In the past, animals have been subjected to inhumane and often unnecessary tests to determine the lethality of chemical-containing drugs and products. Such experimental procedures have angered animal rights enthusiasts and made many question the usefulness of such testing. Typically, the information received from toxicity tests on animals cannot adequately predict the effects that new drugs and products will have on humans. Thus, the recent progression of in vitro and in silico assays has benefited not only lab rodents, but researchers alike.
Animal models have been the standard for safety testing since the early twentieth century, when rats, mice, and dogs were (and still are) used in both biomedical and cosmetic research. During this time, the United States passed The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requiring pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies to conduct tests on animals to ensure the safety of their products (Evans, 2013). These tests were deemed toxicity tests for their measurement of harmfulness and lethality of new drugs and products. Such tests as the Draize test on rabbits, which measures dermal corrosivity, were common protocol for testing shampoos, pesticides, and household chemical products (Rangantha & Kuppast, 2012). Other tests include acute toxicity tests conducted to determine the effects of immediate chemical exposure, product testing measuring carcinogenicity and birth defects resulting from chemical exposure, and various drug tests which determine lethal side effects and appropriate dosages (Evans, 2013). Though some of these tests have provided important and inferential data regarding the harmfulness of consumer products and drugs, they are highly criticized for their inhumane procedures, costliness, and irrelevance to human subjects. Moreover, many of these tests are inconclusive and require further examination.
In 1959, to combat some of the controversial animal testing practices, William Russell and Rex Burch proposed a set of three principles aimed at revising safety testing. The principles known as “The Three Rs”, comprised of replacement, reduction, and refinement. Replacement regards replacing live animals with non-living ones, and in vitro and in silico assays. However, replacement is justified only when reliable results are not compromised. Reduction refers to decreasing the number of animals used in testing by discontinuing trial-and-error methods and unnecessary repetitions and, instead, incorporating extensive, guided research. (Beauchamp, Orlans, Dresser, Morton, and Gluck, 2008). Finally, refinement is defined as lessening animal suffering by providing anesthetics or, if eternal pain and suffering is inevitable, euthanasia before conditions continue to deteriorate.
Although The Three Rs helped to regulate safety testing, poor living conditions and abusive experiments continued with the use of millions of rodents, birds, canines, and vertebrates. In the U.S., stories of animal abuse published by sources...