As if product testing on animals isn’t wrong enough in itself, animal testing facilities also have negative impacts on the health and safety of our environment. The U.S. government should better regulate products that test on animals for environmental and health reasons in addition to the immorality of testing on living creatures.
Animal testing facilities have a negative impact on the environment first and foremost because of the number of resources they consume and the pollution they produce.
One resource that animal testing facilities overly consume is energy in the form of electricity. Comparing the energy used within animal testing facilities to that in ordinary office spaces highlights that testing spaces use up to 10 times more energy. It is estimated that most of the energy used within these spaces goes toward ventilation, which is necessary because of the high levels of carbon emissions that animal testing produces. In other words, animal testing contributes to greenhouse gas release in our environment.
The emission of greenhouse gases indicates that animal testing subsequently contributes to global warming. These practices are man-made and will continue to contribute to climate change unless confronted.
Another negative result coming directly from animal testing is chemical byproducts. These facilities deal with toxic, infectious, mutagenic and carcinogenic agents. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Act, or OSHA, protects the lab workers with the handling of these chemicals, they are not responsible for assisting in the alleviation process of these chemicals and agents in the environment. OSHA was enacted by Congress in 1970 and was designed to protect workers from known dangers, so the legislation addressed chemical byproducts in the workplace but not outside it.
Another obvious byproduct from animal testing is waste. A conservative estimate for animals tested on in these facilities each year is between 115 million and 127 million vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. The actual number is higher as these estimates do not include rodents, which aren’t required to be reported.
These animals are often exposed to several chemicals at a time and are tested in the same spaces. A majority of the animals that are discarded after the experiments are contaminated with hazardous and toxic chemicals and infectious and transmissible diseases. The high quantities of animals tested upon must be disposed of, and it is cost-effective to simply discard animals after the experiments — the majority of the carcasses will end up in our environment. Testing facilities total up 1.5 million pounds of discarded animal waste in two years. The two ways of disposing of animal carcasses are through simple disposal and through incineration. Both methods release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere and negatively impact human health. The release of such compounds can cause issues such as birth defects, development issues, asthma, hypertension and cancer. The residents living near these incineration facilities are often lower income, people of color and are exposed to higher concentrations of these toxic pollutants through air and soil.
A group nearby in Berkeley that advocates for better animal testing laws is the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy. Every month, the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy participates in at least one activist event that includes protesting. They even have a history of protesting animal testing practices at UC Berkeley. Direct Action Everywhere, another anti-animal testing group, utilizes Berkeley as its “Seed City” and aims to impact major cities globally. Direct Action Everywhere participates in animal liberation, which involves rescuing animals from abusive situations. Because of the actions of groups like these, California passed a cruelty-free cosmetics act to ban the sale of animal-tested beauty products such as skincare, hair-care, body-care and makeup. This will be enacted on January 1, 2020. In the meantime, the other 49 states will need to find ways to combat cosmetic testing on animals that continues to hurt our environment and our health.
About 900,000 animals in the United States are used annually for testing, while more than 143,000 animals are kept for breeding purposes for later testing, and an estimated 100 million mice are used in the United States every year. Simply said, all these negative environmental impacts such as energy consumption, carbon emission release, harmful chemical exposures, waste production and pollution are occurring in our backyards.
Our planet is deteriorating, and the U.S. government should better regulate products that test on animals for environmental and health reasons. Individuals should educate themselves on the major consequences that their animal-tested products cause and should choose not to support these companies. Higher regulations and refusal to support products that are not cruelty-free will greatly impact the overall quality of our health and environment.
Andrew Nicolas Reyes is an undeclared undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley.