Point and Counterpoint:
Responses to Common Claims About Animal Experimentation

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Point and Counterpoint:
Responses to Common Claims About Animal Experimentation

From American Antivisection Society
January 2009

Those of us who are concerned about animals in laboratories often have conversations with people who are unaware of or indifferent to the plight of these animals. There may also be other circumstances in which people who oppose our views attempt to diffuse our position with simplistic, and often inaccurate statements.

Whether you are a seasoned activist or just beginning, this information is meant to guide you through responses to various claims made by those who support vivisection. After reading it, you will be better prepared to educate others about the truth behind animal experimentation.

It is dangerous for people to use medicines and other products if they have not first been tested on animals.

In reality, animal testing never guarantees that medications and other products will be safe and effective for humans. After a drug is tested on animals to evaluate toxic and medical effects, patients are almost always used in clinical trials to assess the drug’s effects upon humans. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers many drugs to be safe even if they have been proven to cause adverse side effects in people and animals. According to scientific publications, even if a drug proves to be ‘safe and effective’ in animal studies, there is a greater than 90 percent chance that it will fail due to ineffectiveness and/or intolerable side effects when used in humans in clinical trials.

Furthermore, all drugs that have been pulled off the market because they caused severe illness or death in human patients were previously tested on animals. Such studies cannot predict safety to people, who vary according to gender, age, genetic background, and varying lifestyles.

Manufacturers of household products, such as cosmetics and cleaners, are required to test their products on animals.

There is no federal law requiring manufacturers to test their finished household products or specific ingredients on animals. The Food and Drug administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product safety Commission (CPsC) require only that companies show that their products are safe, and they do not specify that animal test be utilized to prove this.

For example, regarding its safety testing policy, the FDA states, “the FDA strongly urges cosmetic manufacturers to conduct whatever toxicological or other tests are appropriate to substantiate the safety of the cosmetics.” No specific mention of animal tests is referred to, and this statement clearly leaves open the possibility of using non-animal methods.

Additionally, the CPsC does not require that animal tests be used in assessing the toxicity of household products, stating “[I]t is important to keep in mind that neither the [Federal Hazardous substances act] nor the Commission’s regulations require any firm to perform animal tests. The statute and its implementing regulations only require that a product be labeled to reflect the hazards associated with that product."

There is no such thing as a ‘cruelty-free’ product.

This is absolutely false. While it is true that most products, formulas, compounds, and ingredients have been tested on animals in the past, this does not diminish the fact that a cruelty-free company is not testing on animals today. Companies that are considered to be cruelty-free are judged on their current animal testing policies, not what they have done in the past.

For a company to be listed as cruelty-free in AAVS's Guide to Compassionate Shopping, it must sign a legal statement stating that it does not, and will not, test its finished products or ingredients on animals, nor will it contract an outside company to conduct such tests. Additionally, many products are labeled to indicate that they contain no animal-derived ingredients.

There are no alternatives to using live animals in experiments.

Every day, scientists in laboratories around the world conduct important scientific research utilizing methods that do not involve animal experiments in any way. These methods are not chosen specifically because they do not involve animals but, rather, because they are the most precise and sophisticated methods  available. Examples of non-animal methods include the use of pre-existing data; physical and chemical analysis; mathematical and computer models; in vitro systems using human cell, tissue, and organ cultures; epidemiology; post-marketing surveillance; human and veterinary clinical research; and human volunteers.

Experiments on animals have been a long-standing tradition, and the biomedical industry and animal dealers make a considerable profit by selling animals to testing laboratories. Therefore, there is little incentive to change old habits.

However, as more federal and private funding is allocated to developing alternative research methods, the use of animals will decrease in the future.

The majority of animals used in laboratory experiments are merely rats and mice, not dogs and monkeys.

It is correct that mice and rats are the most commonly used warm-blooded animals in U.S. laboratories. However, this argument is based on a premise that it is somehow preferable to use mice and rats in experiments instead of dogs, monkeys, and other animals simply because society may value mice and rats less than others. The truth is that all animals share the capacity to suffer, no matter how society views them.

Mice and rats are used most commonly due to reasons of convenience, not scientific validity. These animals are small and easy to handle and house, and they also reproduce offspring more quickly than larger animals. The physiology and anatomy of mice and rats have become so well-characterized that this knowledge perpetuates their use, but it does not mean that they can be reliably used in experiments modeling human conditions.

The numbers of animals utilized in laboratories are decreasing.

Fortunately, the numbers of some animals, including dogs, guinea pigs, and rabbits used in laboratory experiments, have declined significantly in recent years. However, due to the recent explosion in the use and breeding of animals who are genetically manipulated, the numbers of mice and rats have dramatically increased. In addition, the use of non-human primates in drug toxicology and infectious disease/bioterrorism experiments has caused the numbers of monkeys in U.S. laboratories to increase in recent years. Unfortunately, researchers expect the numbers of these animals to continue to rise.

Animals who are going to die anyway in shelters or pounds should be used in experiments instead of breeding other
animals.

Humane euthanasia does not involve suffering. However, living as the experimental ‘subject’ of biomedical research or testing does involve suffering, both mentally and physically. Furthermore, from a scientific perspective, animals from shelters are not ideal experimental candidates due to confounding factors that may cause them to be unhealthy (psychological stress as a result of transport and new environments and exposure to contagious diseases) or because of their unknown genetic background.

Animals who are sold or otherwise released from shelters or pounds are not always those who are slated for euthanasia. In fact, in Minnesota, animals seized by public authorities may only be held for five business days, at which point they must be made available to any licensed institution that requests them.

Furthermore, euthanasia of animals in shelters and pounds is a result of irresponsible animal guardianship that allows unplanned animal breeding and results in shelter overpopulation. Research and education industries should not exploit this unfortunate reality.

The use of animals in research and testing is strictly controlled by laws.

The majority of state animal cruelty laws in the U.S. specifically exclude the use of animals in experiments or those who perform them. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only federal law to legally require basic standards of care, housing, and treatment of animals and consideration of alternatives to their use. AWA regulations are enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the most extreme measures that the agency can take against those violating the law are USDA license suspension or revocation (applies only to dealers, exhibitors, or operators at auctions), confiscation of animals, and/or charging a fine.

USDA does not have the authority to revoke research facilities’ registrations, and cannot confiscate animals still being used in research. The AWA applies to less than five percent of warm-blooded animals in laboratories, as it excludes birds, rats, and mice
bred for use in research, who represent well over 95 percent of animals used in experiments. Additionally, the AWA does not include farmed animals used in research to ‘improve’ food production and cold-blooded animals, including fish, who are increasingly being used in research.

Though it seems as if the AWA is intended to ‘protect’ animals in laboratories, it is important to note that if experimenters can convince their Institutional animal Care and Use Committee in writing that there are no alternatives available to lessen or eliminate animal pain and distress, then animals can be used in painful and/or distressful procedures without receiving any pain medication or other relief. It is also quite plausible that the experiment will continue until the animals die.


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