Skip Navigation
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthCAAT

Animals and Alternatives in Testing: History, Science, and Ethics

Joanne Zurlo, Deborah Rudacille, and Alan M. Goldberg

Preface

Published in 1959, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique marked the beginning of the most recent scientific attempt to define and alleviate the potential pain or distress suffered by laboratory animals. Minimizing unnecessary suffering and use of animals in laboratories via the implementation of the three Rs (replacement, reduction, and refinement) was not simply a humane goal, authors Russell and Burch pointed out, but a scientifically sound one. Subsequently, the United States and Europe have witnessed the resurgence of powerful antivivisectionist lobbies, opposing any use of animals in biomedical research, as well as the rapid growth of a more moderate and numerically significant animal protection movement.

Many concerned citizens, while not objecting to the humane use of animals for research into the prevention and treatment of disease, nonetheless question the use of animals for product development and routine safety testing. The public expects manufacturers to produce safe products. Few parents would give their child a new cough syrup or antibiotic that had not undergone extensive safety testing. Most of us take for granted the fact that our medicine, our shampoos, our soaps, and our cosmetics will not poison us, or blind us, or cause our hair to fall out or our skin to blister.

More often than not, we do not give much thought to the process that ensures that these disasters do not occur. Yet if we are to come to any reasonable conclusion about the need or lack of need for animal testing, we must be in full possession of the facts. Limited in its ability to use human subjects, the science of toxicology has been based since its inception on the assumption that animals are accurate predictors of human response to a variety of toxins. How and why are animals used in toxicity testing? What are the alternatives to animal use? What is the status, scientific and legal, of these alternatives? Does animal testing remain necessary? Will it always be necessary? These are the questions we will attempt to address.

This book has been written for those who are concerned about the use of animals in toxicity testing and are curious about the scientific status of alternatives. All citizens need to be well informed on these issues; legislators and teachers in particular need accurate, relevant information in order to review legislation and educate children. Because some of the scientific terminology in this document may be unfamiliar, we have included a glossary. The bibliography provides a listing of primary sources for those who would like further information on the history, science or ethics of animal experimentation.

This document has been written for those who are concerned about the use of animals in toxicity testing and are curious about the scientific status of alternatives. All citizens need to be well informed on these issues; legislators and teachers in particular need accurate, relevant information in order to review legislation and educate children. Because some of the scientific terminology in this document may be unfamiliar, we have included a glossary. Each word in bold print is included and defined in the glossary. The bibliography provides a listing of primary sources for those who would like further information on the history, science, or ethics of animal experimentation.

The mission of the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) is to promote and advance the development of alternatives while ensuring that the health and safety of the public are protected. We are supported by industry, animal welfare advocacy organizations, government agencies, and individuals. CAAT was founded in 1981 with a 1 million dollar grant from the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, whose members were interested in exploring the feasibility of alternatives to whole-animal testing. Over the ensuing years, companies from the chemical, pharmaceutical, and food industries have joined in the sponsorship of CAAT. CAAT's policy has been to award small grant amounts to scientists interested in pursuing in vitro and other types of research that could result in nonwhole-animal methods. At the same time, CAAT has a responsibility to keep the public informed about the status of alternatives research. The need for a clear explanation of alternatives and their role in toxicity testing has become particularly pressing in recent years.

CAAT supports Russell and Burch's concept of the three Rs, and believes that the word "alternative" refers to those methods that replace, reduce, and refine existing whole-animal procedures. We accept that in vitro methods act together with whole-animal and clinical (human) studies to advance science, develop products and drugs, and treat, cure, and prevent disease.

We do not advocate a unilateral ban on cosmetic testing on animals, nor do we reject the use of animals in biomedical research. We do however, believe that the use of animals must be governed by the strictest of moral and ethical standards, and that when scientifically possible, their use should give way to nonwhole-animal methodologies.

Center For Alternatives To Animal Testing.
© The Johns Hopkins University 1997-2010.
All rights reserved.
caat@jhsph.edu