The Animal Testing and Experimentation Industry
Animal experimentation is more expansive, pervasive, secretive and profitable than most people would imagine. It is an international, government-sanctioned and -funded, multi-billion dollar business. Professional reputations, prestige and tradition fuel the greed that justifies the needless exploitation of animals in research, product testing and education. Well-funded professional foundations and lobbying organizations craft and market sophisticated campaigns to defend and promote even more animal research and its special interests.
How much is at stake? There is no easy answer, but one important indicator of how this animal research complex continues to grow is how much the National Institutes of Health (NIH) spends on animal research. Although it is not possible to disaggregate the budgets to identify money spent on animal research for individual projects, it is possible to get a sense through Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee information. Reliable government sources have informed NAVS that approximately 47% of NIH-funded grants have an animal research-based component. This number has been fairly steady over the past ten years. In 2015, the NIH budget of almost $22 billion resulted in well over $10 billion in funding for projects that included animal experimentation.
Obviously the salaries of researchers and technicians who carry out animal experiments, as well as income from patents for the drugs and medical devices they develop, provide financial incentives and career advancement to conduct research on animals. Universities and other academic institutions profit from the percentage of “overhead” that they receive from the grants for animal experiments from the NIH, the Defense Department, and other federal agencies. Federal laws mandate the testing of pharmaceuticals and other chemicals to assess safety and efficacy. Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration require massive amounts of animal testing for the marketing of industrial chemicals, vaccines and drugs. Other U.S. agencies that require and/or conduct animal testing include the United States Department of Agriculture, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Department of Transportation.
Charities that raise billions of dollars from well-meaning people hoping to find cures or treatments for virtually every human disease and ailment are pressured to “do something”—even when animal models for human diseases fail to predict what is safe or effective for people after decades of funding.
Animal breeders profit handsomely from breeding and genetically engineering animals, from mice to primates, in order to satisfy the demands of researchers. Recent prices quoted from one animal supply company’s catalogue identified New Zealand White Rabbits as high as $352 each, purebred Beagles for $1,049 and some primates costing more than $8,000 each.
Suppliers of food, cages and equipment related to animal-model research have also built themselves a lucrative business. Veterinarians employed to care for research subjects are dependent on the interests or convenience of the experiment’s investigator, too often at the expense of minimizing the animals’ suffering.
Pharmaceutical companies fuel the animal research “machine” by conducting animal studies as a stepping stone to clinical trials (human-based studies) while protecting themselves from lawsuits in the event of an adverse drug reaction. These corporate giants use animal studies as a legal safety net by telling courts that they did what the law requires—prove the safety of a drug in animals—and therefore are not liable when a drug harms a human.
Even the media profits from the “publish or perish” mentality within the scientific community to justify animal research by using the results of animal tests to announce “medical miracles,” which help them sell more journals, newspapers and increase TV ratings. The American Medical Association recently criticized drug makers for spending $4.5 billion over the course of a year on direct marketing to consumers, whose spending on prescription drugs increased by 13% in one year to $374 billion. Obviously, much is at stake for these businesses who are threatened by any opposition to their use of animals in research.
How NAVS Helps
As unwavering advocates for animals, NAVS has, for more than 85 years, stood strong against the entrenched entities that profit from the abuse and cruelty inflicted upon animals in the name of science. But we know that true progress will come not from simply opposing those who partake in vivisection. We must take an active, positive role in making our vision of a more humane world a reality.
NAVS, therefore, works closely with scientists in academia, government and industry who are mindful of the inadequacies of animal experiments, who understand the promise of modern technology, and who support opportunities to advance smarter science that is human-relevant and can provide safer and more effective solutions to human health needs. We provide positive incentives and support to scientists at all stages of their careers, and partner with international efforts to implement new methodologies that replace the use of animals. This investment in better, more humane science promises to pay huge dividends in smarter, better solutions for people and animals.
NAVS extends an open invitation and appeal to all scientists and people who care about the advancement of discovery, innovation and scientific knowledge to work together in ways small and grand to capitalize on every opportunity to replace the use of animals with better, more human-relevant alternatives.