What Is the Purpose of Animal Testing?

What Is the Purpose of Animal Testing?
••• black and white rats image by Oleg Sviridov from Fotolia.com

Animal testing is a valuable asset in scientific research, drug development, health and medical research and cosmetics manufacturing. Animals are frequently used as test subjects since their physiology is similar to human physiology, which provides information about how the human body will react to certain substances. Though many animal activists strongly oppose the use of animals in research, the above-mentioned fields still widely use animals as test subjects, and the options for alternatives to animal testing are still underdeveloped.

Scientific Research

Pure or basic scientific research is aimed at finding out how organisms develop or function. It seeks to discover and gather more information about a particular species, its anatomy, physiology or how it behaves and reacts to certain environmental stimuli. The main purpose of animal testing is simply to add to current scientific knowledge by using certain animal species.

Drug Testing

Before a new drug is to be tested on humans, it first is tested on animals. Various doses are administered to gather data on the responses and reactions to the drug. Metabolic tests regarding how the animal’s body treats the drug are also done, and information on how the animal’s body reacts to the drug is noted.


Various cosmetics are tested on animals to ensure that they will not cause irritation and hypersensitivity reactions in humans. Because cosmetics are mostly used on skin surfaces, procedures--such as patch-testing--are usually done on animals to provide data on whether the substance causes skin irritation, and to what degree. If the test animal does not show any signs of skin irritation such as redness, swelling, or itchiness, then the cosmetic may be classified as non-irritating.

Toxicology Testing

Various tests are done on many products like pesticides, food additives, medications and household products to determine safety and toxicity data. Both the products and the chemicals present in them are subjected to toxicity testing, and the amounts at which these substances bring about toxic effects are noted. The different signs and symptoms of toxicity are also observed.


Psychological research is done to determine behaviors of animals towards certain conditions or stimuli, and seeks to answer questions regarding human behavior. For this purpose, animals are often subjected to mimic human psychological disorders, such as:

  • addiction
  • pain
  • food deprivation
  • maternal separation

Data is gathered and conclusions are derived to provide further information that is aimed at understanding human behavior in such situations; however, the benefit to current knowledge of using animals for this purpose has not yet been established and remains largely controversial.

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