Horrifying Lab Tests on Rabbits Going Up in the U.K.

Why are researchers causing needless suffering to thousands of animals when there are perfectly acceptable non-animal testing alternatives?

That’s the question the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) asks, and they’ve made it part of their mission to exposehow researchers use animals in the U.K. for experimentation purposes.

With other options out there, you might expect that the number of animals subjected to experimentation would be going down year by year. What the BUAV revealed during Rabbit Awareness Week, however, is shocking and disappointing. Experimentation on rabbits in the U.K. is not dropping off. It’s increasing.

In 2013 alone, researchers conducted 15,099 experiments on 11,895 rabbits. The year before, 10,538 such tests were done. This represents a staggering 13 percent increase in rabbit testing in a single year.

These aren’t simple, painless tests, of course. They hurt, they’re frightening, and many of the rabbits don’t survive them. The ones that do have to undergo more testing. One way or the other, the poor rabbits are test subjects until their usefulness is over. Then they die.

The things that happen during these tests will turn the stomach of any animal lover. Watch this video, taken by a BUAV undercover investigator in 2012, showing what lab rabbits and other animals endure in some research facilities in the U.K.:

Do you know what “pyrogenicity” is? According to the BUAV, it’s an “archaic and controversial” test that was performed 4,166 times in 2013 on rabbits restrained in full-body “stocks.” Those rabbits were first starved for 30 hours and then placed into these stocks for up to six hours, with probes inserted into their rectums to gauge their termperatures.

Researchers injected a fever-inducing substance into a vein in their ears to test for their reaction. The effects of such testing can be cruel and devastating. According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA):

The animals can suffer effects ranging from fever to breathing problems, circulatory and organ failure, and even fatal shock. Despite its long history of use, the rabbit pyrogen test has never been formally validated to establish its reliability or relevance to humans. In fact, there are a number of well-documented drawbacks to this test, including marked species and strain differences in sensitivity.

Photo credit: BUAV

Photo credit: BUAV

The BUAV says any need for this test “has been deleted from most regulatory requirements.” So why is it still conducted in such high numbers? Why are rabbits being tormented when the test is unneeded and unreliable? To make drug companies feel a little better about their products, perhaps? That’s no reason.

“We are appalled rabbits continue to be used,” Katy Taylor, BUAV head of science, told The Mirror. “Not only are they forced to endure unimaginable suffering, but these tests are a poor mimic of human diseases.”

Pyrogenicity is only one type of test rabbits must undergo in the U.K. and elsewhere. BUAV says researchers also conducted 439 Draize eye irritation tests on rabbits in 2013. These tests require that the eyelids be pulled apart and a substance be sprayed, dripped, or rubbed into the rabbit’s eye. Then the rabbits are observed to see what happens.

Ever get shampoo or salt in your eye? How would you feel if that happened and you were restrained and couldn’t do anything about it for hours? It would be hell. That’s what these rabbits are going through — often, if there’s no permanent damage, more than once.

The Draize skin irritation test is the same sort of thing, but on a shaved area of skin. In 2013, says the BUAV, U.K. researchers did this type of test 459 times on rabbits. That test takes a full two weeks of suffering before it’s over. The truly appalling thing is that these tests have alternatives available. The are unnecessary, and yet they continue.

Photo credit: BUAV

Photo credit: BUAV

Researchers in the U.K. rationalize this testing by asserting that it’s sometimes the only way to research diseases. Others say they are saving the lives of troops by using the animals to help to develop protective equipment. Can you imagine the tests they’re doing to make that happen? Surely there are better ways.

“It is unacceptable that many thousands of rabbits continue to be used in U.K. laboratories each year,” said BUAV Chief Executive Michelle Thew in a press release. “During Rabbit Awareness Week we ask that people stop and consider the plight of these sweet animals who continue to suffer and die in experiments.”

Rabbit Awareness Week has come and gone, but the sadness goes on. It’s time that these experiments on helpless animals stop. When experts agree that animal testing reactions don’t mimic human ones, and when humane alternatives exist, there is no reason to subject any animal to this type of cruelty.

Yes, we’re used to first testing on animals. We’ve been doing it a long time. That doesn’t make it right. That doesn’t make it necessary.


Tell the UK to stop using unnecessary testing on animal subjects.

Photo credit (main image): Thinkstock


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner3 years ago

What's even more horrifying is that there are always a pool of evil scum of the human race available who rush to take advantage of criminal activities like this. In this this case these terrorist monsters are calling themselves "researchers" with a fake education. They are simply criminal sadists no different than Dr. Mengele of the concentration camps. Animal "researchers" among other human horrors should be lined up and shot, they contribute nothing to anything decent or civilized.

Gwendolyn schillinng

@Dirk B What makes you think that this KCL is going to tell you the truth about what they're doing to these animals, you're either very naive or just plain stupid to think that they're going to put the spotlight on their inhuman treatment of these defenseless rabbits. Wake up and take your head out of the hole and face reality!!!!! I've signed the petition, I would sign it twice if I could !!!

Boeckx Dirk
Dirk Boeckx3 years ago

I refer to my comments of May 21, 2015. In the meantime, staff of several departments of King's College London (KCL) have confirmed to me that KCL did not perform the Pyrogenicity and Draize irritation tests on rabbits in the period 2012-2014. I have therefore mixed feelings about the article. The link to the petition at the bottom of the article mentions KCL as a target. The petition article itself also mentions KCL several times. Combined with the main article about the cruel tests on rabbits, this tends to suggest that KCL performed these tests on rabbits, which does not seem to be the case at all. I am of course aware that KCL does use animals in testing for medical purposes, and I am in favour of the abolition of this practice. However, to suggest that KCL and other academic institutions perform outdated and cruel tests on rabbits for which there are alternatives seems to me to be misleading. I therefore think that the main article on rabbit testing should not have been linked in its current form to the petition demanding an end to animal testing in the UK.

Dianne D.
Dianne D3 years ago

There is no reason for this. I pray that God will severly punish those who are mistreating animals and all these people and labs are prosecuted for animal cruelty and never be allowed around animals ever again.

Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell3 years ago

Already signed, shared again, thanks

dagmar karin dag
dagmar karin dag3 years ago

Esos sadistas,que se consideran cientificos,deberian ser estudiados como animales de laboratorio,ya que su crueldad no tiene perdon

Jaime Perez
Jaime Perez3 years ago

I'm going to be foul here--What in the hell is wrong with the scientists in the UK?? Do they have nothing better to do with their time than torture innocent rabbits? This is supposed to be in the name of science, but it doesn't sound like any of these tests are necessary. This horror has got to be stopped now! Poor sweet rabbits. It breaks my heart to no end to hear of this. Boeckx D. please keep the pressure up until you get an answer.

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago

There needs to be a rethink on these tests.

Judie B.
Judie B3 years ago

The researchers need to be the test subjects, FIRST. Free the rabbits!