This article has been written by Diya Banerjee, from Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA and Mridul Tripathi, from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies. This article discusses the position of animal testing, providing a general overview of the global standpoint and focussing on the Indian legal and social scenario.
Table of Contents
“For scientific advancement and study, animal testing is justified.” Many of us have heard this statement whenever someone tried to open the discussion of animal testing and abuse. Yes, it is justified to the extent that certain ethical and humane measures are taken to ensure the safety of the animals who get treated like lab rats. And for the part which justifies animal testing for scientific advancement in medicine and technology, did you know that out of 100, 92 of the experiments fail on humans because isn’t it obvious, what works on animals necessarily will not work on humans. Yet, doctors and scientists argue that it is mandatory for such dangerous and (in most cases) useless experiments to be carried out because fact check, no rational human being would be willing to turn into a helpless guinea pig, unlike animals who don’t have mouths to express their dissent.
To combat the torture and unfairness of the situation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on a global scale has raised awareness among the people to come together and strongly oppose the ‘mandatory need’ for such painful tests being carried out on animals. But, have the goals of such awareness drives, legal measures and petitions improved the conditions of the animals and what is the best alternative to animal testing?
General view on experimentation on animals
Did you know that every year nearly 100 million animals are crippled, burned, infected and killed in laboratories for biology lessons, scientific researches and study along with medical experiments? Most of them have to survive their time by inhaling toxic fumes day in and day out, they are attached to machines restraining their movements and injected with strong chemicals causing their vitals to break out of the normal patterns. Forget about these, the environment they are kept in is far away from anything natural. The cages they are put in is tiny and suffocating and kept away from other animals with zero scopes for socializing. This has a traumatizing and psychologically distressing effect on the animal’s mental state. Many of these animals die at the end of an experiment not because of the pointless and endless experiments, but because of the mental suffering. To understand this, try to imagine yourself in an apocalyptic world, where you are more likely to go mad and eventually die, not because of the fear of fighting off zombies but for the lack of any socialising and human contact. It is a proven fact that animals get more distressed if isolated from their groups.
Some gut-wrenching facts about animal testings
- One of the reasons behind the continuation of testing on animals is because experimenting on humans is not only more expensive but also upsetting for researchers as no sensible human wants to see another human suffer because of his/her actions, right? But because animals cannot express their discomfort and pain, they become the scapegoat. It is also a cost-friendly alternative.
- For the purpose of keeping up the research work irrespective of the number of animals becoming ‘unfit’ also known as infected or dying, animals like dogs and cats get kidnapped from the streets and that includes the domesticated dogs and cats who might have wandered away from their owners or house. This is to avoid unnecessary scandals and accountability.
- 94% of the successful animal tests done for human benefit fail when given to humans for final use.
- If it is not understood then let me tell you, in many countries which still allow animal testing, torture and death by torturous treatment, they are thought to be absolutely and legally justifiable in their nature. China is the biggest example of this although it has not produced any official record for the same, insiders have submitted so.
- Monkeys, being closest to human beings, are often used to find cures for fatal diseases like cancer and AIDS/HIV but this fact is mostly never taken into account that their immune system is much more empowered and equipped to negate the effect of the disease, and it is assumed that the drug administered as a cure has been successful in fighting off the disease. It is only found much later after usage by human patients that the drugs were actually ineffective for them, causing deaths and faster spread of the disease in the patients who were administered the drug.
- It is not an unknown fact that before finalizing cosmetic and detergent products, they are tested on mice and rodents. But what is not known is that they are applied to their hairless and naked skin, without any pain killer to absorb the irritation or burns.
Not only is animal testing unethical, but it has also proven to be quite useless in the field of medicine and science which had aimed to equip society to combat the problems in the respective fields through their abusive experiments on poor and dumb creatures.
The truth behind animal testing, rights and regulations in India
Every major breakthrough in the medical and scientific field is solely because of the numerous amounts of tests carried out on animals, but it is not only these two fields of study which benefit from animal experimentation. The business based on animal products heavily profits as well and their means are not always what is considered to be ethical or even legal. Such a scandal was in 1999 when PETA had exposed the brutal Indian leather and meat market. Cattle were smuggled across state-borders and practically dragged to the underworld and illegal slaughterhouses. The cattle were not provided proper food and rest during the journey covering miles and miles of distance and if they did stop out of fatigue or weakness, their tailbones were crushed, tails were twisted and chilli powder was thrown and rubbed into their eyes to keep them from halting. On top of that, many political leaders were involved with charges varying from corruption to animal abuse. Since then, the Indian legislature had to tighten the rules so that such rampant abuse of power and living creatures did not happen in the future. However, it is quite sad to see that even after legal measures were taken to secure the safety and well-being, the government has failed to hold the international medical associations accountable for their numerous tests on animals.
Nonetheless, it has been accepted that animals are indeed required for study because India has not yet prepared any artificial human simulator as an alternative but certain rules were laid down by the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA).
The Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA)
CPCSEA is a statutory body formed under Section 15(1) of Chapter IV, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 by the Central Government of India. The committee’s purpose is to ensure that animals are not subjected to undue pain or torture. For fulfilment of this purpose, the rules on breeding and experimentation were further introduced in the year 1998 that have been amended thereafter to keep the provisions updated with the changing times and to cope up with the loopholes. The committee can follow its procedure in the performance of its duties.
Funding to the Committee would comprise grants from the government from time to time. Any person can also gift, donate, contribute, bequest and the like to the Committees funds.
Under guidelines provided on the regulation of scientific experiments on animals by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in June 2007, certain ethical principles have been mentioned by which the CPCSEA is supposed to follow. These principles are:
Principle 1: Purpose behind carrying out the experiments
Experiments on animals might only be carried for the following reasons:
- To facilitate discovery in the field of physiology for advancement;
- To procure knowledge that would come in use for improving, saving or prolonging human life;
- To gain significantly in ensuring well being of the people; and
- To find a cure for a disease. The disease might be of plants, animals or human beings.
Principle 2: Avoid animal experimentation if an alternative exists
The animals that are least sentient i.e. capable of feeling emotions majorly pain should be used for animal experimentation. Wherever there was an alternative present and still, the experiment was conducted on an animal, then proper reasoning needs to be given as to what led to the decision of using the animals for experimentation.
Principle 3: Appropriate sedation and anaesthesia
Priority needs to be given to the object of causing minimum pain to the animal during an experiment. The animal is to be treated at par with human beings when it comes to deciding on inflicting pain. Investigators need to follow a humane approach and if the pain caused by an experiment would last more than a moment or a short span then anaesthesia or appropriate sedation needs to be rendered to the animal. Animals are to be treated with the utmost compassion and kindness.
Principle 4: Euthanasia, when allowed?
After the experiment is conducted on the animal then after experiment procedures and welfare also needs to be rendered to the animal. The investigator is responsible for the rehabilitation and aftercare of the animal. The investigator can decide on administrating euthanasia only in the following cases:
- When the animal is rendered physically or mentally incapable of functioning or perceiving the environment or loses its sentience.
- If the animal is undergoing excruciating long pangs of pain after undergoing an experimental procedure.
- If human lives get endangered due to non-termination of animals that underwent an experiment.
This principle has been incorporated in Rule 9(cc) of the Breeding of and Experimentation on Animals (Control and Supervision) Rules, 1998.
Principle 5: Suitable living conditions
The living conditions for the animals should be suitable for their species. For biomedical purposes, the animals must be handled by a trained scientist or veterinarian.
Functions of CPCSEA
- Establishments that conduct experiments on animals or breed them should get registered by CPCSEA.
- Nominee selection for Institutional Animal Ethics Committee of the registered institutions.
- Based on reports of inspections conducted by CPCSEA, approving animal facilities shown fit for housing animals by the report.
- Granting permission for experiments that involve animals.
- Recommending the import of animals for usage in experiments.
- In case of violation by establishments, CPCSEA has the authority to take any action.
Breeding of and Experiments on Animals (Control and Supervision) Rules, 1998 (enforced in 1982)
The rules embody the principles and make registration with CPCSEA a necessity amongst other essentials. The important rules have been discussed below:
Definition of the term ‘Experiment’
‘Experiment’ as defined under Rule 2(e) of the Rules states that an experiment is either a programme or a project that involves the usage of animals. Such usage is undertaken for acquiring knowledge related to biology, physiology, ethology or is of a chemical or physical nature. The animals can be further used:
- in the production of reagents (A substance or mixture used in other reactions);
- In the production of antibodies or antigens;
- For procedure related to diagnostics and testing;
- For establishing transgenic stock;
- For saving and alleviating lives;
- In an activity that will result in a significant gain in the well being of people of the country; and
- In an activity that will help come up with a cure for a disease related to human beings, plants or animals.
Any activity taken up for the fulfilment of any of the aforementioned objects would qualify as an ‘experiment’.
Rule 10: Procurement of Animals
It states that:
- Animals for experimentation can be acquired from ‘registered’ breeders.
- Alternative legal sources are to be used in the case of non-availability of registered breeders.
- In case of procurement from legal sources, written permission from the appropriate authority should have been sought. If there is a replacement method that enables non-use of an animal, then it should be given the priority. In cases of despite there being the availability of a replacement technique, the animal is used for an experiment, the decision of going ahead with the usage of the animal be strongly justified.
Rule 14: Suspension of Registration of an Establishment by CPCSEA
The Rules specify when can CPCSEA suspend or revoke a registration of an establishment:
- If in the report of the Member Secretary or the authorized officer it is proved that the rules are not being followed by the establishment or a breeder and the directions given by the Committee to rectify such violation, haven’t been implemented, then the Committee decides on suspending or revoking the registration of the establishment.
- The breeder or the establishment should be allowed to be heard.
- No minor violation should result in revocation or suspension. Minor violation is an act that doesn’t have any direct effect on the well being of the animal or that doesn’t lead to pain, suffering, any other adverse health disorder and death of the animal.
Institutional Animal Ethics Committee (IAEC)
This committee was formed under Rule 13 of the Breeding of and Experiments on Animals (Control and Supervision) Rules 1998. The committee comprises a group of people whose main function is to overlook the functions of the establishment during an experiment. For experimentation on large animals, the case is forwarded to CPCSEA. The committee is constituted for 3 years. At the time when the registration is renewed, it is supposed to be reconstituted. Quorum is of 6 members.
Other than having scientists from various fields, IAEC should comprise a socially aware member and a nominee of CPCSEA. It is necessary that a CPCSEA nominee must be present during meetings. The Chairperson conducts the meetings, and for certain situations, an alternate chairperson is appointed.
The member secretary of the committee is responsible for preparing the minutes of the meeting and the copy of the minutes is to be sent to the Member Secretary of CPCSEA within 15 days otherwise the meeting doesn’t get considered as valid.
Some rules passed by various regulatory bodies
As per Section 17(d) of the PCA Act, many educational regulatory bodies came forward with stricter regulations to tackle the issue of animal abuse for study in educational institutions.
University Grants Commission
The UGC banned the use, dissection and experimentation on animals in colleges teaching courses on zoology, physiology, anatomy, etc. for undergraduate and postgraduates students, and to adhere to the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and the PCA Act, 1960.
Medical Council of India
The guidelines issued by the MCI were confusing and contradictory regarding their stand on the matter. They had stated in their circular that they would continue with clinical aspects of teaching and at the same time, would have central or departmental animal houses. Due to this confusion, all colleges under the MCI have obtained a CPCSEA license to maintain the animal houses.
Pharmacy Council of India
The notification issued by the PCI was similar to that of the UGC. It had declared that institutions have to stop the dissection of animals in the graduation level and a general ban was put on the use of animals for any purpose whatsoever. Further, clarification helped to maintain that experiments on animals could be conducted after a thorough investigative evaluation and obtaining a license from the Institutional Animals Ethics Committee.
It is funny that even after so many efforts, India continues to overlook the sectors like agriculture, science, medicine and technology where animals are used and abused. In 2013, The Bureau of Indian Standards had banned the use of animals in the cosmetic industry and artificial and computer simulations were to replace the animal testing needs. In 2016, the ban extended to soap and detergent industries. In 2018, the Uttarakhand High Court gave a landmark judgement in the case of Narayan Dutt Bhatt vs. Union of India on how animals are legal entities and thus has “extended the rights of a living person to the animal kingdom”. Does this not mean that just like how a human being cannot and should not be subjected to such inhumane treatment, even animals should not be treated like that? This judgement has somehow helped in curbing the malpractices with respect to the safety and security of animals.
How strong are Indian laws against animal testing?
On a positive note, India has shown improvement in the active protection of animal rights all the while maintaining the interests of the stakeholders in the procedure. But are they sustainable enough to keep the numbers of abuse cases down? The answer is a ‘no’ because just like how in the 2018 Uttarakhand High Court judgement, the judges talked of ‘animal rights’ but those rights were only the rights ‘non-citizens’ are forwarded which somehow deprives the animals of some very crucial rights, exclusive to only citizens, in the same way, some animal rights are protected but the loopholes for maintaining the humane rights has gone right out the window.
Some legal rights and provisions to protect animals
- Under Article 51A(g), it is the fundamental duty of a citizen to have compassion for all living creatures.
- As per Section 428 and Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code, it is a punishable offence to kill or maim any animal, including strays.
- Cosmetics tested on animals and the import of such products is banned as per Rules 135B and 148C of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
- Under Section 11(1)(h) of the PCA Act, it is a punishable offence to keep an animal chained/confined for long periods, neglected without sufficient food, water, shelter or exercise, the punishment including a fine or imprisonment up to 3 months or both.
- Section 9 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 lays down that capturing, trapping, baiting or poisoning any animal is punishable with a fine of Rs 25000 or imprisonment of 7 years or both.
All these rules and laws were introduced long ago but were enforced with serious consequences only in recent years, that also after the 1999 scandal exposed by PETA. It is an unfortunate event that even after such laws exist that India continues to trade with countries and fund companies where such gross violations continue to take place. Even though post-2015, the number of cases of such violations have gone down there is still a lack of transparency in the system because in a study found, it was revealed that in the records maintained by labs for compiling data on the animal subjects, 90% of the animals were not mentioned because they were illegally transported into the labs. There are still loopholes in the system which allows for these figures to come up.
Unfortunately, even after legal provisions have been made to protect the interests of animals and their rights but even now, authorities have been making use of serious loopholes in the system to continue the malpractices of testing and abusing the animals who are being used as test subjects. Although in India, tests on animals have been banned for cosmetics and soaps, it does not mean that import for cruelty-free products is being strictly followed. India still imports from China where animals continue to be experimented upon for cosmetic, medical and scientific research, many resulting in their deaths. Moreover, international companies operating within the Indian territory also continue to experiment with animals and so applies to some universities providing medical and science degrees. And in the villages, towns and lesser-known cities, forms of animal abuse continue to take place.
Now, the focus of the lawmakers should not only be on Indian companies but also on multinational companies operating in India along with those who let the perpetrators get away with such mistreatment. The punishment should not only be awarded to one who commits this crime but also to those who knew of it but did not report or object to it. It is high time that many serious and comprehensive legally binding steps are rolled out into the society and market.
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