The WHS does not oppose the use of animals in research that seeks to improve the health and well-being of people, provided that this research adheres to the principles of the “Three R’s”:
Replacement: attempts are made to find alternatives to the use of animals in the experiments
Reduction: every effort is made to use as few animals as possible
Refinement: the choice of species of animal to be used should be of the lowest level of sentience possible so that the experiment may succeed
According to the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), over 2 million animals were used in research, teaching, testing and production of biological products in 2007. This number only includes the research facilities that are members of the CCAC.
Testing that is done on animals to purportedly assess the safety of consumer products often involves inflicting extreme pain through burning, cutting, and injecting harmful chemicals in the eyes, throat, and open wounds. Often these tests are performed over several days or weeks and without any form of anaesthetia.
Doubts also exist among experts as to the effectiveness of testing on animals to try to determine a product’s effect on people. After all, every animal species, including the primates that are most similar to humans, have very basic differences in their physical makeup. One obvious example is rodents, the most often-used animal in consumer product experiments: rodents only live for two or three years, while a human’s average life span is around 75 years. This long life span has allowed humans to develop more defences against cancer than rodents.
The issue is perhaps best summed up by Dr. Frank Barile of the Toxicology Department of the City University of New York: “It is generally accepted that correlations [between animal test results and human safety] are not good … due to species differences.”
By adhering to the Three R’s, institutions and companies should work to minimize and eliminate animal testing through the use of alternatives. Researchers should also be vigilant in determining the efficacy of the testing they are performing on animals.
As consumers, we can have an effect on the actions of companies that produce consumer products, and we already have. Hundreds of consumer product makers now place the “leaping bunny” symbol on their products to indicate that no animal tests were done in research or production of the product.
This begs the question: If so many makers of shampoo, makeup, soaps, etc. are able to produce their products without animal tests, why do other manufacturers claim that they must perform these tests to protect their customers?