Posted by Dr Nick Palmer on 6th July 2015
Saving animals across the globe
Part one: How Cruelty Free International works for positive change
In the first of two blogs, Cruelty Free International Director of Policy, Dr Nick Palmer, gives the low down on how Cruelty Free International works to save animals in laboratories around the world.
One of the reasons for our change of name was to reflect our global ambition. We want to save the 4 million animals used in British experiments each year. And we want to save the more than 100 million animals who are tested on annually worldwide.
But how realistic is it? Can one organisation really change the world? As a first step, we focused on stamping out the cruel and antiquated safety testing of cosmetics on animals.
It already seems bizarre to think that a shampoo could be tested by forcing the ingredients into the eyes of rabbits held in a frame for days while they suffer. It’s still happening – but it’s starting to die out, thanks to our campaigns around the globe.
So how do we do it? We follow a few fundamental rules:
Don’t write anyone or anywhere off
There’s an idea that only highly-developed countries care about animals and you can’t make real progress outside the Western world. Actually, the reverse is often true. In the West, resistance to change can be fierce because of entrenched research industry lobbies.
In developing and middle-income countries, they are often thinking about regulations for the first time, and open to suggestions for at least minimising animal experiments. Also, most developing countries are keen to use modern technologies, skipping old-fashioned techniques like animal experiments where we can show there is a more effective or cheaper non-animal alternative.
Talk to anyone who is willing to change
Almost nobody positively likes making animals suffer. But some politicians, regulators and scientists are much more genuinely committed to change than others. We spend our time and resources where we identify legislators or others who are seriously interested.
Sometimes this means talking to people who are currently doing animal tests. For instance, in Beijing we recently organised a seminar for 40 scientists who were interested in learning about new ways of doing their work that doesn’t involve animals – and produces better results. If people want to stop suffering from happening, we’re always willing to talk.
Always make specific proposals
Politicians like to show that they’re interested, but that’s not enough: we need to achieve positive results. So before every meeting, it’s always crucial to have a specific proposal in hand.
Sometimes this will be modified in discussion – for instance, in Korea we wanted an immediate ban, but the Government said they need a transition period so that industry could change over to the alternatives. But it’s always vital to have specific deadlines, rather than vague promises to “evolve as soon as possible”.
That’s what made the big difference in Europe. When the 2013 deadline was set, it looked a long way off, but by the time it arrived everyone knew it was coming and had prepared for the impact.
Read about the astonishing progress we’ve made using this approach to ending cosmetics testing around the world in just a few years.