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Q: What are alternatives or what does the word alternatives mean?

A: The idea of alternatives in animal research can be broken down into three important subcategories: Reduction, Refinement, and Replacement. We call these the 3 R's. Everyone can understand replacement: it's what most people think of when they think of alternatives. Studying human or animal cells instead of a whole animal (known as an in vitro method) is an example of a replacement alternative. Reduction alternatives are just what they sound like: methods that reduce the number of animals necessary for use in a test or experiment. Refinement methods are approaches to the use of animals that lessen or eliminate their pain and distress or that ensure more humane endpoints to experiments. For example, choosing an appropriate medication for pain relief following surgery is one type of refinement.

Refinement and reduction alternatives often are relatively easy to implementand require little change in experimental design, whereas replacement alternatives can take a great deal of time to develop -- and even longer to win approval by scientists and regulatory agencies. This is due to the need to validate new methods -- to prove that they will provide the needed information in a reliable manner.

Q: What does "not tested on animals" really mean?

A: Today, many cosmetics companies advertise their products as "cruelty-free" or "not tested "on animals." Some possible meanings of "not tested on animals" include:

  • The company attempts to determine the safety of finished products, made from ingredients known to be safe, using in vitro and other alternatives,including the use of human volunteers.
  • The company has not personally tested the product on animals but haspurchased ingredients from a supplier who has animal-tested those ingredients.
  • The company does not manufacture or buy any products or ingredients which have been tested on animals beyond a fixed cutoff date.
  • The product and/or its ingredients have not been animal-tested within the past five years.

Q: How can I be sure my cosmetics are safe, if they haven't been tested on animals?

A: The bottom line -- all cosmetic ingredients have been tested on animals at some point in time or are known to be safe based on decades of use. In 1938, Congress passed the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, requiring manufacturers to prove that their products are safe. For many years, the only method government and manufacturers used to establish safety was animal testing.

Q: Why do most large companies test their products on animals when smaller companies produce high-quality products without animal testing?

A: By law, all manufacturers must generate data proving their products are safe. This is easier to do if a company is small and makes a limited range of products, which are composed of ingredients known to be safe. Larger companies, which often create ingredients as well as products, are in a more difficult situation. They must ensure that each newly developed ingredient is safe, as well as the product in which they are combined.

In some cases, companies that advertise themselves as "cruelty-free" actually purchase animal-tested ingredients from large companies to use in their "not tested by animals" products.

Q: Where can I find information about research grants?

A: You can check our site for grants as well as Grants Net located at You will need to register with them but it is a free service.

Q: Could you send me some pictures for my presentation?

A: As a firm and general policy we do not send pictures. There are other organization who may be able to help you in finding the photographs that you need.

Q: Could you provide me with a list of those companies which do or do not test on animals?

A: We do not maintain a list of such companies. However, the American Anti-Vivisection Society does maintain a "Guide to Compassionate Shopping" which lists companies that they say are not involved in animal testing. We have no method of confirming their information and therefore cannot attest to its accuracy.


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Last updated: 3/5/99
Center For Alternatives To Animal Testing.
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