Facts and Figures
United States (2009)(1,2)
United Kingdom (2009)(4)
Each year, more than 100 million animals—including mice, rats, frogs, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, monkeys, fish, and birds—are killed in U.S. laboratories for chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics testing; biology lessons; medical training; and curiosity-driven experimentation. Before their deaths, some are forced to inhale toxic fumes, others are immobilized in restraint devices for hours, some have holes drilled into their skulls, and others have their skin burned off or their spinal cords crushed. In addition to the torment of the actual experiments, animals in laboratories are deprived of everything that is natural and important to them—they are confined to barren cages, socially isolated, and psychologically traumatized. The thinking, feeling animals who are used in experiments are treated like nothing more than disposable laboratory equipment.
Wasteful and UnreliableWhile a Pew Research poll found 43 percent of adults surveyed oppose the use of animals in scientific research, other surveys suggest that those who do accept animal experimentation do so only because they believe it to be necessary for medical progress.(5,6) The reality is that the majority of animal experiments do not contribute to improving human health, and the value of the role that animal experimentation plays in most medical advances is questionable.
In an article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers warned that “patients and physicians should remain cautious about extrapolating the finding of prominent animal research to the care of human disease … poor replication of even high-quality animal studies should be expected by those who conduct clinical research.”(7)
Diseases that are artificially induced in animals in a laboratory are never identical to those that occur naturally in human beings. And because animal species differ from one another biologically in many significant ways, it becomes even more unlikely that animal experiments will yield results that will be correctly interpreted and applied to the human condition in a meaningful way.
For example, according to former National Cancer Institute Director Dr. Richard Klausner, “We have cured mice of cancer for decades, and it simply didn’t work in humans.”(8) And although at least 85 HIV/AIDS vaccines have been successful in nonhuman primate studies, as of 2010, every one of nearly 200 preventive and therapeutic vaccine trials has failed to demonstrate benefit to humans.(9) In one case, an AIDS vaccine that was shown to be effective in monkeys failed in human clinical trials because it did not prevent people from developing AIDS, and some believe that it made them more susceptible to the disease. According to a report in the British newspaper The Independent, one conclusion from the failed study was that “testing HIV vaccines on monkeys before they are used on humans, does not in fact work.”(10)
Ninety-two percent of drugs—those that have been tested on animals and in vitro—do not make it through Phase 1 of human clinical trials (the initial studies that determine reaction, effectiveness, and side effects of doses of a potential drug).(11)
In addition, the results of animal experiments can be variable and easily manipulated. Research published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that universities commonly exaggerate findings from animal experiments conducted in their laboratories and “often promote research that has uncertain relevance to human health and do not provide key facts or acknowledge important limitations.”(12) One study of media coverage of scientific meetings concluded that news stories often omit crucial information and that “the public may be misled about the validity and relevance of the science presented.”(13) Because experimenters rarely publish results of failed animal studies, other scientists and the public do not have ready access to information on the ineffectiveness of animal experimentation. Funding and AccountabilityThrough their taxes, charitable donations, and purchases of lottery tickets and consumer products, members of the public are ultimately the ones who—knowingly or unknowingly—fund animal experimentation. One of the largest sources of funding comes from publicly funded government granting agencies such as the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Approximately 47 percent of NIH-funded research involves experimentation on nonhuman animals, and in 2009, the NIH budgeted nearly $29 billion for research and development.(14,15) In addition, many charities––including the March of Dimes, the American Cancer Society, and countless others—use donations to fund experiments on animals. One-third of the projects funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society involve animal experimentation.(16) Visit HumaneSeal.org to find out which charities do and which do not fund research on animals.
Despite the vast amount of public funds being used to underwrite animal experimentation, it is nearly impossible for the public to obtain current and complete information regarding the animal experiments that are being carried out in their communities or funded with their tax dollars. State open-records laws and the U.S. Freedom of Information Act can be used to obtain documents and information from state institutions, government agencies, and other federally funded facilities, but private companies, contract labs, and animal breeders are exempt. In many cases, institutions that are subject to open-records laws fight vigorously to withhold information about animal experimentation from the public.(17)
Oversight and RegulationDespite the countless animals killed each year in laboratories worldwide, most countries have grossly inadequate regulatory measures in place to protect animals from suffering and distress or to prevent them from being used when a non-animal approach is readily available. In the U.S., the most commonly used species in laboratory experiments (mice, rats, birds, reptiles, and amphibians) are specifically exempted from even the minimal protections of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA).(18) Laboratories that use only these species are not required by law to provide animals with pain relief or veterinary care, to search for and consider alternatives to animal use, to have an institutional committee review proposed experiments, or to be inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or any other entity. Experimenters don’t even have to count the mice and rats they kill. Some estimates indicate that as many as 800 U.S. laboratories are not subject to federal laws and inspections because they experiment exclusively on mice, rats, and other animals whose use is unregulated.(19)
As for the approximately 9,000 facilities that the USDA does regulate (of which about 1,000 are designated for “research”), only 99 USDA inspectors are employed to oversee their operations.(20,21) Reports over a span of 10 years concluded that even the minimal standards set forth by the AWA are not being met by these facilities. In 2000, a USDA survey of the agency’s laboratory inspectors revealed serious problems in numerous areas, including “the search for alternatives [and] review of painful procedures.”(22) A September 2005 audit report issued by the USDA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found ongoing “problems with the search for alternative research, veterinary care, review of painful procedures, and the researchers’ use of animals.”(23) The OIG report estimated that experimenters failed to search for alternatives at almost one-third of facilities.(24)
Even animals who are covered by the law can be burned, shocked, poisoned, isolated, starved, forcibly restrained, addicted to drugs, and brain-damaged—no procedures or experiments, regardless of how trivial or painful they may be, are prohibited by law. When valid non-animal research methods are available, no law requires experimenters to use such methods instead of animals.
The Way ForwardHuman clinical, population, and in vitro studies are critical to the advancement of medicine; even animal experimenters need them—if only to confirm or reject the validity of their experiments. However, research with human participants and other non-animal methods does require a different outlook, one that is creative and compassionate and embraces the underlying philosophy of ethical science. Animal experimenters artificially induce diseases; clinical investigators study people who are already ill or who have died. Animal experimenters want a disposable “research subject” who can be manipulated as desired and killed when convenient; clinicians must do no harm to their patients or study participants. Animal experimenters face the ultimate dilemma—knowing that their artificially created “animal model” can never fully reflect the human condition, while clinical investigators know that the results of their work are directly relevant to people.
Human health and well-being can also be promoted by adopting nonviolent methods of scientific investigation and concentrating on the prevention of disease before it occurs, through lifestyle modification and the prevention of further environmental pollution and degradation. The public needs to become more aware and more vocal about the cruelty and inadequacy of the current research system and must demand that its tax dollars and charitable donations not be used to fund experiments on animals.
What You Can DoTell research-funding agencies to kick their animal experimentation habit.
Virtually all federally funded research is paid for with your tax dollars. The NIH needs to hear that you don’t want your tax dollars used to underwrite animal experiments, regardless of their purpose. When writing letters, be sure to make the following two points:
• Animal experimentation is an inherently violent and unethical practice, and I do not want my tax dollars used to support it.• Funding for research into health and ecological effects should be redirected into the use of epidemiological, clinical, in vitro, and computer-modeling studies instead of laboratory experiments on animals.
Please ensure that all correspondence is polite:
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., DirectorNational Institutes of HealthShannon Bldg., Rm. 1261 Center Dr. Bethesda, MD firstname.lastname@example.org
References1) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, “Annual Report Animal Usage by Fiscal Year," 6 Jul. 2010.2) Madhusree Mukerjee, “Speaking for the Animals: A Veterinarian Analyzes the Turf Battles That Have Transformed the Animal Laboratory,” Scientific American, Aug. 2004. 3) Canadian Council on Animal Care, “Facts & Figures, CCAC Animal Use Survey, 2008,” 2010.4) U.K. Government, “Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals, Great Britain, 2009,” Home Office, 27 July 2010.5) The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, “Scientific Achievements Less Prominent Than a Decade Ago,” news release, 9 July 2009.6) Peter Aldhous and Andy Coghlan, “Let the People Speak,” New Scientist 22 May 1999. 7) Daniel G. Hackam, M.D., and Donald A. Redelmeier, M.D., “Translation of Research Evidence From Animals to Human,” Journal of the American Medical Association 296 (2006): 1731-2.8) Marlene Simmons et al., “Cancer-Cure Story Raises New Questions,” Los Angeles Times 6 May 1998.9) Jarrod Bailey, “An Assessment of the Role of Chimpanzees in AIDS Vaccine Research,” Alternatives to Laboratory Animals 36 (2008): 381-428.10) Steve Connor and Chris Green, “Is It Time to Give Up the Search for an AIDS Vaccine?” The Independent 24 Apr. 2008.11) Anne Harding, “More Compounds Failing Phase 1,” The Scientist 6 Aug. 2004.12) Steve Woloshin, M.D., M.S., et al., “Press Releases by Academic Medical Centers: Not So Academic?” Annals of Internal Medicine 150 (2009): 613-18.13) Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz, “Media Reporting on Research Presented at Scientific Meetings: More Caution Needed,” The Medical Journal of Australia 184 (2006): 576-80.14) Diana Pankevich et al., “International Animal Research Regulations, Impact on Neuroscience Research,” The National Academies (2012).15) American Association for the Advancement of Science, “NIH Budget Flat in 2009 Proposal,” 19 Feb. 2008.16) Panekvich et al.17) Deborah Ziff, “On Campus: PETA Sues UW Over Access to Research Records,” Wisconsin State Journal 5 Apr. 2010.18) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, “Animal Welfare, Definition of Animal,” Federal Register, 69 (2004): 31513-4.19) “Animal Welfare Act May Not Protect All Critters,” Associated Press, 7 May 2002.20) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, “Animal Care Annual Report of Activities, Fiscal Year 2007,” Sept. 2008.21) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Care Program Inspections of Problematic Dealers,” audit report, 14 May 2010.22) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, “USDA Employee Survey on the Effectiveness of IACUC Regulations,” Apr. 2000.23) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, “APHIS Animal Care Program, Inspection and Enforcement Activities,” audit report, 30 Sept. 2005.24) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.