The neatly packaged products on shelves in grocery and other retail stores — from glittering cosmetics to pristinely labeled prescriptions — have a dark history.
To get into your hands, due to antiquated and inherently cruel procedures required by the Food and Drug Administration, they had to first be tested on nonhuman animals.
The labels don’t show that animal testing kills. The labels also don’t show that more than 90% of drugs and vaccines fail in human clinical trials, despite showing signs of safety in traditional nonhuman animal-based tests, due to significant differences in our genetic makeup.
Meanwhile, an estimated 25 million to 100 million animals die each year in testing in the United States alone. Mice and rats are most commonly exploited for research. But dogs, cats, monkeys, pigs, sheep, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, bats, and tons of other species are tortured and exterminated in U.S. labs every year, too.
Here are 10 disturbing facts about animal testing facts, animal testing laws you should know, and steps you can take to help stop animal testing.
10 Disturbing Animal Testing Facts
1. More than 100 million animals are exploited in testing every year
Nearly 800,000 animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) — including dogs, cats, pigs, sheep, monkeys, rabbits, and others — endured regulated animal testing in the United States in 2018, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
But not all animals are covered under the AWA, including mice and rats– the animals most frequently experimented on in U.S. labs. Because these rodents don’t classify as “animals” under existing laws, labs don’t have to report how many they use each year — making it impossible to know the true extent of animal testing in this country.
It’s estimated that more than 115 million animals endure animal testing around the world every year, according to Humane Society International.
With stricter animal testing laws and regulations that require more transparency or a shift to more accurate, human-biology based testing methods, we can help stop cruel animal testing in the United States.
2. The United States doesn’t label farm animals, mice, rats, reptiles, fish, or birds as ‘animals’
Accurate animal testing facts — like how many animals are killed every year in U.S. labs — are impossible to find because existing law does not classify mice, rats, birds, farm animals raised for food, or cold-blooded animals like reptiles and most fish as “animals.”
So, what exactly is an animal under the AWA?
“The term ‘animal’ means any live or dead dog, cat, monkey (nonhuman primate mammal), guinea pig, hamster, rabbit, or such other warm-blooded animal,” the act reads. “But such term excludes (1) birds, rats of the genus Rattus, and mice of the genus Mus, bred for use in research, (2) horses not used for research purposes, and (3) other farm animals, such as, but not limited to livestock or poultry.”
These classifications are arbitrary and lack scientific merit. All of these animals have proven their sentience time and time again. They have complex emotions and feel pain.
Scientific studies have shown that rats show empathy for other rats by reading pain in their faces. Pigs are highly social and love to play with other animals. Chickens can recognize and remember up to 30 other individual chickens; and fish form friendships and experience positive and negative emotions.
Animal testing must stop. These highly intelligent and sentient creatures deserve protection under animal testing laws, and all animals deserve a life free of pain and captivity.
3. About 20 percent of ‘animals’ tested in the United States are dogs, cats, or monkeys
Of the test subjects that the AWA considers “animals,” about 20 percent tested in the United States are dogs, cats, or monkeys. That’s about 150,000 dogs, cats, and monkeys exploited for research every year.
Additionally, U.S. labs exploit more than 620,000 guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, pigs, sheep and “other covered species” each year.
These numbers exclude the more than 100,000 animals held captive in research facilities that are not involved in research studies — as well as the estimated nearly 100 million animals not considered “animals” under the AWA’s animal testing laws.
4. More than 95% of products that pass ‘important’ animal tests fail to proceed to the market
More than 95% of products that pass “important” animal tests fail to proceed to the market due to complications in humans, according to that National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Those high fail rates are more than just a waste of animals’ lives and sacrifices. Every time a drug or treatment fails in human trials, an estimated 14 years and $2 billion of taxpayer dollars are wasted.
Dr. Lawrence Hansen, a professor of neuroscience and pathology at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, wrote in the San Diego Union-Tribute, that animal testing is unnecessary.
“Experiments on dogs aren’t scientifically ‘necessary, especially when we have superior research technologies like human organs-on-chips to model diseases and test drugs,” Hansen wrote. “From a scientific perspective, the problem is that dogs, monkeys, and mice are not simplified versions of humans.”
Sadly, animal testing laws don’t mirror this reality. Until the facts about animal testing facts triumph over the faulty, old-school medical norms, animal testing will not be stopped and millions of animals will continue to needlessly die every year in U.S. labs.
5. Animals are gassed, decapitated, shot, and electrocuted after tests are over
Offering up millions of injured mice, rabbits, dogs, and cats for adoption just isn’t practical. So, they’re killed.
Animal testing facts don’t get any more sadistic than this: Once animals are no longer required for testing purposes, they’re gassed, decapitated, shot, or electrocuted and thrown away like garbage.
Some animals are killed before they’re even used in tests, deemed to be a “surplus” from animal breeding for experiments.
Until animal testing laws require complete transparency about all animals used and killed for testing purposes, animals will continue to suffer in silence.
6. Scientists choose docile, trusting animals — including beagles and Labradors– for their tests
Scientists who test on animals often choose docile, friendly species less likely to fight back against painful, invasive procedures.
A favorite among medical researchers: dogs.
Beagles, in particular, become victims of experiments given their friendly and docile demeanors.
“The dog has long been a favorite animal in medical research, partly because of its size and docility, but also because of the availability of large numbers of stray and unwanted dogs at low cost,” Allen C. Anderson and Loraine S. Good wrote in The Beagle as an Experiment Dog. “The chief advantages of the beagle are its relative hardiness and short hair, which make for easy care, and an extreme degree of nonaggressiveness which makes these dogs easy to handle with a minimum amount of human socialization and previous training.”
Labradors also are primarily used in orthopedic research, according to Robert C. Dysko in Laboratory Animal Management: Dogs.
Although there are laws about how researchers can experiment on dogs, there are not currently any animal testing laws against experimenting on dogs.
Animal testing on dogs must stop. These helpless creatures are our friends and family members. They trust us, and we are betraying them.
7. Dogs used in experiments can legally live in a cage their entire lives
According to animal testing laws, dogs can legally live in a cage for their entire lives at animal testing facilities, with only a few minor requirements.
“Each dog housed in a primary enclosure (including weaned puppies) must be provided a minimum amount of floor space, calculated as follows,” the law reads. “Find the mathematical square of the sum of the length of the dog in inches (measured from the tip of the nose to the base of its tail) plus 6 inches; then divide the product by 144. The calculation is: (length of dog in inches + 6) x (length of dog in inches + 6) = required floor space in square inches. Required floor space in inches/144 = required floor space in square feet.”
According to those standards, a 20-inch beagle is only required to have an enclosure slightly under 5 square feet. In comparison, a standard queen-size mattress is about 33 square feet.
That’s right — a beagle is required to live in a cage less than 1/6th the size of a queen-sized mattress. Dogs also are only required to get regular exercise if they’re kept in a space less than two times the size of the recommended space requirements mentioned above.
These horrific living conditions show how insufficient animal testing laws are right now.
8. Cats have their spines severed and electrodes implanted through invasive surgeries to study constipation
Cats as young as six months old have their spines severed and electrodes implanted to stimulate their bladders and colons during tests to study constipation, according to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request received by nonprofit organization White Coat Waste Project.
Otherwise healthy cats are cut into, implanted with electrodes, and forced to ingest artificial stool made from bran, potato flour, and saline. After the experiments are over, researchers kill and dissect the cats.
This is government-sanctioned animal torture; all of this “research” is performed using taxpayers’ money.
We must stop animal testing to save innocent cats from enduring such a miserable fate again.
9. Aspirin wouldn’t pass a majority of animal tests and was never tested on animals
One of the most popular over-the-counter drugs in the United States wouldn’t pass a majority of animal tests and was never tested on animals. Aspirin is completely safe for human consumption, semi-toxic to dogs, and completely toxic to cats.
“Cats are extremely sensitive to aspirin,” Ed Yong wrote on National Geographic. “Even a single extra-strength pill can trigger a fatal overdose.
“The problem is that cats can’t break down the drug effectively,” he continued. “This defect is unusual — humans clearly don’t suffer from it, and neither do dogs. All cats, however, seem to share the same problem, from house tabbies to African lions.”
This example clearly shows how separate species react radically differently to seemingly safe medicines and treatments. There is simply no foolproof way to know how a drug or treatment will react in one species based on evidence from another species.
10. Vioxx tested safe on monkeys and ended up causing more 100,000 heart attacks and 60,000 deaths around the world
After passing at least eight animal tests, Vioxx — a selective nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug developed by Merck in 1999 — killed an estimated 60,000 Americans and up to 140,000 people worldwide.
As bad as the Vioxx case is, it isn’t an isolated incident.
“Vioxx is a severe case, but by no means unique, as re-labeling and recall rates indicate,” Dr. Jonathan Balcombe wrote in Psychology Today.
What Animal Testing Laws Regulate Cruelty to Animals?
Unfortunately, there are currently no animal testing laws or regulations in the United States that prohibit companies from saying their products are cruelty-free when they’re, in fact, not, according to Leaping Bunny.
For example, a product can say it is cruelty-free and “not tested on animals” even if animal tests are happening at the ingredient level (where most animal tests occur). Companies can also say they don’t test on animals even if they’re employing other companies to do the animal testing for them.
There are a few regulatory bodies and laws that control how certain animals are treated at research facilities and during testing, but in general, animal testing laws are severely inadequate.
Animal Welfare Act (AWA)
The AWA is the only federal law that regulates the treatment of animals in research, and it fails to account for the vast majority of animal testing: refusing protections to mice, rats, reptiles, fish, other cold-blooded animals, and farm animals.
The protections given to less than 5% of animals used in experiments are also inadequate. Dogs are only required to have cages barely big enough for them to turn around, and they’re legally allowed to live in captivity for their entire lives.
Animal testing laws provide little to no protection for the hundreds of millions of animals that suffer in laboratories every year around the world, and the AWA is in desperate need of an overhaul in the United States.
Public Health Service (PHS)
The PHS oversees two of the largest federal agencies testing on animals in the United States: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, the oversight is lackadaisical, and the organization’s Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals is rarely enforced.
There is no mandated follow-up or on-site inspection when a facility breaks the rules provided by the PHS, and the agency only requires facilities to write-in to the Office of Laboratory Welfare (OLAW) that they’ve been compliant with regulations.
Animal testing laws, even the few that the United States does provide to facilities, are pointless without real regulation and enforcement.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The USDA is in charge of overseeing and inspecting laboratories that experiment on animals. But as of their last report, the agency announced they have only 120 inspectors for more than 12,000 facilities. They’re also responsible for overseeing zoos, circuses, dog breeders, and more.
It just isn’t reasonable to expect an agency of this size to responsibly regulate animal testing. And even when violations do occur, the penalties are relatively minor.
How Can I Help Stop Animal Testing?
It’s time to stop animal testing for good. Here are a few ways you can help in the fight against cruel animal experimentation:
Buy Cruelty-Free Products
Avoiding products tested on animals is one of the easiest ways to help stop animal testing for good. But how can you tell if a product is cruelty-free or not?
To ensure you’re buying cruelty-free products, look for the Leaping Bunny certification on each product (not just any bunny logo will do), or check out their shopping guide here.
There are apps that can help while you’re shopping, too. Cruelty Cutter can be used to scan a product and the app will tell you if it is cruelty-free or not.
Donate to Charities That Care
Charities like Lady Freethinker are constantly fighting against animal abuse, including cruel and unnecessary animal testing. Much like the agencies that are expected to oversee the facilities that test on animals, funding is a major concern.
With additional funding, charities can dedicate more time and resources to fighting back against animal experimentation. Animal testing laws will never change without constant pressure from all of us. Donate today to help stop animal testing for good.
Sign Petitions Against Animal Testing
There are plenty of petitions against animal testing, and adding your voice can make a huge difference. When we stand together, agencies and policymakers have to listen.
Whenever you see a petition — like the one below — that supports a bill against animal experimentation, take a couple minutes to read and sign it.
Speak Out to Government Representatives
Legislation is the only way to regulate and outlaw animal experimentation. Speaking out to your government representatives to support anti-animal testing legislation could help stop animal testing for good.
Stay up-to-date on all the newly introduced bills, and continue to educate the public about how animal testing is not the most cost-effective, efficient, or safe way to validate the safety of drugs and treatments for humans.
Together, we can change animal testing laws for the better.