All you need to know about Animal Testing

animal testingOn March 31st 2015, the NZ government passed a ban on the animal testing of cosmetics. That sounds like a pretty big win for our furry friends, but when I looked a little closer I realised that it wasn’t quite as great as it sounded. This ban is part of the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill, which passed its final reading on May 5th this year.

The ban covers “finished cosmetics” and the ingredients that are exclusively for cosmetic use- which only covers about 10% of the ingredients. The other 90% are considered “dual-use” and can still be tested on animals.

The ban also only applies to cosmetics produced in New Zealand, not those that are imported into NZ, and it means that cosmetics testing stations within NZ cannot do animal testing for overseas companies. Which is a little bit redundant since no NZ manufacturer of cosmetics uses animal testing, and none of the testing stations here conduct animal testing.

In the meantime, New Zealand is still receiving goods from overseas companies such as Estee Lauder (parent company of M.A.C. cosmetics), L’oreal (and therefore Maybelline and Garnier), Revlon (parent company of Almay), and Avon. While not all of these companies directly conduct animal testing themselves, they are exporting their products and paying for them to be subjected to animal testing where overseas laws require it.

So all of a sudden, it’s not seeming like such a great win after all. Especially when, in contrast, the European Union banned the sale and import of animal tested products in 2013.

I saw a good image online recently in response to how animal testing and killing animals for food are legal practises:

And it’s true. Think back to the things we now think of as inconceivable; lobotomies, sending homosexuals to mental institutions, giving our babies whiskey to settle them, arsenic in wallpaper, and insecticide “so safe you can eat it”. One day, those who don’t already, will look back on animal testing with horror and embarrassment. I’m willing to bet no-one would put their own bunny, puppy, or even a random monkey up to be a test subject so why would you support the industries that do, they can only continue doing it for as long as we let them. It may be out of our sight and out of our mind but what about those living, breathing, FEELING, creatures who are living it every single day? The same Bill declared all animals to be sentient beings, that means we acknowledge that as well as being able to feel pain, they are conscious and aware of their experiences.

I was shocked to learn that M.A.C Cosmetics had started testing on animals because they’ve often been touted as being cruelty free, but it turns out that (like many big companies including L’Oreal) Estee Lauder gave in to animal testing in order to export products to China. Until June 30th 2014 China required animal testing for both imported cosmetics (which includes toiletries, sunscreens, oral hygiene, and other personal care products) and cosmetics manufactured in China, now it’s only a requirement for imported products. It’s a small step, but still a step in the right direction.

Animal testing is known as a form of vivisection. The word vivisection is derived from the latin words vivus, meaning “alive”, and sectio, meaning “cutting”, but is used to refer to any kind of experimentation on a live animal. Human vivisection is deemed completely unethical, and has been used in history as a form of torture. Yet we consider it to be okay to do to other sentient beings.

The medical industry plays a huge part in the use of vivisection, with the Food and Drug Administration requiring animal testing of pharmaceuticals. Despite this, animal tested prescription drugs kill over 100,000 people every year. It is hardly surprising that animal testing failed to predict these deaths since the majority of side effects include things like headaches, dizziness, nausea, and depression, which are often the initial warning signs of deeper complications, and are symptoms animals cannot communicate. The fact that we are unable to routinely use animals for blood transfusions or organ donations, and animals and humans have different medications, shampoos, and foods, should highlight exactly how biologically different we are from each other, and that perhaps our furry friends are not the best indicators of how humans will react to a product. #EndTheDraize has been filling my timeline lately. The Draize is a compulsory skin or eye irritation test required for human-use pharmaceuticals. A substance (like eye drops or even household products) is applied to a rabbit’s eye or skin and then observed to see how a human will respond to the chemicals. Rabbits are used the most because they produce a very low amount of tears and so the product does not get washed out. Sound’s awful, eh? The test is over 70 years old and despite there being several physiological reasons why a rabbits response to a chemical will differ to a humans (including, different pH and buffering capacity of the aqueous humour, a rabbit having a third eyelid and being unable to produce the same amount of tears as a human, and the cornea of a rabbits eye being 4 times larger than that of a human), this outdated and horrific test is still used even in NZ.

Although not strictly “vivisection” if we go by the literal translation, dissection of creatures for education also falls under the vivisection umbrella. I did this while working towards my Bachelor of Science. There were grasshoppers, squid, mussels, and kina, among other things, and boy did I feel rotten. I had no idea what I was looking at because there were no labels, and everything was all the same mushy brown-red colour. I do feel that it was completely unnecessary, and in no way more beneficial than looking at a well-developed (labelled) illustration or Youtube video. Let’s be honest, it’s been done a hundred times over and there is enough visual documentation out there that we don’t need to waste a bunch more lives in the name of science.

If any of these practices were carried out on a human, those doing it would be charged with abuse and torture at the very least. If an owner were to treat their pet cat or dog this way the SPCA would have them charged with animal abuse and they would likely never be able to own an animal again. You wouldn’t use your shampoo on your dog or vice versa, and you certainly wouldn’t give your cat a Paracetomol for a sore paw, or take some of Rovers pain meds for your headache, so how does any of this make any sense? Think twice next time you purchase animal tested goods and safe the fluffy bunnies, and yourself, from what is at worst, outright cruelty, and at best, incredibly poor science.

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