Justin Goodman, PETA’s director of laboratory investigations as David Grimm recently described in the article titled “The Insurgent” published in Science, Vol. 347, Issue 6220, January 23, 2015 “attempt[s] to show researchers that animal experimentation is flawed, cruel, and just plain worthless.”
Goodman owns a dog and two cats, according to Grimm. Hopefully, those pets are vaccinated against common and preventable diseases, are tested for parasites, treated if appropriate, and are also provided medications when needed.
Those vaccines or medications are only approved by USDA or FDA, respectively, after they are sufficiently proven to be safe and efficacious. Animal testing is an integral part of the approval process.
The history of the adoption of and amendments to the Federal Food and Drug law provides an explanation for the increasing testing and safety measures the law requires for drug approvals.
The initial passage of the Pure Food & Drugs Act of 1906 followed widespread public reaction to the publication of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” describing the unsanitary practices of the meatpacking industry in the U.S.
“The 1937 Elixir Sulfanilamide Incident” preceded the “enactment in 1938 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the statute that today remains the basis for FDA regulation of these products.” The Elixir resulted in “the deaths of more than 100 people after using a drug that was clearly unsafe.”
In 1962, following the birth of thousands of babies with congenital defects resulting from fetal exposure to thalidomide in utero, the law was amended to require the premarket establishment of safety and efficacy.
The expansion of premarket approvals for medical devices in 1976 followed pacemaker failures which were reported during 1972 and 1973, and thousands of injuries reportedly caused by the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device in 1975.
In 2007, the FDA obtained additional authority to perform post market surveillance and request additional data from drug companies.
In addition to protecting human health, the law has continued to evolve to benefit animals and their health, as described on FDA’s website:
While breeders and genetic engineers are focusing on animals as sources of food, other veterinary researchers continue to develop products to improve the health of pets. In 2004, the CVM approved Vetsulin, the first FDA-approved veterinary insulin for the treatment of dogs with diabetes mellitis. “We expect progress in disease and drug research to generate new drugs for our companion animals,” says Sundlof. “We’re seeing the same type of research to develop drugs for pets as for humans, such as treatments to improve the quality of life for older dogs and cats.”
While researchers are exploring and implementing alternatives to animal testing, this remains a critical phase to prove a drug’s safety and efficacy.
So while Goodman may not think animal testing is necessary, it remains a requirement for animal and human drug and vaccine approval.
As to Goodman’s tattoos which, according to Grimm cover “most of his skin,” they too have been tested on animals.
While FDA admittedly “has not traditionally regulated tattoo inks or the pigments used in them,” laboratories, including FDA’s Arkansas-based National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), are researching how the body metabolizes tattoo ink, as well as their short and long term effects, using animals when needed to investigate the potential toxic effects of tattoo ink in humans.