The ethical dilemma of animal testing: are animals equal to humans?

Are animals equal to humans?

People often say, “Dogs are a man’s best friend.” We always value and cherish dogs, and I wonder why we don’t do the same for other animals. Sure, dogs and cats are domestic animals, but what differentiates them from other animals? If we would never think to hurt our pets, why are mice, rats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and more used for research?

Animals have been used for research since the dawn of medicine. Early Greek physician-scientists such as Aristotle, Erasistratus and Galen didn’t view this as immoral. On the contrary –– they believed that humans were of a higher status than animals and used animal testing to further understand anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology.

Thomas Aquinas, one of the most influential Christian theologians of the Middle Ages, had a similar point of view. In his famous book Summa Theologica, Aquinas writes that God made animals for man and that animals can’t reason. This justified the use of animals for human purposes, whether it be eating or research.

René Descartes, a famous French philosopher, mathematician and scientist during the Age of Enlightenment, also believed that animals were mere “mechanisms” or “automata.” Descartes viewed animals as complex physical machines without experiences, souls and minds.

However, these notions started to change when Charles Darwin questioned animal testing, when he introduced his famous theory of evolution. Darwin advocated for animal rights because he argued humans come from monkeys and have evolved through natural selection. This changed his view on the relationship between humans and animals.

In recent years, animal testing has become an ethical debate. 

Some may justify the use of animals for research to make safer products for human use and consumption.

“For me, animal experimentation is an ethical dilemma. This is because we should not use animals for this purpose, but on the other hand, animal experimentation has brought great benefits to mankind,” said Coman Cristin, a veterinary and senior researcher at the Unit of Animal Experimentation Cantacuzino Institute in Bucharest, Romania.

I believe using animals for scientific purposes to be unethical and unnecessary. Just like dogs feel emotions, so do other animals, and no animals should be used for testing.

The ideas that animals can’t feel emotions is outdated. It is scientifically proven that animals have emotions. 

On July 7, 2012, a group of scientists signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness at Cambridge University in the U.K.

This declaration states, “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviours.”

The statement further says, “Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

It is estimated that more than 115 million animals worldwide are used in laboratory experiments every year. Not to mention, animal testing rarely guarantees a product’s safety for humans.

The Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods (CCAAM) and the Canadian Centre for the Validation of Alternatives Methods (CaCVAM) were founded in 2017 and are based at the University of Windsor. These centres “aim to develop, validate, and promote non-animal, human biology-based platforms in biomedical research, education, and chemical safety testing.”

In a TED Talk titled “It’s time to think outside the cage,” Charu Chandrasekera, founding executive director of the CCAAM and CaCVAM, points out that 95 per cent of drugs tested and found to be safe and effective in animals fail in human clinical trials. Of the 5 per cent that are approved, half of those are withdrawn due to unpredicted side effects in humans.

Chandrasekera also highlights that diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart failure, ALS, and Parkinson’s have been cured in mice, but not in humans. 

Also, drugs such as Raxar, Trasylol, and Rezulin have been withdrawn from the market due to lethal consequences in humans, but they were safe and effective in mice.

When asked if animal testing is necessary for scientific progress, Hope Ferdowsian, a physician with expertise in ethics and public health, and CEO of Phoenix Zones Initiative, said, “We can ask what is necessary? Well, a lot becomes less necessary when we use our imagination, and we push innovative methods forward.”

Ferdowsian also emphasizes a need to “push this old and outdated way of animal testing and research and more toward innovative ways that rely on, for example, human cell lines or computer modelling.”

Knowing this, shouldn’t animal testing be banned?

As previously stated, all animals have feelings. Why test on mice, rats, frogs, hamsters if dogs and cats aren’t used for animal testing?

Considering the new initiatives and alternatives, scientists and researchers should reconsider animal testing with the latest advanced science of the 21st century. More specifically, our relationship with all animals and the way we view them has to change.

After all, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”



Graphic by Taylor Reddam.

Student Life

Cruelty-free beauty pt. 2

Back in November, I challenged myself to replace some of the items in my beauty routine with affordable, cruelty-free alternatives (I made a list of my favourites that you can read here). Well guess what, people: I’m still broke and I still like animals, so I’ve kept up with it!  

While I’ve still got a ways to go, the items on my vanity are looking a lot different than they did a few months ago, and I’m happy to say that finding these products is becoming easier and easier. From skincare to makeup to hair care, there are tons of options out there for the conscious consumer on a budget.

Here’s another list of inexpensive, cruelty-free products I’m loving at the moment. 

Niacinamide Serum:

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%$5.90 for 30 millilitres 

Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3 that works wonders for the skin by reducing inflammation and balancing oil levels. So, if you have skin that is sensitive and/or acne-prone, then this serum from The Ordinary is definitely worth trying. The texture is light and a little goes a long way—just make sure to seal it in with moisturizer afterwards!

Comparison: Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster — $63.82 for 20 millilitres


Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Butter Bronzer—$21.99 for 10.8 grams

This bronzer from Physicians Formula is my favourite of all time, hands down. The texture is smooth and blendable, so there’s none of the patchiness that bronzers can sometimes cause. Also, since the shades have a slight coolness to them, it won’t leave you looking like Donald Trump after a day at the tanning salon. Plus, it smells amazing! 

Comparison: Benefit Hoola Bronzer—$40.00 for eight grams


The Ordinary Mineral UV Filters SPF 30 with Antioxidants$9.70 for 50 millilitres 

Sunscreen is something we should all be wearing daily (even in winter, folks). Luckily, this SPF from The Ordinary is an inexpensive option that sinks into the skin quickly and doesn’t leave your face feeling oily throughout the day. I will say that, since it’s a mineral sunscreen, it does leave a slight white cast on the skin. This doesn’t matter much for me since I’m literally the colour of drywall, but anyone with a deeper skin tone might have to experiment with it a bit. 

Comparison: Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector SPF 42—$44 for 30 millilitres 


Covergirl Simply Ageless 3-in-1 Liquid Foundation—$19.49 for 30 millilitres

This foundation from Covergirl has a unique, almost mousse-like consistency that feels lightweight and comfortable, but provides surprisingly full coverage. What I like most about this foundation is that it doesn’t separate and become patchy throughout the day, which, in my case, even some of the most expensive foundations tend to do. It’s easy to layer and easy to blend, so the finish is nice and natural. 

Comparison: Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation—$55.00 for 30 millilitres

Lip Gloss 

Essence Shine Shine Shine Lipgloss—$3.99 for 4.5 millilitres

This $4 (!!!) lip gloss from Essence is as shiny and glossy as they come. This stuff seriously rivals some of the fancier glosses on the market, and it comes in a surprising number of shades. It’s good stuff. 

Comparison: Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer— $25 for nine millilitres 

Leave-In Conditioner

Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Reparative Leave-in Conditioner—$13.49 for 325 millilitres

As someone with really dry, damaged hair, the leave-in conditioner has been a game-changer. I love this one from Shea Moisture because it thoroughly hydrates my hair without weighing it down. It also smells amazing and helps to define my waves.


Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil/Graphic by @sundaeghost


Protestors stand up for animal rights outside ITR Laboratories

Undercover footage revealed misconduct and animal abuse at toxicology research facility

Protesters gathered in front of ITR Laboratories in Baie-D’Urfé on the West Island on March 17, after a recent undercover operation found that animals were being mistreated at the facility.

International Toxicology Research (ITR) Laboratories Canada is among the numerous medical animal testing companies in Canada. The animal rights group Last Chance for Animals sent an undercover technician into the facility for four months to videotape how the animals were treated. The footage, which aired on CTV’s W5 on March 11, shows dogs being thrown into cages, pigs being restrained as they scream and technicians slamming animals onto operating tables.

The protest was organized by 269Life Canada, a world-renown animal rights activism group. Rob Boisvert, an activist and the protest’s main organizer, said he has been planning this protest ever since he learned about ITR’s treatment of animals from an anonymous source, even before CTV’s W5 aired the undercover footage.

“We want to let this business know that in this day and age that enough is enough, we don’t need animal testing to continue” said Boisvert, adding he plans on putting all his focus into shutting down ITR.

Protesters chanted, “Shut down ITR!” and “Murderers!” whenever movement was seen inside and outside the building. One protester shouted they should be conducting tests on “rapists and murderers” rather than on animals.

The undercover footage was shown to the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). The CCAC is responsible for ensuring and advancing animal ethics and care in science. Once they have done their own investigation, the CCAC will recommend appropriate action that should be taken. If an institution fails to take action, the CCAC can place it in a status of non-compliance. The process can take months.

Zaphiro Catherine Cody, a protestor, said she believes the CCAC are are also at fault—about a dozen other protesters agreed. Cody added the CCAC are responsible for verifying the facilities once a year to ensure that animal testing facilities such as ITR are following regulations. Cody said they should have caught the mistreatment of the animals sooner.

“It’s important to come out today because we have to stand up for the animals,” Cody said. “We have a voice—they don’t. From the minute they are born, they are caged, labeled and tagged, and thrown into pharmaceutical companies or other places that do research, unfortunately.”

Photo by Rebecca Meloche

Baie-D’Urfé city councillor Peter Fletcher also attended the protest and denounced the facility’s conduct. He said he believes that it is time for Canada to re-invent their animal testing laws and regulations.

Animal rights activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Last Chance for Animals and members from Caring Paws Animal Therapy, among others, were at the protest. According to their social network biography, Caring Paws offers animal-assisted therapy using dogs and cats to help improve the health and quality of life of individuals of all ages. They have visited Concordia during exam period as well as senior residents and hospitals to offer pet therapy.

“There is no reason whatsoever why we are testing in 2017 on animals, and the only reason that this is happening is for money. Multi-million dollar companies are getting rich by murdering animals,” said Helen Attavaris, a protester who was dressed as a giraffe.

A recent statement released on ITR’s website said: “We take our responsibility to treat the animals in our care with the utmost respect very seriously. Behavior that does not comply with our guidelines is addressed promptly and firmly.”

After the footage was shown, ITR sent a stated to W5 that they are taking the measures necessary to ensure that the animals are treated according to the CCAC. Ginette Bain, senior vice-president of ITR Canada, added she is certain animals have not been mistreated in the laboratories.

Katherine Millington, the vice-president of the Concordia Animal Rights Association (CARA), said she hopes the footage will show those in Montreal and across Canada that animal abuse is happening every day in their cities, and people need to be more aware of it.

Photo by Rebecca Meloche

Millington said, although she does not condone all animal testing, “I think that what this footage shows is that it’s more than just lab mice being tested on. Dogs, pigs and monkeys are being tested on—something that many people are under the impression is a thing of the past,” she said. “[It] is simply not true—The dogs used in ITR Laboratories would have been bred specifically to be used in laboratories and would live incredibly short and painful lives and know nothing of the kind of care and love of a domesticated pet.”

Millington said, since ITR is claiming that their practices are in-line with industry guidelines, “the public needs to think about whether or not they believe animal abuse should be a standard practice,” Millington said.

Police were present throughout the protest to ensure it remained peaceful and that nobody trespassed on the company’s property.

To follow the ongoing investigation against ITR, visit 269Life’s Facebook page or website.

With files from Savanna Craig

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