Allegations of Abuse in Animal Testing
Despite animal testing being rigidly regulated in the United Kingdom (UK) and in many other places around the world, allegations of abuse have darkened the public's perceptions of animal testing. Allegations have occurred in numerous countries and have shown the dangerous and cruel side of animal testing. Fortunately, the reaction in most cases has been swift, with strong repercussions from the government and an intense backlash from the public. The unfortunate aspect is that these isolated cases of abuse are often taken as representative of all researchers who use animal testing to perform experiments.
In the United Kingdom (UK)In a case during the late 1990s, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) recorded a video of animal abuse at the Huntingdon Life Sciences facility in the UK. Employees were recorded striking dogs and yelling at them as well as simulating sex acts during the taking of blood samples. The consequences included the licence for the HLS being removed for a period of six months and the staff involved were all fired and prosecuted for their part in the abuse.
United StatesOne controversial case occurred in California, where a monkey that was bred at the University of California, Riverside, had his eyelids sewn shut and a unique device placed on his head. The two conditions were created to satisfy the requirements for a sight-deprivation experiment. It was only during a raid on the facilities by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) that the monkey was removed. In defence, the university alleged that damage to the monkey's eyelids was, in fact, caused by the ALF's veterinarian. The university also alleged that the head device was purposefully damaged by the ALF as a means to further their cause.
GermanyIn a widely publicised 2004 case, a journalist secretly took footage of employees in Covance, a facility in Germany, which is a large centre that performs animal testing on primates. In the footage, staff could be seen forcing monkeys to dance to extremely loud music while handling them roughly and yelling at them. Monkeys were also kept alone in tiny cages with minimal to no natural light or environmental stimulation. After allegations of abuse surfaced, other scientists referred to the treatment as horrendous, which demonstrated the widespread disapproval in the scientific community. In addition, the ability of researchers to withdraw accurate data is severely compromised if animals are in a stressed state. As such, the results from the testing in Germany would have been inaccurate.
Unfortunately, abuse does occur and sadly, this abuse and subsequent media coverage tends to amplify the problem into one that is falsely assumed to include all animal testing facilities. It is hoped that improved transparency, accountability and regulations will ensure that those who do abuse animals are held fully responsible. Regulatory agencies exist to ensure that animal testing facilities respect the laws and rules in place to safeguard animal welfare. At the same time, there is some onus on the media to offer coverage of both sides. This means providing an accurate depiction of the majority of researchers who do follow the laws and regulations regarding animal testing. It also means that those who do abuse animals during experimentation should still be held responsible, both legally and in the public eye. Find out about organisations that regulate animal testing.