Impact Investigates: Do students agree with animal testing?

Animal testing is a topic often up for debate in the UK, due to the controversial ethics that surround the area. The subject of animal testing can be split into two different areas: the use for cosmetic/household products, and for clinical drug trials and medical advancements. In the UK, it has been illegal to test cosmetic products on animals since 1998. However, the use of animal testing for medical and scientific research is legal but is governed by strict rules from the Home Office. There is an ethical battle between stopping the often cruel treatment of these animals, and the ‘its for the greater good’ argument, stating the research will help make advancements in human and animal medicine.

In July 2017, the Home Office released a report (The Annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals) stating that the number of scientific experiments involving live animals had decreased by 5%. Although it is declining, the number of experiments still stands at a high 3.94 million a year, with 25,449 cases occurring at The University of Nottingham in the last year.

The University of Nottingham is the sixteenth largest user of animals in research among the UK universities that declare their research methods. As a science student myself, I thought it would be interesting to find out what students think of animal testing; in particular, the difference, if any, between science and non-science students.

From the 158 responses to the survey, it was shown that science students were more positive towards animal testing for clinical drug research and biomedical research than the non-science students. Over 80% of 111 science students agreed that research on animals is acceptable for drug testing and biomedical research, compared to only 50% of 47 non-science students. Students voiced opinions including:

“This is a tough dilemma for me. I know the cruelty of it, but I understand the importance of testing on animals before humans.”

“I wouldn’t use a medical product if it hadn’t been tested on animals as part of pre-clinical trials.”

On the topic of cosmetic products, the two groups’ views were roughly a 50:50 split for those who would use products that had been tested on animals, and those who wouldn’t. However, many people said they disagree with animal testing, but struggle to buy from brands that don’t test on animals due to the fact that they are often more expensive and harder to find.

“It depends on the accessibility of the cruelty-free brands. I try not to but sometimes it is more convenient/affordable to buy products from companies that test on animals”

When asked whether they had been exposed to media content on animal testing, non-science students said that they would be more likely to change their opinion after seeing anti-animal testing content online. The science students felt that these videos were made to create a “shock factor”, and are not a real representation of what occurs.

“Lots of the most shocking videos I’ve seen either had an agenda behind it e.g. go vegan or had no real knowledge of strict ethical guidelines on animal testing.”

They’re not shamed enough in the media to not buy from them”

However, when it came to the awareness of how much animal testing occurs at The University of Nottingham, none of the non-science students were aware of its occurrence. Looking at the awareness of science students, only 50% knew that animal testing occurred at the University. This shows that the involvement of animals in the university’s research is not well publicised, especially to non-science students.

Overall, the issue of animal testing remains controversial. Yet it is clear that any experiments that involve animals need to be continually governed by strict guidelines. From my survey, there was a wide range of views on animal testing among UoN students. However, the most shocking is the little knowledge of the use of animals in research at the university. Should the university make this information more widely available to students? Or will this cause disagreements that may affect the universities research and rankings?

Bethan Greenwood 

Image Courtesy of Vall d’Hebron Institut de Recerca VHIR, via Flickr. License here.

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2 Comments on this post.
  • Tom Holder
    21 February 2018 at 15:55
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    Worth noting:

    (1) The University has a whole set of webpages devoted to its animal research including case studies and videos:

    (2) Cosmetic testing is illegal throughout the EU and you cannot import cosmetics where they, or their ingredients, have been tested on animals since the 2013 deadline.

  • Jdog
    22 February 2018 at 11:16
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    UoN does loads to promote the fact it does animal research. There’s a dedicated bit of the website plus it’s in the news every couple of weeks

    The reason people are unaware is they’ve skated past the information on the way to the football or the article about Angelina Jolie. The scary parts are the disconnect between scientists and non-scientists, just as we had over evolution and climate change, and the fact half of people would throw medical research out of the window because of what they incorrectly imagine goes on in animal labs.

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