Friday, February 4, 2011

Testing tea on animals??

When I taste my first morning cup of tea, my mind usually starts to drift.  I think about things such as what I need to get done during the day, what I want to eat for lunch, or what tea I want to drink next. I don't usually question the ethics of the tea company. After reading an article in this morning's Huffington Post, I am painfully aware that I need to be more mindful.  There is a shocking article about how Unilever was testing their Lipton teas on animals in the most horrifying ways.

This is something I never really considered before.  Are there more tea companies testing their products on animals, just to show the possible health benefits? Or could there be other reasons to test tea on anmials that we are completely unaware of?  Why is it even necessary? The above article even states "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.""

This news felt like a slap in the face to this fan of PG tips. I've always been conscious of finding teas that are fair trade, and even organic. But this news adds a new layer.  I will be researching this over the next few days, to see if I can find information about other tea companies and their animal testing practices.


  1. I had an interesting debate on my facebook page about this, with my friends.

    Regardless of how you feel about animal rights, I think there's something very misguided about this type of research. Even with a complete absence of animal-rights and humane-treatment safeguards, animal studies like this are rather costly. And, as you and others point out, the amount of things that can be extrapolated to human health are limited.

    There are a number of very basic things about tea and herbal teas that are still huge unknown areas.

    For example, one topic that I find fascinating is the effect that various aromas, and the effect that drinking different teas and herbs, have on relaxation and stress levels. The body's state of stress or relaxation can be assessed non-invasively by measuring variables such as skin temperature, heart rate, and subjective reporting of mood and level of stress or relaxation. There are many herbs that are purposed to have relaxing or stimulating effects that have not ever been studied in this manner, not even with small sample sizes. These sorts of studies would be completely save and non-invasive, inexpensive, quick and easy to conduct, and would have massive benefits in terms of advancing science.

    Why aren't they being done?

    Part of me is frustrated because I might even have the financial resources and time to conduct some of these sorts of studies myself. The problem is, if you're not operating within the context of a well-known university, corporation, or research organization, it would be hard to get results like that published, or get any attention. It saddens me that corporations and research universities are engaged in incredibly esoteric research when there is such basic research that is as of yet completely open.

    This is one reason I left academia rather than continuing to pursue a Ph.D. I feel like virtually all areas of academic research have basic, fundamental, easy-to-answer questions, "low-hanging fruit" so to speak. Yet our culture glorifies the esoteric. I was not able to pursue an academic career by making these basic discoveries that would have advanced society, and was instead pressured to overspecialize in areas that I believed had negligible value to anything.

    What do you think? Am I exaggerating here in my frustration? Or do you think I'm onto something here?

  2. I do think you are on to something. Even a few months ago I went to my doctor to have my cholesterol levels checked. My cholesterol was fine, but it made me wonder if the tea I drink keeps it low. Obviously it's not easy to measure, but I was thinking it would be interesting to do a study with individuals that actually have high cholesterol, and have them drink a few cups of tea every day over a certain span of time (without any other diet, exercise, or medication changes) and see if there is any difference. I'm sure this study already exists, but it's just an example.

    part of the problem is of course the big companies that are conducting the research studies. they are often linked to industries that do not want certain results publicized- ie, a pharmaceutical company limiting the amount of information available about herbs that can lower cholesterol naturally. perhaps that is why the research is always kept to the esoteric.

  3. I'd never even considered this. Seems like buying loose-leaf teas from specialty tea shops would make this less of an issue (only major companies would go to the trouble, right?), but as soon as I say that I wonder how much we simply don't/can't know.

    Really interesting point you brought up.