AR-FAQ - #85

#85 What is wrong with product testing on animals?

[PLANK A] The practice of product testing on animals treats animals as discardable and renewable resources, as replaceable clones with no individual lives, no interests, and no aspirations of their own. It callously enlists hapless creatures into the service of humans. It assumes that the risks incurred by one class of individuals can be forcibly transferred onto another. Product testing is also unbelievably cruel. One notorious method of testing is the Draize irritancy test, in which potentially harmful products are dripped into the eyes of test animals (usually rabbits). The harmfulness of the product is then (subjectively) assessed depending on the size of the area injured, the opacity of the cornea, and the degree of redness, swelling and discharge of the conjunctivae, and in more severe cases, on the blistering or gross destruction of the cornea.

[PLANK C] The use of animals in medicine is often challenged on scientific grounds, and product tests are no exception. For example, one widely used test is the so-called LD50 (Lethal Dose 50 percent) test. The toxicity level of a product is assessed by force-feeding it to a number of animals until 50 percent of them die. Death may come after a few days or weeks, and is often preceded by convulsions, vomiting, breathing difficulties, and more. Often, this test reveals nothing at all; animals die simply because of the volume of product administered, through the rupture of internal organs. How such savage practices could provide any useful data is a mystery, and not just to AR activists. It is seen as dubious by many toxicologists, and even by some Government advisers. Animal models often produce misleading results, or produce no useful results at all, and product testing is no exception. One toxicologist writes: "It is surely time, therefore, that we ceased to use as an index of the toxic action of food additives the LD50 value, which is imprecise (varying considerably with different species, with different strains of the same species, with sex, with nutritional status, environmental status, and even with the concentration at which the substance is administered) and which is valueless in the planning of further studies."

[PLANK B] The truth is that animal lives could be spared in many ways. For example, duplication of experiments could be avoided by setting up databases of results. Also, a host of humane alternatives to such tests are already available, and the considerable sums spent on breeding or keeping test animals could be usefully redirected into researching new ones. AECW

The animal rights view calls for the abolition of all animal toxicity tests. Animals are not our tasters. We are not their kings. Tom Regan (philosopher and AR activist)