Follow TV Tropes


Animal Testing

Go To
Best not to ask "What's up, doc?" may not like the answer.
Gerry: These cats in there are being smothered with lipstick just so that cosmetic firms can make money out of silly women.
"Nasty": I suppose you'd rather we tested the lipsticks on people. Would you like your wife's lips to be like that poor moggy's mouth in there?
Gerry: I don't want anyone's mouth to become like that: not my wife's, nor the cat's.

Animal testing is one of those sticky subjects that should never be brought up at dinner parties — unless you really like watching your guests squirm or devolve into rage-induced table flipping monsters. Some wholeheartedly support all animal testing as life saving progress, others wholeheartedly denounce it as cruel and barbaric. Still more are wildly uncomfortable with the practice itself but are forced to acknowledge that if it wasn't for (some) animal testing, many of the people we love would not be alive today making for one heck of a moral quandary.

On the other hand, many dogs, cats, rats and other creatures have suffered tremendously and died because of animal experimentation (sometimes for trivial reasons) when there may be better scientific alternatives. Most modern laboratories and institutions establish an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee to ensure that all animal testing is done responsibly and with a minimum number of animals used to gather good scientific data.

The media, however, favor the Black-and-White Morality, so don't expect to see too many shades of grey (it's worth mentioning that they do exist however — see the third group of examples).

The actual term can cover a number of things, which raise different dilemmas... and different levels of controversy. Behavioral and intelligence experiments, like those of rats in mazes or Pavlov's dog don't tend to raise too many hackles unless physical or psychological trauma is involved (i.e. raising a baby animal in total isolation to see how its development is affected). Cutting animals open while still alive (vivisection) usually turns up in Free the Frogs plots and sci-fi/horror films, usually involving a degree of moral dilemma. Medical testing (using animals to test new drugs and procedures in order to benefit human patients) is probably the most contested minefield, with both staunch supporters and equally determined detractors. Cosmetic testing (using animals to test lipstick, shampoo, mascara etc.) rarely turns up in the media, unless the scientist is a villain in an animal-centric show. If it does show up, it is almost always exaggerated and even sometimes Played for Laughs, especially since using animals for cosmetics testing is falling out of favor — cultured human cell lines are turning out to be both much more useful and better for PR.

The portrayal of animal testing in fiction strongly depends on a number of factors: Humans Are the Real Monsters vs. Humans Are Special, Science Is Good vs. Science Is Bad, and the show's place in the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.

Shows that are pro-animal testing, usually because of an adult/pragmatic/scientific slant to the story, will feature hard-working and crusading scientists on the search for a cure for cancer, hampered by the Animal Wrongs Group. Usually turns up in crime shows, science fiction and occasionally drama.

  • You will see: The Littlest Cancer Patient, desperate for the laboratory to come up with a miracle cure; those who owe their lives to the research in the lab; families of seriously ill patients; affable scientists dedicated to preserving human life; the Animal Wrongs Group, possibly the scientists looking after the animals and a few rats pottering around their cages in some fairly benign experiments. Rarely, Godwin's Law is invoked on those protesting against it (see below), equating that those who don't support animal testing must support experimentation on humans instead.
  • You will probably NOT see: the gorier of the procedures; dead animals; cosmetic testing; very much of the animal subjects themselves (unless the scene is set up to show the scientist caring for them), far less their viewpoint; cats, dogs and other cute animals that are kept as pets or that people tend to have an affinity for; an animal rights activist with any semblance of sanity.

Children's shows, or those with a heavy handed or justified animal rights/welfare message to get across, use a different tactic.

Some children's shows use scientists as insane or even as the Big Bad to show how evil animal testing is. The scientists will be either totally unconcerned about the animals' welfare or actively revel in tormenting their test subjects. However, those aimed at a more "grown-up" audience realize that this isn't exactly credible. Instead, they will show the world of vivisection through the animals' eyes — they don't know what's going on, they don't think "oh well, at least the humans will get some good out of this" — all they know is that they're in pain.

  • You will see: Horrific procedures aplenty; far too many electrodes; cute animals suffering; the viewpoint of the animals themselves; demented scientists with no redeeming features/faceless scientists with no features at all, animals dead or disfigured due to the testing, and often one horrified human who can't believe that this is going on.
  • You will probably NOT see: the people whose lives have been saved via medical research; their families; the actual point of the procedures themselves; the ordinary lives of the scientists; the animals being looked after in any way; proposals for a viable alternative (some tried less acceptable ones).

It's pretty obvious that even in fiction, there are no easy answers. For a start, whichever side of the debate that the show/book/comic falls in, it will probably caricature the other side - either scientists are evil animal killers who will do anything For Science!, or anyone who has anything to do with animal rights is a misinformed and fanatical vigilante or a A Nazi by Any Other Name. It would be extremely unusual for a scientist and an animal rights person to sit down and have a civil conversation about their differing points of view (for a start, it makes for pretty bad drama).

Back in reality, this is a very, very complicated subject. No matter what your stance on it is, be prepared for someone to disagree with you. Whichever side of the debate you fall on, though, the squeamish and nightmare-prone should probably avoid the examples...

See also Animal Wrongs Group, Science Is Bad, and Bad People Abuse Animals for in-universe negative connotations towards this. See Tested on Humans for the much maligned third option.



    open/close all folders 

Pro-Animal Testing:

    Films — Live-Action 
  • I Am Legend features large-scale animal testing on rats. The experiments are for the sake of humanity, so it's good. The fact that they're infected vampiric rats probably helps justify his work, too. Not to mention the experiments Neville performs on the darkseekers, whom he doesn't see as humans (at first).

  • Temple Grandin's books, which promote humane practices in livestock handling, point out that tests of animal behavior are often the only way to make life better for animals, by determining what causes them distress so it can be avoided. Does take the animals' point of view, as Grandin warns that we can't just assume that an animal will be content with the same conditions we'd find comfortable.
  • Urn Burial by Robert Westall uses this. The Jerkass dog-aliens cheerfully conduct lethal tests on humans, perceiving them to be a "lesser species"; but are outraged at the idea that humans would use dogs in animal testing. Ralph, the human protagonist, is equally outraged at their treatment of people.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Many police procedurals/whodunnits will feature a respectable lab at the mercy of a crazy Animal Wrongs Group. Strangely enough, they never seem to be the ones who actually commit the murder, although they're usually portrayed as fanatical enough to kill a scientist. There are some aversions, however — the Dalziel and Pascoe episode "Project Aphrodite" apparently concluded that EVERYONE involved in the debate was nuts.
  • Documentaries... well sort of. No matter how much they try to present a balanced argument, most end up on the "Animal Rights people are nuts/Science Is Good" side of the argument through the use of interview and commentary.

    Video Games 
  • In Trauma Center: New Blood, Marcus inadvertently unleashed Stigma via vivisection, but vivisection itself seem to be largely considered something that medical researchers just have to do — the ends justify the means (he talks about "disposing of the subject", not "killing the rat"). Some room for disagreement here, of course.

  • Gunnerkrigg Court, Chapter 29, "A Bad Start": Kat Donlan, who had lost all trust in the Court over some of its dirty secrets, actually regains some of that trust by visiting an animal testing lab where her friend Paz works. Initially, Kat is horrified to realize that the mice there are not pets, but test animals. Paz explains that many of the tests performed are non-invasive, and that there are strict regulations on all animal experiments — and Paz (an animal lover herself) makes damn sure that the lab complies with these regulations. She does admit that the situation isn't perfect, but she's working to make the animal's lives as comfortable as possible, while hoping for the day when animal testing will no longer be necessary.
    Paz: I cry too, when I find this place. But I ask to help. To change things and make them better.

    Western Animation 
  • In Centurions, part of the Backstory of Lucy the orangutan is that she was a test subject for the Exo-Frames.
  • In The Critic episode "Dr. Jay", Jay tests his cure for Duke's terminal illness on rodents. Most of the animals at the kennel he acquires them from are being used to test cosmetics — but as models; Jay finds himself attracted to one sultry-looking bunny and his son Marty leads him away ("Dad, you need to start dating...").

Anti-Animal Testing:

    Anime and Manga 
  • The SAL project in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX clearly involved cruelty to animals; the monkey test subject was let go after Judai's teacher and animal lover "convinced" its handlers to do so ("convinced" them by threatening to have them arrested, that is).

    Comic Books 
  • We 3 is pretty unambiguously anti-animal testing, and the covers implicitly support the "family pets stolen and sold to testing labs" allegations alluded to below.

    Comic Strips 
  • Another cosmetics-testing example, back when it was making headlines: a Bloom County story arc had Opus thinking his mother was a lab rat... er, penguin for Mary Kay cosmetics, although Breathed took it as an opportunity to lampoon animal testing in general. Thumper-esque rabbits had their eyelids dipped in oven cleaner and were injected with Nyquil "until 50 percent of subjects die", in reference to real-life LD50 tests. In typical Bloom County fashion, Opus ends up caught in a shootout between pink Uzi-wielding "Mary Kay commandos" and a terrorist animal-freedom group who couldn't afford to take care of the animals they stole. According to Breathed, Mary Kay herself later sent him a letter thanking him for all the attention.
  • Garfield: His 9 Lives has a story called "The Experiment", in which the cat protagonist (supposedly an earlier life of Garfield) is given an injection that eventually turns him into a dog.

    Films — Animation 
  • Felidae, based on the book of the same name. Dear Lord. Like the murders weren't horrible fuel enough. Francis comes across a tape of a perfectly healthy cat, shown meowing and struggling, being bolted to a table and having its head cut open to test a new "glue" for wounds. Said glue eats through its skull into its brain while it is conscious as the scientist impartially narrates and observes its dying twitches. Enough to give anyone nightmares (and check that your own pets are where you left them). As if that wasn't enough, most of the cats in Francis' neighborhood are mangled by the lab's experiments — Felicity is blinded, Bluebeard has a withered paw, and Claudandus goes insane.
  • FernGully: The Last Rainforest doesn't just pack in environmental issues — it shoves in the anti-animal-testing ones too, with the brutally-treated Batty Koda entering the "Batty Rap" which actually had some of the gorier imagery cut from it. Examples used in the song were mostly cosmetic, but the plot-affecting device was the radio antennae implanted in his head which sent him insane.
  • The Plague Dogs seems to oppose animal testing in crushingly depressing, gory, Bergman-esque watercolor animation. Just in case any kiddies are watching this film because of Watership Down, you have a Shout-Out: in the first 5 minutes the dogs walk through a room full of immobilized rabbit heads in the dark. Apparently the author stated that he wasn't looking to make the message against vivisection, but a story about the brutality of modern society and humanity in general. Whether or not it supports anything, one of the dogs does comment about the testing, that "It must do some good..." The book is much different and that example is under the "ambiguous" sections.
  • The Secret of NIMH: The animation in the laboratory, and the effects of the concoction given to the rats and mice, are pretty nightmarish. Notably, the injections to which the animals are subjected are of a much larger volume than could ever be given to such rodents without killing them in Real Life, suggesting that the lab-flashbacks are subjective memory, not objective fact. Weirdly enough, everything good about the rats is owed to these experiments.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • I.Q. (1994): Catherine Boyd's arrogant fiance, James Moreland, is a psychology professor who conducts behavioural experiments on lab animals.
  • The Legally Blonde sequel Red, White, and Blonde centers around an attempt to ban cosmetics testing on animals.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: Rocket Raccoon's Backstory.
  • Independent Pagan film Spirit of Albion has Annie, a young woman who works in vivisection, but feels such intense guilt and hatred over what's required of her that she's become a drug addict and seeks Sex for Solace in her sleazy boyfriend. At the end of the film, she reveals to Esther that she's quit her job, not willing to "torture bunnies in the name of science" anymore.

  • Quite a few animal care books will warn you against thieves who kidnap pets in order to sell them to laboratories. Given that even people who support animal testing in principle would baulk at the idea of that happening to Tiddles or Fido... Paranoia Fuel, anyone? It is difficult to get a fix on the reality of this situation. Pet care manuals and sites, and certainly the animal rights supporters, will definitely warn you against it; scientific sources will maintain it's an urban myth. What is true is that animal shelters in certain US states are obliged to hand over animals to any "Class B" dealer (selling to laboratories) who asks for them. Happens sometimes in the present, and happened often in the past, but not entirely realistic — the vast majority of lab animals are bred in the labs, so that their genetics and upbringing are fully known. Using animals with unknown histories is a great way to mess up your research.
  • Although Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe novel The Wood Beyond mocks some animal-rights protesters, it comes out against testing.
  • William Kotzwinkle's novel Doctor Rat comes off as decidedly anti-experimentation, describing in gruesome detail a variety of procedures, many of them done For the Evulz. The eponymous character, a lab rat, is wholly in favor of animal testing, but he's described as having been driven insane by the experiments to which he's been subjected and is viewed as a traitor by the other denizens of the lab.
  • Felidae had a number of horrific experiments detailed in a researcher's journal. Said researcher, Dr. Pretarius, was attempting to create a sort of "glue" for injuries, using cats as test subjects. It's pretty gruesome (and involves questionable methodology), as the glue eats away at flesh and bone rather than binding wounds together, but there's no real malice from the scientists initially. The glue only works on a single cat named Claudandus, possibly due to a minor mutation. As the project hits more dead ends, money begins running out, and his assistants leave him, Pretarius goes mad and starts cutting Claudandus apart and gluing him back together in every way he can imagine, just for kicks. He's eventually killed by the very same cat, who then goes on to try and wipe out humanity.
  • Most of the Maximum Ride series has the various evil science labs perform horrible experiments on animals, including, among other things, giving a cat human fingers under its claws. This tends to be kind of overshadowed though, since those labs perform equally disgusting experiments on human children, usually kidnapped.
  • In A Night in the Lonesome October, Snuff the dog is captured and nearly cut apart by some Victorian-era anatomists. As it's a period piece, the hellish conditions faced by him and other animal specimens aren't necessarily something the reader is meant to condemn in the present day, so much as something to be very glad isn't common scientific practice anymore.
  • The Plague Dogs has a lot of this.
  • Small World (Tabitha King novel): To see if the minimizer works on living beings, Roger steals neighborhood pets and shrinks them. After examining them for ill effects, he flushes them — still alive — down the toilet.
  • Stray (1987): Pufftail is captured and sent to a laboratory, used to test shampoo. That's unpleasant enough, but his record of a cat screaming "My eyes! I cannot close my eyes!" because his eyelids had been cut off to test the effects of sleeplessness was horrifying.
  • In Survivor Dogs, a group of dogs evacuate into the local wilderness after earthquakes hit their city. The main humans they meet are people testing the environment. The dogs don't trust them and their trust is a good thing: the humans capture animals, keep them in cages, and force them to drink tainted river water to see if it's safe or not. The humans are presented as jerks who laugh at Fiery being caught in their net. They later get drunk on "fire-juice", as the dogs call it, and seem unprofessional.
  • This is the cause of the aporkalypse (not a misspelling) in Tuskers from Ragnarok Publications. Science creates super-intelligent boars who menace a small Arizona town!
  • Word of Mouse: Isaiah and his family live in cages in an animal testing lab, and all they want to do is escape.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A sort-of Space Whale Aesop example appears in Stranger Things; we see flashbacks of the Government Conspiracy testing Eleven's psychic abilities, and — just to reiterate that these aren't very nice people we're talking about here — one of the tests involves trying to force Eleven (who, it should be noted, is a twelve-year-old girl) to use said abilities to murder an adorable little cat. When she (understandably) refuses, they try and shove her into a Punishment Box — at which point she uses her abilities to kill the orderlies doing so. The lesson, we guess, is to not force psychic preteen girls to try and murder kittens.

  • Cattle Decapitation have a song, "Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)", whose lyrics describe an Animal Wrongs Group that breaks into an animal testing lab, frees all the test subjects, then subjects the scientists to gruesome experiments similar to those they were performing, some involving the drug Krokodil (which can cause severe damage to the skin). Since this is a band that often presents their morals in an Anvilicious way, we're presumably meant to agree with the eco-terrorists, though not the exact methods they used.

    Video Games 
  • Cave Story has the Doctor, who has similarities to Izuka below.
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn has Izuka's experiments turning laguz into rabid warriors, though made worse (and blurring the line of this trope) by the fact that laguz are a race of people who can transform into animals.
  • Lost in Vivo has an entire level based around the horrors of animal testing. The experiments done in Nezumi Labs have no reasonable motive, producing horrific, impossible, morbidly fascinating but ultimately useless scientific "breakthroughs". It gets so bad that the combined pain eventually gives birth to the Eldritch Abomination Sotiris.
  • Mad Rat Dead opens with a scientist cutting Mad Rat's stomach open, but the game turns to black before anything else can happen.
  • In Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee, test creatures (called "fuzzles") are experimented on by evil scientists ("Vykkers"), who are one of your antagonists.
  • Small Saga has the Hall of the White Gods, from which Gwen escaped. The rodent characters contrast living as pets to living in the care of the White Gods; pets are chosen by the humans, who rodents consider Gods, and freely given homes and food. With the White Gods it's far more transactional as they demand much in return. Gwen Escaped from the Lab after her legs were removed and replaced with prostheses; this had been bad enough, but her boyfriend, fully believing in the wisdom of submission to the divine, told her she should be grateful.
  • Whiplash: You play as two animals attempting to escape a lab. Note the sheer ridiculousness of the experiments being performed.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • At the end of the first episode of Arcane, Silco and Singed feed their experimental Psycho Serum to a rat before testing it on any humans. The rat's transformation isn't seen on screen, but judging by how it mauls the cat that was chasing it, and how the humans who've taken it end up, it can't have been pretty.
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: In the episode "Food For Thought", Rolly is kidnapped by P.H. Devil and locked in his lab in which he is fed an experimental food additive to test for any negative side-effects. In the lab, Rolly meets several other animals who have also been tested on and deformed in one way or another. The testing is clearly portrayed as a bad thing, and in the end all the animals escape and P.H. Devil suffers the ill effects of his own experimentation.
  • The anti-animal testing episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers saw Dr. Blight testing cosmetics on animals For the Evulz.
  • Save Ralph is anti-animal testing.

Ambiguous Examples:

    Anime and Manga 
  • Genju No Seiza — written by Matsuri Akino, who also created Pet Shop of Horrors, below — features a plotline where the animals killed via animal testing start possessing living animals in the area. It's technically ambiguous — Fuuto can hear the animals' torment as they die, frightened and in agony... but can also sense the lead doctor's desire/desperation to save people who otherwise face a slow death. The doctor pulls the "well, you eat meat, don't you?" card, stopping Fuuto in his tracks as he berates the doctor. However, the doctor appears to be operating illegally (using an Abandoned Hospital), and his gene-splicing results in an unnatural hell-beast that cannot be calmed by any of the Guardian Beasts, and which ultimately attacks Fuuto. Coupled with the test subjects' desperate cries for help that are repeated throughout the chapter... Genju comes out slightly more on the animals' side than Pet Shop.
  • Pet Shop of Horrors throws a huge surprise the readers' way when it turns out that Count D — who would seem to be the first person that would start lecturing a scientist — is actually fairly laid-back on the animal testing issue.
    • When Chris expresses dismay that a monkey has to die in order to give a dictator a new heart, T-chan and D merely remind him of the law of the jungle — something has to die so that something else can live. When the donor monkey is kidnapped, D takes no steps to save it. At the end of the story the monkey is used as a heart donor, but instead of going to the dictator, it goes to a cute little girl — the daughter of the man who stole the monkey. While a generally upbeat ending, the writer includes Dramatic Irony that makes it quite painful when the little girl waves bye-bye to "Mister Monkey", telling him to come play with her again.
    • There's then the subplot, which involves D's "long-lost sister" being sent to visit him by her father... with the explicit purpose of him taking whatever organs or body parts he needs for an unspecified illness he's suffering from. When D refuses to accept that offer, she promptly attacks him, furious that her big brother doesn't "need" her as she was always told. It turns out that the "sister" was actually an orangutan and D ultimately does use its blood as a cure, after his pets are forced to kill it.

    Comic Books 
  • Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer: Lance tested his Smartskin on a mouse before he tried it for himself. The mouse survived and went on to become Alix's pet Mickey while Lance suffocated to death.
  • When the Wind Blows takes this stance, surprisingly. While it's revealed that the School has performed rather gruesome experiments on the lab mice, Frannie does take care to note that as a vet, she has benefited from discoveries made by animal testing and could argue both sides of the issue. The main thing that angers her is that the lab mice were left with no food, ultimately all starving to death.
  • Wonder Woman (1942):
    • One story touches on this, with Gerta von Gunther experimenting on sharks, but then everything quickly shifts away from a more grounded example since she turns the sharks into winged mermaids with human-level intelligence somehow, and when they break out of their tanks to get revenge on her for keeping them in tanks and experimenting on them, they're the ones treated as the villains.
    • Considering that Prof. Zool's "evolution" machine seems to turn whatever is placed in it into an approximation of an existing animal, with a few remaining traits of whatever it was originally it's definitely a good thing he doesn't use human subjects to experiment on. It's also not great that he uses animals since he has created one of Wonder Woman's most enduring supervillains using it, but the story makes the animal testing seem reasonable.

    Comic Strips 
  • Parodied in the comic Betty. Plenty of question marks follow upon one of the characters reading the label for a dog shampoo product.
    "Dog Shampoo, not tested on animals."
  • Ratbert from Dilbert started out as a test subject. The scientist he works for is a bit odd, but did have to be careful, since Ratbert was his only test subject. Ratbert eventually left him, before the comic moved to its more business setting.
  • Sidney Harris, a science-themed panel cartoonist, once drew two scientists looking at a guinea pig almost completely hidden by a hat, with one saying "I thought they only tested drugs on guinea pigs."

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Evil Sorceress Monteraine, under Ami's employ and orders, uses rats and chickens to develop magical techniques to develop magics:
    • "Delivering Presents": After she gets an assistant:
      Her gaze came to rest on a row of cages filled with rats. She sighed again. "For now, make yourself useful and start shaving the test subjects."
    • From "War Council":
      "My Empress? Pardon the interruption, but I have run out of test subjects," a mental message from Monteraine derailed [Ami's] train of thought.
      That, at least, was a problem she could solve quickly. She shifted her Keeper sight to a tiny hatchery back at her dungeon. Hens and yellow-feathered chicks scrabbled in the dirt of the square pit.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 28 Days Later, in the very beginning. The Animal Wrongs Group aren't treated as anything other than wrong for setting the Zombie Apocalypse upon the world. Then again, it also wouldn't have been an issue if the scientists hadn't been making zombie chimps in the first place. "Zombie chimps" weren't the scientists' main objective, but it's still ironic that it was the end result in trying to neutralize violent impulses.
  • In Ant-Man, Corrupt Corporate Executive Darren Cross tests his reproduction of Pym particles on lambs. Hope thought they were going to use mice, Cross doesn't see what the big difference is. Fridge Logic kicks in when you consider how much cheaper mice are to raise and store... maybe he needed a bigger subject so when it got shrunk down it'd be easier to see?
  • In Drive Me Crazy, the tension between the main character and his ex-girlfriend centers around this. She is against animal testing and wants to attend a protest, and he declines. She becomes angry and breaks up with him, but it turns out that he declined because his mother died of cancer and might have been saved through advances in animal testing.
  • Planet of the Apes:

  • Animorphs has The Experiment, part of which involves the group morphing chimps and sneaking into a lab. There are some anti-testing complaints in the book, but also acceptance by even Cassie of testing being needed for things like diseases.
  • The CHERUB Series book Man vs. Beast is ambiguous in this. On the one hand, the scientists are using animals for testing, in various ways and for several reasons. On the other hand, the animal rights group that opposes this does things like attacking a mother, and her teenage son who tries to defend her, napalming a courier company, and kidnapping a celebrity with the intention of torturing him live on the internet.
  • The Fold plays this trope both ways and comes out in the middle. First is a Teleporter Accident as a test of the technology, on the team's dog mascot: it goes gruesomely wrong and everyone on the team admits it was a terrible mistake. After the technology progresses, they try again with hundreds of mice, a few cats, and a chimpanzee: while many of the mice are dissected to check for physical effects, the remainder of the test subjects are released to animal sanctuaries to live out their natural lives. The technology in question is of such world-shifting importance that the sacrifice of the dissected mice is justified.
  • In The Migax Cycle, the seserance is tested on rats at first, who foreshadow the fate of the human characters.
  • Mount Dragon shows animal testing experiments gone wrong — in this case, a rampant case of flu which they created while trying to find a cure. The chimp-experiments had previously been discussed in pro and contra, though, and also been shown in some kind of detail.
  • In The Mouse Watch, Cyborg Mad Scientist rat Dr. Thornpaw says the scientists who experimented on him wanted to learn what effects acid-based cleaning products, chemically bonding lipstick and electric shocks would have on his body. The experiments were excruciating, and the results turned him into a literal and figurative monster.
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH — the book that The Secret of NIMH above is based on — is more neutral. It's still the rats' point of view, but the experiment is depicted more like a real one would be, even citing — of all things for a kids' book featuring cute critters — a control group.
  • The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams is a difficult enough case to judge. The overall stance is definitely pro-animal; horrendous experiments which are not related to the plot or protagonists (including a monkey in a sensory deprivation chamber, immobile rabbits blinded by hairspray, guinea pigs with their limbs and ears rotted off through application of tar, etc.) are described in great detail and with a chillingly bland tone. When the main scientist is asked what the traumatic experiments endured by the main canine characters were for, he defers and cites legislation which means that the experiments do not by law have to be for anything. However, a few scenes, including one of the scientists becoming overcome with guilt, and a scene where he comforts his Littlest Cancer Patient daughter by describing some of the medical advances achieved through animal testing, prevent the book from taking a definite side. The movie is far less ambiguous.
  • In A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes tests what he believes to be poison by feeding it to a dog. He's right, and the dog dies. However, it's pointed out in detail that the dog is very old, is suffering, is nearly about to die of natural causes anyway, and the landlady had asked Watson yesterday to put it out of its misery. So despite giving Holmes the scientific test he wanted, it's more of a Mercy Kill.
  • The Time Traveler's Wife features a geneticist experimenting on mice to make them time-travel in order to figure out a cure, but there isn't much said or implied one way or the other about the morality of doing so.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory mostly plays animals testing for laughs or as just simply something the resident neurobiologist does as part of her job. She was once a little too happy about picking out "the beady-eyed little mother" whom she was going to feed some mad cow samples to and got a monkey addicted to nicotine. However, it's worth noting she treats that monkey like a pet, going so far as to take him home from the lab and let him watch TV in her apartment and her work is in studying addiction and diseases for the greater good.
  • Touched on in an episode of Castle, wherein a cosmetic company executive is found dead with "Murderer" (well, "Murderc") written on his mirror. His assistant points the team to an animal rights group that has been protesting the company after the discovery that one of their affiliates used animal testing, though she does point out that the company itself has never used animal testing and cut its ties with the "guilty" organization upon discovery. The animal rights group is quickly eliminated as suspects and never appears onscreen, and no judgement is passed either way on the animal testing; it's simply identified as controversial. That said, it is a factor in the murder: the negative publicity that came with the animal testing revelation led to a hit in the company's stock. When another product was found to be controversial, some of the company's employees decided to murder the exec rather than let him go public with a new scandal, which they feared would tank the company.
  • In Dollhouse, Caroline, Echo's original personality, was a member of an Animal Wrongs Group. On the one hand she's correct — Rossum is experimenting on animals (and people) in numerous disturbing and illegal ways. However, Caroline herself is deconstructed as being fairly radical and dangerous, especially as she learns more about Rossum and becomes a Knight Templar terrorist.
    Echo: You're saying [Caroline]'s evil?
    Adelle: Worse. An idealist.
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (2023): Victorine and Alessandra use chimpanzees to test their experimental heart mesh. Verna tells Camille that testing on chimps is all but banned, but exceptions can be made if the research really needs it. She implies that Vic's research isn't really one such case, but rather one juiced by her family's infinite coffers, which makes her abuse of the process by fudging the data much more despicable.
  • The Fringe episode "Unleased" has a weird version of this. The Animal Wrongs Group is made up of morons with nothing resembling common sense, the animal testing scientists created a horrible monster that goes on a bloody rampage the moment it's released.
  • In Helix, which centers around a CDC rapid response team dispatched to a Research, Inc. to contain an outbreak of The Virus, animal testing is treated as expected and practical, to the point where veterinary pathologist Doreen becomes suspicious that Arctic Biosystems staff claim not to use monkeys, which would be necessary given their research. The CDC researchers themselves must use lab rats to test pathogens. Yet, after the missing monkeys are discovered, an Arctic Biosystems researcher refers to their infection with Synthetic Plague as "an abomination", while Doreen herself points out expressions of fear on their frozen corpses, to show that, compared to her and her fellow CDC Science Heroes, the Morally Ambiguous Doctorates have gone too far.
  • House:
    • One episode manages to use multiple aspects of both positions in a single opening sequence, when a dying, wheelchair-bound researcher is shown sacrificing and dissecting one of his lab rats. On the one hand, we see the animal injected, killed, and cut open in a gruesome close-up; on the other, the researcher's frailty is obvious even before he seizes and passes out, and he apologizes to the rat before administering the injection.
    • House himself plays with both sides of this with his pet rat Steve McQueen (at first, he's supposed to kill it; instead, he traps it, treats it, and keeps it, then later uses it as a test subject).
  • In the Law & Order episode "Whose Monkey Is It Anyway?", a number of monkeys which had been infected with the AIDS virus (in order to test the effectiveness of an experimental vaccine they'd been injected with beforehand) are taken from a lab. The guy who makes off with them loses one, though, who runs around loose and ends up biting the scientist who finds him and tries to get him back in his cage, causing the man to die (not from anything the monkey had been infected with, but from an unknown allergy). In the first act somebody from the lab tells Det. Briscoe that once a monkey gets out of its cage, it fights like hell not to be put back in. Briscoe examines the cage and says that if it were him, he would fight like hell too. That being said, the episode doesn't really vilify people on either side of the debate. The researchers at the lab infect the monkeys with AIDS, sure, but they try to minimize their suffering as much as possible and believe what they do is for the greater good. The animal rights activist who stole the monkeys doesn't do anything stupid like release them into the wild, but rather gives them to a shelter which knows how to care for them and which is informed of their condition. He never wanted anybody to die as a result of his actions, even though somebody did. There is one truly horrible act mentioned in the episode: an experiment in which the "scientists" turned on a blowtorch and burned living pigs in order to find out whether or not the pain would affect their appetites. But that's told to us by the defendant's girlfriend, who is testifying about why he believes in animal rights and describing how seeing the footage of the pigs affected him; we never meet the people who did it and thus there is no one in this episode who is cruel to animals For the Evulz. In the end, both points of view are presented pretty fairly, and nobody is made to look ridiculous or immoral for believing what they believe.
  • Probe's "Metamorphic Anthropoidic Prototype Over You": Dr. Deanna Hardwick has been testing a new method of increasing intelligence on an orangutan. The result is a highly intelligent ape that sends Austin into a fury as he realizes just how badly Josephine has been abused to advance Dr. Hardwick's position in the scientific community.
  • In an episode of Quantum Leap Sam leaps into a chimpanzee test subject. He's in the space program, trying to flip switches while being jerked around by simulations of gravity. Which, it seems, is just fine — his experimenter likes and takes care of him. But then he's transferred to crash helmet testing, where they're going to strap a crash helmet on him and bash his head with what is essentially a high-tech industrial strength baseball bat. And That's Terrible.
  • In an episode of TV Funhouse, the puppets endure scientific experiments for cash. Later, they're attacked by fundamentalist suicide-bombing puppets against the idea of animal research.

  • Our Miss Brooks: Part of Mr. Boynton's job as a Biology Teacher is to experiment on animals. For Science!, of course. Miss Brooks seems slightly squeamish about the whole thing. It's Played for Laughs, if anything. One episode, "New Girl in Town", has Miss Brooks assist Mr. Boynton bury mice killed for the cause in the school athletic field. Harriet Conklin uses this information to help scare off the titular new girl and her mother, by implying that they are burying Mr. Boynton's old girlfriends.

  • In Noah Smith's stage version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jekyll tested the early versions of his formula on rabbits before he achieved a formulation promising enough to try himself. It's only mentioned as a passing detail, and there isn't any judging of animal testing per se; there's a description of "dead and deformed rabbits", but less as an argument against testing the formula on animals than as a suggestion that Jekyll is unwise to be trying to create the formula at all.

    Video Games 
  • Forget Me Not: My Organic Garden: Chika does this, apparently, as Irene says to her:
    Irene: ...It seems you've taken several of my high-quality items. Don't tell me you hurt your poor lab animals and need to heal them?
    Chika: It's got nothing to do with you. Besides, I'm not using animals this time.
  • The Last of Us shows that the Fireflies were performing tests at one point on the cordyceps with monkeys. Since the cordyceps only affects humans, not animals, though, the monkeys themselves are no worse for the wear afterward. The protagonists find them wandering around the abandoned labs, but don't comment on the testing one way or the other.
  • Discussed and parodied in Night Trap: In the second part of the bathroom, Megan criticizes Lisa for trying to prime herself with her makeup, telling her that scientists should use cosmetic testing with her makeup on rats "before they let people like [her] play with it". Megan then demonstrates by pretending her hand is a rat facing torture by cosmetic testing, all the while using her squeaky mouse voice, as a way to mock Lisa.
  • no-one has to die.: Fenix Corp bought over 7 million cockatiels, with almost all of them ending up going missing in an experiment to test if people can survive time travel. Christina mentions that it's an animal rights issue.
  • In Portal and Portal 2, animal testing is mentioned a little bit and is implied to happen at the end of the multiplayer campaign in the sequel. The only stance on animal testing that game takes, however, is that it is less fun and scientifically productive than human testing.

  • But I'm a Cat Person combines this with What Measure Is a Non-Human?. Experiments on the sapient, shapechanging Beings (sometimes appearing in animal form, sometimes human) are not regulated at all. Characters have different views on whether this is more or less justifiable than animal testing.
  • Sluggy Freelance: The reason why Dr. Schlock wears an eyepatch? When he was younger, he tried testing cosmetics on Bun-Bun.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    • Professor Farnsworth is not above the using occasional animal test subject. In one episode, he creates a hat that turns a monkey into a super-genius, which of course causes the monkey to be miserable until the hat is damaged, leaving him with just average human intelligence.
    • In a much later episode, the Professor defends his use of monkeys as test subjects for a body-switching machine with "Science cannot move forward without heaps [of dead monkeys]!"
    • One episode had Leela suffering from an incurable genetic disorder and finding herself inside Mom's genetics laboratory. She is appalled at the experiments she witnesses, and even after Mom points out the benefits of genetics testing she still rails against it. But the moment she's told she can be cured by genetic modification, Leela is suddenly all for it.
    • Another episode has Farnsworth designing cosmetics for dogs because, "That's where the money is!"
  • Pinky and the Brain are themselves a product of testing and research, and act with levels of freedom ranging from 'escaping every night' to 'practically running the labs'. Despite being the reason for their enhanced intelligence, any time actual experiments are shown on-screen or the focus of the plot, they're consistently portrayed as hellish for the mice. The two also end up encountering an Animal Wrongs Group and vainly try to tell them that they're genuine lab mice — as in not able to survive in the wilderness. Notably, at least one of the animals to have had their intelligence increased (a cat) expresses bitterness at having her old life taken away. Pinky, the Brain, and Snowball, however, seem fine with that part.
  • The Simpsons: Lisa is for animal rights. One episode involves her and Homer being framed for releasing a bunch of experimental animals by a private investigator, which includes pigs slathered with makeup and monkeys addicted to cigarettes. Weirdly enough, in an earlier episode, Lisa has to do a science project and conducts an experiment called is my brother dumber than a hamster?, which involves a hamster being forced to undergo some very psychologically damaging experiments.


Video Example(s):


Garfield's Previous Life

The Garfield we know is on his eighth life. In one of the bleakest moments of the franchise, we find that his seventh traumatized him, and the art style changes to make an homage to "The Plague Dogs". The segment only gets darker from here.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (26 votes)

Example of:

Main / UnexpectedlyDarkEpisode

Media sources: