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No one likes animal tests. Here’s how to reduce them

Policy

No one likes animal tests. Here’s how to reduce them

Published on 01 Mar 2023

A European NGO has started a petition to stop animal testing. Many have signed and ChemSec shares the concern. But is it possible to abandon chemical testing on animals completely? Unfortunately, not yet. We can, however, reduce them dramatically.

“Do you support animal testing?” If you ask people on the street this, most would surely answer “No”. The idea of experimenting on animals is repulsive to most of us. But the harsh truth is that, for years, animal testing has been the go-to source of information for possible harmful effects of chemicals used in pharmaceuticals, pesticides, consumer products and so on.

Today, animal tests are also important for regulators to assess the safety of chemicals on the market, and completely avoiding animal testing for this use may be at odds with protecting our planet and our health. So, how do we go about reducing animal testing while still protecting human health and the environment?

ChemSec sat down with some of the most prominent animal rights organisations in Europe to find out.

Dr. Catherine Willett, Senior Director of Science and Regulatory Affairs, Research and Toxicology at Humane Society International, believes there is a great potential for collaboration between environmental organisations and animal rights groups:

“There are valuable opportunities to find common ground”

“We believe that there are valuable opportunities for animal protection organisations and environmental protection groups to find common ground to work on bridging gaps where these might exist and work together toward a safe future without the need for animal testing”, she comments.

Dr. Emma Grange, Director of Science & Regulatory Affairs, Cruelty Free Europe agrees with her and suggests a way to have a more efficient chemicals regulation:

“The use of non-animal methods for the identification of hazardous properties, coupled with a precautionary approach to regulation, could deliver rapid and effective protection across many thousands of chemicals”.

“Several good possibilities for safely avoiding animal tests”

Five ways to reduce animal testing
In recent years, much research has been conducted and several alternative ways to test chemicals have already been developed. These are the so-called NAMs (New Approach Methodologies).

But in spite of positive developments, it will still take many years before validated alternative methods are in place to replace all testing on animals.

There are, however, already now several good possibilities for safely avoiding animal tests that could be used to a much larger degree than they are today. Here are five ways to reduce animal testing today:

  • Avoid “paralysis by analysis”
  • Make better use of the precautionary principle
  • Use NAMs to fill knowledge gaps
  • Improve data sharing to avoid unnecessary tests
  • Group similar chemicals for general hazard assessment and restriction

For more details on how to reduce animal testing, read ChemSec’s newly published briefing paper.

Chemical safety and animal welfare. What is at stake?

An inconvenient truth
The ugly truth is that we still need more and better information on hazardous chemicals in order to protect our health and our environment. This means that we cannot fully abandon animal tests before there are equally good alternative methods in place.

Because if you ask industry stakeholders if they would accept that substances are banned due to lack of safety information, the answer would be “No”. The same if you ask citizens if they would like to be the guinea pigs.

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