals may not be entirely saved from this tendency just yet.
While animals still continue to be violated in laboratories, a consciousness about our responsibility toward our relationship with animals has begun and continued to rise. As a result of pressures from animal advocacy groups such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and AAVS (American Anti-Vivisection Society), a number of large corporations have ceased all animal testing in recent years. These corporations include Avon, Amway, Benetton, Revlon and even General Motors, who used to subject animals to crash/impact tests. In addition, the general public has begun to lean toward and seek out those products which are not tested on animals, in the cosmetics industry, cruelty-free products are one of the fastest growing market segments (Sequoia, 27). Consumers have at long-last begun to realize that with the vast number of cosmetics and personal care products on the market today, it is impossible for a company to rationalize animal testing in the name of another shampoo or nail polish. In particular, consumers have begun to cry out for more frequent employment of the available alternatives to animal testing; some of which include cell cultures; tissue cultures; corneas from eye banks; and sophisticated computer and mathematical models (PETA factsheet).
The non-animal test results have in fact proved themselves more accurate and less expensive than those involving animal cruelty (PETA factsheet). Of note, the Avon cosmetic company has personally endorsed EYTEX SYSTEM, an alternative to the painful Draize test (Rollin, B.E.). All of this bespeaks some progress, but it is still too slow and infrequent given the obvious moral and scientific fault in the practice of animal testing. Financial benefits to the experimenters and their suppliers, and habit are significant factors in the continuation of animal research activity. Legal prohibition of the Draize and LD50 tests would accelerate the alternative approaches, to the benefit of science, animals and consumers (Rollin, B.E., 149).
Alternatives to animal tests are efficient and reliable, both for cosmetics and household product tests and for "medical research." In most cases, non-animal methods take less time to complete, cost only a fraction of what the animal experiments they replace costs, and are not plagued with species differences that make extrapolation difficult or impossible. Eytex, developed by InVitro International, assesses irritancy with a protein alteration system. A vegetable protein from the jack bean mimics the cornea's reaction when exposed to foreign matter. The greater the irritation, the more opaque the solution becomes. The Skintex formula, developed by the same corporation, is made from the yellowish meat of the pumpkin rind; it mimics the reaction of human skin to foreign substances. Both these can be used to determine the toxicity of more than 5,000 different materials. Tissue and cell cultures can be grown in laboratory from single cells from human or animal tissues. NeoDerm, made by Marrow-Tech, begins with the injection of skin cells into a sterile plastic bag containing a biodegradable mesh. The cells attach to the mesh and grow around it, like a vine in a garden. After the segment of skin is sewn onto the patient, the mesh gradually dissolves.
Mathematical and computer models, based on physical and chemical structures and properties of a substance, can be used to make predictions about the toxicity of a substance. TOPKAT, a software package distributed by Health Designs Inc., predicts oral toxicity and skin and eye irritation. It is "intended to be used as a personal tool by toxicologists, pharmacologists, synthetic and medicinal chemists, regulators, and industrial hygienists," according to HDI (PETA Factsheet). The Ames test involves mixing the text chemical with a bacterial culture of Salmonelle typhimurium and adding activating enzymes to the mixture. It was able to detect 156 of 174 (90%) animal carcinogens and 96 out of 108 (88%) non-carcinogens (PETA Factsheet).
Non-animal tests are generally faster and less expensive than the animal tests they replace and improve upon. Eytex testing kits can test three concentrations of a chemical for $99.50 (American); a Draize test of comparable range would cost more than $1000, American (PETA Factsheet).
There are a lot of steps the consumer can do to help and prevent the destruction of our animals. Buy cosmetics, personal care, and household products that have not been tested on animals, this involves taking on the responsibility of becoming an educated and compassionate consumer; encourage your friends and co-workers to buy cruelty-free products. If you need backup to encourage the people you speak with, inform them of the sickening situations involving lab animals. Instead of buying all of your personal care products, why not make some yourself? It's simple and inexpensive, kind to animals, and ecologically sound. Boycott companies which test their products on animals, and feel free to write them letting the company know why you are boycotting them. Lists of companies who carry out these senseless tests, and their addresses are available from organizations such as AAVS and PETA. Contact your elected representatives and federal agencies and demand that the validation of non-animal methods become a high-priority.
Proven, that mankind often disregards the rights of other living beings, times are changing for the better due to the increasing pressure of the consumer. Society has begun to take notice of this pressing global concern because intelligent life should not be subjected to this form of torture. It has been estimated that animal experimentation world-wide has decreased by 30-50% in the last 15-20 years, due to the reduction and replacement techniques (AAVS Factsheet). From the theory of evolution and the immergence of man, humans have to understand that this planet is not only ours, but the animals as well. Albert Einstein once said, "Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." In essence, the means of living a healthy and fulfilled life is to embrace and respect all life present on this planet. There are a number of things that mankind can do to prevent this cruelty from continuing, it is simply a matter of taking the initiative to inform and involved yourself and others. Every individual effort is a step towards the annihilation of animal cruelty.