Animal testing in cosmetics: a reflection on the benefits and disadvantages of animal testing and the impact of animal testing technology
Over the last decades, animal testing in cosmetics has become commonplace and standard practice for many cosmetics manufacturers. The act of testing animals for cosmetics, however, remains a heated controversy with some parties opposing it, while others do not see anything wrong with it. As a result, for certain individuals or organizations, animal research is and has long been a life-saving procedure for users of cosmetics. Even with a life-saving value to customers, animal testing of cosmetics is not as successful as others see it. Millions of innocent animals, often rabbits, mice, and rats among others, are killed or caged to support the testing. For this reason, this essay will critically examine the pros and cons of animal testing in cosmetics. The focus will lean on the cons and some of the alternatives that advanced technology provides for this subject.
Life-saving benefits of animal testing in cosmetics
On the aspect of life-saving, animal testing in cosmetics is a technique that improves and protects human health. By supporting animal testing in cosmetics, individuals attribute the use of animals to determine the safety of products before they are used by humans. The argument in this light is that the end-user of animal-tested cosmetics products, which are undoubtedly increasing day-to-day across the world, is less exposed to toxic chemicals. Less exposure to toxic chemicals is due to the fact that the initial animal testing process during manufacturing detects the levels of toxins in their products before releasing them as finished products to the market. If animals were never used according to PR (2013), consumers of the cosmetics would develop complications marked by the emergence of diseases and conditions. Therefore, health risks in the absence of animal testing would be on the rise as compared to the current situation.
Advantages of animal testing for test animals
In addition to reducing human health complications, animal testing in cosmetics offers advantages to the test animals. The tests mean that it is not only the humans who benefit from this process but also the animal species involved. Animal testing on cosmetics subjects the animals to various studies. A negative reaction by the ingredients used by the researchers on the animals would raise questions and hence would trigger more scientific studies as to why it has happened. Watson (400) argues that some of the animal tests resulted in the development of products for the animals such as their vaccines. Many animals, for this reason, have been saved from serious diseases and conditions that would certainly cause their deaths. It is also believed that it is through some of these animal tests in cosmetics that varieties of animal species have been saved from extinction.
Disadvantages of animal testing in cosmetics
Even though animal testing in cosmetics may seem advantageous to humans and even animals, animal testing still appears to be evil and inhumane according to most animal lovers and animal rights activists. The Animal Welfare Act of 1966 stipulates a regulation on mistreating the animals in research. However, the act of taking them away from their natural habitat for testing purposes alters the normal life of these animals. Most likely, animals used in the tests for cosmetics are caged, hence, having their freedom of movement indefinitely curtailed. Additionally, the caged animals, just like human beings, may suffer from loneliness. Mating too, in this instance, proves difficult among the restricted animals. Consequently, even though the tests may be painless, chemical poisoning is the order of the day in those animal tests for cosmetics products. Moreover, many animal-testing processes involve imposing various injuries on the animal. Hence, this activity causes devastation and even probably death of animals.
Unreliability and high cost of animal testing
Even though the animals do contribute to the safety of the cosmetics consumer, most of their autonomy is not exactly like that of humans. According to Watson (428), the reaction of a substance on the body of an animal is not necessarily similar to that which would occur in the body of a human being. Moreover, the animals are in a captured environment, thus, pressuring the body to react to any foreign substances. The existing pressure on the animal may result in unreliable and inaccurate results even for the correct substance to use. The human anatomy is described as one which is complex. Comparing its substance reaction to that of another species like the rat, which is considered to be an inferior one, is wrong. No scientific discoveries have acclaimed to the accuracy of animal test products on humans (Salvador 35-37). Furthermore, in the field of medicine, great disasters have occurred due to the use of data and products from animal testing, making animal testing in cosmetics rather unsafe too.
The unreliability of data is not only the bad side but also the high cost of research using the animals. Huge costs are incurred to facilitate the use of animals in testing for cosmetics fully. Such costs are due to the purchase of the animals used in the tests. It is likely that not only one species will be used on the test but a variety. In addition to this, due to injuries and deaths that occur in the tests for these cosmetics and their ingredients constant replacement of the animals will have to be carried out. The Animal Welfare Act of 1966 also insists on the prevention of animal mistreatment during the tests. According to the Welfare Act, it means that the animals require proper sheltering, food, and appropriate care (Salvador 34). If it is a rather larger kind of animal species needed for the test, then space would be needed. None of these would be free; rather they would require one to invest heavily, keeping in mind that the tests are to run for a long period.
Technological alternatives to animal testing
While the ethical aspects overshadow the positive side of animal testing, the application of technological alternatives has to occur. Technological alternatives for animal testing came after a public outcry, making animal testing in cosmetics in some countries illegal. The use of synthetic membranes is one of the best alternatives to limit the use of animal testing in cosmetics. Synthetic membranes are artificially grown cells that closely depict human anatomy, hence their results are more accurate and are a good animal substitute. Concurrently, the synthetic membrane does not have to feel, hence even when subjected to the harmful chemical, they will just get disposed of. Another good alternative to limit animal testing is the use of computer-generated models to simulate the reaction of the tests carried out (Mone 15). However, this alternative still uses animals, but a lesser number. Lastly, just like the synthetic membranes, scientists can also focus on employing the use of cell culture as an alternative to animal testing in cosmetics. The cell cultures provide a more suitable environment for carrying out this test without necessarily killing or caging too many animals for cosmetics tests.
In conclusion, it is undeniably true that these tests subject hundreds to thousands of animals to torture and death. For these reasons, the human race, particularly those involved, ought to focus on other alternatives that provide for the safety of the animal species in the world.
Mone, Gregory. New Models in Cosmetics Replacing Animal Testing.Communications of the ACM, vol. 57, no. 4, Apr. 2014.
PR, Newswire. Pros and Cons of Animal Testing - Latest Research in Ongoing Debate. PR Newswire US, 22 Oct. 2013.
Salvador, Amparo, and Alberto Chisvert. Analysis of Cosmetics Products. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2007.
Watson, Stephanie. Animal Testing: Issues and Ethics. New York: Rosen Pub., 2009. Print.