Frequently Asked Questions About Animal Experimentation Issues

The Physicians Committee
DONATE
 

Frequently Asked Questions About Animal Experimentation Issues

1. What concerns are raised by the use of animals for medical and scientific experiments?
2. What are the alternatives to using animals in medical experiments?
3. Is some animal testing required by law?
4. Doesn’t federal law ensure that animals used in research and testing are treated humanely?
5. How can I find out if my medication is cruelty-free and/or vegan?
6. How can I find out if a company tests its products on animals?
7. What are some of the alternatives to animal dissection?
8. I know that “x” school is conducting experiments on animals, but this institution is listed as a medical school that does NOT use live animals. Why?
9. How can I help promote alternatives to the use of live animals for medical training
10. Where can I find an advanced trauma life support course that does not use live animals?
11. Do you have a list of veterinary schools that do/do not use live animals?
12. How can I find out what kinds of animal experiments a health charity funds?
 

1. What concerns are raised by the use of animals for medical and scientific experiments?
Serious ethical concerns are raised by the use of animals in experimental studies, particularly when the animals are subjected to captivity, invasive or painful procedures, or toxic exposures. These concerns are heightened by PCRM researchers' findings that animals exhibit signs of mood and anxiety disorders and a review of the scientific literature showing marked stress responses in animals undergoing routine laboratory procedures, such as caging, isolation, handling, and blood collection.

In addition to the ethical issues, the profound differences in anatomy, physiology, and genetics between humans and animals make animals poor models for humans. Results from research on animals cannot reliably be extrapolated to humans and in most instances animals have been poor predictors for how humans will respond to drugs, treatments, or diseases.

Read the PCRM position paper on animal research >
 

2. What are the alternatives to using animals in medical experiments?
There are many humane, cost-effective, and more reliable ways to answer human health questions and conduct scientific research. Alternatives to using animals in research include epidemiological studies (studies of human populations), clinical research, in vitro (e.g., in a test tube) research, in silico (computer-based) techniques, human cell and tissue cultures, stem cell methods, advanced imaging methods, and safe human-based studies.

Learn more about nonanimal research methods >

3. Is some animal testing required by law?
Neither the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act nor FDA regulations require animal testing of pharmaceuticals. However, animal safety testing has become the default standard for the FDA, and the FDA industry guidance for preclinical drug testing states that the agency will “generally ask” for toxicity test results using at least two species of animals. Thus drug companies reasonably expect that the FDA will prefer animal safety tests for many safety endpoints. Additionally, while the FDA acknowledges that animal testing is not optimal and encourages the development of better nonanimal methods, such methods do not currently exist to replace all the tests necessary to meet FDA’s standards.

An important part of PCRM’s work is to not only push companies to use the nonanimal methods that do exist, but also to facilitate the development of new, nonanimal technologies and test methods to replace traditional animal-based safety and efficacy tests. Some specific nonanimal tests have been approved by the FDA, and other nonanimal test results may be submitted by companies. But these are voluntary for the companies, which are understandably reluctant to jeopardize drug approvals by submitting nonanimal data in lieu of the corresponding animal tests—even though they often use more accurate nonanimal tests in-house.

There is also no statute or regulation requiring animal testing for cosmetics and personal care products. The FDA has no jurisdiction over these products until they are marketed, at which time they may be recalled if shown to be unsafe. More than 90 percent of cosmetics and personal products companies worldwide do not test ingredients or final products on animals. The Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates most other consumer products, and also has no jurisdiction until products are marketed. The EPA regulates pesticides, industrial chemicals, and other categories of potentially toxic or unsafe materials. The EPA requires animal safety testing for many of these materials. Until the FDA and EPA become more receptive to proven alternative methods and more proactive in promoting them with the companies it regulates, those companies and contract research organizations will likely continue testing on animals.

4. Doesn’t federal law ensure that animals used in research and testing are treated humanely?
No law in the United States prohibits any experiment. The only federal law that applies to animals used for research—the Animal Welfare Act—is, for all intents and purposes, a husbandry statute that regulates the size of cages, cleanliness standards, provision of food and water, etc., for only a small fraction of the animals used in experiments. Animals in laboratories are routinely subjected to painful procedures and are often killed afterward. Routine caging, isolation, handling, and even the laboratory environment itself are extremely stressful to animals.

Rats, mice, birds, fish (who combined make up more than 90 percent of all animals used in research), cold-blooded animals, and animals commonly used for food are excluded from the definition of “animal” under the Act and are therefore not given even these minimal protections.

5. How can I find out if my medication is cruelty-free and/or vegan?
All prescription drugs and vaccines, and many over-the-counter drugs—regardless of whether or not they contain animal products—have likely been tested on animals. Food and Drug Administration regulations do not require that all new drugs (such as generics of drugs already approved) undergo animal tests before they can be marketed. It is important to note that information gathered in animal experiments often is poorly applicable to humans.

The fact that virtually all new drugs are tested on animals prior to entering the market is not a reason to avoid using them. Many drugs have been on the market for decades, and consumer use does not influence any new animal testing.

The best way to find out if your medication contains animal products is to consult your doctor or pharmacist or the company that makes the medication in question. Some medications may have the ingredients listed on the bottle or box.

Learn more about animal ingredients and their alternatives at the Caring Consumer website >

6. How can I find out if a company tests its products on animals?
PCRM provides information on health charities, colleges, and universities that use animals for medical research and/or educational purposes.

To find out which companies test cosmetic, personal care, and household products on animals, please go to the Caring Consumer website at www.CaringConsumer.com.

7. What are some of the alternatives to animal dissection?
Today’s technology offers many effective alternatives to animal dissection. Students and teachers can choose from a variety of humane options, including computer-generated animal models and dissection CD-ROMs and software.

Learn more about alternatives to animal dissection.

8. I know that “x” school is conducting research on animals, but PCRM lists this institution as a medical school that does NOT use live animals. Why?
Our lists of schools and hospitals that do and do not use live animals to train medical students, teach medical residents, or conduct trauma training courses refer only to training in these specific areas, not to basic research that may also be conducted at medical schools and hospitals.

9. How can I help promote alternatives to the use of live animals for medical training?
More than 95 percent of all U.S. medical schools, including Stanford, Duke, and Yale, have eliminated live animal laboratories in favor of modern, cost-effective, and humane alternatives.

There are many steps you can take to bring in alternatives, including writing the schools that still use live animals and expressing your concern. If your local school or alma mater does not use live animals, consider writing a note of thanks for their humane policies.

Learn how you can help end live animal labs >

10. Where can I find an advanced trauma life support course that does not use live animals?
Many trauma training courses offer realistic training using human–based medical simulators to teach emergency medical skills.

To find a local medical center offering advanced trauma life support courses without using animals, please contact Ryan Merkley at rmerkley@pcrm.org.

11. Do you have a list of veterinary schools that do/do not use live animals?
PCRM does not have a list of veterinary schools that do or do not use live animals. To find out which veterinary schools offer alternatives to live animal laboratories, please contact the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.

12. How can I find out what kinds of animal experiments a health charity funds?
The best way to find out what kind of animal experiments a health charity funds is to directly contact the charity in question. You may also want to see if there is any information available on the charity’s website.