Animal testing is a long-debated topic that puts our quest for knowledge and medical breakthroughs against our ethical principles. To shed light on this dilemma, we’ll arm you with the latest animal testing statistics and facts that will help you see the far-reaching impact of this practice.
But we’re not here just to give you the data. We’re here to present the whole picture, along with all its pros, cons, and alternatives. Let’s engage in an informed discussion about the use of animals in research.
Key Facts About Animal Testing
- Over 100 million animals were part of experiments worldwide in 2020.
- The US, China, and Japan are the top 3 countries that conduct animal testing.
- 9 out of 10 drugs that go through animal testing fail in human trials.
- US animal testing increased by 6% in 2021.
- Animal testing on cosmetics is still completely or partially allowed in 154 countries.
- A single cosmetics ingredient test can involve more than 1,000 rats or rabbits.
What Is Animal Testing?
Animal testing, also known as animal experimentation or vivisection, is a scientific practice that uses animals for experiments and research purposes. Its aim is to gather data on the safety and efficacy of products, medications, and procedures before applying them to humans or releasing them into the market.
There are three main types of animal testing:
- Medical research, including drug development, disease studies, and vaccine testing
- Product safety for cosmetics, chemicals, and pesticides
- Studying biological processes and genetics
Most countries have regulations to ensure the humane treatment of animals in these experiments. But not all. Also, how many countries and companies actually follow these regulations is yet another question we’ll try to answer.
How Does Animal Testing Work?
In short, animal testing follows the scientific method. Here’s a short summary of how an experiment like that would work:
- Forming a Hypothesis: It all starts with a question that researchers want to answer.
- Selecting the Animals: Researchers select animals based on their biological similarity to humans, availability, and ethical considerations.
- Animal Testing: Scientists divide the animals into experimental groups and control groups. Experimental groups receive the treatment, substance, or procedure being tested, while control groups do not. This helps researchers assess the effects of the drug or product in question.
- Collecting Data: Throughout the lab testing on animals, researchers collect data on the animals’ health, behavior, and physiological responses.
- Observing & Monitoring: Scientists observe and monitor the animals for any negative effects or changes in their condition. They record any signs of toxicity, side effects, or therapeutic benefits.
- Analysis: Researchers analyze the collected data to draw conclusions about the test’s safety or efficacy.
- Reporting: Scientists report their findings in research papers or reports.
- Regulatory Evaluation: Regulatory agencies review the animal testing results to determine whether the tested product can proceed to human clinical trials or be approved for market release.
Striking a balance between scientific progress and animal welfare is still in question.
How Common Is Animal Testing?
Despite the global shift to alternatives, animal testing remains prevalent in many countries and industries. For instance, before new drugs or medical treatments are tested on humans, they typically undergo extensive testing on animals to assess safety and efficacy. It’s a standard practice for many pharmaceutical companies and research institutions.
The use of animals for testing cosmetics and personal care products, such as skincare and makeup, has been increasingly restricted in some places. For example, the European Union has banned animal testing for cosmetics, but popular US and Korean skincare brands continue to use animals as part of their product development process.
Fortunately, the increased advocacy for animal rights has influenced some companies to seek alternatives. But the battle is far from won.
What Animals Get Tested on the Most?
Mice are among the most commonly used animals in scientific research and testing due to their genetic similarity to humans, rapid reproduction, and easy handling. They’re used for drug development, genetics, cancer research, and behavioral studies. But they’re far from the only animal species subject to testing:
- Rats: Like mice, they’re very similar to humans physiologically. They’re used in toxicology studies, pharmacology research, and neuroscience experiments.
- Rabbits: They’re used in safety testing for cosmetics and personal care products, as well as in vaccine development. Skin and eye irritation tests are often conducted on rabbits.
- Guinea Pigs: Studies on allergies, asthma, and immune system research use guinea pigs.
- Monkeys and Chimpanzees: They have genetic similarities to humans, so they’re used in gathering animal testing data on infectious diseases and vaccine development. However, the regulations on using monkeys and chimpanzees are very strict.
- Dogs: Dogs are used in pharmaceutical studies, cardiovascular research, and toxicology testing. The most common breed is the Beagle since they’re not too big and the’re mild-tempered.
- Fish and Frogs: Zebrafish and frogs are used in biology, genetics, and toxicology research due to their transparent embryos, which allow for easy observation of internal development.
- Birds: Chickens and quails are used in embryology and genetics studies but also in some research involving the effects of environmental contaminants.
The species used depends on the research, country regulations, and availability. There have been ongoing efforts to reduce lab testing on animals, but that varies greatly by country.
Animal Testing Statistics Worldwide
Let’s see the critical insights into the impact of this practice that has long been a subject of debate and ethical scrutiny. These statistics encompass the staggering number of animals used in scientific experiments, the financial resources for such testing, and the growing calls for more humane and effective alternatives.
Over 100 million animals were part of experiments worldwide in 2020.
While such testing has been a longstanding practice in science, the growing ethical concerns, inefficiencies, and available alternatives highlight the need to reevaluate these practices. The numbers tell a story of widespread animal use, often in conditions that raise questions about animal welfare and the relevance of such experiments to human health.
The US, China, and Japan are the top 3 countries that conduct animal testing.
Reportedly, around 20 million animals were experimented on in the US, followed by 16 million in China and 11 million in Japan. Next on the list is the EU with 9.4 million, Australia with 6.7 million, and Canada with 4.3 million animals.
Record-high 5 million animals were used for scientific purposes in 2022 in South Korea.
(Source: Humane Society International)
The research on animal testing shows this is the highest number of animals used since the government began publishing these statistics in 2012. In 2022, nearly half of the animals used were subjected to the most severe experiments, where they were not given pain relief and were exposed to large doses of chemicals or used in studies that would lead to their deaths, such as cancer or infectious disease research.
Mice, fish, rats, and birds make up 91% of the animals used for testing in the EU and Norway in 2020.
(Source: Understand Animal Research)
The percentages by species are as follows:
- Mice: 48.87% (down by 10.17% from 2019)
- Fish: 27.61% (down by 3.37% from 2019)
- Rats: 8.38% (down by 16.09% from 2019)
- Birds: 6.43% (up by 2.39% from 2019)
There’s also an overall decrease in animal testing by 7.5% compared to 2019.
9 out of 10 drugs that go through animal testing fail in human trials.
(Source: Science Direct)
Moreover, a study on 2,366 drugs found that using animals like rats, mice, and rabbits to predict how drugs will affect humans doesn’t work well. It’s about as reliable as randomly guessing or flipping a coin when deciding whether a drug should be tested in humans.
One treatment of asthma in the UK caused over 3,500 deaths despite being considered safe during animal testing.
(Source: Science Direct)
The treatment was tested on rats, guinea pigs, dogs, and monkeys, and the animals received far higher doses than those administered to humans. And this isn’t the only case of animal testing proving to be ineffective in human trials. Another drug caused phocomelia in 20,000 to 30,000 infants before being withdrawn.
US Animal Testing Stats
Animal testing in the US has been a subject of significant attention, debate, and evolving regulations. Although there are not many available official statistics, here are a few valuable insights into the scale of this problem.
US animal testing increased by 6% in 2021.
(Source: Cruelty Free International)
Some of this increase may be due to reduced lab activity in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The data showed that 10% of all animals tested were subjected to experiments where no relief was given to animals experiencing pain or distress.
Animal testing in the US uses approximately $20 billion of taxpayers’ money each year.
These animal experimentation stats paint a distressing picture of taxpayer dollars funding research on monkeys, dogs, rabbits, mice, and more, at NIH’s facilities. The living conditions for these animals are often inhumane, with many suffering without pain relief, and severely restricted natural behaviors and habitats. Violations of animal welfare guidelines are also evident, further raising ethical concerns.
Around 50,000 dogs were used for research and testing in the US in 2019.
(Source: Humane Society)
The sad part is that this number hasn’t decreased since 1999. In the same period about 660 dogs year were put through painful or distressing procedures without any relief every year. Meanwhile, millions of tax dollars are awarded to such projects.
Over 6,000 animals were force-fed with high drug doses in an undercover investigation in Indiana.
(Source: Humane Society)
This included 250 dogs, 500 primates, 62 “minipigs,” and more than 5,100 mice and rats. One beagle named Riley experienced severe suffering and near death within two days of dosing with a toxic substance. Two young cynomolgus macaques died due to accidental hanging in their restraint chairs.
Animal Testing Cosmetics Statistics
Let’s explore a few key statistics related to animal testing in the cosmetics industry, shedding light on the ethical and consumer-driven changes shaping the future of beauty products.
Animal testing on cosmetics is still completely or partially allowed in 154 countries.
(Source: Red Orange Peach)
Among the largest countries where animal testing on beauty products is still allowed in some form are China, Japan, Russia, Brazil, and the US. In the US, just 8 out of 50 states have bans on this practice.
Approximately 300,000 animals undergo cosmetics testing each year in China.
(Source: PETA UK)
This is just an estimation as the exact number isn’t reported, and the global number is probably much higher. China has the second-largest market for beauty products and requires animal testing on cosmetics.
A single cosmetics ingredient test can involve more than 1,000 rats or rabbits.
(Source: PETA UK)
To get animal testing results, researchers may administer an ingredient to hundreds of pregnant rabbits to determine if their offspring will have birth defects. Following this, the rabbits and their unborn babies are euthanized and dissected.
The infamous Draize tests involve restraining rabbits so that they cannot move or rub their eyes. Researchers forcibly open their eyelids and apply chemicals to the eyes. Similarly, in the skin tests, chemicals are typically applied to shaved areas of the rabbits’ skin to assess the severity of the reaction.
How Many Animals Die From Cosmetic Testing?
Over 500,000 animals suffer and die during cosmetic testing worldwide each year. Although many countries and the EU have placed complete bans on animal testing for cosmetics purposes, the horrifying practice is still happening in over 150 countries worldwide.
Is Animal Testing Legal?
Animal testing remains entirely or partially legal in many countries. Even in the EU, where the use of animals for cosmetics testing was banned in 2013, animal testing is still allowed for some drug development and medical research.
Is Animal Testing Accurate?
Statistics show that 90% of drugs tested on animals fail in human trials. Here are a few points worth considering:
- Species Differences: Humans and animals have significant physiological and genetic differences. These differences can lead to varying responses to drugs, chemicals, and diseases. What affects one species may not necessarily affect another in the same way.
- Limited Predictions: Animal testing may provide insights into potential effects and safety concerns, but it does not always accurately predict how a substance will behave in humans. Numerous cases exist where drugs and chemicals that were safe and effective in animal tests later proved harmful or ineffective in human clinical trials.
- False Positives and Negatives: Animal testing can produce both false positive and false negative results. A substance that appears harmful in animal studies may not be as dangerous in humans, leading to unnecessary safety concerns. In the same way, a substance that appears safe in animals may have unforeseen risks in humans.
While animal testing has played a role in scientific research, it’s not always accurate in predicting human responses. Its limitations and ethical concerns associated have led to a shift toward alternative methods that are often more accurate and humane. We explore some of them below.
Is Animal Testing Ethical?
The ethics of animal testing is a subject of ongoing debate. There are differing views on this issue, and the ethical considerations often depend on your perspective, values, and beliefs. Here are some key points in the debate on animal testing:
Good Facts About Animal Testing
Animal testing and research have contributed to our scientific progress in many ways:
- Biomedical Discoveries: Animal studies have played a crucial role in advancing our understanding of biology, physiology, and diseases. They’ve contributed to breakthroughs in immunology, genetics, and neuroscience, leading to the development of vaccines, treatments, and therapies for various diseases.
- Drug Development: Animal testing is used to assess the safety and efficacy of new drugs. This process helps identify potential side effects and toxicities before drugs are tested in humans. Many medications, from antibiotics to cancer treatments, have undergone animal testing to ensure their effectiveness and safety.
- Vaccine Development: Vaccine development for polio, smallpox, and COVID-19, relied on animal studies to demonstrate their safety and effectiveness. These vaccines have saved countless lives and prevented the spread of deadly diseases.
- Surgical Techniques: Animal research has been instrumental in developing surgical techniques and medical devices. Surgeons often practice and refine procedures on animals before performing them on humans, ensuring better outcomes and safety.
- Understanding Physiology: Animal studies have deepened our understanding of organ systems, metabolism, and physiology. This knowledge has been applied in both human and veterinary medicine, helping diagnose and treat illnesses in animals and humans alike.
- Behavioral Research: Animal studies in psychology and behavioral science have provided insights into learning, memory, and social behavior. These findings have helped us understand human behavior and mental health.
Animal testing has contributed significantly to scientific progress. The list of diseases cured by animal testing includes smallpox, cholera, diphtheria, polio, and measles. Millions of human lives have been saved thanks to animal experiments. But is this practice still relevant?
Thanks to ethical concerns, advances in testing methods, and attitudes toward animal welfare, the scientific community is looking into ways to reduce and replace animal testing with more humane and relevant alternatives. You can read more about them below.
Cons of Animal Testing
While animal testing has helped us come a long way, there are significant ethical, scientific, and practical concerns associated with it:
- Animal Welfare: The most critical concern is the suffering, pain, and distress experienced by animals during experments. There’s clear evidence of that if you look through the shocking facts about animal testing above.
- Inherent Rights: It could be argued that animals have inherent rights to live without suffering, and using them for testing purposes infringes on these rights.
- Large-Scale Testing: The sheer number of animals used in some forms of testing raises concerns about the overall welfare of animals involved.
- Handling and Housing: Lab animals often experience confinement, stress, and inadequate living conditions, which can impact their well-being.
- Inaccuracy: Results from animal testing don’t always accurately predict human responses to drugs and chemicals due to species differences. This can lead to misleading results and potential risks to human health.
- Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness: Animal testing can be time-consuming, expensive, and may not always provide cost-effective results compared to alternative methods.
While animal testing has historically been a common practice in scientific research and product safety, we advocate for reducing and replacing animal experiments where possible. Let’s look into the alternatives.
Alternatives to Animal Testing
There are quite a few alternatives to animal testing that not only address ethical concerns but also offer potentially more accurate and relevant results:
In Vitro Testing
In vitro tests involve using cell cultures to assess the safety and efficacy of drugs and products. These tests can replicate some physiological responses and are especially useful for assessing toxicity. Researchers are also developing three-dimensional tissue models that mimic human organs. This can offer a more accurate representation of human biology than traditional cell cultures.
Computer Simulations & AI
Computational models use algorithms and computer simulations to predict the behavior of chemicals, drugs, and products. These models can provide insights into potential effects on humans without animal testing. Machine learning and AI are also increasingly used to analyze large datasets and help researchers predict human responses to various substances.
Microfluidic devices known as “organs-on-chips” replicate the functions of human organs, allowing researchers to study human responses to drugs and toxins more accurately. There are also systems that integrate multiple organs-on-chips to simulate the interactions between various organs in the human body.
Human Tissue Banks
Human tissue samples, such as skin, liver, and lung tissue,, can be used for testing and research purposes. These samples closely resemble human biology.
In Silico Modeling
Comprehensive databases of genetic, physiological, and molecular data can help researchers understand human biology and predict substance responses.
These alternatives contribute to advancements in science and technology while promoting the welfare of both animals and humans. Efforts to develop and adopt them are crucial to the future of research and product safety.
How much money is spent on animal testing every year?
Around $20 billion is spent on animal testing in the US alone each year. Around 47% of funded projects by NIH involve animals.
How many companies test on animals?
Over 260 cosmetics companies test on animals in 2023. The list includes some major beauty brands like L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and Colgate-Palmolive.
What products are tested on animals?
Common products that are tested on animals include makeup, skincare products, hair care items, drugs, medications, vaccines, cleaning products, detergents, and disinfectants.
How many animals die from animal testing?
Over 100 million are part of animal testing each year. While we don’t have an exact number of their deaths, we know that most animals participating in such experiments die from the effects of the administered drugs or are being euthanized after they have served their “purpose.”
What percentage of animal testing is successful?
The success rate of animal testing is relatively low. Approximately 95% of pharmaceutical drugs that prove safe and effective in animal tests ultimately fail in human clinical trials. This highlights the need for more reliable testing methods.
What happens to animals after testing?
In many cases, laboratory animals are euthanized after testing to collect and analyze tissues or organs for further study. If the study requires multiple phases or long-term observations, the animals will continue to be used. In very, very few cases, the animals are adopted or sent to organizations that provide a home for them after the horrors they’ve been put through.