What Is World Week for Animals in Laboratories – and Why Does It Matter?
World Day for Animals in Laboratories, which takes place on 24 April, is an occasion to commemorate all the animals who have suffered and been killed in cruel laboratory experiments. Despite dwindling public support for the use of animals in science, millions of painful, frightening procedures are still carried out on animals in the UK every year. These tests are indefensible, both morally and scientifically, and, in many ways, are actively holding back medical progress.
It’s a common misconception that animals are used only in efforts to cure diseases – often, scientists experiment on animals merely out of curiosity. In one absurd experiment described in a 2016 academic paper, rhesus macaques were restrained in cruel devices called “primate chairs” every day for up to six months in an attempt to study human gambling behaviour. The helpless monkeys were forced to move a joystick in response to visual stimuli on a computer screen and were given a sip of diluted juice for performing “correctly”.
In another experiment reported in 2017, 96 guinea pigs were put in boxes, restrained by the neck, and forced to breathe in a chemical that exacerbates asthma. They were then killed and dissected. All this was done to test drugs that are already in common use by humans.
The law does very little to protect animals in laboratories, and experimenters often fail to comply with the few regulations that do exist, resulting in further suffering. A recent Home Office report reveals the systemic neglect of animals in laboratories in 2016. In one case, mice who were confined to containers without adequate ventilation suffocated and died. In other instances, mice died of dehydration when they were left without water over an entire weekend or of starvation as a result of a lack of food or because their overgrown teeth went untreated. And 74 chicks died or had to be killed as a result of inappropriate humidity levels. Yet when researchers are caught breaching regulations, they often receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist. For instance, the Home Office took no formal action against a licence holder who used 12 more primates than permitted.
Animal experimenters often use emotive arguments to try and suggest that their archaic methods are the only way to cure diseases, but this is simply not true. In fact, the most significant trend in modern research in recent years is the recognition that animals rarely serve as good models for the human body. Modern methods, including sophisticated tests using human cells and tissues (also known as in vitro methods), advanced computer-modelling techniques (often referred to as in silico models), and clinical studies with human volunteers are more accurate and more reliable.
What You Can Do
From urging the charity AFM-Téléthon to stop funding cruel experiments on dogs to asking the European Commission to observe a moratorium on all animal experiments, there are several ways for you to speak out for animals in laboratories. Please see our World Day for Animals in Laboratories action page for more information on getting involved: