A monkey undergoing tests at the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology near Hamburg. Photograph: Cruelty Free International and Soko Tierschutz/CEN

Are leather shoes, cashmere clothing, makeup, hair care products, and more worth the capture, torture, and brutal killing of an animal?

Animal cruelty is the action of being harmful towards animals. It goes from neglect to intentional killing. Many people carry on with their daily lives using products that have been tested on animals. However, our society is oblivious of the process that brings these products to the market. The behind the scenes is a tragic reality and, in most cases, the life of some animals end because of product demand and the lack of following alternative experimentation methods.

Experimentation on animals

When a new drug or a product is created, it must be tested before it is released to the public. People think it is unethical to test such things first in human beings because of the possibility that it would cause harm rather than good. Instead, the drug or product is tested in animals to make sure that it is safe and effective.

A mouse with an injured eye. Photograph: PETA

In 2019, the European Commission did a report on the use of animals for scientific purposes in the Member States of the European Union through the years 2015-2017. The report stated that between those years, the total number of experiments on animals in European laboratories decreased by 2%, from 9.78 million in 2015 to 9.58 million in 2017. However, there was an increase to 10.03 million in 2016. In 2017, the main species used for the first time in research and testing were mice, fish, rats, and birds, which together represented 92% of the total number of animals, while other species (dogs, cats, and non-human primates) represented less than 0.3% of the total number of animals.

A mouse with a metal implant on its head. Photograph: PETA

For these statistics to be recollected, interpreted, and reported, each entity that does animal experimentation must share in detail everything they do with animals. However, gathering all this information takes a lot of time, therefore reports like this cannot be updated so quickly and it can take years to be published and shared with the public. 

The European Animal Research Association (EARA) states that a regulation (Directive 2010/63/EU) passed by the Parliament, allows animals to be used in research in the EU when there is a convincing scientific justification, when the expected benefits of the research outweigh the potential risks in terms of animal suffering and when the scientific objectives cannot be achieved using non-animal alternative methods.

Some clauses of this legal document state that the methods selected to do research of any kind should use the minimum number of animals that would provide reliable results and require the use of species with the lowest capacity to experience pain, suffering, distress, etcetera that are optimal for extrapolation into target species. It is stated that the methods selected should avoid, as far as possible, death as an end-point due to the severe suffering experienced during the period before death.

When experimentation is being done, veterinary care should be available at all times and a staff member should be made responsible for the care and welfare of animals in each establishment. The use of endangered species in procedures should be limited to a strict minimum and non-human primates, dogs and cats should have a personal history file from birth covering their lifetimes in order to be able to receive the care, accommodation and treatment that meet their individual needs and characteristics.

Whoever wishes to experiment on animals for research need to follow the clauses stated on the (Directive 2010/63/EU).

Cosmetic testing on animals

The EU defines a cosmetic product as the following:

“Any substance or preparation intended to be placed in contact with the various external parts of the human body (epidermis, hair system, nails, lips and external genital organs) or with the teeth and the mucous membranes of the oral cavity with a view exclusively or mainly to cleaning them, perfuming them, changing their appearance and/or correcting body odors and/or protecting them or keeping them in good condition”.

© Ärzte gegen Tierversuche e.V.

Cosmetic animal testing includes testing of chemical ingredients like fragrance, dye, or preservatives. In Europe, government regulations such as (Regulation 1223/2009) have been placed and have created a huge impact on how cosmetics are tested. In 2001, the European Commission proposed a new EU chemicals testing policy known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) that could see thousands of existing chemicals tested on millions of laboratory animals in cruel and outdated poisoning experiments. However, throughout the years, such policy got modified by pressure of some organizations like PETA.

The European Commission has pushed REACH to make sure that companies share data related to their products and avoid unnecessary animal testing. Those wishing to perform tests must indicate to the European Chemicals Agency the tests they propose, for which they must then obtain approval before carrying them out.  

Undercover investigations

Even though regulations have been placed, there has been moments in which European standards on animal welfare have been breached. For example, in 2019 an undercover mission published by Cruelty Free International and Soko Tierschutz at the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology (LPT) near Hamburg showed footage that exposed monkeys and dogs being treated in a monstrous way. The graphic footage includes moments in which technicians with metal prongs grab macaque monkeys by the neck and handle them in a violent way. Throughout the footage it can be seen how the macaque monkeys live in small metal cages and how they are trying hard to escape. It also showcases cats and beagle dogs that are bleeding and sitting in their own urine in their small metal cages.

At the time, Michelle Thew, Chief Executive of Cruelty Free International stated:

“Our investigation has uncovered appalling animal suffering, inadequate care, poor practices and breaches of European and German law. We are calling for the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology (LPT) to be closed. We are also calling for a comprehensive review into the use of animals in regulatory toxicity testing in Europe, including the UK. Every investigation, without fail, shows a similar tale of misery and disregard of the law.

Every year, animals across Europe are deliberately poisoned in regulatory toxicity tests that can cause them terrible suffering. The evidence from our investigation has lifted the lid on the secrecy that continues to surround the use of animals in these cruel and outdated tests. The graphic footage – beagles left bleeding and dying and monkeys severely distressed and mistreated – illustrates just how appalling their suffering is.”

This investigation turned into a case that went to court and despite many efforts of shutting it down, in August of 2020 the court of Hamburg ruled in favor on the laboratory, and it was allowed to resume operations. 

Besides Cruelty Free International, a world renown organization named PETA conducts undercover investigations that turn into exposés that also showcase animal abuse in laboratories, slaughterhouses in farms, the clothing industry, the pet trade, and more. Throughout the years, PETA with the help of its affiliates have been able to reveal what animals around the globe go through. Some of their most recent investigations are:

  • PETA Asia Exposes Olympic-Size Cruelty: Japan’s Eggs From Hen Hell.
  • PETA U.K. Investigation: Rotting Chickens on Happy Egg Co. Supplier Farms
  • Breaking: Workers in Exotic Skins Trade Pump Pythons Full of Air Until They Die
  • PETA Germany Exposes Grueling, Shocking Abuse in Global Leather Trade.

An international organization called Animal Equality  is one of the most effective advocates for farmed animals in the world. They work hard to create a lasting systemic change for farmed animals that suffer. They also conduct investigations around the globe and some of their most recent ones include the suffering of pigs on a farm in Catalonia, Spain.

The Humane Society International is another organization that works hard to promote the protection animals deserve. On April 6th of 2021, the Humane Society International released an animated short film that vividly depicted what rabbits go through in laboratories that test makeup. The short film is called “Save Ralph”. The aim of the film is to educate people on what animals like rabbits go through for cosmetics and to push for more laws that could end such cruelty on animals in many companies around the world. 

Cruelty free products

According to Cruelty Free International, there are several cruelty free logos and lists out there, with some companies even making their own cruelty free claims. The Cruelty Free International Leaping Bunny is the globally recognizable gold standard for cosmetics, personal care, and household products. It is the only international logo that requires a supplier monitoring system to be implemented by the company, supply chain checking for animal testing right down to ingredient manufacturer level, adherence to a fixed cut-off date policy and acceptance of ongoing independent audits to ensure compliance with all of these aspects.

The official website of Cruelty Free International has been able to identify, classify and display the many brands that adhere to Leaping Bunny standards. From Cosmetics and Personal Care Products, Household and Cleaning Products to Companion Animal Products.

Europe’s welfare standards for animals

For more than 40 years, the European Union has advocated for the welfare of animals and has become a clear leader and an example to other nations. Legislations on animal welfare have been created all over Europe and these include protection to not only pets but also farm, wildlife, and laboratory animals.

“The Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals.” – Article 13 of Title II of the Lisbon Treaty.

According to the European Commission, the first EU legislation dates to 1974, which was placed on protection of animals in slaughterhouses. And for next 40 years several milestones in the form of legislations or achievements happened, for example:

  • 1977 Protection of animals during transport.
  • 1986 Protection of pigs, calves and laying hens.
  • 1999 Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam: “…animals are sentient beings…”
  • 2003 Veterinarian agreement incl. animal welfare (EU-Chile)
  • 2004 First global conference on animal welfare (EU-OIE)
  • 2007 Ban on the sale and import of cat and dog fur.

These and more milestones can be viewed on a file created by the European Commission.

Pet protection.

Members of the European Parliament have also fought hard to stop the illegal trade of cats and dogs, and in 2020 the Parliament called for an EU-wide action plan, tougher sanctions and mandatory registration in a resolution adopted on 12 February 2020. This resolution included:

  • A mandatory EU system to register cats and dogs,
  • An EU definition of large-scale commercial breeding facilities, known as puppy mills,
  • Improved law enforcement and tougher sanctions, and
  • Encouraging people to adopt, rather than purchase, pets.

According to the European Parliament an estimate of 46,000 dogs are traded between EU countries every month, most of them without being registered. Commercial breeders are abusing the EU’s pet movement legislation (Regulation (EU) No 576/2013), intended for non-commercial movement of pet animals, e.g. travelling with their owners.

A dog in a cage. Photograph: Kavin Nagdontree/Adobe Stock

Animal protection in Romania

According to the Animal Protection Index, the Romanian Law on the Protection of Animals (2014) provides basic protection to animals from many forms of cruelty. As there is no definition of animal in the legislation, it can currently be applied to all animals in Romania. This law recognizes that animals feel pain and can suffer both physically and mentally. Romania has also ratified in their own legislation, many EU regulations providing additional and improved protections for animals. Similarly, Romania is one of 27 countries in the world to have banned the use of wild animals in circuses.

However, there are some limitations to the protections provided to animals under Romanian law. The ban on wild animals in circuses does not extend to dolphins, and there is limited supporting legislation to protect draught and farm animals. This law also specifies that people who have an animal in their care are obliged to provide, according to its specific needs: adequate shelter, enough food and water, the possibility of sufficient movement, care, and medical attention.

Recent animal cruelty cases in Romania

In March 2021, the unauthorized killing of a bear called Arthur in the Carpathian Mountains allegedly happened by the hands of a member of the Liechtenstein royal family. In 2016, the ban of “Trophy hunting” was placed, but the killing of problematic bears is deemed ok. However, the bear named Arthur, who was already roaming around these areas for the past 17 years, has never caused any issues, therefore this death came as a shock for all Romanians.

Arthur, a 17-year-old brown bear, seen in Romania in 2019. Photograph: Agent Green/Associated Press.

On May 7th of 2021, Prince Emanuel von und zu Liechtenstein who was accused of killing the bear released a statement: “I have legally acquired and exercised the authorization to hunt from the responsible authorities. Hunting as a means of controlling the overpopulation of some species and ensuring their survival is a tradition in our family. In this case, it also served to eliminate a hazard”. He also detailed how the Romanian environment ministry gave him the approval to shoot a cub-rearing female bear that had been causing damage to farms, but he has been accused of killing Arthur instead. Romanian police have opened a criminal investigation into Arthur’s death, with poaching being one of the potential charges.

Back in December of 2020, a video showing a minor hitting a fox to death in the district of Dolj went viral. The minor was being encouraged to hit the fox by another person, a minor as well who was filming the video, and once the police found out about it, they opened up a criminal case against both of them. The video was shared by a Romanian organization called KOLA KARIOLA.

KOLA KARIOLA is a non-profit organization founded to help stray animals in Romania, a social segment with a large deficit. They are constantly helping animals and promoting the adoptions of dogs on their social media pages, as well as providing updates on any animal cases they work on. One of their ongoing activities is a sterilization marathon. However, since they do not receive funds from the government, they have started an online fund in which anyone can donate money for this to happen.

Another case that displayed animal abuse, was the one of a severely injured horse that was rescued from a family by a woman working for an organization called Casa lui Patrocle. This happened in vilalge near Suceava in June of 2020, and according to an article written by a Romanian news organization named DIGI24, this woman had to pay 1000 RON in front of the police to the owners of the horse. The animal suffered injuries from being hit by a car, and since the horse was no longer of use to the owners and they could not afford a veterinary, taking the horse to the slaughterhouse was their last resource. This became controversial mainly because the veterinary was going to be paid by this woman and he refused to go see the horse and help him. The refusal became animal neglect, because he willingly said no. Thanks to the help of this organization, the horse was able to recover and is currently living in a farm.

Animal cruelty is a problem that has been around for many decades. However, in Europe, thanks to the European Parliament, Europeans governments, international organizations and local ones, the problem has been highlighted to our society and with their many efforts, a lot has been accomplished. Much more is still needed to finally end animal cruelty in Europe, but if companies, laboratories, or domesticated animal owners stick to following the laws placed in many countries of Europe, animal suffering will be a thing of the past.

Article photo by Alin Luna from Pexels

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