India: A grim reality — and a big victory in the fight to free animals from laboratories, part one

A macaque at Pavapatthu  sacred grove, not one of the Blue Cross monkeys.

A macaque at Pavapatthu sacred grove, not one of the Blue Cross monkeys.

 

Seven monkeys run and play together in the sun, in a large, open grass-covered area. They come and go freely indoors and out, where they’ve been for several years, at the Kunnam Center of Blue Cross of India, in the Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu.

Their lives weren’t always so happy.

The monkeys at Blue Cross came from laboratories, where they were used for experiments.

Companies that do testing on animals gloss over the reality of the life and death of the animals.  Usually they avoid mentioning animal testing altogether. Occasionally, on a TV show, an apparently happy animal may be shown, in lovely, sanitized surroundings, with seemingly caring people who are neatly dressed in white coats.  Who could object, when a well-fed mouse is shown obviously enjoying life in his clear plastic cage? The reality though is radically different, and, should you be in any doubt about this, you can read about the use of animals in laboratories on any number of websites which will give you the graphic details.

The circumstances in which lab animals live and die are terrible. In the end, they are, with rare exceptions, killed, so that the test results can be compiled into statistics.

The principle of laboratory testing on animals is to cause injury or sickness to the animal, so that possible cures or drugs can be tested.  When the testing is done for product safety, to prove that a product is “safe” for humans, the animal is given enough of the product to cause harm and injury to the animal – this is meant to indicate the level of safety of the product.  Suffering for the animals is inherent in the basic principles and practice of animal testing. The only way around causing suffering to lab animals is not to use animals in laboratories.

Five of the Blue Cross monkeys arrived, in a group with seven others who have since died, from the Christian Medical College and Hospital at Vellore, a city west of Chennai. There they had been used to study spinal injuries. First they were injured, then they were studied.

Two of the monkeys there are survivors of a group of five that came from A.L. Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Madras, where they had been used to study chemical burns. Again, the burns were first inflicted on the animals, then they were studied.

In all lab experiments, suffering and injury are first inflicted on the animals, to cause the condition that is to be researched, then they are studied.

Three guinea pigs in captivity.

Three guinea pigs in captivity.

Even if no injuries were ever caused to them, the use of animals in laboratories would still be cruel. In the case of these monkeys, they were captured as youngsters in the wild; the mere fact of removing an animal from the wild and putting him or her into a small cage causes intense suffering to any wild creature.  As for those who are bred in captivity, they have never even known a life of freedom in nature.

Cosmetics testing

The monkeys at Blue Cross were not used in cosmetics testing; however, many animals are, and it’s important to be aware that testing for cosmetics is no kinder than any other form of animal testing. No, the animals do not simply put on a bit of lipstick or some mascara, and then gaze at themselves in the mirror. Because the tests are meant to measure toxicity, they cause painful injury and death.

That is the grim reality.

A baby rabbit.

A baby rabbit in the wild.

A landmark victory

 

In June, 2013, a major victory was won in India, with the banning of the use of lab animals for cosmetics testing.  No more animals can be used in labs in India to test cosmetics or the ingredients in cosmetics. The ban will save many thousands of animals from suffering.

On April 20, 2012,  Humane Society International launched its Be-Cruelty Free campaign with the aim of bringing a worldwide halt to the testing of cosmetics on animals. The banning of animal cosmetics testing in India a year later is a resounding victory for the animals.

The tireless work that led up to this victory goes back fifty years. In 1965, Blue Cross held a seminar, Animals in Research, in which they called for a ban to be imposed on all use of animals for cosmetics testing.

In 1996, the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision on Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA), with parliamentarian and animal advocate Maneka Gandhi as the chairperson, adopted two resolutions related to animal experimentation. The first called for a ban on all experimentation on animals in secondary schools.

The second resolution called for the banning of all use of animals for cosmetics testing.

The decades long struggle to bring about this ban is based on the fact that while medical experimentation, which is equally cruel, may be believed to save human lives (a point that is contested by animal advocates), no such argument can be made on behalf of cosmetics. Cosmetics are not a life or death issue for humans, and not wearing cosmetics will not kill any of us. So a ban on cosmetics testing is a good place to start, and offers a toehold in the fight against all testing on animals.

To be continued…

To read part two, click here.

 

Top photo: Sharon St Joan / A wild macaque at Pavupatthu sacred grove.

 

Second photo: Author Mikerussell at en.wikipedia /http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Mikerussell

/ Wikimedia Commons / Three guinea pigs in captivity.

 

Third photo: Ksd5 / “This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.” / Wikimedia commons. / A baby rabbit.

3 comments
  1. I liked this post. As much as I enjoy the fact that India is making great progress in recognizing animal sentience- it bothers me when I think of high level of corruption in the country, and consequent lack of effective regulation of these laws.

    • Thank you for your thought, Anupama. I’ve often heard people say this, and it seems to be a general view.
      If you could wave a magic wand of change — where could one start to bring about a change?

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