Testing chemicals on animals

Around the world, millions of laboratory animals are used in tests to assess the safety of chemicals. The types of animals used include large numbers of mice, rats and fish, as well as smaller numbers of rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and dogs. 

Because many chemicals are very poisonous, the safety tests can involve considerable suffering and animals are always killed at the end of a test. Here's more about chemical testing on animals and what we're doing to end their 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 paints, dyes, plastics, pesticides, household cleaners, cosmetics and food additives (as well as medicines and vaccines). 

EU and UK laws tell manufacturers how they must test their chemicals for safety. Different laws cover different types of product, and manufacturers usually have to test on animals to abide by these laws. 

To be able to use chemicals safely, manufacturers need to know exactly how poisonous each one is, both to 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 varies. 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.  

Our view on testing chemicals on animals

We believe that the need for safety tests on animals can and should be questioned. Not all chemicals are of real value to society, and not all the tests are 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, as well as eliminating a great deal of animal suffering. 

You can read more about our views on the use of animals in safety testing in our report on the justification for using animals in toxicity testing.

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