Below, we’ve outlined four activities that volunteers can do to advocate for animals used in research, followed by a cost effectiveness estimate of advocating for animals used in research. Our farmed animals page has more detailed descriptions about leafleting and protests and discusses how you can use them to help animals in farms, some of which are applicable to outreach on behalf of animals used in research.
Leafleting is an easy and cost-effective way for anyone to advocate for animals. Many charities provide ready-made leaflets about vivisection that you can print and/or order online, and once you receive them, you simply need to choose a good, high-traffic location to hand them out. College campuses are common places to leaflet and are particularly relevant for anti-vivisection activism since many colleges conduct research with animals. There has been some research into the effectiveness of leafleting for farmed animal advocacy through Farm Sanctuary and ACE’s own work, but we continue to consider how the effects of leafleting compares to other volunteer activities, and we don’t know how well existing research applies to campaigns for animals that are used in research. Please see our farmed animal page for a few more things to consider before you go out leafleting.
For a volunteer that is new to protesting, it can be quite difficult to organize and stage a protest, since knowledge is needed of the appropriate city permits and of how to coordinate a large group of people. However, a newcomer can easily join protests that are organized by their local organizations, which may be staged at a university lab or an independent research institute. Protests aren’t known to directly change public opinion, but they could indirectly help animal advocates by increasing public awareness and creating a space where activist’s views aren’t seen as extreme.
Petitions and Letters
Petitions and letters are important because they inform legislators and policy-makers of the issues that are important to their constituents. Many corporate outreach and legislation-change campaigns need public support and many charities and organizations have ready-made petitions and letters online that only need to be signed and submitted.
A recent movement by PETA demonstrated that petitions can be a useful tool. The petition, which was used in combination with phone and email messages, advocated against a company who supported animal testing legislation. In 3 months, 85,000 people signed the petition and the company reversed its course to publicly support non-animal methods.
Purchasing products from companies that do not test on animals is an act that is easily implemented by anyone, anywhere. Sometimes final products are not tested on animals but ingredients have been; the best way to understand what labels mean and which companies test on animals is to use resources produced by animal advocacy organizations. There are several guides that you can use, or print out and distribute, to determine which products and companies are completely cruelty-free, such as PETA’s, Leaping Bunny, and Animal Defenders International’s.
Ways Animals Are Used In Research
Animals used in biomedical research
Research institutions, mostly in the medical field, conduct behavioural, drug, and neurological experiments on millions of animals each year. Often, the results of such research are generalized to humans under the assumption that humans will respond the same way to the interventions as the animals. However, animals are often cited as unsuitable models for humans because their biological systems differ from humans in several ways. Viable alternatives to using animals in research exist for many situations, and include in vitro methods, computer modeling, and the use of human volunteers.
Cosmetic and product testing on animals
Ingredients in cosmetics, final cosmetic products, and other products, such as pesticides and household cleaners, are often tested on animals to determine the product’s toxicity. Such testing is typically uncomfortable, irritating, and sometimes life-threatening for animals. The same alternatives outlined above for biomedical research also apply as alternatives to testing on animals.
Animals used for educational purposes
Animals are used in K-12 classrooms, universities, medical settings, and the military to facilitate learning about biological systems. Piglets, cats, frogs, dogsharks, and invertebrates are common animals that students regularly dissect in classrooms. Advocates against using animals in education cite concerns about the methods used to obtain animals, their treatment throughout these methods, and the moral message it sends to students. Advocates promote alternatives such as computer programs, anatomical models, and videos.
Much of the advocacy work against using animals in research is done through established organizations and their campaigns. Corporate outreach and lobbying for legislation change are common activities, which have led to some successes in the U.S. and Europe.
One success for animals used in research in the U.S. has been the development of stricter animal care and husbandry standards. In the mid-1900s, research on animals grew considerably, and as a result, anti-vivisection activity and campaigning also grew. The need for animal care standards and regulations for animals used in research was recognized not only by activists, but also by scientists using animals in research. Therefore, after years of efforts by many stakeholders, the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (Guide) was published in 1963, and today is on its 7th edition. The Guide is highly respected and recognized as the primary resource on animal care by the international scientific community. In the U.S., there are several pieces of legislation that dictate the treatment and use of animals in research facilities, but the policies do not recognize rats, mice, or birds. Since 95% of the approximately 100 million animals in laboratories are mice and rats, the Guide undoubtedly improves the welfare conditions of millions of animals each year.
In the European Union (EU), one of the largest successes has been the ban of cosmetic testing on animals. The ban, which took advocates over 40 years of campaigning and another 9 years to become fully implemented, prohibits the testing of any cosmetic ingredient on animals and the sale of any cosmetic product that has been tested on animals. We use the campaign for this ban as a case study in our estimate of the effectiveness of volunteering to help animals used in research.
Cost Effectiveness of Volunteering for Animals Used in Research
There are many ways volunteers can help animals used in research. Below we offer an estimate the average effectiveness of such efforts, using one successful campaign to end animal testing of cosmetics as an example.
In the European Union (EU), one of the largest successes has been the ban of cosmetic testing on animals. The ban, which took advocates over 40 years of campaigning and another 9 years to become fully implemented, prohibits the testing of any cosmetic ingredient on animals and the sale of any cosmetic product that has been tested on animals.
How many animals were spared per hour of effort put into the ban? Over the 40 years it took to implement the ban, hundreds of employees and volunteers would have put in thousands of hours. Since it’s difficult to know how many hours were put in over that time period, we assume that an average of 10,400 hours were spent on the ban each year, the equivalent of 5 full-time employees working for 40 hours a week1. In total, they would have worked approximately 416,000 hours to implement the ban (5 people x 40 hours x 52 weeks x 40 years). Employees and volunteers completed a number of outreach activities, including leafleting, protesting, and signing petitions. Next, we estimated that 883,725 animals would have been used over the next 100 years if the ban was never implemented.2
We can compare the above impact estimate to our estimated impact of leafleting on farmed animals, which is 52 chickens spared per one hour of leafleting. Over the course of a year during which you volunteer one hour per week, we estimate that you would spare about 109 animals volunteering for campaigns to ban or restrict animal testing, versus about 3,070 chickens by handing out leaflets promoting vegetarianism. Since a similar amount of effort can help far more farmed animals, we believe that efforts towards helping animals in farms can produce the largest gains and reduce the most suffering.
We chose this to be near the low end of plausible estimates, but not so low as to be unrealistic. Since near the end of the campaign there were many distinct organizations working on it, 5 full time positions (or more part time equivalents) seem like they probably capture only some of the work done at that stage – there probably were that many people being paid to work on the ban, as well as volunteers we haven’t accounted for. Earlier in the campaign, probably fewer people were being paid to work on it, but 5 full time positions is similar (in terms of time worked) to 200 people spending 1 hour per week on activities related to the ban. Advocates could have spent that much time organizing and attending moderately sized monthly protests. And just as we think probably more time was spent than average at the end of the campaign, presumably less time was spent than average at some other points.
To obtain an estimate for the number of animals that were spared due to the European Union (EU) cosmetic ban, we first obtained the total number of animals that were used for cosmetic testing since 2004, which is when the ban’s first deadline was implemented. (The ban had three deadlines. The first banned all testing of final cosmetic products on animals. The second deadline, in 2009, banned the testing and sale of all cosmetic ingredients tested on animals. Three animal tests were exempt from the 2009 deadline to allow for the validation of non-animal test. The third deadline, in 2013, banned these 3 exempt tests.) A table from a European Commission report (Table 1) presents the number of animals used in each year from 2004-2009 for cosmetic testing inside the EU. These numbers sum to 16,265 animals. After 2009, all cosmetic testing on animals in the EU was banned. The European Commission report estimates that each year, between 15,000 and 27,000 animals were tested on outside of the EU; the EU ban does not affect these animals.
Table 1. EU Cosmetic Specific Animal Testing Data Year Number of Animals 2009 344 2008 1510 2007 1818 2006 1329 2005 2276 2004 8988
Next, we obtained the number of animals that would have been used if the ban was never implemented (i.e., the counterfactual). To do this, we took the number of animals used in 2004 (8,988 animals), before the ban was implemented, and assumed that that number would have been used each year thereafter. There are a number of issues with this assumption since we are unaware of what the actual trend would have been. (It is difficult to look at years before 2004 to obtain a general trend of the number of animals used in cosmetic testing since 13 of the 28 countries in the EU joined in or after 2004, making the numbers of animals reported prior to 2004 difficult to compare to those for and after 2004.) It is likely that a decrease in animals used for cosmetic tests would have occurred over time due to an increase in technology and non-animal alternatives. In addition, we don’t know how long it would have taken for non-animal alternatives to completely replace animals in cosmetic testing, irrespective of the ban.
For a rough estimate, we assumed that approximately 9000 animals would have been used each year for cosmetic testing for the next 100 years (2004 to 2104). Although this is likely a very high estimate, it will give us an idea of the high-end impact threshold. Based on these numbers, we can estimate that over the next 100 years, 900,000 animals (9000 animals x 100 years) would have been used for cosmetic testing if the ban was never implemented.
To calculate the number of animals that were spared due to the ban, we subtracted the actual number of animals used since 2004 (16,265 animals) from the hypothetical counterfactual (900,000 animals) to get 883,735 animals.