When I first came to know veganism, I understood it through a very narrow lens. A cursory Internet search led me to undercover video footage taken in U.S. factory farms, and I was soon inundated with searing images cattle being prodded with hot metal rods and baby chicks having their beaks truncated. While these abuses are hugely important to veganism, our quest for knowledge should not stop there. There are so many other corners of activism that have been relatively untouched when compared to issues related to modern industrial agriculture. Specifically, vivisection, or the act of conducting scientific or medical experiments on live animals, is an issue that should be given more attention.
Vivisection itself comprises a variety of issues. Anti-vivisectionists take on a number of different research models, from chimpanzees to rats and mice to dogs used in veterinary school training. Today, I’ll focus on drug and product testing and the abuses therein.
Why test on animals?
Simply put, using animals as models for product testing and development is the status quo. Despite a growing body of research indicating otherwise, animal-based (in vivo) testing is believed by many to be a safe and effective route for determining whether a chemical or product is safe for human use. However, empirical evidence shows us that animal response does not directly translate to human response. Yet, most scientists cling to tradition without considering the many alternatives available to them.
What kinds of tests are conducted?
There are a variety of tests used to determine a product’s safety for human use. One such method is the Draize test, first introduced in 1944, which is used to measure eye irritancy. This test is performed by dropping concentrated amounts of a substance into the eye of a test subject–most often conscious, restrained rabbits. As a result of this procedure, many rabbits suffer from redness, ulcers, bleeding, and even blindness. Another form of the Draize test is used to determine skin irritation and corrosivity. During these tests, chemicals are placed on the shaved skin of an animal, often causing pain in the form of bleeding, scabs, and ulcers.
Another popular test, commonly referred to as the LD50 test, was once notorious for its exceptionally cruel testing methods. Using mice and rats, scientists forced them to ingest chemicals until 50 percent of the animals had died. Although this test has largely been eradicated, it has been replaced with other methods involving the lethal use of animals.
Other testing procedures routinely involve forced feeding, intravenous injection, and often the killing of pregnant animals (rats, mice, rabbits, and sometimes amphibians) in order to study their unborn fetuses.
What alternatives are available?
Thankfully, there are numerous alternatives available to scientists who wish to test drug and product safety. The most popular alternatives include: in vitro (test tube) testing, computerized patient-drug databases and virtual drug trials, computer models and simulations, stem cell and genetic testing methods, and MRIs and CT scans. For additional alternatives, visit here.
Making informed choices
With the tremendous suffering involved in traditional animal testing, what’s a conscious consumer to do? There are a number of different product labels available to keep you up-to-date on companies that do not test their products on animals or use animal ingredients. Look for the Leaping Bunny logo on your favorite products (download the app!) or check out PETA’s cruelty-free companies list. Once you begin to incorporate more cruelty-free products in your routine, you’ll be at peace knowing that no animals had to suffer in the making of your personal care or cleaning products.
Also by Molly: Random Acts of Kindness, Any Time of Year
More in Animal Rights: VegFest Albany 2013
Photo: Varjakkk via Flickr