Testing chemicals on animals
Around the world, millions of lab animals are used in tests to assess the safety of chemicals. The types of animals used include large numbers of mice, rats and fish. Smaller numbers of rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and dogs are used as well.
Because many chemicals are very poisonous, the safety tests can involve great suffering. Animals are killed at the end of a test to avoid further suffering.
Chemical testing on animals in the UK
Chemicals form the basis of (or are added to) a huge variety of products in everyday use. This includes:
- household cleaners
- food additives
- medicines and vaccines
Why testing exists
EU and UK laws tell companies how they must test their chemicals for safety. Different laws cover different types of products. Companies usually have to test on animals to abide by these laws.
To use chemicals safely, companies need to know exactly how poisonous each one is. They need to know its effect on people and to wildlife. Some chemicals are very dangerous and, even at low doses, can cause the death of people exposed to them. Others are safe unless people are exposed to them at a very high dose, or for a long period of time.
The types of tests, their exact purpose and the suffering they cause to animals vary. Examples of tests include:
- Using guinea pigs to assess whether a chemical may cause an allergic skin reaction
- Studying whether exposing rats and mice to a chemical over their whole lifetime causes cancer
What we think
We believe that the need for safety tests on animals can and should be questioned. Not all chemicals are of real value to society. Therefore, some of these tests aren't useful in deciding how to protect the users of a chemical.
Many animal safety tests are very poor at predicting exactly what a chemical will do to people. The development and use of more reliable alternative methods would benefit human health and safety. This will also remove a lot of animal suffering.
Read more about our views on the use of animals in toxicity testing.