The subject of animal testing is an emotive one and there are people who will argue absolutely in favour of it or absolutely against it. The RSPCA is in a difficult area in the middle. On the one hand, the law says that medicines must be tested on animals before they can be tested on humans. On the other hand, the RSPCA is all about preventing cruelty to animals – and many people believe that testing drugs on animals is a form of cruelty.
The RSPCA cannot stop animal testing but it is something that they have to deal with. Their role includes making sure that the animals who are tested on are given as many animal rights as is possible under the current legal framework – they monitor and ensure that animals are treated as humanely as possible and kept in adequate conditions. This does not sit easy with the RSPCA’s overall aim, but it is the best that can be done under the current laws.
There is much myth and misunderstanding about animal testing, so we set down here some animal testing facts that you may not be aware of, which may help you to take an informed view on animal rights and animal testing.
Firstly, you may not be aware that the testing of cosmetics on animals is now illegal in the UK, though it is still legal elsewhere in the world. If you want to be sure of buying cosmetics that have not been tested on animals, buy UK products.
Animal testing is usually carried out in laboratories where scientists test how effective and how safe a new drug is. There is a limit to how far that information can be used to decide how effective or safe a drug would be to a human, since the biological and genetic differences between humans and animals are huge. What might be safe for one type of animal might not be safe for a human and vice versa.
Many drugs have been developed to cure or manage serious conditions in humans – including antibiotics and drugs used to treat cancer. There are plenty of humans alive today who would not be if they had not received those drugs – though many people believe that alternatives to animal testing should be more actively sought.
Alternatives to animal testing would include tests carried out at a genetic or cellular level, though this is not yet thought to be ideal because those tests cannot take account of interactions at cellular level throughout the whole body – how a drug affects one set of cells in isolation might be very different to how it affects cells within the body as a whole.