Vivisection (from Latin vivus, meaning ‘alive’, and sectio, meaning ‘cutting’) is the testing and experimentation on live animals, for a supposed human benefit.
Animals are physically and psychologically tortured in order to test pharmaceutical drugs, study diseases, and test the safety of consumer products, such as cosmetics and household chemicals.
Approximately seven million animals are subject to the cruelties of vivisection in Australia each year.
Vivisection methods includes: infecting with disease, poisoning, restraint, administering drugs and creating drug dependencies, burning, inflicting harm such as brain damage, blindness and mutilation, withholding food and water, social isolation, and administering electric shocks.
The futility of vivisection can be seen in examples where animals are deliberately infected with diseases that do not occur naturally in that species. Because humans have different physiology to animals, with bodies that respond differently, such tests are invalid. Hundreds of drugs that had no side effects when tested on animals caused serious harm in humans, and vice versa.
Given the amount of physical and psychological pain deliberately inflicted upon animals, and the multitude of alternatives to live animal experimentation now available, its continued use in science cannot be justified.
The Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (the Code) governs how animals used in research must be treated. The Code is enforced at state and territory level, and requires that any animal testing must be:
Unsurprisingly, these terms are not defined in the Code. The use of animal testing is so entrenched in medical and scientific research that researchers are easily able to argue that such testing is ‘justifiable’, because that is the way it has always been done.
The Code requires all research involving animals be approved by an Animal Ethics Committee, which must include an animal welfare representative. Unfortunately, this sole voice for the animals is in the minority against pro-vivisection committee members. Animal welfare representatives have been known to have been removed from committees for objecting too much to research on ethical grounds.
Australian law requires all new ingredients that come into contact with humans or animals be tested for safety before they are allowed to be sold to the public. This entrenches vivisection, as researchers are able to test products on animals to ‘prove’ their safety for humans – despite what we know to the contrary.
‘Not tested on animals’ and other fallacies
The vast majority of the public is against animal testing. Companies know this, and have come up with clever marketing to trick the conscientious consumer into believing their products are cruelty free. This includes:
- labelling that states the product is not tested on animals. Often in these cases, the end product is not tested on animals, but the individual ingredients of the product are
- companies that state ‘wedon’t test on animals’, while outsourcing the testing to others
- not testing products on animals, but continuing to use animal-derived products as ingredients.
Organisations such as Choose Cruelty Free can help you cut through the marketing spin and determine which products are free from animal ingredients and testing.
Supposed human benefit
The scientific community as a whole justifies vivisection because of its purported benefits to humans. However, many doctors and researchers have spoken out against the ‘animal model’ of research, citing the physiological differences between human and animals. Animal testing doesn’t reliably predict human response because there are too many differences.
There are many alternatives to vivisection. Given that human physiology differs greatly from the typical ‘test’ species of animals (such as rabbits and mice), the alternatives to vivisection offer more accurate results – without the inherent cruelty of vivisection.
- using human tissue, cells and organs that are grown in laboratories, medical waste such as discarded placentas and adult stem cells, and research through autopsies
- using mechanical models and simulators
- epidemiology: the study of disease within a given population, to examine how a disease behaves, identify its causes and collect information crucial for its management and prevention
- human volunteers participating in controlled studies and clinical trials.
For more information about alternatives to vivisection, visit: