PETA’s Big Impact! Inside the Campaign to End Car-Crash Tests on Animals

Published by .
4 min read

Many people would be shocked to learn that, despite the existence of computer models and state-of-the-art dummies, some automobile manufacturers have conducted or paid for cruel car crash tests on animals. After all, people want a car that will accommodate a dog, not one that’s killed a dog. Animals other than humans feel pain and fear and value their lives, just as we do. That’s why, for more than 30 years, PETA has campaigned to end the use of other species in these deadly tests. We’ve driven home the message to companies and consumers alike: Animal-free crash tests are the path to a safer future.

The History of Crash Tests on Mice, Pigs, and Other Animals

In a 10-year period beginning in 1981, roughly 19,000 animals—including mice, rats, and pigs—were killed in auto safety tests conducted by General Motors (GM). This number was staggering to most Americans, who had no idea that live animals were being used in car-crash tests and then disposed of—that is, until PETA got involved.

By September 1991, PETA had already begun a campaign against GM for its use of animals in car crash tests. The first of dozens of planned protests against the car manufacturer took place at the auto show at the State Fair of Texas that year.

PETA fights to end car-crash tests on animals

We called our campaign the “Heartbreak of America” (a play on GM’s slogan at the time) and kept pressure on the company for months on end. By early 1993, PETA members and other conscientious consumers across the country had held protests at GM dealerships in at least 45 U.S. cities. We smashed GM cars outside auto shows while wearing animal mascot outfits, and activists (including PETA’s founder and president, Ingrid Newkirk) were arrested after they blocked GM’s float during the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, wearing colorful animal outfits—an event that landed on a Los Angeles Times list of the biggest controversies in Rose Parade history.

Later that year, after 18 months of hard-hitting PETA demonstrations speaking out against the use of live pigs and ferrets, GM officially confirmed that it had ended its use of animals in car-crash tests.

Most other car manufacturers followed suit. Public pressure and superior science proved too much for these companies’ excuses, and countless animals were spared a violent, needless death.

Three decades later, following a March 2023 meeting with PETA, GM updated its policy to prohibit funding car-crash tests on animals conducted by others as well. GM’s course correction meant that only one major car company still refused to ban crash tests on animals. 

We uncovered that after Ford Motor Company pledged to us in 2009 that it wouldn’t use live animals in crash testing, it did just that.

The company funded an experiment at Detroit’s Wayne State University in which more than two dozen pigs were killed and pendulums were swung into their suspended bodies. Just when PETA thought U.S. automakers had finally moved away from senselessly using animals as stand-ins for humans in crash tests, Ford careened out of control.

In November 2022, PETA—which, via a supporter, owns stock in Ford Motor Company for the purpose of addressing shareholders directly about animal testing issues—submitted a shareholder resolution calling on the automaker to issue an annual report disclosing the number and species of animals used and/or euthanized in testing conducted, funded, and/or commissioned by the company when such tests aren’t explicitly required by law. In May 2023, at Ford’s annual shareholder meeting, a PETA scientist urged a vote in favor of this resolution.

Detroit native Lily Tomlin even supported PETA’s efforts by sending a letter to Ford, blasting the company for funding the study at Wayne State, the actor’s alma mater.

In a powerful letter to Ford Motor Company, star of the hit show Grace and Frankie, Lily Tomlin, is urging it to ban…

Posted by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) on Monday, June 27, 2022
In July 2023, following months of pressure from PETA and more than 124,000 of our supporters, Ford slammed the brakes on animal testing!

Ford’s practice is not to use or fund animals for testing nor to ask others to do that for us.

—Ford Motor Company, Integrated Sustainability and Financial Report 2023

In a letter to PETA, Ford went further, stating that an update to its Supplier Code of Conduct now requires vendors to the automaker “not to use animals for testing nor require sub-contractors to do so” and that it has made its “expectations [regarding avoiding animal tests] explicit in rules for university research project[s] conducted on Ford’s behalf.”

We’re thankful that Ford has made the commendable decision to end all animal testing, both for the sake of animals and for the advancement of science. With this announcement, the company joins its Big Three rivals, GM and Stellantis, as well as other automakers that have already banned all animal testing following talks with PETA.

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

Get the Latest Tips—Right in Your Inbox
We’ll e-mail you weekly with the latest in vegan recipes, fashion, and more!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.