Although universities in Japan are beginning to shun the use of live animals in experiments, few companies disclose information about the animal testing they engage in and there is little public awareness about the downsides of the practice.

In Europe and the United States, the concept of animals' right to life has become widely accepted and a number of companies in recent years have publically stated their opposition to the use of animals in the research and development of cosmetics and medical products. The European Union has gone as far as banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals.

Meanwhile, in Japan animals are still subject to needless pain and sacrifice, a situation that seems unlikely to change any time soon.

Undated photo shows a caged monkey at an animal testing facility. (Photo courtesy of PETA)(Kyodo)

Only four companies in Japan are known to refrain from testing on animals and hold certification from the international animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA, as it is widely known, conducts activities to investigate and certify whether the products of companies that have applied are tested on animals in the research and development process.

In 2005, 500 companies worldwide, mainly in the cosmetics and detergent fields, were certified, but that number shot up to around 6,000 in 2022. Most were European and American.

Laila Imai, the spokesperson for PETA Asia, praised the EU for "banning the distribution of cosmetics tested on mice and rats in its member states in 2013."

In stark contrast, she pointed out that few companies in Japan disclose information on animal testing, and thus "it is difficult to have a constructive debate" about the issue. In fact, the number of certified companies in Japan has not even reached 0.1 percent of the total.

Lush, a beauty brand established in Britain in 1995 and sold widely in Japan, conducts product safety confirmation tests and only uses ingredients that have not been tested on animals. Its "Fighting Animal Testing" logo stands out on the colorful shampoo and soap bottles displayed in each store.

A first-year middle school student shopping at Lush's Shinjuku outlet in Tokyo said she became aware of animal testing through social media. "I think it is wrong that the lives of animals are sacrificed in the pursuit of beauty," she said.

A student picks up a product by beauty brand Lush at its outlet in Tokyo's Shinjuku in October 2022. (Kyodo)

A student is handed a product by a sales clerk (L) at beauty brand Lush's outlet in Tokyo's Shinjuku in October 2022. (Kyodo)

Gifu University's Center for the Development and Promotion of Joint Veterinary Education decided at its students' request to use surgical videos and sponges as substitutes for living organisms during surgical training procedures. It has done so now for around a decade.

However, the decision means it is difficult for students to acquire sufficient surgical skills, so in April 2022, a "biological model" was obtained through crowdfunding. It is a close representation of what they would encounter when performing actual surgery.

Students of Gifu University's Center for the Development and Promotion of Joint Veterinary Education use a "biological model" for surgical practice during a procedure in November 2021. (Photo courtesy of Gifu University)(Kyodo)

"Society's sense of values toward animals has shifted to the idea that animals are family, and veterinarians are beginning to think strongly about animal welfare," said Gifu University professor Kazuhiro Watanabe.

According to Reuters, American businessman Elon Musk's medical firm Neuralink has been accused of welfare violations after killing an estimated 1,500 animals, including sheep and monkeys, in testing since 2018 in the development of a brain implant the company hopes will help paralyzed people walk again. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has opened a probe into the potential violations.

"There are many sacrifices behind daily necessities. We need to continue telling people that animals have lives and rights, too," PETA's Imai said.

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