Let’s show the world what animal research looks like!

Animal rights activists frequently use images of animals which do not offer a fair representation of research. Photos are often from other countries, out of date, or entirely out of context. Consider the primate image below, which can also be found on placards of demonstrators in 1980 (See Animals’ Defender – Jan/Feb 1981, p6).

The primate image on the left is over 30 years old
The primate image on the left is over 30 years old

It is up to scientists to help rebalance this. If you want to see the scale of the problem then I recommend you Google ‘animal testing‘ or even ‘animal research‘ and look at the huge number of unrepresentative images.

A number of Canadian researchers recently helped us take a step in the right direction. They went to their labs and took some photos of animals and provided Speaking of Research with the rights to the picture (see pictures below). We are now sharing these under the Creative Commons By Attribution (CC BY). This means you can use and share the image provided you mention it came from “www.speakingofresearch.com”. By providing these on Creative Commons we can help spread them far and wide. Next time you see a media story about animal research, would you rather see our pictures, or the ones sent by activists?

We need you. We need as many pictures as possible. We need you to provide us with the right to the picture so that we can release them to the world CC free, with an attribution license that will send people back to our website to discover accurate information about animal research.

We need pictures of animals in enclosures, pictures of the refinements in animal housing, pictures of animals undergoing procedures. We need all species, especially the mice, rats, birds and fish than make up around 95% of research subjects.

Pictures should be sent to contact@speakingofresearch.com

Take a photo of your animals and help combat the misrepresentation of animal research. Tweet this!

See some of our existing images below: (Click to enlarge)

You can find all our photos permanently based on our resources page. This is along with our background briefings on animal research and other materials.

Speaking of Research

24 thoughts on “Let’s show the world what animal research looks like!

  1. This is fantastic news, Tom! I say let’s let the animal rights activists inside the labs themselves. They have no idea what they’re talking about. These animals should consider themselves lucky to have such posh lives. We need to be completely transparent. Is there anyone willing to give these lunatics full access to our labs so they can see for themselves that we are not doing anything to these animals that we wouldn’t do to our own pets?

    1. I’m certainly not saying they are treated like pets (though the regulatory minimum is a higher standard). Some labs do give tours to anyone in the public, including activists – many are not there yet. An increasing number of UK labs have been opening up their doors to journalists. We need to increase more universities to do this, to let the public in (some do currently).

  2. Tom, you say that the images used by activists are not representative of animal research today, and I agree that some images used by activists are outdated and not relevant anymore and only used for shock value. But do you consider these pictures any more representative of animal research?

    There are no pictures of invasive (or any other) procedures being done.
    From these pictures it would appear that animal research is basically a big petshop. It looks like no animals are cut open, exposed to toxins, purposefully given spinal fractures or exposed to anything that might appear painful or harmful, is that an accurate portrayal of animal research?

    Furthermore, any research facility, even the worst one imaginable, would be able to send you an image of an animal appearing to be happy and comfortable in a nice enclosure, it doesn’t “represent” anything.
    I could take some pictures of my dogs here at home for your site if you like, it would be just as relevant as these pictures.

    1. I think it is a lot more relevant seeing the conditions which research animals spend 90% of their time in, rather than the activist pictures which you yourself note are often unrepresentative.

      I do agree about seeing experiments. As I noted, I wanted people to include “pictures of animals undergoing procedures” – where scientists can provide the proper context for what people see (though I think SR would restrict the license to CC BY ND – where people must keep the pictures in original form, which would include context).

      Some things are difficult to capture in a picture. An animal in a toxicology test is unlikely to look any different to another animal – researchers will be monitoring weight and heart rate of the animal for very slight changes, but externally the animal looks the same. Equally, does an injection picture really tell people much – I mean we all get injections at the doctors, but if you saw a still of someone mid-injection you’d tend to overreact to it.

      1. The bottom line is that pictures provided by the animal research institutions will all be sanitized and just be a propaganda campaign that is no more representative of the reality. Just like the pamphlets and news releases and most of the information you provide on this site. You don’t give the gory details because you don’t really want to discuss animal research, you want to promote animal research.
        In the same way that nobody selling steak will put a picture on the package of the cow being slaughtered no animal research institution will willingly publish an image of an invasive or painful procedure performed on an animal.

        1. I disagree. The Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK has a few relevant commitments:
          “When we communicate about the use of animals in research, we should provide accurate descriptions of the benefits, harms and limitations of such research…”
          ” We will work cooperatively to provide more comprehensive explanations of animal research projects and procedures. These explanations could, where appropriate, include images and films…”

          Understanding Animal Research have been trying to get more videos of procedures on their website. See some of the links from here: http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/how/understanding-animal-procedures/examples-of-procedures/ . You can see an example of surgery here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNE8drmbo4Q

          Animal surgery looks a lot like human surgery, it can be quite gruesome, but the animals are anaesthetised throughout. I’m not sure what you think animal research is “really” like.

          1. Tom, it does appear like the UK is far ahead in terms of openness and also regulation of animal research, the USA is still far behind and should really try to catch up. I had a look at the understandinganimalresearch site and it was interesting. The fact that more than 50% of the licenses are classified as severe was also interesting, so clearly it would make sense to have at least 50% of your image gallery about severe procedures.

          2. I think you misread the graph. 2% of procedures licences are severe, 61% moderate, 36% mild and 2% unclassified (animal was never woken up from anaesthesia).

            That said, these are likely to be overestimates. It is an infringement for a researcher to go beyond the license they applied for, so there is a temptation to write a licence proposal which offers the possibility that the animal will suffer more than it actually will. It is likely this will become clear from 2015 when UK researchers must retroactively record the suffering of animals (as well as predict before for the licence).

          3. You’re right… those colors are almost the same on my laptop! So 50% moderate and 2% severe images then.
            I am surprised to see that “exposing the animal to something that they would normally run away from, without enabling them to run away” is classified as moderate?

        2. Also, you’re essentially criticising a call for researchers to put out more images because you pre-guess what they contain. The alternative is we don’t call for researchers to publish more images and we have less openness….?

          1. Point taken, lets see if it will result in images that are more relevant than the ones you’ve gotten so far.
            I would be interested in images of the animals being euthanised, some of the animals with late stage bone cancer in pain studies, perhaps some images of the closed-loop BMI research on monkeys, how spinal injuries are caused, etc.
            If somebody would release some videos of the “Determination of acute chemical toxicity and its mitigation” experiments where animals are poisoned and allowed to die it would also be enlightening.

          2. I don’t think those images will be as enlightening as you think.

            An animal being euthanised is likely going to appear as an animal being injected. An animal with bone cancer will look almost exactly like any other animal from a photograph.

            Monkeys account for around 0.2% of research in the UK, so not the most representative if images – I would like to see more of mice, rats and fish!

            Let’s start by getting researchers comfortable providing images from their lab – then we can start pushing for more invasive videos.

          3. Perhaps the euthanizing image would have an impact if it showed a heap of a 1000 dead rats in the background and a sub-title with the amount of rats killed in a typical “mild” study.
            It seems like in the animal research community euthanizing an animal is not a big deal. To keep a human being in captivity and then euthanizing that human is the ultimate punishment that is only permitted in certain countries, while in animal research this is seen as a “mild” outcome.
            I also agree that images would not be an effective means of portraying suffering – one must be a very good photographer to capture that in an image.
            But yes, I commend your attempts to get researchers to share imagery of their work with animals, for sure it is a good first step in an attempt to make the discussions more open.

          4. Firstly a typical study is more likely to involve 30 rats than 1000 – so you might want to adjust your view on research. Euthanising an animal is not seen as an animal welfare issue because the animal doesn’t suffer for it. Animals kill and eat each other every day – if we had a moral issue with animals dying then we should start a war on nature. The difference between the lab and the field, is that the mouse should die painlessly when it is humanely killed.

          5. I based my value of a 1000 on what I’ve read in the non technical summaries provided by the UK about animal studies. I don’t think I’ve seen a single one that used less than 50 mice, in most of them I found values of about a 1000 per year for 3 or 5 years, some others use much more, like 10 000 per year. Perhaps if I have time I will try to find some statistics on typical amounts of mice used per study, but I’m confidant it will be much more than 30.

            So you are saying that one may not have a moral issue with killing an animal humanely because other animals do this in the wild? This type of reasoning could be used to justify many things that are not only immoral but also illegal, so I would not recommend continuing down that train of thought.
            But your statement confirms then that an experiment that has no other “negative” effects (other than death) would be categorized as very mild.
            I guess in today’s society where animals are killed because “they taste good” this is understandable and at least the methods of euthanisation in the lab are probably less painful and better regulated than those used in slaughter houses or on farms.

          6. Non-technical summaries confirm your point. I forget there are huge disparities in numbers between studies involving mice and those involving larger mammal.

            I’m saying the same philosophy which grades a mouses life, as opposed to its welfare when under our care, as of huge importance, is a philosophy which should demand we intervene in nature.

          7. I disagree. You are saying that because in nature predators kill mice, it makes it morally correct for humans to kill mice and that if we feel it is morally wrong for humans to kill mice we must also prevent predators in the wild from killing mice.
            My opinion is that whether or not it is correct for a human being to kill a mouse is a totally different question from whether it is correct for a predator to kill a wild mouse.
            Similarly I don’t expect anybody would say it is correct for a mother to eat her baby even though it happens in nature. This does not mean we must try to prevent this from happening in nature.
            Making these parallels are not very useful to any discussion about animal research. If you really want to hold animals to the same standards as humans then you should also give them the same rights.

          8. Had more of a discussion with some scientists. A study, as discussed, may involve thousands of rodents, but this is over many years. Within that study will be many protocols (the language here gets very messy, as even official guidance mixes words like experiment, protocol and procedure). Very rarely will hundreds of mice all be humanely killed at the same time.

            No I am not saying that animal-animal killing gives humans a license to kill animals, I’m saying that if you truly believe there is some key value in animal life rather than animal welfare then you should have a duty to intervene in nature. Animal welfare is about minimising human impact on animals because we understand they can suffer and regard that as bad.

          9. From what I’ve read about 1000 per year is a typical value for a rodent study, maybe you could confirm, Killing 3 mice a day for a year or killing them all at the same time doesn’t really make a big difference, in the end the same amount will die during the year.

            “I’m saying that if you truly believe there is some key value in animal life rather than animal welfare then you should have a duty to intervene in nature.”
            So, you are saying that if you think animal life has any inherent value one should intervene in nature? So, firstly, you are saying that animal life has no inherent value, correct? That would explain your strong support for animal research. Personally I see inherent value in all life and find it rather narcissistic not to. Secondly, just because animal life has intrinsic value does not mean humans must interfere in nature. This God complex also explain your support for animal research.

          10. My point was that real labs don’t have “1,000 dead rats in the background”.

            If you start valuing animal life over animal suffering then you start having a lot of issues about euthanasing animals in pain – what right does anyone have to put it out of its misery. If you fundamentally value animal life, then you shouldn’t euthanise a dying bird (just as you wouldn’t euthanise a dying human without its permission). Our use of animals for food and clothing is testament to a belief that welfare is more important than its death.

          11. I agree that in certain circumstances it would be the correct thing to euthanize an animal in suffering. I am also for the right for humans to choose assisted death. If it was possible to get permission from the animal I would not euthanize them without permission, but unfortunately animals cannot communicate with humans and are completely under our control, so we must make these difficult decisions without the benefit of getting permission. This does not mean that the life has no value and also does not imply one should interfere with nature.
            In nature it is also a difficult decision when to interfere and when not and animal conservationists sometimes do interfere in nature.

          12. You’re going to have philosophical issues now. I hope you wouldn’t assist the suicide of a person without either (a) their permission at the time (b) incontrovertible proof that they wished to die under certain circumstances (e.g. they wrote they wished to die they were unable to move, talk and hear). As you note, you can’t get animals’ permissions, so you will be infringing their “right to life” (your belief) to favour their “welfare” (my belief). Your difficult decision is in direct contravention of your idea that life should be regarded over welfare (whereas I belief it’s welfare is more important than its life – thus why euthanising an animal after an experiment is acceptable).

            You accused me of a God complex, yet if you even consider there are circumstances where we can intervene in nature, then surely you are being hypocritical.

          13. I never said that “life should be regarded over welfare”. I am also not against euthanising animals that were used in animal experiments, in most cases the animals used in these experiments would only suffer afterwards. I am against the fact that the animal’s life is not considered of value in itself.
            Furthermore, philosophical arguments in itself is best left to philosophers. They can be used to justify almost anything and one ends up in a back and forth with opposing philosophical thought experiments that will never end.

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