EC proposals will lead to chemical testing on millions of extra animals

The RSPCA is expressing fears that millions more animals may be experimented on in order to test chemicals that have been in use for at least 20 years under proposals being considered by the European Commission.

The Commission is planning to produce a White Paper later on this year containing measures that could see an additional ten million animals used in chemicals tests over the next decade, says the RSPCA. This is despite indications in 1992 and 1996 that the Commission was aiming to reduce animal testing by 50% over ten years.

Increasing pressure by the environmental movement and consumer groups has forced the Commission to rethink its approach to the regulation of chemicals, an RSPCA spokesperson explained to edie. According to the RSPCA, the new plans will include the testing of up to 70 000 chemicals already in use prior to 1981 so that their risk to the environment and human health can be assessed.

“The proposals to test thousands of chemicals will undoubtedly lead to a horrifying rise in the number of animals used, inflicting pain and suffering that may be totally unnecessary,” said Maggy Jennings, Head of the RSPCA’s research animals department.

“While we appreciate the need to investigate the effects chemicals have on human health, the environment and wildlife, we believe that any testing should not be at the unnecessary expense of animal life,” said Jennings. “If the chemicals have been in use for 20 years or more then there are surely other ways of assessing whether or not they are hazardous.”

There is little understanding among the environmental and consumer movements as to what their demands for better chemical testing will lead to, said the RSPCA spokesperson. “We need to raise awareness. We need to question how much extra data we need. Maybe some [chemicals] should be taken off the market instead of being re-tested if we know that they are hazardous.”

“There are a lot of chemicals out there that we really don’t know anything about,” the RSPCA spokesperson said. One notorious example is a group of chemicals called endocrine disrupters, which mimic hormones, causing wildlife to develop disorders such as deformed genitals, and resulting in problems with reproduction and still births.

Similar legislation is being proposed in Canada, making it important to co-ordinate research at a global scale in order to prevent many million more animals than necessary from suffering, says the RSPCA.

The RSPCA is also predicting that the number of animals used in genetic engineering in the UK is set to rise, as a result of genome mapping projects and advances in biotechnology.

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