Laboratory testing causes more than 100 million animals to suffer and die each year in the United States alone. That number is even more shocking when you consider that because mice, rats, birds, and cold-blooded animals are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act, they go entirely uncounted.
Who Tests on Animals?
Chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics companies routinely test their products on animals, and teaching hospitals, medical schools, universities and even K-12 schools also frequently use animals for studies and experiments.
Animal testing might involve forcing mice and rats to inhale toxic fumes, force-feeding pesticides to dogs, and dripping corrosive chemicals into rabbits’ eyes. Other examples of tests done on animals include:
- Injecting potentially dangerous chemicals into animals
- Exposing animals to radiation
- Surgically removing organs or tissues to deliberately cause damage
- Placing animals in frightening and uncomfortable situations designed to cause anxiety and depression.
Animal Testing: Theory vs. Reality
In theory, animal testing is meant to prevent unsafe products from reaching consumers. In reality, however, products proven to harm animals can still be marketed. Furthermore, just because a product seems to be “safe” for animals does not mean it will be for humans, too. Statistics show that 92% of experimental drugs found to be safe and effective in animals fail in human clinical trials because they are too dangerous or don’t work.
Another argument for animal testing is that it can help us make valuable medical and scientific discoveries, but modern non-animal tests have routinely proven to be more efficient and economical, and to have more educational value and relevance to humans.
What Does “Cruelty-Free” Really Mean?
Buying cruelty-free products is a simple, direct way to make it clear that you don’t support the needless suffering of animals. Determining which products are cruelty-free is not always quite so clear, however.
You might think that a product with the phrase “cruelty-free or “not tested on animals” would be a safe bet, however, companies can use these statement regardless of their testing policies. According to the FDA, this completely misleading tactic is permissible because “there are no legal definitions for these terms.”
How to Shop Cruelty-Free
There are two different bunny seals that indicate a product is cruelty-free. The Leaping Bunny is often considered to be the gold standard of cruelty-free. Companies that use this seal must pass on-site audits that determine the validity of their claim that no animal testing is used to manufacture their products.
The PETA bunny does not require on-site audits, instead, companies must pledge that they will not conduct, commission, or pay for tests on animals. PETA relies on the fact falling short of that promise would result in a widespread backlash. PETA also offers a separate seal that read “Cruelty-Free and Vegan” for companies that sell entirely animal-free product lines.
If you’d prefer an approach that requires less label reading, PETA created a database of companies that do and do not test on animals. You can search by company name or browse by product type. If you’re worried committing to buying cruelty-free might limit your options, don’t be—the database lists over 2,000 cruelty-free companies.