In the entire world, experimentations on animals are legal. Laws regulating it are more or less strict according to countries, but they gradually tend to agree on common principles such as the limitation of tests to scientific and medical fields, a more rigorous control of individuals, structures and projects using animals, and a willingness to reduce the use and the suffering of animals. However, a total ending of animal experiments doesn’t seems considered so far.
For the protection of public health
Global laws authorize experimentations for many purposes :
- Diagnostic, treatment and prevention of diseases
- Toxicity control
- Food control
- Fundamental and applied research
- Higher education
- Protection of the environment
- Research for species conservation
- Forensic expertise
The animal use in tests is particularly recurring before marketing new products with direct contact with humans, animals or the environment and able to cause risks. Animals are then widely used to control the substances safety about : medicine, food additives, chemicals, medical devices, household products and agricultural products.
Thus, in Europe, pharmaceutical laboratories are required to prove the efficiency, quality, and the security of their medicine before to obtain the indispensable marketing authorization delivered by the European Commission. Animals are widely targeted to perform these tests, despite the proved uselessness of the results.
Equally, in 2007, the European REACH came into force (regulation n°1907/2006). This regulation aims at a better control of chemicals made and used on the European market. Even if it encourages the use of alternative methods when it’s possible, it leads to a high increase of the animal use for these tests.
In the USA, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) also allows the animals use on chemicals. However, Barack Obama revised this law in June 2016. From now on, it discourages the use of vertebrates to test chemicals while the environment ministry (EPA) has to create a database of existing alternatives in the two years to come.
Insufficient protective laws
The majority of countries owns legal texts about laboratory animals protection such as the European directive 2010/63/EU, the Animals Act in England, the Animal Welfare Act and the Health Research Extension Act in the USA, the ethical considerations and laboratory animals protection in China (2005), along with control organisms such as the Canadian Council of animals protection, the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Cole) and the National Animal Welfare Bill in Australia.
Which protected species?
The European directive protects vertebrate animals (mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, amphibians) included autonomous or fetal larvae forms. After studies proving the ability of cephalopods to experience pain, the directive now includes it in the protection framework. The use of non human primates is also a debate “as the closest species of human beings”. It also considers that :
« the use of great apes as the closest species of humans, with the more advanced social and behavioral abilities, should be limited to researches aiming these species conservation, and when actions about a potentially deadly or disabling human disease are needed, and no other species or methods would be enough to answer the procedure needs.”
Let’s note that the expression “great apes” covers the following species : chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans. In 2013, the USA also gave up using chimpanzees for research. Let’s still remember that the directive allows the great apes use in case of a major issue and that they are only one part of the many primates used in biomedical experiments, such as macaques in neuroscience.
Besides nonhuman primates, the European directive also allows the use of endangered species for “prevention, prophylaxis, diagnosis or treatment of diseases, bad health conditions or other defects in humans, animals or plants”.
American protection laws strongly testify to this differentiation between species. Indeed, the Animal Welfare Act offers a minimal protection to certain species. Rodents, birds and cold blood animals, which constitute 90 to 95 % of the animals used in American laboratories, aren’t in any way protected by the law. This observation is worrying because the USA are the biggest users of laboratory animals with about 100 millions animals a year. In the end, neither jurisdiction protects the majority of the animals used on the American territory.
Reduce the suffering
Texts insist on the need to minimize the animals suffering. Henceforth, experiments have to be realized under general anesthesia. However, research is favored and the directive decides that :
« Member States make sure that, unless inappropriate, all procedures are performed under general or local anesthesia and with the use of painkillers or other appropriate methods to ensure that pain, suffering and anxiety are kept to a minimum. “
Thus, “if the anesthesia is incompatible with the purpose of the procedure, it is not mandatory. In this case, a minimum of animals have to be used for the experiment.
Authorization and control
Laws require the intention of an authorization for any animal use in experiments. In Europe, the researcher has to justify the use of an animal in his project as well as the impossibility to choose a different alternative. Laws also require controls : of the breeding, the suppliers and approved laboratories while research projects has to pass an ethical evaluation. Employees need to attend ethical trainings. The USA and China are more flexible with these controls.
Despite the controls violations are regularly discovered by anti-vivisection or animal protection organizations. For example :
- the seattletime revealed, on October 30 2016, the violation of the animal protection regulations by the Everett laboratory after the death of 38 primates . The animals lived in very bad conditions and the staff conducted experiments without proper training.
- Audrey Jougla infiltrated many public and private French laboratories during a year to illustrate her book Profession, animal de laboratoire. She describes the nightmare the laboratory animals are suffering,
Unfortunately, fines are most of the time insufficient compare to the profits laboratories make thanks to animal experimentations. It is particularly the case in the United States where the U.S. Département of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors responsible for enforcing AWA are truly frustrated from their incapacity to efficiently punish laboratories.
The 3 R rule
This rule has been elaborated in 1959 by two British researchers W.M.S Russel and R. L. Burch after studying animal distresses. The 3 R means :
- Reducing the number of animals used
- Refine methods to reduce or even eliminate the pain and discomfort of the animal
- Replace the animals when an other option exists
First considered as a recommendation, it’s becoming a guideline adopted by institutions and gradually introduced in regulation. However, this rule stays a recommendation and isn’t mandatory. Indeed, the law stipulates:
1. Member States shall as far as possible ensure a scientifically satisfactory experimentation method, procedure or strategy, which does not involve the use of living animals.
2. Member States shall ensure that the number of animals used in a project is minimized without compromising the objectives of the project.
3. Member States shall ensure the refinement of breeding, housing and care conditions, and the methods used in the procedures, in order to eliminate or minimize any pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm.
Thus, the Draize test (cornea safety test) is still conducted while reproduction of human corneas and other methods exist in order to replace the rabbit.
With the ban of experiments in the field of cosmetics, a hope to see disappear completely experiments is born.
However, the European directive, which proves to be a real example for other countries, favors scientific research to the detriment of animal welfare despite what it shows at first sight.
Indeed, when the directive declares for example: “Animals caught in the wild are not used in procedures” (Art.10); “Domestic animals that are wandering or becoming wild” (Art.11); “Specimens of non-human primates are not used in procedures” (Art.8), these statements are then always followed by possible derogations . Thus, it is only a facade protection, these examples are not exhaustive and these derogations are found again in many other cases.
Finally, and most importantly, it does not question the use of animals and, on the contrary, affirms the need to continue experiments for medical progress.
“If it is desirable to replace the use of living animals in procedures with other methods that do not involve their use, the use of living animals remains necessary to protect the human and animal health and the environment . However, this Directive represents an important step towards the achievement of the ultimate goal of the complete replacement of the procedures applied to living animals for scientific and educational purposes, as soon as it is scientifically possible. “
The United States, by protecting only 10% of the animals used in the experiments, has a totally useless regulation. While other countries are already struggling to ban the use of animal experiments in cosmetics, it is difficult to imagine that this is the case to a larger scale.
Medical research is possible without animals. In this context, continuing to kill millions of animals every year legally is inadmissible. We must continue to raise the awareness of the people around us and make our voices heard by our governments because they are the only ones who can definitively put an end to these tortures legally.
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