Introduction to Animal Testing

Written by steve johnson
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Introduction to Animal Testing
Animal testing refers to using animals for research and experimentation. (Rat, Thailande image by J-F Perigois from Fotolia.com)

Animal testing refers to using animals for research and experimentation. Also known as "animal experimentation," it mostly involves using animals in various laboratory tests and techniques to collect data regarding their responses to certain substances and products. Though this practice has long remained controversial, it is legally being performed in most countries.

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Overview

Most animals intended for use in research are bred for that purpose and taken for testing upon the proper age of maturity required by the tests. Mice are the most frequently utilised subjects, especially when testing for clinical effects and how a substance can potentially affect human beings. Rats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and birds are also among the commonly used species for animal testing.

Purpose

Animals are used to gather data on potential new treatments that cannot yet be tested on humans due to concerns about potential side effects. Experiments are conducted to determine the medicinal effect a new substance may have on the body--as animals and humans react very similarly. According to the FDA, various drugs and other historical treatments have been successfully discovered with the help of experimentation done on animal subjects; these overall positive effects are one reason why animal testing continues to be utilised.

Toxicity Testing

Animal experimentation is also done to test the degree of toxicity or irritation certain substances can cause. Various animals are exposed to numerous products---ranging from drugs to cosmetics like shampoos and eye shadow---to household chemicals like furniture polish. These tests are done to measure the amount of a drug that can be toxic to the animal, or to find out if certain cosmetics and household products cause skin and eye irritations or other harmful effects; eventually, the data is correlated to human physiological systems.

Controversy

Animal rights activists and groups--such as The Humane Society International--hold true to their commitment to save animals from the harsh treatments they are subjected to during animal tests. They often target cosmetic companies—as they make up much of the animal testing industry, yet do not contribute to the better health of humans as much of the medical research industry does.

Alternatives

Many animal rights groups--such as The Humane Society International--reinforce the utilisation of alternative animal testing methods. Various techniques that do not use animals as subjects have been developed, and some claim that these tests are even more accurate and less costly than animal experimentation. These new methods propose the use of specimens, such as skin tissue cultures and human corneas from eye banks. Other methods involve using advanced mathematical and computer models, possibly to simulate physiological processes of humans.

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