Rabbits in Research
As of 2014, 150,344 rabbits were used by USDA licensees in research and teaching. Because they are generally timid, sociable, and non-aggressive, they can be easily handled and restrained in stocks (a full body restraint device) when used as experimental test subjects. Rabbits are commonly used for toxicity and safety testing of substances like drugs, chemicals, and medical devices. They are commonly used in skin and eye irritation studies, such as the archaic Draize tests, which were developed back in 1944, for cosmetics, personal care, household products and other chemicals. And because of their high rate of reproduction, rabbits are used in studies that test the likelihood that a product will harm a pregnant female or developing fetus.
The rabbit has been the breed of choice for polyclonal antibody production for some time, due to the size and blood volume and the accessibility of the vascular system via the ear veins. Rabbits are also used as models for a variety of human diseases.