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Past, Present and Future – Animal Experiments
Past – History of Animal testing
Animals have been used by humans to advance our understanding for thousands of years. From the ancient Greece of Aristotle, through Victorian Britain’s Pasteur, and more recently with the growth in genetic research, animals have been experimented on in their millions. Whilst the use of defenceless, sentient animals in experiments has advanced medicine, the debate over the cruelty and the rights of humans has rightly raged in parallel. The first ‘anti-vivisection’ campaigners grew to prominence in the 1800s. In 1876, the first law specifically aimed at regulating animal testing was enacted in the UK parliament.
Present – Where we are now
Despite the fact that animal studies are not a reliable indicator of how a drug or chemical will work in people, over three million animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits and monkeys, are still used in animal experiments in the UK each year, according to the Home Office. The UK Government state they are committed to the replacement, reduction and refinement of animal research (3Rs) and yet the number of animals enslaved in laboratories now remains largely static year on year. The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) regulates the conditions under which animal testing can occur in the UK.
Laboratory animals have no choice and no voice to object to the often painful and life-limiting experiments carried out. They are used to test the toxicity and safety of chemicals used in household cleaning products, agriculture, industry, and in medicinal research. Some countries around the world still require animal testing of cosmetics. In 2013, it became illegal to sell or market a cosmetic product if animal testing had taken place, on the finished cosmetic or its ingredients, before being sold in the EU. The more recent chemicals regulation REACH has caused confusion with some ingredients used in cosmetics requiring animal testing.
During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many animals will have suffered and been sacrificed to help develop a vaccine for humans. Currently, vaccine research is a lengthy process involving animal and clinical testing. In efforts to speed up the development of an effective vaccine, it is being reported that some research facilities are significantly changing their processes, ditching some animal tests and moving more quickly to human trials.
At Naturewatch Foundation, we campaign to eliminate unnecessary and duplicated animal experiments and support investment in human-based science. We raise awareness of cruelty to laboratory animals and expose the culture of secrecy around animal testing. With millions of pounds of UK public money going into the life sciences sector, we continue to urge the UK Government to support and fund modern non-animal research methods, instead of barbaric animal testing.
The global non-animal testing market was valued at $1.1 billion in 2019 with significant growth predicted.
Non-animal tests are often considered to be more cost-effective, more efficient, and often less time-consuming, as well as kinder to innocent animals! Non-animal research methods include organ-on-chip, in-silico computer simulations, cell and tissue culture (in-vitro), 3D printing, and artificial skin models.
We look forward to a future when policymakers and scientists fully grasp the opportunities provided by non-animal research and when laboratory animals are freed from pain and suffering.