Written by Jeff Mackey
A chemical-testing program put in place by the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) in 1998 had the potential to cost millions of animals their
lives in laboratory tests. But as a newly published review by PETA scientists
shows, a fraction of that number were used after PETA reached an agreement with
the EPA that established groundbreaking guidelines for the project.
Production Volume (HPV) Challenge Program was developed in closed-door meetings with the American Chemistry Council and
the Environmental Defense
Fund and was launched without any public review or comment—but it didn't escape PETA's
After months of discussions, congressional testimony, and
public education tactics—including sending a giant "bunny" to follow
then–presidential candidate and chief HPV supporter Al Gore on the campaign
trail—PETA reached a historic deal with the Clinton administration that
resulted in the EPA's issuing guidance on reducing animal use to participating chemical companies.
As the program dragged on for more than a decade, either
PETA or the Physicians
Committee for Responsible Medicine reviewed and commented on
every test plan in which animal tests were proposed in order to ensure
adherence to the guidance.
PETA scientists' review of the HPV program has now been published in the prestigious, peer-reviewed journal of the National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences, Environmental
Health Perspectives. The review shows that animal welfare guidance was
inconsistently applied by both chemical companies and the EPA. 127,000
animals were used throughout the program—a heartbreaking toll, yet a much
smaller number than the 3.5 million who would have been killed in a worst-case
Grouping similar chemicals and submitting existing test data
saved the largest number of animals. Combining tests, using the weight of
existing evidence and experience, and replacing animal tests with modern, superior non-animal
methods further reduced the number of animals used.
While the agreement that PETA secured in the HPV program
saved millions of lives and represented an important step forward, inflicting unnecessary suffering and a
miserable death on even one animal is unacceptable.
PETA won't rest until laboratory experiments on animals are consigned to the history
books—and you can help
make that happen!
Written by PETA
Finally. After PETA has spent the past 10 years hammering away at the Environmental Protection Agency over its absurdly archaic, repetitive, and wasteful—not to mention cruel—chemical-toxicity tests on animals, the agency has at last released a strategic plan for improving toxicity testing that basically says, "Yeah, what PETA said."
OK, that's not exactly what it says, but the report is very encouraging, nonetheless. What it does say is that the current testing programs, which rely largely on animal tests, are costly, time-consuming, and basically not up to the task of accurately and adequately assessing the toxicity of tens of thousands of chemicals.
As the Boston Globe wrote just this week, even many researchers are now acknowledging that animal research "isn't even the best science" and that "[r]eplacing animals with human tissue has already proven to be [a] good business bet."
So, the EPA is now proposing a new "paradigm" that focuses on computer models, molecular biology, and cell cultures, using data from the human genome project, clinical trials, exposure assessments, and other technologies that the EPA calls "new"—even though many of them have been around for more than a decade now. Some of the technologies are even being developed at the EPA!
Here's a direct quote from the report: "The overall goal of this strategy is to provide the tools and approaches to move from a near exclusive use of animal tests for predicting human health effects to a process that relies more heavily on in vitro assays, especially those using human cell lines."
Can I hear an "Amen"?
The new EPA report is based on the findings of a National Research Council report released in 2007 that said essentially the same thing. This makes sense, because the EPA actually commissioned that report—though it's taken the agency nearly two years to evaluate the report's findings. What can we say? The wheels of justice grind slowly.
Now, if we can just get all parts of the EPA to act on its own report, we'll be getting somewhere. I say that because, just yesterday, PETA research associate Joe Manuppello testified at a hearing (which we called for) about proposed high production volume chemical tests that would kill another 10,000 animals. The proposed tests involve 15 chemicals, including sorbic acid (a naturally occurring fatty acid), castor oil, and oxalic acid, all of which are already known to be either safe or extremely toxic, based on years of experience and existing data from previous tests. At that hearing, we pointed out that the tests contradicted the EPA's own strategic plan as well as the basic animal welfare principles that the agency put into effect 10 years ago (under pressure from PETA). Those principles state that chemicals should not be retested if sufficient data already exist concerning the safety or toxicity of a chemical. According to all reports, the EPA officials found Joe's testimony riveting. (You have to wonder—if PETA can find the data, why can't the EPA? Is it just a matter of caring enough to find it?)
EPA, you're moving in the right direction. Now we just need all parts of your agency to walk the talk. Until you do, you can bet that we'll be pushing you every step of the way.
Written by Alisa Mullins
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
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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.