Animals in Cosmetic Testing

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Every year, millions of animals suffer and die at the hands of scientists who perform outdated and inaccurate tests that prove no benefit to humans or animals whatsoever. Before these animals die, they are routinely burned, scalded, poisoned, starved, given electric shocks, addicted to drugs, subjected to near freezing temperatures, dosed with radioactive elements and driven insane. They are deliberately inflicted with diseases such as cancer, diabetes, oral infections, stomach ulcers, syphilis, herpes, and AIDS.

Their eyes are surgically removed; their brains and spinal cords damaged, and their bones broken. The use of anesthesia is not mandated by law, and consequently, it is rarely administered. Cosmetics companies attempt to justify all of this cruelty by claiming that the tests are performed to determine the possible dangers of cosmetics for human use. Substances such as eye shadow and soap are tested on rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, dogs, and other animals, despite the fact that the test results do not help prevent or treat human illness or injury at all.

Experimentation on live animals, or “vivisection” began as early as the 17th century. During that time period, Philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) rejected Philosopher Rene Descartes’ theory that animals are not able to reason and therefore do not feel pain and suffering. Bentham held that living creatures can suffer and enjoy and that their inability to reason is irrelevant to the moral issue of how animals should be treated. Bentham’s philosophy on animals was: “The question is not, can they reason? nor, can they talk?, but, can they suffer?”

The practice of testing cosmetics on animals began in 1933, soon after a woman used Lash Lure mascara to darken her lashes. The woman’s eyes first burned, then she went blind, and eventually died. Because of this incident, the Food and Drug Administration passed the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (which supported the use of animals in cosmetic research) in 1938 to protect the public from unsafe cosmetics.

Cosmetics are not required to be tested on animals and since alternatives exist it is hard to understand why some companies continue to use these types of tests. Cosmetic companies kill millions of animals every year in the quest to improve their profit margin. According to the companies that perform these tests maintain that they are done to establish the safety of a product and the ingredients. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which regulates cosmetic products, does not require animal testing. Among many others, some of the tests used on animals are eye irritancy tests, acute toxicity tests, and skin irritancy tests.

In eye irritancy tests, a liquid, flake, granule, or powdered substance is dropped into the eyes of a group of albino rabbits. The animals are often immobilized in stocks from which only their heads protrude and they usually receive no anesthesia during the tests. After placing the substance into the rabbit’s eyes, lab technicians record the damage to the eye tissue at specific intervals over an average period of 72 hours. The tests sometimes last between seven and eighteen days. Reactions to the substances can include swollen eyelids, ulceration, bleeding, swollen irises massive deterioration, and blindness. During the tests, rabbits eyelids are usually held open with clips, because of this, many animals break their necks as they attempt to escape.

Acute toxicity tests, commonly called lethal dose or poisoning tests, determine the amount of a substance that will kill a percentage, even up to one-hundred percent, of a group of test animals. In these tests, a substance is forced by tube into the animal’s stomach or through holes cut in their throats. Experimenters observe the animal’s reactions which can include convulsions, labored breathing, malnutrition, skin eruptions, and bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth. The test was developed in 1927 and the testing continues until at least fifty percent of the animals die (this usually takes 2-4 weeks). Like eye irritancy tests, lethal dose tests are unreliable and have too many variables to have a constant result.

Skin irritancy tests are conducted on rabbits, guinea pigs and other animals. The process involves placing chemicals on the animal’s raw, shaved skin and covering the skin with adhesive plaster. The animals are immobilized in restraining devices to prevent them from struggling. Meanwhile, laboratory workers apply the chemicals which burn into the animal’s skin.

Despite all of this pain and suffering on the animal’s part, not a single disease has been cured through vivisection in this century. The overall adult cancer rate has risen in the past 40 years and a fatal heart attack strikes a person every 45 seconds. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 70-80% of the common diseases killing humans are preventable given a responsible diet and lifestyle.

40-50% of the animals used in experiments come from companies who breed these animals for just this purpose. The remaining animals come from animal shelters, the “free to good home” ads in the newspaper, some from unsuspecting people who allow their animals to become pregnant, or even worse, some have been stolen directly from their own front yard. Imagine your pet one day being crammed into a cage no larger the average refrigerator with ten other animals waiting to die like approximately 20-100 million other animals do each year.

Alternatives to cosmetic testing are less expensive and generally more reliable to perform. Animals have different biological systems than humans therefore the tests can’t be as accurate as the animal free tests. Some alternatives include cell cultures, tissue cultures, corneas from eye banks, and sophisticated computer and mathematical models. Companies can also devise a formula using ingredients already proven safe by the Food and Drug Administration. Most cruelty-free companies use a combination of methods to ensure the safety of a product.

Lobbying by animal welfare groups has resulted in federal, state, and local legislation severely restricting animal experimentation. For example, under the Animal welfare act, all animals used in biomedical research must be bought from vendors licensed by the Department of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture inspects laboratories where animals are used and enforces federal laws regarding treatment and care of the animals. Biomedical scientists have also taken action to prevent the abuse of the animals, mostly because abused animals may not provide reliable data. The Physiological Society, the National Institutes of Health, and many other scientific organizations have joined forces to lay down guidelines for the use and treatment of experimental animals. Now, there are also many universities with animal welfare committees.

In countless surveys, it has been found that most people are against the use of animals in cosmetic testing. Hundreds of companies have responded by switching to animal-friendly test methods. To help put an end to animal testing, people can stop buying products that were tested on animals. You can also call and write to these companies, or write to your local government representative about the alternatives that can be used.

Just weeks ago, the European Union (EU) moved closer to an agreement that would enforce a ban on the use of animal testing to develop beauty products in the EU. Negotiators for the EU’s 15 national governments and the European Parliament reached a compromise that would introduce the ban in 2009, giving cosmetics companies’ ample time to find and implement alternative ways of testing. The ban will cover animal tests in Europe and also calls for a ban on imports of cosmetics produced outside the bloc that have been tested on animals. The compromise still needs to be approved by the full European Parliament and ministers from the 15 nations.

While this sort of action takes us one step closer to banning animal testing outright, it is a long and painstaking process. More drastic measures must be implemented if we are going to wipe out the suffering of animals at the hands of scientists and researchers. More emphasis must be put on hard line tactics, and harsher penalties must be enforced for those who subject animals to any treatment that contravenes the global Animal Cruelty Act.

Sophisticated alternatives to the use of animals in consumer product testing are readily available. For example, Skintex, an in-vitro method assesses skin irritancy uses pumpkin rind to mimic the reaction of a foreign substance on human skin. Skintex can measure 5,000 different materials, so there is no excuse for companies. 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. There are two main reasons most companies do not take a cruelty-free stance; the fear for human safety and the fear of product liability suits.

We as consumers can help our animals by purchasing only products that have not been tested on animals. By changing your shopping habits a bit, it is easy to become a caring and conscientious consumer. When you shop, look for products that say “Cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals”.

This time tomorrow there will be approximately 275,000 animals dead that were not dead today. The numbers are real and this is happening in our world every day merely because it is a multi-billion dollar income for some people and is legal in most countries. The National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest recipient of funds used for research, must be pushed to fund more preventative programs and human based research. The problem that we are faced with today is not a difficult one to fix. The technology is available for us to use and we should take advantage of our superior alternate methods.

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