Animals as Specimens

Animals as Specimens

In the US alone, more than 100 million dogs, rats, mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, monkeys, and other living, feeling beings are bred for testing every year. Animal experimentation involves a multitude of horrifyingly brutal practices, including gassing, shocking, dismembering, disemboweling, burning and irradiating live animals. Most are subjected to multiple rounds of excruciating experiments, and virtually all are killed once testing has concluded.

Money, as opposed to necessity or benefit, is what drives the vast majority of animal testing. The animal research industry is a huge business with strong political connections with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), governmental science institutes, and so-called “nonprofit” granting organizations.

Like many industrial-government complexes, a revolving door exists between the FDA and the corporate offices of breeders, Big Pharma, and so-called “nonprofit” organizations. This is cronyism, where the FDA’s requirements and recommendations for animal testing are made (or at least strongly influenced) by the executives and “scientists” of corporations that make millions of dollars on breeding and receive millions in grant money to test on animals.

In all except rare cases, however, animal testing is, at best, unnecessary, and in many cases, even dangerous to humans as a result of the misleading conclusions it frequently leads to, with some estimating that more than 90 percent of experiments never lead to viable human treatments. Despite spending as much as 47 percent of its total research budget on animal research, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that as many as 95 percent of drugs that perform well in animal subjects fail to work on humans, and a 2014 report in the British Medical Journal says that as many as 89 percent of animal experiments couldn’t be reproduced.

Other animal species are enough like humans at the level of gross anatomy, physiology, and brain function (e.g. limbic system) to make what we do to them morally no different than if we did the same to 3-year old children. And yet, other animals are so different from us at the microbiological level that what helps a nonhuman can actually kill a human and vice versa. And scientists often have way of knowing whether their test results will translate to humans or not.

Ray, C. Greek, MD and Jean Swingle Greek, DVM have done extensive research on this problem and provide overwhelming evidence of how corrupt and dangerous (for humans) this unscrupulous? system is in their books, Sacred Cows and Golden Geese: The Human Cost of Experiments on Animals and Specious Science: How Genetics and Evolution Reveal Why Medical Research on Animals Harms Humans.

In their books, the Greeks ignore the animals’ side of the ethics question: their only concern is humans. But even if the science were sound, and even in the very rare cases where animal research may be useful in our quest for medical knowledge, the fact is that if we wouldn’t put a three-year old child through such experiments – especially those involving physical or psychological torture, such as in drug addiction trials and “behavioral studies” – we can’t justify putting a subjectively equivalent nonhuman being through such experiments either. Both are morally monstrous.

Product Testing

Cosmetics companies commonly undertake product safety experiments to determine the concentration of a chemical that can be considered safe for human use, measuring the toxicity of substances against the skin and eyes. Other products that tend to rely on animal testing include topical medications, household cleaners, industrial agents and workplace chemicals.


In spite of recent advances in biotechnology making it possible to render more accurate results without using animals, there are currently no bans on animal testing in the United States. This means cosmetics companies—as well as companies that produce household cleaners, industrial agents and any other products typically tested on animals—are free to conduct brutal and unnecessary experiments as they choose.

Species typically used include mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs and birds, as well as dogs, pigs and primates. Those who are to become test subjects spend their entire lives in captivity, confined in cramped conditions while they await the torture of experimentation. Their cages are so restrictive they’re often unable to move or turn around, and they’re frequently kept in isolation, unable to have even the most minimal communication with others.

Many are fed inadequate diets, or even deliberately fed poisons to test toxicity. As a result, they might starve, waste away, or develop chronic conditions that dramatically reduce their already low quality of life. In addition to the widespread neglect and mistreatment that test subjects endure while in between experiments, the tests they are forced to endure are always bewildering and often terrifying, and frequently painful to the point of being agonizing.

The following are only a few of a multitude of highly invasive tests that are universally torturous to the individuals involved:

  • Corrosion tests: Companies and researchers use corrosion tests to determine how much of a substance or concentrate will cause skin or soft tissues to abrade or become irritated. During these tests, animals are subjected to poisonous compounds until their skin burns, blisters or melts.
  • Carcinogenicity tests: Carcinogenicity tests are used to determine whether exposure to a substance causes cancerous growth. These tests are typically performed on rodents, who have drastically different physiology to humans, making the results of these tests often inaccurate and misleading.
  • Skin sensitizing tests: During these tests, a substance is applied directly to the ears, or injected into a space near it. The animal is then killed and their lymph nodes removed to determine whether the substance caused inflammation and irritation.
    Developmental and reproductive toxicity: To determine whether products and compounds cause reproductive or developmental problems, animals are exposed to high levels of toxins and forcibly bred, usually through in vitro fertilization.


Vivisection is the practice of cutting open live animals for the purposes of research and experimentation. It is often performed for the purposes of medical training, but in fact, it is a completely unnecessary process based on antiquated methodology that bears little to no scientific relevance in the modern age.

Photo: Gijs Coolen

Our reliance on vivisection as a form of medical research dates back to the earliest days of modern science—as early as Ancient Greece, but the practice truly came into fashion during the Enlightenment era, when the Catholic Church prevented doctors and scientists from conducting research on human cadavers. In the early modern era, many scientists erroneously believed that nonhuman animals were incapable of feeling pain. This led to the proliferation of animal testing laboratories, following the industrialization of science.

When you consider that we now know vivisection to be not only an inaccurate way to gather scientific data but an absolutely horrific experience to inflict on our fellow animals, the fact that these practices persist demonstrates almost more clearly than anything else just how deeply entrenched our collective speciesism is.

There are now more effective, accurate ways for researchers and institutions to develop therapies and treatments, and ironically, it is becoming increasingly clear that an end to animal experimentation would actually advance research technology, resulting in better medical and scientific developments.

Animals used for vivisection depend on the type of experiment, but can include dogs, cats, pigs, rabbits, mice, monkeys, rats, birds and other sentient, sensitive individuals. They are kept in confined quarters in small cages or containers, and are typically crammed together in large numbers, resulting in individuals becoming stressed and sometimes even aggressive toward one another. Conversely, animals currently being studied are kept in isolation, which causes them to become depressed and anxious. During testing, animals can be experimented on continuously for weeks or even months before finally being killed by researchers.

In the United States, the Animal Welfare Act is the only federal law that claims to protect animals held in captivity in research facilities. However, the act specifically excludes mice, rats, birds, farmed animals, amphibians and reptiles. Not only does this mean the legislation fails to protect more than 95 percent of the animals used for research, it also illustrates clearly how such legislation serves the researchers rather than the test subjects, by fooling the consumer into believing that research subjects receive some kind of meaningful legal protection, and offering legal sanctification to a horrifically brutal practice that ought long ago to have been buried in the past where it belongs.

Trauma Experiments

The United States Army and other military forces around the world, as well as some private defense contractors, regularly engage in a horrifyingly brutal practice called live tissue training. Live tissue exercises are purportedly used to demonstrate the ways in which the human body responds to certain types of trauma, as well as to train field medics how to treat battlefield wounds. In actuality, live tissue training is medically and scientifically dubious, and more accurate methodologies exist.


Dogs, pigs, goats and other animals are used in these tests, which involve harming and subsequently killing an animal by shooting, stabbing and dismembering. Pulling an individual apart bit-by-bit is a common live tissue exercise, as is stabbing directly in the throat, or shooting in the face. The victims of this horrendous practice are usually kept alive as long as possible during the “exercise.” After training is complete, the animals are often killed by lethal injection.

Live tissue training is inefficient, ineffective and unnecessary, yet several military branches and foreign governments persist in their use of live tissue exercises. Today, there are several anatomically accurate models capable of replicating a living, breathing human body, and some military branches, including the U.S. Coast Guard, have already ceased live tissue training, replacing it with more medically accurate anatomical models. Even if there were no superior alternatives however, need it really be said that this practice is morally unconscionable?

For test subjects, the trauma begins long before the tests themselves start. Animals selected for live trauma are usually confined to small cages and fed inadequate diets. The poor, frequently isolating conditions and lack of social interaction can cause them to become emotionally and psychologically distressed. Conversely, animals in overcrowded environments may spread illness and disease throughout the facility.

If animals survive a round of live tissue testing and are retired, they’re (unsurprisingly) likely to experience poor health and severe emotional distress for the rest of their lives. The reality, however, is that most are killed following the exercise. Many chimps used for medical research purposes are now being formally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following their “retirement.”

The animals who are subjected to live tissue training aren’t the only victims of this cruel and brutal process. Researchers and trainees often experience significant emotional trauma after participating in a live tissue exercise. For human researchers and participants, feelings of guilt, disgust and a serious mental health condition called perpetration-induced traumatic stress (PITS), can be directly linked to their distressing feelings surrounding their own participation in live tissue exercises. PITS is common among soldiers who experience field combat. For many live tissue training participants, the guilt of torturing, dismembering and eventually killing an innocent animal causes long-term emotional duress.