PETA has scored another victory for animals who are facing suffering and death in painful chemical tests. As many as 50 million individual animals could suffer and die in useless testing as industry scrambles to provide regulators with data on tens of thousands of chemicals under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) program.
Animal advocates celebrated late last year when PETA-led efforts prompted the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), which oversees REACH, to issue guidance that may save as many as 4.4 million animals from painful experiments. Hard work by compassionate scientists in animal groups also led the ECHA to state that animal testing is a “last resort” to provide data for the REACH program.
Nobody knows better than the scientists and staff at PETA that government statements expressing preference for non-animal tests don’t necessarily translate into saving animals. Despite government lip service supporting alternatives, regulators—including those at the Environmental Protection Agency—promote and accept data that involve burning, poisoning, and killing animals even when alternatives are available. But that is now starting to change. To date, PETA’s involvement has provided industry with the guidance and instruction (courtesy of our shareholder resolution campaigns) to save thousands of animals by convincing dozens of companies to use existing data or non-animal testing methods.
So it is with great joy that we celebrate the release of the ECHA document entitled “Practical Guide 10: How to Avoid Unnecessary Animal Testing.” My favorite lines in the document are: “Many of the standard test methods use vertebrate animals as a model to predict the effects of chemicals on humans and the environment. However, there are other means to assess the properties of substances without using tests on animals.”
In addition to government regulators who support tests on animals, nervous corporate attorneys look at any new testing method as risky when complying with regulations; they prefer tests with decades of use, as do many old-school company researchers who were trained in those methods and are convinced that long-time use of some tests proves their value despite evidence gathered by PETA that such tests are counterproductive. So the new practical guide is important in that it lays out how companies should avoid testing on animals through data sharing, computer models, in vitro tests, and common-sense measures such as recognizing that if one representative chemical in a closely related group of chemicals is already known to be safe, there is no need to test all the similar chemicals.
While the release of this new document is a great advance, PETA, PETA UK, and allied groups will be monitoring industry and government closely to be sure that the “last resort” of animal testing is not used for convenience, ignorance, or any other excuse.