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Frivolous Experiments

79% of people agree that European legislation should prohibit experiments on animals that do not relate to serious or life-threatening conditions (YouGov poll for ECEAE, 2009).

Such public support as exists for animal experiments relies on its perceived importance for improving human health. However, one third of the 12 million animal experiments conducted in the EU are so-called ‘fundamental biology studies.’ While some of this work relates directly to research on serious disease, much does not and any human benefit is highly speculative. In such non-medical studies animals can be subjected to major surgery, injection of harmful drugs, forced feeding, electrocution and deliberately-induced psychological stress.

Examples of highly dubious experiments include:

  • Sleep-depriving rats then putting them in stressful situations to induce psychosis and hallucinations (Italy, 2008) (1)
  • Conducting LD50 (Lethal dose) tests to see how toxic MDMA (popularly known as ecstasy) is for male versus female rats (France, 2008) (2)
  • Feeding large quantities of common mushrooms to mice to try to induce side effects. The mice did not become ill but were killed anyway as part of the testing process (Finland, 2009) (3)
  • Inflicting brain damage on macaque monkeys then testing their responses to fear-provoking stimuli to see if brain-damaged monkeys are less sociable (UK, 2006) (4)

Non-medical regulatory testing that is conducted on an ongoing basis includes:

Shellfish testing

Used to test the safety of shellfish for human consumption, high doses given to animals often result in painful diarrhoea, paralysis and ultimately death. A non-animal alternative to this test exists but is not always used. 

Food additives testing 

These toxicity tests are conducted on rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits and even pigs to assess the safety of non-essential additives to food such as flavourings, colourants, plant extracts, dietary supplements, stabilisers and sweeteners.

Chemicals testing

At least 100,000 animals including rats, mice, birds, fish, rabbits, guinea pigs and dogs are used in chemical toxicity tests every year. Under the new REACH legislation between 8 and 13 million more animals will be used in this way over the next 10 years. See our REACH page for more details.

Botox testing

Botox is routinely tested on mice to check the strength of the toxin. An LD50 (Lethal Dose) test, it causes mice to suffer paralysis and respiratory distress before death. A non-animal alternative exists but is not in routine use despite being validated to test for the brand of botulinum toxin called Dysport® over 10 years ago by a UK Government laboratory. See our Botox page for more details.


  1. Sleep deprivation disrupts prepulse inhibition of the startle reflex: reversal by antipsychotic drugs. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology 11, 947-955. 2008
  2. Sprague-Dawley rats display metabolism-mediated sex difference in acute toxicity of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy). Toxicology and Applied Pharamacology 230, 117-25. 2008
  3. Myo- and hepatotoxic effects of cultivated mushrooms in mice. Food and Chemical Toxicology 47, 70-74. 2009
  4. A role for the macaque anterior cingulated gyrus in social valuation. Science 313, 1310-2. 2006 

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