by Diana Potter
Until now, despite decades of protest by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and others, including vegans, using animals to test toxic materials has continued in the US without restriction.
On September 10, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was beginning what it termed an aggressive program to reduce animal use in toxicity testing, with goals of:
- Reduction of requests to conduct live-mammal studies and funding for them by 30% by 2025, and
- Elimination of requests for and funding of all routine safety tests on mammals by 2035.
After 2035, testing on live mammals will require special permission from the EPA.
Why can’t animal testing be ended sooner? Mainly because considerable time will be needed for the development and adoption of alternative testing methods across a number of complex industries, including those producing medicines and industrial chemicals.
A win for the animals — and PETA
The EPA announcement was especially celebrated by PETA, which has worked against animal testing for nearly 20 years.
- Talking with the EPA about ways to replace animals in toxicity tests and to fund alternative testing methods
- Sending the EPA scientific reports detailing problems with animal testing as well as co-authoring and submitting reports on the superiority of animal-free testing
- What PETA’s perhaps most widely known for: protests. They even sent a giant “bunny” to follow Al Gore in his presidential campaign travels! (Not surprisingly given his environmental concerns, Gore responded with a pledge to help fund testing alternatives.)
The beginning of a long-desired end?
Does this welcome move by the EPA signal a coming worldwide end to toxicity testing on animals? We can begin to hope so, especially since the EPA has also announced that it will be holding a yearly conference to promote development of non-animal testing methods — and has
awarded $4.5 million to five universities to get the work started.
“I think it’s a big day for the field of alternatives to animal testing,” says Dr. Thomas Hartung, director of one of the funded programs: the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at Johns Hopkins University. “I did not expect [the EPA to take] such a strong position. I think this is really taking action.