The history of animal testing

The evening seminar about animal testing held yesterday (I wrote about it here) was really interesting, both the topics of the speakers and the questions from the audience.

Tuula Heinonen from FICAM, The Finnish Centre for Alternative Methods, talked about the problems with animal tests, why we need alternatives and some test methods that they are now developing in FICAM. Marianna Norring from the Juliana von Wendt Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments also talked about alternatives to animal testing and the purpose and goal of the fund. Marianna Lammi from Animalia talked about the history of animal testing, which I found very interesting and therefore want to share with you.

Advertisement from Animalia’s campaign against animal testing

The most interesting part of the history of animal testing is that all the way from the start there has been movements both for and against animal testing. In the antique, Hippocrates was for research based on patient observation and human autopsies, while Galenos, the founder of vivisection, created a strong movement of using animals in research. In the 17th to 18th century Descartes came with his theory that animals are just machines without souls and therefore can’t feel pain, while Voltaire was strongly opposing the use of animals in research.

In the 19th century, during the period of industrialization, the area of medicine was developing and animal experiments became everyday life at the universities. However, there was also winds blowing in the other direction. In England, Frances Cobbe founded the first anti-vivisection movement, the organization that now is BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection).


The Leaping Bunny Logo, the only assurance that a product is not tested on animals

During the first half of the 20th century came the first wave of animal experiments, because of infectious diseases, the world wars and laws such as the Therapeutic Substances Act, which made it compulsory to do test all medicines on animals. During this time the first laboratory for research on animals was founded in Great Britain. The second wave of animal experiments came later in the 20th century, when it became more common to test chemical and nuclear weapons, and the science of genetic manipulation got started.

Big things happened in the anti-vivisection movement during the 20th century as well. The first congress on prohibiting animal tests was held in 1909. The movement also got divided into two parts; a more radical stand and a more moderate one.

Today there is still a great reliance on animal testing as a research method since it is seen as something that “we have always done”, but also a rising interest in alternative methods because of different reasons. The movement against animal testing still have a lot of challenges to overcome before we can see a world where animals don’t have to suffer in the name of science or beauty.


World Day for Animals in Laboratories 24.4

Most people claim to be against animal testing of cosmetics, while they find similar tests done for medical research acceptable, or even necessary. Most people also don’t know to what extent animal tests are done, and how they are done.

The fact is that almost everything has at some point been tested on animals, things you would never even think would need such testing (such as tea or chocolate bars). In the European Union 11,5 million animals are used for different tests every year, and the number is not decreasing even though there are tons of alternatives to animal tests out there.

This coming Thursday (24.4) is World Day for Animals in Laboratories, a day to raise awareness of animal testing and its alternatives, as well as to pay tribute to those animals who have suffered and lost their lives in the name of science. 

Here in Helsinki, the local volunteer group for the animal protection organization Animalia is hosting an evening seminar about animal testing, its ethics and alternatives on Tuesday the 22nd, between 6 pm and 8 pm in Cafe Vanha (Mannerheimintie 3). Speakers come both from Animalia as well as from FICAM, the Finnish Centre for Alternative Methods. The event is free so if you are in the Helsinki-area and understand Finnish, please come!

The Facebook-page for the event can be found here.

On the actual World Day for Animals in Laboratories (24.4) you can find people from the Animalia volunteer group in the Helsinki centre, outside Stockmann, between 4pm and 7pm. There you can get information about the ongoing campaign against animal testing, and you can sign a petition.

Other animal rights and animal protection organizations around the world are also organizing events for the laboratory animals this coming week, so be sure to check out what might be happening close to you!

Simple red beet patties

Some time ago we decided to try to make red beet patties. We had some really good ones in our wedding, and wanted to try making our own. Since we did not have the recipe for the ones we had in the wedding, we improvised our own recipe, and it turned out great.

Vegan Red Beet Patties

The red beet patties we had during our wedding, with slightly different ingredients than the ones in the recipe below

Simple red beet patties

Two medium-sized red beets
1/2 dl flax seeds
1 1/2 dl water
1 1/2 dl seasoned bread crumbs
1 onion
(smoked) bell pepper powder
black pepper

Crush the flax seeds in a mixer, and mix them with the water. Put aside for a while to let it get thick and sticky (this will help to keep the patties together). Peel and grate the red beets. Chop onion and garlic and saute them in a little oil on low heat until they are soft. Mix the ingredients together in a bowl, add the bread crumbs and spices to taste. Form the mixture into quite thin patties and fry in oil on medium high heat, a few minutes on each side.


Seminar on animal tests and their alternatives

This morning I went to a seminar about animal tests and their alternatives, hosted by Fincopa, the Finnish National Consensus Platform for Alternatives. Four different speakers were talking during the one and a half hour seminar, about philosophical views for and against animal testing, how to recognize pain and well-being in animals, work that organizations do to limit tests done to animals as well as the new Finnish law regarding animal testing.

I found the part about recognizing pain and well-being in animals to be the most interesting one, because I knew much about what was said about the philosophical views from before, and the two last speakers and their topics I found it to be hard to follow because of their type of information and my a bit limited Finnish. I’m also generally very interested in animal welfare and research done on this topic. However, I got something out of all the different topics, new knowledge and some resources that I should definitely check out.

As a conclusion to the animal well-being and pain-part, the speaker Laura Hänninen listed a few common myths regarding this topic. I would like to share these with you, since I have heard most of them before and it’s sad that people still believe them to be true, even if research says otherwise:

  • Pain causes a stress reaction in the body, which releases cortisol. In other words, if the cortisol level in the animal’s body is not high, the animal is not in pain
  • The animal is not in pain, because she eats and drinks normally
  • The animal is well, because she is healthy
  • The animal is well because she produces well

Personal library

I’m a person who is very hungry for information, it seems I can’t have enough. I read books and articles and watch documentaries. Most of all I read books, anything from easy-going novels to philosophical works. There’s no stopping me.

This has led to that I have started building a small library of my own, of books on animal activism, ethics and vegetarian/vegan cooking, as well as some of my favorite novels. I borrow a lot of books from the library as well – most novels that I have read have been borrowed ones, I only buy the ones I really like – but some books are not available in the library, or then I just prefer buying them so that I can make my own notes and go back to read the book later on.


I have a long list of books I haven’t read yet but that I want to read, just a few days ago I got a package with a few of those books – a birthday gift for myself. I own books in all the three languages that I speak; Swedish, Finnish and English.

R sometimes says I read too much. I think he’s just jealous.

Silvoplee, Helsinki

The vegetarian restaurant Silvoplee was first opened in Helsinki in 1999. Now it has recently moved to a new location at Toinen linja 7, just next to the Hakaniemi metro station. The restaurant serves mainly raw, but also cooked foods, in a buffet style where you pick what you want on a plate and pay by weight. Some dishes contain honey or dairy products, but most of the dishes are still vegan. They also have a separate smoothie bar/café and sell some organic food stuffs.

We have visited the place twice, the first time in the end of February, and the other time just recently. The first time we went there for dinner, the second time for lunch. At dinnertime there were several empty tables, but at lunch the place was really full. The atmosphere in the restaurant was pleasant, even when it was full, the interior is nice, bright and somehow peaceful.


The food was a nice experience, the buffet table was longer than I expected and I had to take only little of everything both times, since I wanted to taste all the different dishes. Above every dish there was a note listing its ingredients in Finnish, so knowing what is vegan or not was not a problem for me. The buffet table had some dishes that were the same both times we visited, such as the salad buffet, but some of the dishes change daily.

The food costs 22,30 euros/kilo, and if you choose to also have soup that one costs 17,30 euros/kilo. The price includes bread and fresh water. The times we have went there my food has cost 10-13 euros, while R’s food has been a little more; 15-18 euros.


I really liked the place both times, the food is good-looking and fresh, you get full without feeling stuffed. Of course there were dishes that didn’t fit my taste, but most of them were really good both times and I have found some favorites among those that they seem to have all the time. We are definitely going back again, probably several times.