Do animals experience pain during and after animal experiments?

Double Trouble a domestic cat cruelly abused in an animal testing lab
Double Trouble a domestic cat cruelly abused in an animal testing lab. Image in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Although it appears to be a dumb question, it’s a fair one that demands a reasonable answer. Although I detest animal testing, we have to have a critical and balanced discussion about it. Common sense tells me that animals experience pain in animal testing. Am I correct?

Perhaps a sub-question would be: “How much pain do animals experience in animal research?” This might be more to the point.

94% not exposed to pain?

I have an answer from a scientific paper on the NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS (Washington DC) website. They argue that, in America, according to the 1988 Animal Welfare Enforcement Report by the Department of Agriculture about 94% of all laboratory animals reported are not exposed to painful procedures or the animals are given drugs to relieve pain. That’s a very strong statement but it is made by the Department of Agriculture who you might argue would say that as they are probably, from time to time, involved in animal testing.

And administering pain killers does not necessarily mean that all the pain is suppressed and in any case painkillers can cause discomfort and even in rare cases exacerbate pain. And also, when they work, they simply mask pain for the moment. What happens later?

The remaining 6% of animals are exposed to painful procedures as they are meant to suffer pain because that is the purpose of the procedure. But the study states that “even in these cases, however, the pain is usually neither severe nor long-lasting.”

This is an admission that sometimes the pain is severe and long lasting. And they admit that “a small fraction” of animals experience acute or prolonged pain during experiments.

The pain of animal testing
The pain of animal testing. Image: MikeB

Without question, present public policy allows humans to cause laboratory animals unalleviated pain. The AWA, the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, and current Public Health Service policy all allow for the conduct of what are often called “Category E” studies – experiments in which animals are expected to undergo significant pain or distress that will be left untreated because treatments for pain would be expected to interfere with the experiment.

Pain in Laboratory Animals: The Ethical and Regulatory Imperatives.

The argument from the animal testers is that their work is justified provided there is a very good reason for it. Sometimes they say that it is justified. It is a “nuanced norm”. Whether you cause pain to an animal depends on the justification and that can only mean whether the benefit to humankind is substantial enough to justify causing the pain. Personally, I don’t see it that way. For me it is not a nuanced norm. It is more absolute: no animal testing and if humans are worse off because off as a result. Tough.

So how much pain do animals suffer at animal testing laboratories and what kind of animals suffer this pain?

Animals used in experiments include cats, dogs, cows, baboons, ferrets, fish, frogs, mice, rats, frogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses, llamas, monkeys (such as marmosets and macaques), owls, pigs, rabbits, sheep and quail!

Cats have their spinal cords damaged and are forced to run on treadmills to study how nerve activity might affect human limb movement.

Humane Society International

The Veterans Association in the US want to do this sort of kitten testing to research how to improve the lives of military personnel injured in fighting – see below. The White Coat Waste Project (WCW) intends to stop it.

White Coat Waste Project fight The VA secretary over animal testing on cats
White Coat Waste Project fight The VA secretary over animal testing on cats. Image: MikeB. Do you think operating on a cat’s spin is painful?!

Current American policy and practice comprise two related norms: 1) causing animals significant pain and distress must be justified, and 2) causing animals significant pain and distress can be justified.

Pain in Laboratory Animals: The Ethical and Regulatory Imperatives.

The Humane Society International tells me that, worldwide, an estimated 150 million animals are used in laboratory experiments every year. If 6% of these animals suffer pain it equates to 6.9 million animals, every year.

And a “small fraction” of these animals suffer acute and/or prolonged pain. There is be no definition of a “small fraction”. A large fraction would be three quarters 3/4 written in a mathematical way. I would argue, therefore, that a small fraction would probably be around 1/10 – one tenth – or less.

1/10 is 0.1 and 0.1 of 6.9 million is 690,000. So, 690,000 animals suffer prolonged and severe pain as a result of been tested on by experimenters. That’s every year worldwide on my calculation based upon the data that I have to hand.

An Israeli website – Haaretz – reports that 97 percent of animals are killed after testing on them. Surely this is an important statistic. They’ve lost their lives. This is the ultimate harm. And how good is the euthanasia to which the animals are subjected? Is it really painless?

Euthanasia is not always painless.

There is also the issue of general distress and abuse. This is ever-present in animal testing.

6 thoughts on “Do animals experience pain during and after animal experiments?”

  1. And that monster McDonough wants 7 kittens for the VA to torture and rip apart before they murder them. WCW is again fighting to stop him. 🙁

  2. Animal ‘testing’ is actually the torture and murder of captive, caged animals, locked up against their will. I am disgusted and exasperated by so many humans!


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