Animals in Research: Animals in Cosmetic Testing
In the 16th century the French Philosopher Rene Descartes suggested that non-human animals could not reason and therefore do not feel pain (All, 1998). Yet still, others were not convinced of this theory and criticized the moral integrity of such claims. In defense of animals, Jeremy Bentham states: “The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? , but, can they suffer? (All, 1998)” In the modern era, the twin forces of technology and science coupled with the growth of capitalism fuels the ongoing debate as to whether animals should be used in research.
Animal rights activist would argue that organizations promoting animals in research are driven by profits and have little regard for the psychological and/or physical well-being of the subjects; while the organizations in question are likely to associate their investments as potential stepping stones for the advancement of humanity. In between the two arguments, there are those who acknowledge the great benefits of animal research but oppose the obsessive and careless use of animals in laboratories, especially with proven alternatives readily available.
This would suggest that profit motives are imminent and nowhere else is this more apparent as in the cosmetic industry. The origins of product testing on animals stemmed from a 1933 incident involving a woman using Lash Lure mascara (All, 1998). After receiving some of the chemicals in her eye she suffered severe injuries causing blindness and subsequently death. This sparked the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in 1938 which protected the public from unsafe cosmetics (All, 1998).
As a consequence of this act, corporations with huge investments in these products had to introduce ways of protecting their consumers. The use of animals in research for cosmetic products has become a popular and relatively inexpensive method to ensure public safety, however, at the cost of animals. From the view of corporate owners, animal testing on their products ensures that human lives are not at risk. They would argue that animals killed in their laboratories are no different than those killed in slaughter houses or livestock.
Ultimately these functions serve to increase the quality of life for humans. Depending on what animal rights activist you talk to the responses will vary in the degree of departure from such claims. One variant maintains that animals should receive the same level of regard as humans and should be excluded from any form of human cruelty regardless of any potential benefits. Others are less stringent but still maintain that animals are killed beyond the level of necessity for humans and experiments are driven by profit motives rather than compassion and consideration.
Such evidences are apparent in some standardized procedures of cosmetic testing. The Draize Tests are used to test household products for potentially harmful chemicals. In the Draize Eye Irritancy test, animals, usually albino rabbits, are given drops of the product’s solution in their eyes often causing irreparable damage to the subjects (Woods, 2001). The rabbits are then killed to account for any internal damage done by the chemicals (A. Miller, 2001).
Another test that exhibits the careless use of animals in research is the Lethal Dose 50 test. This test involves measuring the toxicity of a product (A. Miller, 2001). The dependent variable is the amount of substance it will take to kill half of the experimental group (typically consisting of 200 animals). After the experiment has been conducted, the surviving animals are killed (A. Miller, 2001). Like vegetarians are an alternative to meat consumers, animal rights activist believe that there are alternatives to the use of animals in research.
The 3 “Rs” of reform prompted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest alternative models centered on “replacement, reduction, or refinement. (Madhusree 1997)” The following offer replacement strategies. The toxicity test for products could be conducted using a cultured human skin rather than animals. The “testskin” measures the relative toxicity of certain dyes in terms of the chemicals’ absorption rate into the “skin” (Siegel-Maier, 2001).
This test is quite reliable and valid as the testskin is actually the product of human skin grown in sterile plastic bags (Siegel-Maier, 2001). Other alternative forms of test that do not involve animals include Eyetex [R] which uses a vegetable protein derived from the Jack bean as a model of the cornea in the human eye (Siegel-Maier, 2001). The protein turns opaque when in contact with these product’s solution and thus the irritancy of such chemicals could be measured by a spectrophotometer (Siegel-Maier, 2001).
Similarly, pumpkin rind could be used to stimulate the effect of a test substance on human skin in the Skintex [TM] test (Siegel-Maier, 2001). These alternative forms of testing could effectively eliminate the aforementioned tests used on animals. Even with the availability of alternative methods, some organizations still persist in using animals in their testing methods under the pretext that animals are better representatives to humans and that alternative methods are untrustworthy.
Statistics from the government show that 600, 000 animals are killed in these experiments every year (Siegel-Maier, 2001). Moreover, certain companies are going to great lengths to conceal such practices from the public in hopes of selling their products. Labels indicating that animals are not used in the testing of their products may be misleading. It could be that the final product was not used in animal testing but this does not rule out the use of animal testing in the compositions or raw materials leading up to the final product (Siegel-Maier, 2001).
As for the validity of animal testing, Michael balls who is the head of the European Centre for the validation of Alternative methods states, “Many regulators feel more comfortable with animal tests – even with tests that are known to be unreliable and of questionable relevance. (Keville, 2002)” Such questionable experiments include exposure of chemicals to animals for long periods of time. Animals unlike humans react differently to exposure of chemicals through their skins, eyes, or mouth (Keville, 2002). These differences in responses will only result in the needless death of many animals.
It is evident that animals are used in many aspects of human life to promote such matters as better health, seen in the cosmetic industry. With that being said, many of the cosmetic products are not essential for human survival but rather are luxuries; luxuries that come at the cost of animals. Under profit-motives, animal testing is further accelerated and they are suddenly at the mercy of human greediness and carelessness. The cosmetic industry provides an example of how focus on cutting production costs and the lack of acceptance for alternatives to animal testing has lead to animal cruelty.