The use of animals in toxicity testing
This report investigates the scope and nature of toxicity testing in the UK involving animals. In addition to the serious welfare concerns of such experiments, animal testing is increasingly being criticised for its methodological shortcomings. Modern non-animal methods that have already shown themselves to be relevant to human health and in gauging environmental impacts should therefore be promoted and adopted without delay.
Toxicity testing ranks as one of the most extreme forms of deliberately-inflicted animal suffering, because death is often the endpoint of the experiment.
The scope of toxicity testing in the UK
According to Home Office figures for 2003, at least 16 per cent (or 448,000) of all procedures (i.e. experiments) were for toxicological purposes.
Examples of toxicity testing
Mice, rats, dogs, pigs and other animals are used in extremely cruel poisoning tests.
The legal requirement for animal testing
Although the Home Office officially claims that all new drugs are required by law to undergo animal experiments, on closer examination, it would appear that there are essentially no legal obstacles to the replacement of animals in toxicity testing.
- The choice of rodent as the 'standard model' arose, historically, because the wild rat was readily available.
- Even different strains of rats can produce very different responses to the same chemical.
- Regulators require a non-rodent species also to be used. The choice of animal - whether monkey, dog or ferret, etc. - would appear to be based on habit and considerations of convenience.
Drug safety testing and public health
Amazingly, the Home Office has not commissioned or evaluated any formal research on the efficacy of animal experiments.
Non-animal testing methodologies appropriate for regulatory toxicology
Ultimately, and not surprisingly, the best model for the study of humans is the human being
Written by Andre Menache BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS FRSH.
Published by Animal Aid, November 2005. ISBN: 1-905327-04-8