Content Header Mask
Ugly Truth about Botox

The Ugly Truth About Botox

Uncovered: A major BUAV undercover investigation exposes the reality of life and death inside one UK laboratory.


The BUAV has carried out an undercover investigation inside a major UK animal laboratory and discovered the ugly truth about botox animal testing.

Our investigator found that at Wickham Laboratories in Hampshire around 74,000 mice a year are being subjected to cruel poisoning tests for botox.

Botox is licensed in the UK as a medical treatment, but it is more commonly known for its ‘off-label’ cosmetic use. This means that mice can still legally be used in botox tests, even though using animals to test cosmetic products has been banned in the UK since 1997.

The BUAV discovered that this poisoning test causes appalling suffering to mice – suffering that can be easily avoided if this cruel animal test is banned and replaced with a test tube alternative.

You can help us enforce a ban. Please take action now and help the BUAV expose the ugly truth about botox.

Botox testing

Wickham Laboratories uses thousands of mice a year to routinely batch test for quality control the product called Dysport® (manufactured by Ipsen Biopharm).

Dysport® is a preparation of one of the most toxic substances known, botulinum toxin, which is a nerve toxin. It is licensed in the UK for the treatment of relatively rare medical conditions.

However, botulinum toxin is increasingly being used “off-label” for cosmetic purposes where it is commonly referred to as ‘botox.’ One of these uses is for the temporary treatment for facial wrinkles and lines. Even for these purposes, botox products are actually allowed to be animal tested and licensed as a ‘medicine’ in certain circumstances.

The Home Office has a duty not to license tests when a non-animal method is available - and such a test is available to botox manufactuers. Furthermore, this test has been validated by an official UK government laboratory specifically for the type of botox used at Wickham and has been used by them since 1999. Inexplicably, the UK Home Office is not insisting on this test at Wickham even after all these years!

Animal suffering

The toxicity test carried out is based on the standard LD50 test and classed by the Home Office as being of “substantial severity.” It is an archaic test and one of the cruellest and most controversial animal tests.

The BUAV investigator found that the mice were injected into the abdomen with the botulinum toxin and then periodically observed to see how many died. The mice became increasingly paralysed, eventually gasping for breath and suffocating to death. The degree of suffering is appalling. No pain relief was provided for the mice.

As a token consideration with respect to animal welfare, workers were supposed to observe the mice and identify those who were judged unlikely to survive until the next check. This is a completely inadequate way of controlling suffering but in any event, using the company’s own data, the BUAV has discovered that this so-called humane endpoint was a sham because far more of the mice in question died an agonising death than were killed.

Killing mice

Most mice in the higher dose categories died during the test. Those considered unlikely to survive until the next check were taken out into the corridor and crudely killed on the floor by breaking their necks with a ball point pen.

After three or four days the number of mice still alive was counted and an LD50 value calculated (This is the dose at which 50% of the mice would be expected to die when injected with the toxin; it is used as a measure of the strength of the toxin in vials of botox).

All the mice who had not already died were killed at the end of the test either by gassing or having their necks broken. Up to 60 mice at a time were loaded into the gas chamber and killed by carbon dioxide poisoning, a death that is far from instantaneous. According to Wickham's own records, on just one day in July 2009, 989 mice were killed.

Shocking cruelty

New members of staff, who had never killed mice before, were expected to practise breaking necks with a ballpoint pen on live mice.

However, during this training, staff sometimes broke the backs of mice rather than their necks.

Even experienced staff had problems and caused back injuries. This resulted in what was undoubtedly excruciating agony for the mice.


The UK government is failing in its legal obligation to enforce the universally accepted concept of the 3 R’s (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) for animal tests.

The LD50 test for botulinum toxin for Dysport® has a valid test tube alternative. The SNAP-25 assay, a method that does not use live animals but instead measures the activity of the toxin in a test tube, can be used to replace the mouse LD50 tests for Dysport®.

The BUAV believes that under UK law this test should be used because the Home Office has a duty not to license tests when an alternative method is available. Furthermore, this test has been validated by an official UK government laboratory and has been used by them since 1999 for Dysport®.

Inexplicably, the UK Home Office is not insisting on this test even after all these years.