Philosophy of AR > Animal Testing - Index
What are the alternatives to animal testing - are they viable?

Let me clarify the scope of my answers. The animal liberation movement is about principles, it is not about people. I am interpreting the "you" in the following questions to refer to ARAs (animal rights activists). My answers are consistent with the principles and philosophies of most activists who support animal liberation.


What are your views on animal testing, why do you think this?

From the AR FAQs:

FAQ 77: What is wrong with experimentation on animals?

We refer to "vivisection" as any use of animals in science or research that exploits and harms them. This definition acknowledges that there is some research using animals that is morally acceptable under AR philosophy.

The case against vivisection is built upon three planks. They are:

PLANK A. Vivisection is immoral and should be abolished.

PLANK B. Abolition of vivisection is not anti-science or anti-research.

PLANK C. The consequences of abolition are acceptable.

It is easy to misunderstand the AR philosophy regarding vivisection. Often, scientists will debate endlessly about the scientific validity of research, and sometimes AR people engage in those debates. Such issues are part of PLANK C, which asserts that much research is misleading, wrong, or misguided. However, the key to the AR position is PLANK A, which asserts an objection to vivisection on ethical grounds. We seek to reassure people about the effects abolition will have on future medical progress via PLANKS B and C.

In the material that follows, each piece of text is identified with a preceding tag such as [PLANK A]. The idea is to show how the text fragments fit into the overall case. There is some overlap between PLANKs B and C, so the assignment may look arbitrary in a few cases.


Over 100 million animals are used in experiments worldwide every year. A few of the more egregious examples of vivisection may be enlightening for the uninformed (taken from R. Ryder's "Victims of Science"):

* Psychologists gave electric shocks to the feet of 1042 mice. They then caused convulsions by giving more intense shocks through cup-shaped electrodes applied to the animals' eyes or through spring clips attached to their ears.

* In Japan, starved rats with electrodes in their necks and electrodes in their eyeballs were forced to run in treadmills for four hours at a time.

* A group of 64 monkeys was addicted to drugs by automatic injection in their jugular veins. When the supply of drugs was abruptly withdrawn, some of the monkeys were observed to die in convulsions. Before dying, some monkeys plucked out all their hair or bit off their own fingers and toes.

Basic ethical objections to this type of "science" are presented here and in FAQs #79 and #85. Some technical objections are found in FAQs #78 and #80. FAQ #92 contains a list of books on vivisection; refer to them for further examples of the excesses of vivisection, as well as more detailed discussion of its technical merits.

The "experimentation on animals" FAQs continue here:

VIVISECTION TREATS ANIMALS AS TOOLS. Vivisection effectively reduces sentient beings to the status of disposable tools, to be used and discarded for the benefit of others. This forgets that each animal has an inherent value, a value that does not rise and fall depending on the interests of others. Those doubting this should ponder the implications of their views for humans: would they support the breeding of human slaves for the exclusive use of experimenters?

VIVISECTION IS SPECIESIST. Most animal experimenters would not use nonconsenting humans in invasive research. In making this concession, they reveal the importance they attach to species membership, a biological line that is as morally relevant as that of race or gender, that is, not relevant at all.

VIVISECTION DEMEANS SCIENCE. Its barbaric practices are an insult to those who feel that science should provide humans with the opportunity to rise above the harsher laws of nature.

The words of Tom Regan summarize the feelings of many AR activists: "The laudatory achievements of science, including the many genuine benefits obtained for both humans and animals, do not justify the unjust means used to secure them. As in other cases, so in the present one, the rights view does not call for the cessation of scientific research. Such research should go on--but not at the expense of laboratory animals."

"Atrocities are not less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called medical research." --George Bernard Shaw (playwright, Nobel 1925)

"Vivisection is the blackest of all the black crimes that a man is at present committing against God and his fair creation." --Mahatma Gandhi (statesman and philosopher)

"What I think about vivisection is that if people admit that they have the right to take or endanger the life of living beings for the benefit of many, there will be no limit for their cruelty." --Leo Tolstoy (author)

"I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn't...The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further." --Mark Twain (author)

Why do you feel animal testing is morally right or wrong?

Answered in question above.

When did you decide to support (or not) animal testing? Were there certain events that lead to you feeling this way?

Many ARAs first thought about the morality of animal testing when they became aware that many animals used by humans, such as mice and pigs, were as sentient as their companion animals. The ARAs often felt that they could find few circumstances where they would allow painful or fatal testing to be done on their companion animals. This created a moral conflict. They observed that others ignored this conflict, following a mob mentality.

Do you (or have you) benefited from products tested on animals- for example medication?

This question is irrelevant, similar to asking someone who does not believe in slavery if they have benefited from traveling on roads that were built by slaves.

Animal rights activists are protesting against the atrocities that being done to animals now, they are not protesting against past crimes.

Taking a drug previously tested on animals is no more morally wrong than driving on a road that was built by slaves. The past is not the moral issue. It's the present and the future.

Buying a generic drug that was at one time tested on animals doesn't necessarily support any company currently doing the bogus testing. 

 Animal testing is not necessary now. It produces the cheapest results, not the best results (more on that later). Whether animal testing was ever the most efficacious method is debatable, but still not relevant to the moral issue.

Here are some other answers and comments to the same question:

What are the alternatives to animal testing?

There is an "alternatives" textbook written in 100 languages:

A lot of video evidence has come to light of animals being "cruelly" treated in laboratories - what is your view on this?

I'm amazed when I hear laboratories respond by saying that the cruelty uncovered was an unusual occurrence. Considering that there are maybe ten undercover operations per year, even if only one in ten resulted in finding unnecessary animal abuse, that would suggest there are thousands of abuses occurring regularly enough to be found in a short time-frame. This is hardly "unusual". Animal abuse is so common in factory farms that some states the corporations are trying to pass laws to prosecute activists for merely taking photos of animals. FactoryFarmsTryLimitingVideos.htm

What would you regard as �cruel� treatment to animals?

Unnecessary physical or mental suffering. The term "unnecessary" needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, although sometimes it is clear and obvious to the average man.

Do you feel that the three R�s principle is being followed in laboratories?

Graciously I could say that there is often an attempt to follow the three R's principle. Cynically I could say that there is a serious deficiency in the education of all research scientists to whom I have spoken: they don't understand of the mathematical design of experiments. For example, if they understood and used "Response Surface Methodology" they could learn more with fewer tests.

And many scientists lack much more than that skill:

What do you feel are the main pros and cons of animal testing?

AR advocates generally believe that vivisection has played a contributing, if not necessarily essential, role in some valuable medical advances. However, AR philosophy asserts that the end does not justify the means, and that therefore the answer cannot decide the legitimacy of the stance against vivisection.

That said, many people, including former vivisectors and medical historians, will readily state that there is ample scientific and historical evidence showing that most vivisection is futile, and often harmful to those it pretends to serve.

Do you feel animal testing has lead to any major achievements? If so what do you feel the greatest achievement has been?

It would be impossible to know whether the use of animal testing played a contributing role in any study, or whether it hindered the advancement of the final conclusions. Here is a list of the "supposed" examples of vivisection leading to advances: 

Note that none of them are entirely legitimate.

Additionally, Vernon Coleman offered money (in a published column) to vivisectors - and those who support vivisection - to find ONE patient whose life had been saved as a direct result of animal experiments. Despite a desperate search, vivisectors and their supporters failed to find one patient whose life has been saved.

New alternatives are being research all the time- do you feel a total alternative can ever be found? One that will give us just as effective results as animal testing has?

Animal testing is not effective. It helps companies get drugs to market faster without facing as many legal ramifications. No alternatives are necessary to produce similar results. 

Do you feel a change in the laws that regulate animal testing need changing? What changes do you think are needed and why?

Animal testing needs to be eliminated, and laws to this end are being written and enforced around the world at an increasing rate.

Here is a recent example:

An oxford based neurosurgeon is one of the first campaigning cosmetics should be tested on animals- �beautifying oneself has been going on since we were cavemen�.to say cosmetics is an absolute evil is absurd.� What do you think of this statement?

He's creating a "straw man fallacy" Debating/Logic/StrawMan.htm
It IS absurd to say that cosmetics (or to say that anything, for that matter) is "absolute evil". Classic straw man.

Additionally, his justifying anything because cavemen did it is equally fallacious unless he first proves that everything that cavemen did is something that we should do today (although he doesn't have to prove it if he assumes his audience accepts the premise).

However a researcher at the University of London has, along with other scientists, been distancing themselves from these comments stating- "I don't think we can justify using animals for cosmetic research� to muddy the waters by bringing back an issue of using animals for something that's not actually approved in the UK is perhaps unfortunate." What do you think of this statement?

"Unfortunate" is an understatement.

Additional comments

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