Philosophy of AR > Animal Testing - Index > Anti-Vivisection Index

Animal Testing Alternatives
by Karen Lee Stevens

Question: Which personal care, non-pharmaceutical products are required by law to be tested on animals?

Answer: None!

Yes, that's right. There is NO law that requires companies to test their personal care and household products on animals before selling them to consumers!

Sophisticated alternatives to the use of animals in consumer product testing are readily available. Most of the large producers of personal care and household products could adopt these methods which are more cost effective, better predictors of human injury, produce far quicker results, and do not involve animal cruelty. Why don't all companies become cruelty-free? The two main reasons are: the fear for human safety and the fear of product liability suits.

In 1959, "The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique" was published in London defining the concept of animal testing alternatives as the "Three R's": Refinement, Reduction, and Replacement. The only viable choice for a true animal rights' supporter is the *Replacement* of animals used in tests; Refinement and Reduction are still viewed as morally wrong.

Revlon Cosmetics was one of the first large companies to fund research for alternatives with a $750,000 contribution to the Rockefeller University in 1979. Several organizations such as the John Hopkins Center for the Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT), the International Foundation for Ethical Research, the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association, and the Soap and Detergent Association followed suit and started their own programs to validate alternatives. Keep in mind that, while companies search for alternatives, animal use actually INCREASES because the old test (using animals) must be done alongside the new test (without animals) to ensure consistent results.

While animal testing is still very much in existence at large corporations such as Procter and Gamble and Lever Brothers, there are now several hundred "cruelty-free" consumer product companies. For a listing of these companies, please visit our Cruelty-Free Companies page.

So, just what type of alternatives are in use today? The most common type of alternative methods are: in-vitro tests, computer software, databases of tests already done (to avoid duplication), and even human "clinical trial" tests. Use of animal cells, organs, or tissue cultures is also deemed an alternative although, obviously, animal lives are sacrificed for the use of their parts. The specific tests are:

Produced by the National Testing Corp. in Palm Springs, California, Eytex is an in-vitro (test-tube) procedure that measures eye irritancy via a protein alteration system. A vegetable protein from the jack bean mimics the reaction of the cornea to an alien substance. This alternative is used by Avon instead of the cruel Draize eye irritancy test.

An in-vitro method to assess skin irritancy that uses pumpkin rind to mimic the reaction of a foreign substance on human skin (both Eytex and Skintex can measure 5,000 different materials).

Produced by Clonetics in San Diego, California, the EpiPack uses cloned human tissue to test potentially harmful substances.

Neutral Red Bioassay
Developed at Rockefeller University and promoted by Clonetics, the Neutral Red Bioassay is cultured human cells that are used to compute the absorption of a water-soluble dye to measure relative toxicity.

Produced by Organogenesis in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Testskin uses human skin grown in a sterile plastic bag and can be used for measuring irritancy, etc. (this method is used by Avon, Amway, and Estee Lauder).

Produced by Health Design, Inc. in Rochester, New York, TOPKAT is a computer software program that measures toxicity, mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, and teratonogenicity (this method is used by the U.S. Army, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration).

Ames Test
Tests for carcinogenicity by mixing a test culture with Salmonella typhimurium and adding activating enzymes. It was able to detect 156 out of 174 (90%) animal carcinogens and 90 out of 100 (88%) non-carcinogenes.

Agarose Diffusion Method
Tests for toxicity of plastic and synthetic devices used in medical devices such as heart valves, artificial joints, and intravenous lines. Human cells and the test material are placed in a flask and are separated by a thin-layer of agarose (a derivative of seaweed agar). If the material tested is an irritant, an area of killed cells appears around the substance.

Today, in-vitro (meaning, literally, "in glass") as opposed to in-vivo (meaning "whole animal") has flourished because of advances in tissue culture techniques and other analytical methods.

The main disadvantages to animal tests, according to John Frazier and Alan Goldberg, of CAAT, are: "Animal discomfort and death, species-extrapolation problems, and excessive time and expense." Animal protection advocates stress that the main disadvantage is the inhumane treatment of animals in tests due, in part, to the fact that anesthesia for the alleviation of pain is often not administered. Scientists allege that using anesthesia will interfere with test results.

Progress toward the widespread use of alternatives to animal testing will continue to gain strength as awareness of, and support for, alternatives is made known. As consumers, we can make a difference in the lives of innocent animals by purchasing only products deemed "cruelty-free" and writing to the companies that still do animal testing and letting them know why you will not purchase their products.

Mohandas K. Gandhi said it best in his autobiography "The Story of My Experiments": "To my mind the life of the lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of the lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man."