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Craziest Cases of Animal Experimentation Throughout History

Updated February 27, 2020 21.5k votes 8.0k voters 517.7k views17 items

List RulesVote up the most shocking ways that animals have been experimented on

Animal experimentation, despite its substantial and well-earned controversy, has widely impacted modern medicine's understanding of physiology, genetics, and disease. In spite of these scientific gains, animal testing has also inspired some experiments many consider – even by the most conservative of estimates – to be unethical. Though scientists have developed alternatives to animal testing in recent history, doctors, researchers, and scientists alike have conducted plenty of ludicrous experiments on unsuspecting animals.

This list chronicles the most shocking and morally dubious of these animal-centric experiments. Although some – though certainly not all – of these incidents revealed what are now fundamental precepts of medicine, how these advances were made leave many, both in and out of the scientific community, conflicted. 

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  • 5

    Cartilage Cells Grew A Human Ear On A Mouse's Back

    Video: YouTube

    Nicknamed the “Vacanti mouse” for the project's lead scientist, this mouse was seeded with cow cartilage cells that had been molded into an ear shape. The result of this 1997 experiment was a disproportionate, human-ear-shaped growth on the mouse's back.

    The growth was eventually removed, and the mouse went on to live a "happy, normal life." The purpose of the study, though sensationalistic at first glance, was to improve reconstructive plastic surgery techniques.

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  • 6

    A Chimpanzee Was Raised Like A Human Child

    Video: YouTube

    While there are many accounts of children raised by animals, in 1931, psychologist Winthrop Kellogg speculated what would happen if an animal was brought up by humans to behave as a human. Kellogg brought a baby female chimpanzee named Gua into his home and raised her as if she were human, giving her the same care as their infant son, Donald. Donald and Gua were siblings in every sense except species classification. They played together, ate together, and took the same developmental tests.

    While Gua performed well on the tests, she couldn’t acquire language skills – and impaired Donald’s development in the process. The Kelloggs ended the experiment after nine months, possibly because baby Donald began imitating the Gua's chimp noises. Gua was released into an animal colony, but passed only months after she left the family's home. 

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  • 7

    A Headless Dog Was Kept Alive

    Photo: Unknown / PxHere / CC0 Public Domain

    In 1940, Soviet physician Sergei Brukhonenko developed a heart-lung machine and used it to keep a headless dog alive. Just to prove his feat, he displayed the head of one of his subjects to an audience of Soviet scientists.

    Under Brukhonenko's direction, the head flinched, blinked, and even ate a piece of cheese.

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  • 8

    Two Dogs Were Brought Back To Life

    Photo: Unknown / Max Pixel / CC0 Public Domain

    University of California researcher Robert Cornish believed he could revive non-living organisms as long as their organs were intact. As part of his 1934 "Lazarus Project," he terminated five fox terriers and placed them in a homemade machine that circulated their blood – while simultaneously circulating a cocktail of adrenaline and anticoagulants. Cornish actually revived the last two dogs, which, though they suffered from severe brain damage, lived on for several months.

    Cornish’s research passed with the dogs, however; he was disgraced for his research and dismissed from his university position. For a time, he did intend to repeat the experiment with a human volunteer .

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