When thinking of animal testing laboratories, most of us picture wire cages stacked along cold white walls as mournful eyes peek through steel bars. Unfortunately, this scenario is all too real in hundreds of labs across the country. If you think there’s nothing you can do to help, you’re mistaken. More and more beauty lines are ceasing animal testing. You just have to know what to look for.

A rat in an animal testing lab.Is Animal Testing Necessary?

Many assume that animal testing is necessary in order to ensure the safety of cosmetic or medical products. This is no longer the case. For one thing, animal tests cannot accurately predict a human reaction. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the human biological makeup is so inherently different than that of other animals, an animal reaction to a certain substance may be completely different than that of a human.

For example, chocolate is highly toxic for dogs, while humans can and do eat it in huge quantities. This goes to show that dogs have a completely different biochemistry than humans, yet more than 75,000 dogs undergo laboratory testing each year.

Furthermore, alternative methods have been developed for testing the safety of skincare products, such as:

  • Human cell testing in test tubes has been confirmed as accurate and effective by the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Human skin has been replicated in a laboratory environment by companies such as the MatTek Corporation. This skin model has been developed from human tissues and reacts in the same manner to substances and stimulus.
  •  A technique called microdosing involves the administration of safe, infinitesimal doses of drugs or other substances on volunteers to measure the way they are metabolized by humans.

What Makes Laboratory Testing so Inhumane?

For humans, it is considered a grave punishment to be isolated in a small cell, e.g. prison. Animals in laboratories are forced to spend entire lifetimes in tiny enclosures without exercise or social activity, and yet this is considered acceptable by government and laboratory institutions.

According to the Human Rights Watch, the solitary confinement of humans can cause serious psychological harm, eventually leading to psychosis or suicidal tendencies. The same is true for other social animals such as dogs, primates, and rats. In a laboratory environment, animals such as these undergo extended periods of time in solitary confinement. Primates, in particular, have been known to go into a psychotic state after long stretches. The majority of lab animals, through no fault of their own, are kept in small, solitary cages, much like the solitary confinement cells that are used for the severe punishment of violent human criminals.

Pain and Suffering

Living conditions aside, we have not yet touched upon the actual testing procedures that are performed on animals. Cosmetic products are often applied to the bare skin or eyes of animals to test physical reactions.  In some cases, the skin of the animals is deliberately injured beforehand to test the effect of the product on irritated or wounded skin.

Some animals are given pain medication before undergoing such procedures; others are not. Mice and rats, for instance, are not considered animals according the Animal Welfare Act, and so these rodents undergo any number of painful tests and treatments without anesthetic.

How to Help

Avoiding beauty products that are tested on animals is relatively simple. For one thing, almost all companies that do not test on animals will print a “cruelty free” or “not tested on animals” note on the label. If it’s not mentioned, chances are the product was tested on animals.

You can easily access a list of companies that test their products on animals by visiting the PETA website, or browse through a selection of cruelty free products from Living Clean.


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