Providing a Voice for the Voiceless
The use of animals in scientific research dates back thousands of years to ancient Greece, when dissecting human bodies was a cultural taboo, so animals were used as a proxy.
For hundreds of years, animal experimentation occurred on a relatively small scale. After World War II, two factors led to a historical increase in the use of animals in testing and research: mass industrialization and the creation of regulations for product and medicine safety.
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) was enacted to protect animals used in research, education, and entertainment. The law requires that facilities must accurately report the number of animals being used, whether they are subject to pain, and if that pain is addressed in the course of the study.
The AWA does not, however, require that facilities report how those animals are used, which is a significant omission in reporting requirements.
Not all animals used in research are covered by the AWA. Birds, rats, mice, invertebrates, and cold-blooded animals aren’t covered, so researchers do not have to report how many of these animals they use. Estimates vary from 10 million to 100 million rodents used in research in the United States, meaning they make up 93-99 percent of all lab animals.
How Do Animals Suffer?
Life in a lab is hardly a natural setting for an animal.
Animals often experience pain and physical and psychological distress while undergoing research procedures . They may be given electrical shocks, exposed to harmful chemicals, or subjected to any number of unpleasant stimuli with little to no pain management.
Confined to a cage, animals often experience stress and anxiety. They may not have enough room to move around or engage in natural behaviors. The lack of mental and physical stimulation can be distressing and detrimental to their well-being.
Animals are often housed individually, isolating them from others. Many animals, especially nonhuman primates, are social. Isolation can lead to loneliness, emotional distress, and even increased risk of physical illness.
Animals may be subjected to loud noises, bright lights, or unfamiliar environments that cause fear and psychological suffering. Being handled or restrained can also be stressful.
The experiments themselves may subject animals to harmful substances, toxic chemicals, drugs, implants, viruses, and diseases. Animals regularly feel pain, become ill, or even die during the course of experimentation.
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