Animal Testing Legislation Passed in Europe Aims to Replace Animal Methods with Efficient Alternatives


Currently, anywhere from 5,000-12,000 animals are required for traditional drug toxicity testing for a single chemical. This is something ECVAM (the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods) hopes to change with it’s new REACH legislation. 

REACH, which stands for “Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals” aims to implement alternative methods of toxicity testing in labs across Europe in order to replace the nearly 100 million animals used annually in experimentation with newer, more effective testing alternatives. 

Thomas Hartung, a German-native and head of ECVAM, along with his staff of merely fifty has been hard at work developing animal-free options for many popular testing methods such as the LD50 and Draize methods. This new legislature requires not only immediate reactions (such as allergies or irritation) to be taken into consideration, but long-term and environmental impacts as well. It’s a daunting task, but once carried out it will save the lives of millions of animals every year.

Traditional Animal Tests Proven Ineffective, Yet Few Adequate Alternatives Currently Exist
While many may believe that animal testing is “for our own good,” animal tests have time and time again been more or less ineffective at predicting how humans will react. This is because human and animal systems react differently to chemicals. 

For example when in a study testing the long-term effects of a single chemical’s potential to cause cancer over a 5-year period (in which the animal subjects were exposed to maximum dosage), the results in lab rats showed 50% positive results. Yet studies show that humans are much less sensitive to certain carcinogens than animals, essentially rendering these tests useless. So, why is it that so much money, time, and animal life is being wasted on research that rarely proves fruitful? This is because, unfortunately, many of the alternative tests have produced insufficient evidence of improved data accuracy in most areas of testing. 

Interviewee: Tienne Mohs

There are, however, a few tests such as the “in vitro cytotoxicity test” which have yielded outstanding results, and which could potentially cut down on LD50 testing (which involves feeding an animal a chemical to determine at what point it becomes fatal) by nearly 70%. 

Thus far, ECVAM has approved 17 new testing methods and is in the process of validating at least 40 more.

US Has Not Passed New Testing Legislation Since 1966 & Is Falling Behind Globally in Innovativeness

Inconsistency in animal testing regulation globally can make it difficult to compare results across countries. While the US has taken some action in the way of animal rights, like the NIH banning the use of chimpanzees in testing (as they are our “closest ancestor”), the only legislation in place is the outdated 1966 Animal Welfare Act. This act only protects certain specified animals (rats, birds, and mice are excluded, despite making up the majority of animals used in testing) and has very few requirements for proper care and living conditions for the animals. 

The government has not pushed for the widespread usage or research on newer testing methods, unlike in Europe. The United States is already falling behind other countries in education and economic stability, and using outdated testing methods means a decreased likelihood of medical or scientific breakthroughs, putting the US farther behind in innovativeness as well.

While US-based organizations like PETA and NEAVS are working to spread the message about the benefits of cutting down on animal testing, many average citizens simply aren't aware of how the process effects them. Toxicity testing takes place for every single chemical used in any product that will be marketed and sold for human consumption. 

Take a look at the back of a tube of toothpaste, there are at least 15 chemicals listed for just this one product, and each must be individually tested for safety. If alternative methods could accelerate the testing process and reduce the number of animals used annually for toxicity tests, why not put money toward alternative testing research? It may just be that other issues are at the forefront of lawmakers minds, but if the US wants to rise again as a global competitor, testing innovation is something to be considered for future policy-making. 

1 comment:

Megan M said...

Paragraph by Megan McClure