Friday, 10 October 2014

Alternatives to Animal Testing

So many people are already trying to only choose cruelty-free beauty/cleaning products, for obvious reasons. But I don't think many people actually know the alternatives - especially those people who turn to me and say "but we have to test on animals! I'd rather they die than I do!" which I can understand, sort of. It's a selfish point of view. I said in one of my lectures while talking about testing on model systems so we can look at cells without mashing humans up, that if we can do this to animals where they don't get a choice, why don't we treat humans the same? Oh because we are more intelligent? Yes, tell me more about how we are fixing this planet to be a better place right now?

There's a lot of confusing information out there, companies reply with confusing emails that they know not everyone is going to understand as they use scientific jargon. Problem is, any cosmetic company can claim to be 'cruelty-free' there's no law saying they can't make that claim. It's illegal to test whole products and the ingredients of a product on animals now, however, raw materials have to be tested on animals by law. And if a company decides to use this raw material in its products, are they still cruelty-free in your eyes? Or perhaps this raw material was tested years ago and it's still something they use in their products, is that cruelty-free? The FDA puts it simply here.

One of the alternatives to cosmetic testing is Reconstituted Human Epidermis (RhE) which is a model for human skin so we can test if something will be an irritant. Tests can also be done in silico (by computer/machine) however these can't be used on their own. Research into alternatives to animal testing is always being done, with some scientists looking to find alternatives for drug testing on animals. I was surprised that not many people know that by law all drugs/medicines must be tested on animals.

Listen to Dr Laura Waters talk about alternatives to animal testing and the Medicinal Labelling Bill.

amber x 


  1. This is always a complicated topic.
    I've recently been moving my cosmetics and such to cruelty free brands because I am 100% against using animals for testing of cosmetics and other kinds of products like shower gel, kitchen cleaner and things like that.
    But, as a scientist, I am not against using animals to study science. There a questions about developmental biology, diseases and treatments that cannot be answered using alternative techniques alone. Alternatives are always the first port of call with science but you cannot replace animals in my opinion. You can work on animals that are less (I can't think of the right word) like flies and fish, but there are some areas of study that they are no good for. Then you have to move to mice and higher. For me, I would never work with anything higher than a mouse or rat. But I appreciate the merits that working with animals has. To be honest, if people are so against animal testing then maybe they should like about it when they want to use drugs and treatments that are approved through animals studies.

    I wish people could understand the difference between animals testing for cosmetic purposes and working with animals for the benefit of science.

  2. I don't really know much about this, but you put forward some very interesting things for me to think about. I had no idea that it was law to have some things tested on animals!

    Corinne x

  3. It's something I've been thinking about and considering a lot more lately as I've started a development module on my course and have been discussing model systems. I was the only person who had qualms about using mice, no one else even flinched which I was surprised at. I had a practical on Friday where we had to crack chicken eggs and cut out the embryo, their hearts were still beating and to me it didn't feel quite right at first. I don't think it is something I will ever be able to accept without thought, watching the heartbeats stop wasn't the funny "oh look we killed it" that everyone else in the class was saying (the embryos at least deserve a little more respect than that!) it was more of a "shit, can I do this?".

    I personally want there to be alternatives to animal testing in science, and some scientists also want to make that happen! Until we have a true alternative though I understand why they need to be used. I think people need to be more aware of these facts and laws 'cos I reckon a lot really really don't! xo

  4. It's hard to get a lot of solid information on it without delving deeper into science, which of course not everyone is going to understand. I hope I broke down some of the important bits well enough! xo

  5. It never feels right, it shouldn't. It's never something to enjoy and it's always weird, uncomfortable and makes you sweat. Alot. I agree, I never think, oh this is so cool. More like: yeah um let's do something else first and maybe look at something with the mice but... umm I don't really want to. There's is nothing fun or exciting about having to sacrifice the animals. Never. But as scientists we have to be critical about the use of animals.

    I think it is somewhat unfeasible to come up with a complete alternative but I am all for it and I think it's a great step in science and would get a lot more people on board with science. But, science is science.

    I don't think the average person has any idea what it's like to work with animals. If worked with mice for two years now, it's still as horrible, uncomfortable and crap as it always was. But of all the work I have generated, they have provided to most useful information.

    I just wanted to share what I thought. I tend not to mention that I work with animals in my job, because the backlash can be a bit weird. I have an open mind, I have my views and I have my reasons for them.

  6. Brilliant post. It makes me so happy when I see other bloggers tackling the problems surrounding animal testing! There definitely isn't enough mainstream knowledge on the topics and most people buy animal tested products daily without even knowing it. There just isn't enough info and awareness out there! Thank you for sharing this Amber!

    If anyone's interested in the issues Amber has highlighted I run a cruelty free beauty blog over at - with a list of animal friendly brands etc.

    But again, great post Amber xxx

  7. Annabelle is right.. this is a brilliant post! I'm really against animal testing.. and I mean.. use the alternatives

  8. Thank you :) yes I think obviously for cosmetics why on earth would anyone want things to be tested on animals?! Unfortunately we have no sufficient alternatives for drugs and medicines testing :/ maybe one day!

  9. I think I was extremely naive not thinking about this before I started a course in Biochemistry! But it's not something I would ever regret 'cos it really is the most important thing! It's making me question how up front I can be about things now 'cos I've always spoken up about animal rights etc and now I'm like "hhhmm things aren't so totally black and white!". I'm pretty sure I won't be able to eat eggs again after that though! Quite an eye opener for me.

    It does seem hugely unlikely but if it was something that's possible it'd be totally unbelievable and change the way we do science! Would be amazing!

    Most of the time those who backlash haven't got a clue what the animals are being used for, what good it could actually do. I'm glad there's someone to talk to about science and morals too! xo

  10. Thank you :) a lot of the real nitty gritty of it is out there in scientific research papers, but without studying science you can't really understand them so it's good to try to explain them so everyone is aware. xo

  11. This is a great post. I'll admit that science has never been my strong point but I've done enough research to know that cosmetics can be tested in other ways (and it's not an essential product anyway, as much I love it). When it comes to medicine I don't like it however I think the consequences would be worse if we didn't but I'm very supportive of finding new methods.

    I'm also wondering if you've ever looked into the Dr Hadwen's Trust, and if you have any comments on what they're saying? As I said I don't have a science brain so would appreciate any thoughts you have.

  12. Thank you, and yes you're right, cosmetic testing on animals is entirely unnecessary so I never understand why people don't do something about it! I don't like it either but that's the way it is for now in science, it gets results that we couldn't otherwise discover. I'm one of those people who believes if we test on animals, we should be able to test on humans 'cos I find it arrogant to put us above their lives, but I also think that it's important we advance in science. I don't think my opinion is very popular, people like humans haha.

    I had never heard of it before, thank you for bringing it to my attention! I'm on their website now looking at the papers they've published. Not sure what I think of them yet, I'll have to do some more reading! They have some excellent points, but I'm not sure I can see that they're actually doing much to find alternatives for animal testing, which is understandable, science is slow and can't be forced, and also depends on if they can get the funding. I doubt they are popular with the government for funding. This here: is one of their papers, you've probably already read it! But if not, it's understandable. Not exactly a scientific discovery but brings up some more points on limitations on animal testing. Unforch it doesn't offer any alternatives in this paper, so yes while there are limitations to animal testing, it's the best we have so far, unless we were allowed to test on humans!