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Animals in Experiments

Animal Testing aka Vivisection

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About Vivisection

What is Vivisection?

The word “vivisection” literally means the cutting up of live animals for the purpose of making physiological or pathological investigations, although the definition has been broadened to incorporate any invasive procedure conducted on a live animal.

Animals have been used and abused for the “benefit” of humans for thousands of years, but it was only towards the end of the 19th century that the use of animals, in medical research particularly, became popular with the scientific community and some relics of this barbaric era are still in use today. The LD50 test, in which 50% of the test subjects are required to die in order to find the toxicity level of a substance, was developed in 1927 and is still in use today, despite its unreliable results.

While many countries, including South Africa, do not keep official statistics of the numbers of animals used in research, in a recent world survey it is estimated that approximately 115 million animals are used in laboratory experiments each year, worldwide, although the number is probably higher. It is estimate 100 000 animals are used in South Africa very year.

While many people still incorrectly associate animal tests only with the cosmetic industry, or with medical experiments; in truth, animal experimentation touches all aspects of our lives. Animals are used in tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse studies, the manufacture of commercial products – such as household cleaners, the pharmaceutical industry, agriculture, toxicological studies, education and in many other ways. Animals are scalded, burnt, drowned, electrocuted, poisoned and killed, all in the name of science and often without the benefit of anaesthesia or analgesics.

Why do companies and institutions test on animals?

Animal testing is often defended and justified as a means to test the safety and efficacy of products for human use. In some cases products are tested for safety to meet legal requirements to identify potential hazards to humans.

Regulated, and non-regulated products products are often tested on animals in order determine the level of toxicity of the product and what it’s effect would be on humans. This is also used as a means for companies to legally defend themselves when they are sued by injured consumers. In many cases, out of court settlements are made in order avoid publicity and to to avoid bringing animal testing practices to light.

Pharmaceutical companies test on animals in order to research drugs that could be potentially useful to humans. However animal testing models can be misleading, and results cannot be directly extrapolated to humans. A recent report comprised of 20 leading ethicists and scientists concluded that animal experiments are both morally and scientifically flawed.

The ‘normalisation of the unthinkable’

Read the Press Release from Centre’s Report on the Ethics of Animal Experiments.

Failure of the principles of the 3Rs

Companies and institutions try to justify testing on animals using The principles of the 3Rs . This stands for Replacement, Reduction and Refinement which unfortunately has not been effective.

A study at 250 randomly selected papers from key science journals reporting the use of nonhuman primates or mice in medical experiments showed that, despite apparent increases in references to animal research legislation and codes of practice, there was little increase in the reporting of the specific implementation of the 3Rs between the years 1986 and 2006.

See Report:

Read the Press Release from Centre’s Report on the Ethics of Animal Experiments.

Companies will often make the following flawed claims.

·         Claims of minimising pain & suffering

Companies who test on animals claim they try to minimise pain and distress as much as possible. While the intention seems good on the surface this claim is mostly used as a PR decoy as the pain and suffering they cause to animals is inevitable. This is especially true of standardised toxicology tests used by the cosmetic industry such (Draize eye tests, LD50), or invasive medical tests when injuries are purposefully inflicted on animals.

·         Claims of reducing animal use

Almost all companies will claim they try to use alternative methods where possible they try to reduce the amount of animals they use.

Unfortunately the data does not back up these claims. As of July 2009, Britian (and the world in general) are using more animals than ever before. Ironically this spike in animal experimentation coincides with the 50th anniversary of the original proposals to find alternatives. For 1/2 a century, successive UK governments have failed to fund the promised development of replacement methods – even though animal models are flawed and imperfect approximations of the human body and human disease.

·         Necessary evil

Most companies claim they would prefer not to test on animals, but they are doing it to protect humans or for the advancement of science. This is simply not true when so many alternatives are available.

“ It is no longer accurate or reasonable (if it ever was) to say that the only moral choice is between experimenting on animals and giving up on medical progress. This is a false dilemma. – Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics”


‘Greenwashing’ or ‘Humane-washing’ is a common PR tactic used by companies to either deceive or conceal information around animal tests.

For example L’Oreal, along with many other major cosmetic/household product companies, try to minimise their animal testing activities by publicising their alternative research projects and charitable works. While it is commendable that L’Oreal is developing alternatives to the use of animals, it should not be used to hide their continued reliance on animal testing outside the European Union. Galderma (co-owned by L’Oreal and Nestle) conducts animal experiments, which means L’Oreal (and Nestle) are just as complicit.

Ways to tell if a product has been tested on animals

Arguments against Vivisection


The notion that the infliction of suffering on other species is acceptable for the benefit of humans is wrong. The word speciesism was coined by the philosopher Peter Singer in his book Animal LIberation and is defined by him as “ a prejudice or attitude towards the interests of one’s own species and against those of members of other species”.

Speciesism may be likened to racism and sexism and until we stop exploiting animals for our own advantage, we cannot consider ourselves to be either truly liberated, or moral people. Medical researchers claim to abide by “ethical” codes which are meant to protect laboratory animals, yet cruel experiments still take place on a regular basis and suffering is an inherent part of the animals’ lives.

Humane animal experimentation is a contradiction in terms and one cannot be “ethically” cruel. Animals are sentient beings and have intrinsic value and as such should not be subjected to pain and suffering for the benefit of others.


Animal tests are misleading, as the results cannot be directly extrapolated to humans. Various species react differently to the same substance and often the same tests, conducted in different laboratories, do not produce similar results. Animals are poor models for the human condition and animal tests only give an approximation of the effect a substance will have on people. In light of this unreliability animal tests are often not done through scientific necessity, but to satisfy legal requirements.

When pharmaceutical drugs, for instance, are finally introduced to the market, their short or long-term use may produce side effects such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, blindness, and sometimes even death. These symptoms are often not easily observable in animals and only show up in the final ‘guinea pigs’- human beings.

Another problem that could occur through using animals to predict the safety of substances is the possibility of either losing, or at best delaying, the use of substances that would benefit human health. Animal tests could show intolerance to a substance by one species, that may not exist in humans and a number of examples of this type of misleading information exist.

Penicillin, which indirectly causes the death of guinea pigs by killing off useful bacteria in their gut, is hailed as a lifesaver for humans and aspirin and streptomycin, sensitising drugs, can produce allergic reactions in laboratory animals. Morphine, which sedates people, causes maniacal excitement in cats and mice and paracetamol kills cats.

Some Drug Failures

VIOXX: This arthritis drug killed up to 140,000 people after having been declared safe in animals, the drug was tested in eight studies using six animal species, yet it proved to be lethal when taken by humans.

OPREN: Anti-Rheumatic drug that killed 76 people and caused serious illness to 3,500 others even though it had undergone seven years of animal testing.

ERALDIN: Heart medication – Thousands of people were adversely affected after taking this drug and further animal tests failed to find a single species that reacts to this drug in the same way as humans.

For more information on failed drugs visit
For critical assessment of animal experimentation visit

Alternatives to Animal Testing

There are many alternatives to the use of animals in research, but a lack of availability of necessary technology, and of the finance to provide such technology, has been given as an excuse when alternative methods are not used in this country. The most common type of alternative methods involves in-vitro tests, skin and cell cultures, epidemiology, computer software, databases of tests already done to avoid duplication and human clinical trial tests. Donated blood can be successfully used for pyrogenicity studies and micro dosing, which involves volunteers receiving very small doses of a drug to assess its basic behaviour.

Examples of alternative methods that have already been developed are as follows:

  • EYTEX: is an in-vitro (test tube) procedure that measures eye irritancy. A vegetable protein from the jack bean mimics the cornea, via a protein alteration system, to an alien substance. This alternative can be used instead of the eye irritancy test, which involves dripping a substance into one eye of a restrained rabbit, and measuring the irritancy against the other eye over a period of time. This is called the Draize Eye Irritancy Test and ulceration, swelling and bleeding may be caused as a result.
  • SKINTEX: is an in-vitro method to assess skin irritancy that uses the pumpkin rind to mimic the reaction of a foreign substance on human skin and can replace the skin abrasion test in which the fur of the animal is cut and the skin is abraded before applying a substance. This may result in reddening, cracking, bleeding or ulceration of the skin. (Eytex and Skintex can measure 5000 different materials)
  • EpiDerm and EpiSkin: These are derived from human skin cells which have been cultured to produce a model of human skin and are used to test potentially harmful substances.
  • NEUTRAL RED BIOASSAY: are cultured human cells that are used to compare absorption of a water-soluble dye to measure relative toxicity.
  • TESTSKIN: uses human skin grown in a sterile plastic bag and can be used for irritancy etc.
  • TOPKAT: is a computer software programme that measures toxicity, muttagenecy, caccinogenicity and tertonogenicity.

Institutes researching, or funding, alternatives to animal tests are:
Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT)
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Dr. Hadwen Trust
The European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) has an online database of toxicology and alternative test methods

More Reading: Safe Medicines Campaign

Animal Testing & The Law in South Africa

There is no legislation specifically directed at the protection, or monitoring, of animals used in research in South Africa; they fall under the Animal Protection Act 72 of 1962, which is inadequate for this purpose.

The introduction of laws to regulate the use of laboratory animals has been deferred since 1962 and in 2023 there is still no sign of such legislation being promulgated. The only so-called “protection” for lab animals came in 1990 when, after an investigation into the treatment of experimental animals, a committee comprised of representatives from the government, medical researchers, universities, research groups and animal welfare societies, was formed to draft a national code which was published in 1990, but was voluntarily adhered to and had no legal standing.

In 2001 Standards South Africa, a division of the S.A. Bureau of Standards, was asked to draft a new set of recommendations for the use of laboratory animals and this resulted in The South African National Standard – The Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes, being published (Obtainable from Standards Sales Dept ). The new Standard replaces the previous code and is intended to be attached to the Animal Protection Act as a point of reference and to form the basis of any future legislation, but in the meantime it too will only be voluntarily adhered to.

The Standard mainly focuses on the use of vertebrates, even though there is evidence to suggest that invertebrates too experience pain. At the very least, the welfare of “higher” invertebrates, such as the octopus and squid must be taken into account, as it is clear that these intelligent animals, with their complex nervous systems, are capable of suffering.

Animals are sentient beings and at Beauty Without Cruelty’s insistence this has been acknowledged in the new code; now their rights and sentience must be recognised in law, where they are at present legally classified as “things” or movable property.

Europe, the world’s largest cosmetic market, Israel and India have already banned animal testing for cosmetics, and the sale or import of newly animal-tested beauty products.

What Animals are Used?

An estimated 100 000 animals in South Africa and 115 million animals wordwide die in labs every year.

What kinds animals are used in experiments?

Many different species of animals are used for animal testing around the world. The most common animals used in experiments are non-human primates (chimpanzees in some countries, mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, cats, dogs, mini-pigs, farm animals and fish.

Where do the animals come from?

Facilities that use animals in research often breed their own “stock” such as rodents, rabbits, birds etc. Other animals, such as pigs and sheep, may be obtained from farmers and baboons, monkeys and other wild, or so-called “problem” animals, are caught in the wild, often with the blessing of nature conservation authorities.

Animals trapped in the wild are usually transported to a facility where they are tested for viruses, infections and other health problems and where they are expected to get used to being in close proximity to humans. They are then re-located to the laboratory environment and may be held indefinitely, depending on the research involved. In the case of primates, a large number are caught and traded from Mauritius. (Thailand, India, and Bangladesh have banned the export of monkeys destined for research purposes. Israel has banned the export of wild animals for experiments.)

Many primate populations around the world have been adversely affected, as monkeys are stolen from the wild to be used for research purposes.

Animals kept in such captive situations often display behavioural problems like pacing, self-mutilation, swaying, masturbation, bar biting and head banging. All of these symptoms have been observed in animals held in South African laboratories.

Animal Table orginally appeared on See orginal source

Common Animal Experiments

There a many different types of animal tests. Some tests are custom designed and others are common tests, often standardized to measure toxicity of new products and their ingredients.  

Common Toxicity Test

Toxicity tests are required to evaluate potential hazards for each product or chemical. Products or their chemicals are evaluated in different types of tests which include eye irritation, skin irritation, skin sensitization, carcinogenicity, genetic toxicity, neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, acute oral systemic toxicity.

Draize Eye Test

The Draize eye test is commonly and routinely tested on rabbits. Rabbit are the preferred animal since they have no tear ducts to flush out a foreign substance. The test is intended to predict whether a product or chemical would cause injury to the human eye.

The Draize test involves constraining a rabbit and then placing the substance into one eye of each rabbit and then measuring the effects of the eye over time. The substance is applied at specific intervals for hours or days. The results are recorded and tests usually up to 21 days. Results are recorded which usually include painful burning, bleeding, swollen eyelids, irritated and cloudy eyes, or blindness.  Animals subjected to this test suffer extreme pain, and often suffer from broken necks and spines from attempting free themselves from constraints.

Skin-Irritation/Corrosion Test

These tests involve often placing rabbits in full-body restraints while a substance is applied onto their shaved skin. Skin is often abraded by firmly pressing adhesive tape onto the animal’s body and quickly stripping it off. This is repeated until several layers of skin have been removed.

The inflammatory response is then recorded, which can include burning, itching, intense pain, inflamed skin, ulcers and bleeding. The substance is applied at specific intervals for hours or days. The results are recorded and tests usually up to 21 days. Animals subjected to this test suffer extreme pain, and often suffer from broken necks and spines from attempting free themselves from constraints.

The LD50 Test

The LD50 test stands for the lethal dose (LD) of a given test substance in 50% of the test’s animal population. The LD50 is done to test acute oral systemic toxicity where animals are orally force-fed doses of a certain chemical.

To determine the toxicity of short-term exposure to a product or chemical, the substance is administered to animals in extremely high doses via force-feeding, forced inhalation, or absorption through the skin. Animals in the highest-dose groups often endure extreme pain and suffer from abdominal pain, convulsions, seizures, diarrhoea, paralysis, and bleeding from the nose, mouth, and genitals before they eventually die.

More Types of Animal Tests

Help avoid animal tested products by supporting businesses and their products listed on our Humane Guide.

Advertising Standards Authority states that companies must be able to provide proof of their humane claims. Beauty without Cruelty is an accepted independent organisation able to audit such proof.

Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is ‘Because the animals are like us.’ Ask the experimenters why it is morally OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘Because the animals are not like us.‘ Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.” – Professor Charles R. Magel (1980)