Working to replace animal testing for chemicals
Millions of animals worldwide are used 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 have up until 2018 to prove to the European Chemicals Agency that the chemicals they are manufacturing or importing into Europe are safe to use. Shockingly, it is estimated that up to 13 million animals will be poisoned and killed during the process.
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 5,000 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. We were able to make sure that companies must share their testing data, avoiding duplication of animal tests and that animal testing should be a 'last resort'. We believe this has already saved millions of animals.
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 to date helped save approximately 36,000 animals. Over the last five years, our experts have provided technical advice and scientific argument that has encouraged both the Agency and the companies to halt plans to conduct at least 50 different animal tests.