Debunking the ‘Pros’ For Animal Testing

Americans love their pets, often considering them members of the family and many deeming themselves pet parents. This ideology is pushing animal rights into the spotlight from the race to battle extinction to eco-friendly veganism and even custody battles over pets in divorces.

However, animal testing repeatedly fails to push its way to center stage despite serious and flashy attempts from animal advocates. Perhaps some just don’t want to imagine their four-legged family member living their life in a cage while constantly bombarded by needles and white coats.

However, some Americans support animal testing as a medical necessity and a key proponent to human survival—and they have a list of arguments to prove it. Unfortunately for them, their top four arguments are riddled with flaws.

The U.S. Has Laws to Protect the Animals From Inhumane Treatment

First a quick history lesson on the laws…

With animals not included in the U.S. Constitution, most animal cruelty punishments are left to the state. However, by the 1960s, unregulated dealers crossed into federal territory to meet the rising demand for dogs and cats in research facilities. The dealers worked quickly to transport stolen cats and dogs across state lines—and state laws—who proved inadequate in stopping the interstate petnapping operations.

Thus, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) passed in 1966, requiring facilities to carry licenses and insurance for the animals and required dealers to provide animal records and wait five days between acquiring an animal and selling it to research facilities. Four years later, the act expanded to protect the animals during transportation, housing, and general humane treatment. “Humane care” was clarified 15 years later under the Food Security Act, followed by an additional five amendments over the years. However, just reading the laws is equivalent to taking a hypothesis as fact.

Unfortunately, there are many loopholes in the AWA. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in charge of enforcing the AWA, has 115 inspectors for almost 8,000 active research facilities. It’s a workload doomed for inefficiency and lack of monitoring. When violations are found, the USDA inspectors write a citation and allow the facilitators to correct their illegal treatment of animals; IowaWatch monitored citations in their state and found some violations still occurring months later upon re-inspection with no follow-up punishments. To make matters worse, the AWA doesn’t protect all animals.

All cold-blooded animals, rats, mice, and birds are excluded from the AWA. Mice and rats, in particular, are popular research animals for their short lifespans allowing researchers to monitor conditions their whole life; plus they share 98 percent of human DNA. They’re also subjected to some of the most invasive experiments—burning of skin, skull and spinal operations—while only receiving post-procedural pain medication 20 percent of the time.

Maybe they remain unprotected decades later because heartstrings don’t tug as hard for mice? But many animals held in research facilities meet the same traumatizing fate. Neurologist and animal rights advocate Dr. Aysha Akhtar wrote about a haunting experience during a presentation at a neuroscience conference:

“The presenter showed a clip of his experiment in which he had crushed a cat’s spinal cord and was recording the cat’s movement on a treadmill. He had forcibly implanted electrodes into the cat’s brain and she was struggling to keep upright, dragging her paralyzed legs on the treadmill. She repeatedly fell off the machine. At one point, the experimenter lifted her up to reposition her on the treadmill and the cat did something that was utterly unexpected. She rubbed her head against the experimenter’s hand.”

That should be enough heart tugging and a reminder of an animal’s ability to feel pain and show endless love- cats, dogs, monkeys and mice alike.

Federal Laws May Need Work, But My State is Compassionate

This is a confusing argument because there are many state-by-state testing discrepancies. There are over one million warm-blooded animals used for testing every year, according to the USDA. Only three states have compassionate animal laws, following standard set by the Humane Society: California, New Jersey and New York. Their compassionate laws grant students the right to alternatives to animal dissection and prohibit research facilities from buying animal shelter pets and the use of animals in product testing when approved alternatives exist. But now comes some confusion.

California ranks for compassion but also tests on more animals than any other state, totalling almost 95,000. Wisconsin tops the state list of most dogs in testing, but is at the bottom for cats. However, this discrepancy may be attributed to UW-Madison’s recent trouble after PETA exposed their test for cochlear implants where researchers drilled into cats skulls to insert metal restraint polls, placed electrodes in their brain, and implanted steel coils in their eyes. Their “trouble” was not legal issues, however, but public outcry. AWA allows animals to be shocked, poisoned, burned, starved, restrained, brain-damaged, etc, as long as researchers attempt to minimize pain. In fact, just under 355,000 animals are used in painful experiments across the U.S. and more than 72,000 of them receive no pain medication. To see just how compassionate or non compassionate your state actually is, explore this animal testing map.

Yes, That’s Sad, But It’s Safer Than Human Trials

The effectiveness of animal testing is heavily debated even within the scientific community. Testing on dogs led to insulin, the rabies vaccine, and the defibrillator; Rabbits helped with advancements in laser eye surgery; Cats are credited with helping find treatments for AIDS and leukemia; Guinea pigs helped treat asthma. These are undeniably great advancements for modern medicine; however, there are many instances of unsuccessful testing, as well.

Vioxx, an anti-inflammatory drug for arthritis, tested successfully in animals but killed over 60,000 people once it hit the market. TGN 124 was tested in mice, rats, rabbits, and monkeys with no side effects; monkeys even underwent repeated-dose toxicity tests, given over 500 times the human dosage. The six volunteers injected with the treatment experienced immediate pain with some suffering permanent organ damage and one man’s head swelling up so large, tabloids called it the “elephant man trial”. These are just two examples; Dr. Akhtar has said volunteers for clinical trials face a 90 percent chance a drug tested safe on animals will be useless or harmful to people.

But that’s not the only way animal testing can hurt humans. Only about five of every five to 10,000 drugs tested in animals make it to clinical trials due to animal reactions. Tamoxifen is one of the most effective breast cancer treatments yet was almost abandoned after it caused liver tumors in rats. Manufacturers of Gleevec, an effective drug to treat leukemia, had to tirelessly fight to continue development after dogs suffered from high levels of liver toxicity. Their persistence was rewarded because they showed promising evidence of human cell culture tests.

There’s No Other Way

Human cell culture tests may be a mouthful to the vast majority of non-scientists. Simply put, modern technology and science is getting to a place where animal testing is for underground labs, not the best. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies are developing new methods like “organs on a chip”, where important cells that make up a particular organ are pooled together to mimic the key functions of the organ.

Merck & Co began testing their lung-on-a-chip in 2013. They admit the chip doesn’t recreate every lung function, but does have contracting and relaxing cell walls, airflow, a fluid mimicking blood passing through blood vessels and more. This new method and others in the works still need time to replace animal testing, but it proves science is capable and on its way of moving beyond animal experimentation.

While these researchers work towards human-like models, there are smaller yet equally important steps consumers and animal advocates can take to reduce animal suffering from depressing labs and painful tests. Follow state legislation—many have some moving through the system now—use cruelty-free products (remember to look at smaller brands parent companies), and check out the Humane Society’s top ten ways to help lab animals.


Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a year ago

Thank you for posting.

Ann B
Ann Babout a year ago

we need STRONGER laws, more enforcement AND VERY HARSH PUNISHMENT maybe that will deter some of this cruelty!!!!

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Man, I wish we could test on rapers

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carol S.
Carol S2 years ago

I wish it would stop. As consumers we can let companies know our feelings via our spending. Don't buy from companies that use animals testing!

Cela V.
Cela V2 years ago


Janis K.
Janis K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing


Thanks for the article, interesting

Doris F.
Doris F2 years ago

Here is an interesting german association of physicians who work against animal experiments and also their scientific results share: