Would you feel safer knowing that your tea was tested on pig intestines? Where should the line be drawn for animal testing? After scathing reports that Unilever, owner of Lipton and PG Tips teas, conducted torturous experiments on animals, the company announced that it would stop testing its teas on animals.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) reports that Lipton had been conducting tests on animals in order to make health claims about their tea products. The tests reportedly involved feeding rabbits high-cholesterol diets in order to harden their arteries, and then feeding the rabbits tea to reduce the lesions that had formed. Once the experiments were over, the rabbits' heads were cut off. According to Planet Green, PETA also reports that piglets were exposed to an E. coli toxin, then given tea to test for prevention of diarrhea. Following the tests, the pigs' intestines were cut apart... while the animals were still alive. These are just two of many disturbing claims regarding Lipton's treatment of animals. Yet, many reports claim that in order to prove a product's health claims, animal tests such as these are not necessary.
Following the animal testing revelations, PETA prepared to launch an international campaign against Unilever. The company was bombarded with 40,000 appeals and the threat of a global "Lipton/PG tips CruelTEA" campaign. A PETA press release reports that just days before the campaign launch, Unilever announced an immediate worldwide end to animal testing for tea, "Given the leadership role our tea category takes in the area of environmental sustainability and the ethical sourcing of tea, Unilever is committing to no animal testing for our tea and tea-based beverages, with immediate effect." Unilever joins cruelty-free companies such as Stash Tea, Luzianne Tea, Twinings, and Honest Tea.
The PETA press release reports that not only are modern in vitro and human-based tests less cruel, but they are also more effective than experiments on animals because of physiological differences between humans and other animals.
But the battle's not over. Even Unilever, a company currently heralded by PETA, openly reveals on its website that certain animal tests are still performed by the company when "it is necessary to meet its health, safety and environmental obligations or it is demanded by government regulators or other official bodies." The question then must be -- who is obligating or demanding these tests? Unilever reports that some novel ingredients may be tested first on animals, because "for ethical reasons it is not always possible to carry out tests directly on humans." But apparently these "ethical reasons" don't apply to non-human animals.
When there is a demand for animal testing, is it necessary? Supporters of animal testing argue that animals are necessary for teaching and for medical research. But Huffington Post contributor Lee Schneider found that just three accredited medical schools in the United States teach surgery by using animals thanks to new teaching methods. As for medical research, Dr. Richard Klausner, former director of the National Cancer Institute, stated that "The history of cancer research has been a history of curing cancer in the mouse. We have cured mice of cancer for decades - and it simply didn't work in humans." Cardiologist Dr. John J. Pippin goes so far as to call studying human diseases on animals "an abject failure."
Meanwhile, animal rights enthusiasts celebrate a major success today. What do you think? Should certain tests on animals be permitted or should all animal testing be banned? Perhaps it's an ethical dilemma worth debating over a nice cup of tea.