World Day for Laboratory Animals, Monday April 24, commemorates the suffering of animals in laboratories worldwide, where over 100 million animals are tortured and die in research and testing.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) and celebrity supporters Mena Suvari, Alexandra Paul, Dame Joanna Lumley, and Tonya Kay are calling for positive change to end the suffering and benefit human health through the adoption of advanced non-animal methods.

Latest figures show that in the US:

  • 0.8 million animals were used in laboratories in 2021, up 6% from 2020. This excludes tens of millions of mice and rats, who are estimated to account for 95% of all experiments.
  • Procedures were carried out on 44,978 dogs.
  • 71,921 primates were used, including long-tailed macaques who are now endangered in the wild principally due to their use in research.
  • The most used species recorded were guinea pigs (181,267), rabbits (131,700) and hamsters (101,720).
  • 75,606 animals were used in “Category E” procedures, which involve pain. This means animals subjected to painful or stressful procedures were not relieved with pain medications or anesthetics.
  • The states with the highest animal use were Massachusetts (95,833), California (78,474) and Ohio (70,017).

Animals are burnt, blinded, deliberately infected with disease and force-fed products. Generally conducted in secret, most procedures are never published, so the pain and suffering of these animals is not exposed to wider scientific or public scrutiny.

Animals continue to be used when we already know the critical differences in response between species to chemicals, drugs and other products. Results can be affected by the animals simply being present in a laboratory, and by the animal’s age, diet, even bedding material; results between laboratories have been found to vary.

Due to species differences, animals respond differently to substances such as drugs, and are therefore an unreliable way to predict effects in people – for example, more than 90% of drugs which prove promising in animal trials fail in human trials. Human diseases which do not naturally occur in animals are artificially created; these ‘models’ of human disease are not the same as the disease in people and can produce misleading results.

Scientific and medical research and testing can be improved without the use of animals, by employing advanced scientific methods which focus on humans, rather than other species. Governments and regulators must drive research toward modern methods to benefit people, such as sophisticated analytical techniques, databases, organ-on-a chip models, micro dosing, computer simulations and modelling, and human tissue and 3D cell cultures.

Mena Suvari said: “It is shameful to see that the number of animals used in research is still increasing. I am joining Animal Defenders International this World Day for Laboratory Animals in calling on the government to accelerate the adoption of advanced non-animal methods to end animal use.”

“Dozens of countries around the world have stopped cruel cosmetics tests, but the US continues to test lotions, soaps and mascaras on mice, rabbits… Non-animal methods – which are more effective in predicting results in humans – are being used widely in other countries, including all those in the European Union. Why is that not happening here?” said Alexandra Paul. “Without a ban on testing cosmetics on animals in the United States, animals will continue to be caged and experimented upon. Cosmetics will also be less safe for humans when safety standards are based on results from completely different species. I support Animal Defenders International in its call for a cosmetics animal testing ban.”

Dame Joanna Lumley said: “I’m against animal experiments. They cause such pain and suffering and cannot be trusted. Superior, non-animal methods can and should be used and I support Animal Defenders International in its call for the government to do more to make this a reality.”

Tonya Kay said: “Animal tests are misleading but continue to be used. Modern non-animal methods can benefit people and prevent animal suffering. I support Animal Defenders International in calling for the government to support and adopt better science.”

ADI founder and President Jan Creamer said: “Animal experiments are unreliable, unethical and unnecessary. We need a firm commitment from government for replacement with advanced non-animal methods of research across sectors and an ambitious timetable to follow this through. Some progress is being made, which is welcomed, but more needs to be done, and more quickly so that we can all benefit from better science.”

Areas of research exposed by ADI include:

Cosmetics testing: These include repeated, toxic doses of products to observe long-term poisonous effects. Animals may be forced to inhale products or have them pumped down their throats or applied to their skin. Skin sensitization tests involve painful damage to the animals’ skin. ADI investigations have exposed extreme suffering, including rabbits restrained in stocks while products are dripped into their eyes and guinea pigs suffering raw and inflamed skin lesions. Such tests are unnecessary and unreliable, and should be replaced by advanced scientific testing methods focusing on the biological processes in humans. Nearly 40 countries worldwide have ended their use.

Toxicity testing: Experiments on animals to test the safety and effectiveness of drugs and other substances can involve force-feeding compounds such as agricultural chemicals or having toxic substances pumped into their veins. ADI investigations have documented, for example, restrained monkeys force-fed an incontinence drug through a pipe daily for a year. The dosing method caused vomiting, including in the control group who did not receive the drug. Several animals suffered prolapses, which appeared to be the result of fear due to anticipation of the procedures. These cruel animal tests can be replaced with advanced technology but, despite the alternatives available, they continue.

Fundamental (basic) research: Experimental by nature, animals are used to gather information or data, but with no intended application for human health. Such projects can continue for decades with no end in sight. An example of this research is tests carried out on monkeys, whose heads were cut open to implant electrodes and a recording chamber into their brains. The monkeys had to grasp different objects for food reward while their brain activity was recorded with and without an electrical current being applied to their brains. There are fundamental differences between human and monkey brains and the researchers acknowledged that non-invasive studies using human subjects are already carried out.

Genetic modification: GM animals are created with a particular trait in order to “model” human conditions and are intended to be abnormal in some way. Given a deliberate genetic defect, prolonged animal suffering can arise from repeated surgeries, egg collection, implantation, repeated blood and tissue testing, and the intended and unintended mutations suffered. With only 3-5% of offspring having the desired genetic defect, huge numbers of animals are killed and discarded.

Primate trade: ADI has conducted investigations of primate suppliers around the world. At Biodia, a key breeding facility in Mauritius, ADI footage showed baby monkeys being torn from their screaming mothers to be tattooed, pregnant monkeys manhandled and pinned down, and monkeys swung by their tails. At supplier Nafovanny in Vietnam, ADI filmed monkeys living in deplorable conditions, with some animals confined to small, rusting cages in a state of collapse. In Colombia, ADI caught on film owl monkeys being captured from the wild for use in malaria research; a cruel practice that was subsequently prohibited. Many primates are used in laboratories for regulatory safety testing of substances. For such tests, primates will typically endure force-feeding or injections of experimental compounds and full body immobilization in restraint chairs during experiments. Side-effects can include rectal prolapse, vomiting, blocked lungs, collapse, self-mutilation and death. One of the most used primate species is the long-tailed macaque; its use in research is the main reason for its now endangered status and declining numbers.

Find out more and take action here.

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