First of all, indeed, all procedures performed in animal research are evaluated by independent committees, with a very special attention to the amount of discomfort, pain or stress inflicted to the animals. It is all on record and available to federal inspectors, and I can tell you that local ethical committees, federal inspectors and universities take animal suffering very seriously.
Furthermore, torture is the act of inflicting pain for the purpose of inflicting pain. If you push a needle in someone arm in order to make him talk, that’s torture. If you give a shot of antibiotics to a sick child, that it not torture. Likewise, inflicting a certain amount of pain to an animal for the purpose of advancing knowledge or improving human health is not torture.
It is obvious that there is a limit to how much pain can be inflicted to an animal for scientific research, and this limit depends of the nature or importance of the research being performed. If you do cancer research, you may have to induce cancers to animals and that will make their quality of lie quite poor; but this is to balance with cancer research benefiting immensely for hundred of millions of humans.
This is where ethics comes into play. Animal testing is neither all black not all white. If a scientist can test a drug that will save one million children without even hurting the mice, that would all be white. You would not need an ethical committee to tell you that. On the other end of the spectrum, everyone agrees that skinning a live kitten just for fun is not good. You don’t need an ethical committee to tell you that either.
So what scientists do is dealing with shades a grey. They do that with extensive supervision by local veterinary personnel, local ethical committees and federal authorities. And what they also do is produce academic knewledge and medical progress, and improve the life of humans (as well as the quality of life of lifestocks and pets who benefit from medical progress too, by the way).
What animal activists who use words like “torture” do NOT do is participating to this ethical process. In fact, they do everything they can to distort this process by painting everything in black, putting forward words like torture and vivisection, and negating the benefits of scientific research. The reason they do that is that is that, if they were to accept weighting the moral cost and benefits of animals research honestly, then their whole ideology would fall apart.