Working to replace animal testing for chemicals
Hundreds of thousands of animals worldwide are used every year in an attempt to test the safety of chemicals. These experiments are also called toxicity tests, which traditionally involve poisoning guinea pigs, rabbits, rats and mice.
In the EU a new piece of legislation called REACH was implemented in 2007. REACH stands for the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals. Its purpose is to establish whether an estimated 30,000 existing chemicals are safe for humans and the environment, and to control the use of those judged to present a risk. Sadly, animal testing is being used to establish the safety of these chemicals.
Chemical companies had until 2018 to register their substances with the European Chemicals Agency . Shockingly, we have estimated that approximately 6 million animals have been used and killed so far in this process. Unfortunately, it is not over and the Agency continues to demand animal tests for substances as they review their safety and use.
What we do
We monitor and challenge the need for new animal tests and push for greater efforts to promote alternative methods. We do this by using our stakeholder status at the European Commission, European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods and the European Chemicals Agency.
We support companies appealing decisions to test on animals at the Agency's Board of Appeal if we believe there has been an error of law or procedure. To date, successful cases we have been involved in have directly saved over 7,500 animals, as well as helping to improve the overall decision-making of the Agency in relation to animal testing.
We work with our partner members of the International Council on Animal Protection at the OECD (ICAPO) to ensure that all opportunities to avoid animals and encourage the use of alternatives are made possible within the testing guidelines of key international body the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Cruelty Free International, acting on behalf of the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE), was involved in the negotiations during the creation of REACH in the early 2000’s. We were able to make sure that the regulation stated that companies must share their testing data, avoiding duplication of animal tests and that animal testing should be a 'last resort'. Official estimates had suggested that up to 13 million animals would be poisoned and killed during the process, but we have estimated that it is more likely to be around 6 million. We believe therefore without our input the numbers would have been much higher.
In 2016, we pushed the European Commission to update REACH to delete the rabbit skin and eye irritation (Draize) tests (saving 18,000 rabbits), to encourage the avoidance of the cruel dermal acute toxicity test (saving 66,00 rats) and to encourage the use of alternatives to skin allergy testing (potentially saving 200,000 mice).
Our work commenting on proposals to test on animals, which is an opportunity given in the REACH legislation, has helped to save over 80,000 animals. Between 2009 and 2015 , our experts provided scientific argument that has encouraged both the Agency and the companies to halt plans to conduct at least 76 different animal tests.