An animal dies in an EU lab every three seconds.
Vivisection means the 'cutting up' of living animals, but has now become more generally used as the term for all experiments on living animals as many animal experiments, such as poisoning tests, will not involve surgical procedures. It is estimated that over 100 million animals suffer every year in laboratory experiments world-wide. Animals bred for research that are subsequently killed as 'surplus' are not included in these numbers.
There has been a huge increase in the number of animals - particularly mice and rats - used in genetic engineering experiments and this is predicted to continue to increase in the future. The UK is Europe's largest user of animals for experiments.
WHAT ANIMALS ARE USED IN EXPERIMENTS
A wide variety of animals are used for experimentation.
Rats and mice are used in a large proportion of experiments, because they are easy to handle and cheap to keep. They occupy less space in a laboratory than larger animals and can produce 50 - 100 babies a year.
Rabbits are commonly used for eye and skin tests because they are easy to handle and they have a very limited ability to 'cry away' substances from their eyes during experiments.
Guinea pigs are also commonly used in skin testing and batch testing for substances such as vaccines. Dogs and primates are commonly used in toxicity testing, brain research, dental research and surgical experiments. The most common breed of laboratory dog is the beagle, chosen primarily because they are good-natured and a manageable size for testing procedures.
Primates such as baboons, macaques, marmosets and chimps continue to be used in their thousands.
Other animals commonly used for research include cats, birds, fish, pigs, horses, sheep and hamsters, but many other species are used as well.
WHAT TYPE OF EXPERIMENTS ARE ANIMALS USED IN?
Animals are used in many different types of experiments; all experiments cause pain and suffering. The animals involved will either die as a result of the experiment or be deliberately killed afterwards, often for post mortem examination.
In the laboratory an animal may be poisoned; deprived of food, water or sleep; applied with skin and eye irritants; subjected to psychological stress; deliberately infected with disease; brain damaged; paralysed; surgically mutilated; irradiated; burned; gassed; force fed and electrocuted. Researchers around the world use animals to test or develop almost anything from household products, cosmetics and food additives to pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, agrochemicals, pet foods, medical devices and tobacco and alcohol products.
Genetic engineering experiments subject animals to myriad forms of physical deformity as well as more subtle forms of suffering.
Military experiments subject animals to the effects of poisonous gas, decompression sickness, blast wounds, burns and radiation as they assess new and existing weapons and surgical techniques 'in the field'. Animals are even used in 'curiosity driven' research. In fact, almost all of the products used and consumed by humans every day around the world, will have been tested on animals at some point in time.
WHERE DO LABORATORY ANIMALS COME FROM?
Many labs have their own breeding facilities, but a large proportion of animals are 'purpose bred' by commercial companies that specialise animals for vivisection. The research industry often tries to defend its treatment of animals by emphasising that they are 'purpose bred' as if this means they are somehow different from other animals. The breeders' catalogues talk about the animals they sell as 'products', boasting fast delivery and easy dispatch of orders, as though these living, breathing animals are no more than laboratory equipment.
The truth of course is that a laboratory animal has exactly the same capacity to suffer physically and psychologically as a companion animal.
Many primates used in vivisection around the world, such as macaques and baboons, are trapped in the wild or captive bred in terrible conditions in countries such as Mauritius, Barbados, Indonesia, the Philippines, Tanzania and China. They are then transported thousands of miles to be sold to laboratories in Europe, the United States and the rest of the world. These primates can endure such terrible conditions and stress on their long journeys that many do not reach their destination alive
ARE ANIMAL EXPERIMENTS CRUEL?
Suffering is an inherent part of vivisection. Animal experiments have to be licensed in the UK by the Government; a license is granted if the Government itself deems it to have the potential to cause "pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm". Deliberately subjecting animals to physical and psychological harm in laboratory experiments is cruel and therefore morally unjustifiable. As well as enduring painful experiments, animals can also suffer from the every day existence in the breeding factories where many of them start life.
An increasing number of genetics experiments mean that animals are now being bred with deformities or cancer, even before they are entered in experimental procedures. Transportation, the artificial and inadequate conditions and surroundings of the laboratory, all cause the animals stress- they too can experience fear, boredom, depression and psychological distress and the totality of suffering can be immense.
AREN'T LABORATORY ANIMALS PROTECTED BY LAW?
Under UK legislation it is still perfectly legal for an animal in a laboratory to be unnaturally caged for its entire life; poisoned; deprived of food, water or sleep; applied with skin and eye irritants; subjected to psychological stress; deliberately infected with disease; brain damaged; paralysed; surgically mutilated; irradiated; burned; gassed; force fed, electrocuted and killed. What kind of protection is that?
It is often argued that we have the strictest laws in the world to protect lab animals.
It is a nonsense to claim that the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (the UK legislation governing animal experiments) was devised in order to protect laboratory animals. It wasn't, because it was devised to protect animal researchers by allowing them to subject animals in laboratories to the sort of treatment that animals outside the laboratory are legally protected from.
Lab animals are specifically excluded from the main piece of UK animal protection law.
Under the 1911 Act it is an offence to "ill-treat, torture, terrify any animal... or, by wantonly or unreasonably doing or omitting to do an act, cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal..."; to "wilfully, without any reasonable cause or excuse, administer... any poisonous or injurious drug or substance to any animal..."; or to subject "any animal to any operation which is performed without due care and humanity."
If you watch any undercover footage taken from inside UK labs you will clearly see the lack of protection lab animals have and the treatment they are suffering is no better than it is in other labs worldwide, so the fact we these laws doesn't mean that they animals are being protected.