Written by PETA
The following posting originally appeared in The Sacramento Bee.
If anyone out there is still wondering about the superiority of alternatives to animal tests, look no further than what is happening right now in the Gulf of Mexico. In its efforts to assist the devastated region, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is saving time, money, and the lives of countless animals—those suffering in laboratories—by using efficient and effective non-animal methods to study the endocrine effects of chemical dispersants that could be used to clean up the oil gusher.
In fact, using non-animal testing methods is the only way that the EPA can get information about these chemicals in a short period of time—a few weeks as opposed to years. Without such sophisticated methods, the EPA would have to rely on crude and cruel animal toxicity tests that date back to the 1930s, and we would be waiting years to know anything at all about these chemicals. Considering the dire conditions of the region, waiting years for an answer is simply not an option.
The modern in vitro tests that the EPA has on hand to study the endocrine effects of eight oil spill dispersants are rapid and automated, in contrast to what the EPA calls "time consuming and expensive" animal tests. Testing one chemical on animals can cost millions, versus the EPA's estimated $20,000 using in vitro testing. And while cost considerations are important, turn-around time is even more essential as ecosystems totter on the brink of disaster. The EPA states that, on average, it would take a researcher "eight hours a day, five days a week, for 12 years" to conduct these studies using traditional animal tests. The computer-driven in vitro tests deliver results in three days. The EPA has already completed the first round of toxicity testing on these dispersants.
The situation in the Gulf highlights the necessity of toxicology testing reform. Most of the tests used in standard chemical screening today were developed in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. They are heavily reliant on animals, are slow and costly, and have yielded inaccurate information about the effects of chemicals on humans. And they have allowed dangerous chemicals such as benzene and arsenic to enter and remain on the market—even after millions of animals have been killed in decades of testing.
Our current system is overloaded and incapable of accurately screening the tens of thousands of chemicals reportedly in the environment already, with more entering every day. Scientists and government agencies are now recognizing that "it is simply not possible with all the animals in the world to go through new chemicals in the blind way that we have at the present time, and reach credible conclusions about the hazards to human health" (Dr. Joshua Lederberg, Nobel laureate in medicine).
Indeed, Congress and the EPA are now looking to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act to bring chemical regulation into the 21st century. The EPA and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) are among the scientific organizations calling for toxicity testing methods that are human-relevant, faster, and cheaper and that use fewer or no animals.
In its 2007 report, the NAS confirmed that scientific advances can "transform toxicity testing from a system based on whole-animal testing to one founded primarily on in vitro (non-animal) methods." Such an approach will improve efficiency, speed, and prediction for humans while cutting costs and reducing animal suffering. As it should, the newly introduced legislation supports the continued development and implementation of this shift toward non-animal methodologies.
As the case in the Gulf demonstrates, non-animal testing is the stuff of science—not "science fiction" as critics often contend—and it is surely the future of ensuring chemical safety.
Posted by Jessica Sandler, director of PETA's Regulatory Testing Division, and Dr. Kate Willett, PETA's science policy adviser
The Washington Post has just released an investigation into the shocking lack of progress that exists in U.S. government policies on animal experimentation. The Washington Post began its own investigation after PETA presented evidence of government negligence. As the article points out, hundreds of millions of animals in this country are still being killed in gruesome ways to test substances like Botox, even though there are modern, non-animal methods available. Part of the problem is a categorical failure by the agency that’s charged with reducing the use of animals in toxicity testing—the folks over at ICCVAM (who I’ve talked about a bit before on this blog)—to actually do their jobs. As the Post article puts it:
"The controversy over the Botox test highlights the slow pace of government efforts to replace or reduce the large numbers of animals used by pharmaceutical companies, chemical manufacturers and consumer firms to ensure that their products are safe for people. A decade after Congress created a panel to spur the development of non-animal tests, only four such tests have been approved out of 185 reviews, according to the panel's records."
During the same period of time, ICCVAM’s European counterpart has recommended more than two dozen non-animal tests, and the U.S. continues to lag well behind Europe in adopting modern alternatives to animal testing, which—in addition to causing unnecessary suffering and death for countless animals—poses a significant threat to human health.
There is a bit of good news, though, in the form of a landmark report by the National Academy of Sciences, which indicates that the United States may finally be ready to start catching up to other nations by adopting modern testing methods. But this isn’t going to happen while groups like ICCVAM are allowed to stand in the way. We’re currently calling for a congressional investigation into ICCVAM's negligence, and asking that a new entity be created to oversee the implementation of the NAS recommendations. If you’d like to help out by contacting your members of Congress about this issue, you can do so through the webform here.
And definitely check out the Post article. This issue is monumentally important, but doesn’t get a lot of ink, so it’s great to see a publication like The Washington Post giving it its due.
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
animal and if the abuse is taking place right now, please call your local
police department. If the police are unresponsive, please call PETA
immediately at 757-622-7382 and press 2.
Follow PETA on Twitter!
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.