Licence to kill

May 21 2003 | by

DURING A 2002 experiment to mimic nerve damage during human tooth extraction, the tongue nerves of 40 ferrets at a British university were exposed, injuries inflicted and allowed to heal for periods up to 6 months. Then, the time taken for each animal to drink Bovril was measured to establish whether abnormal feeling had developed. The researchers later acknowledged that, due to species differences, the results did not necessarily have spin-offs for humans.

In Germany, investigation into the local anaesthetic properties of a new drug led to the lashes of both eyes being cut from a group of chinchillas, before the animals were placed in a restraining cage. The experimenters then used a whisker to repeatedly touch the cornea of the eye to see if a corneal reflex was produced. If there was no reflex the drug was said to possess anaesthetic properties.

Vivisection literally means ‘cutting while still alive,’ but it refers to any harmful experiments or tests performed on animals.

The scale of vivisection

In the UK alone, during 2001, official vivisection statistics show that 2,622,442 experiments “likely to cause pain, suffering and lasting harm” were conducted on more than two and a half million animals. Ninety per cent of them involved either no anaesthetic (59% of total) or anaesthetic during just part of the experiment. 71,261 animals were killed in acute lethal toxicity tests. 25,043 animals suffered injections into the brain. 7,225 animals endured radiation experiments. Animal experiments take place at 182 UK establishments, while 87 premises are licensed to either breed or supply animals for vivisection. As well as mice and rats, other animals such as dogs, cats, monkeys, horses, cows and pigs are used.

As for costs, in the United States vivisection industries spend over $18 billion on animal experiments. The U.S. National Institutes of Health is the world’s greatest source of funding for animal experimentation, with an annual budget of more than $13 billion. $797,765, for example, is used to maintain breeding facilities for 77 research chimpanzees in the state of Arizona.

Animals in products testing


Every year, thousands of new cosmetic, personal care and household products are introduced into the marketplace. Most have been animal-tested at various stages of their development, in a complex testing process that leaves millions of animals mutilated, burned, poisoned and gassed.

The manufacturers of cosmetics and household products claim to test on animals to ensure the safety of their products for humans, but a key reason is to limit the company’s liability to its customers in case of a lawsuit. In the U.S., the law does not require animal testing on cosmetics, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does urge companies to conduct whatever toxicological tests are appropriate to substantiate the safety of their products. Millions of rabbits and other animals continue to be victims of painful eye and skin irritancy tests.

Updated on October 06 2016