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February 15, 2008

Sea Change in Animal Testing

USA Today had an important and exciting story in yesterday's paper about the move away from the use of animals in certain toxicity tests. I am truly enthused about the possibility of innovation in this arena making animal testing obsolete.

White mouse in cup
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Since the 1970s The HSUS has been promoting the Three Rs to animal testing. Our aim has been the reduction, replacement, and refinement of the use of animals in specific testing procedures. However, our long-term goal has been the complete replacement of animals in chemical testing. That goal has always seemed elusive although there have been important gains along the way, including the codification of the Three Rs into the Animal Welfare Act, the establishment of the federal government’s Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods, and the launching of the World Congresses on Alternatives. The HSUS had, and continues to have, a major role in these and other developments.

However, the era of incremental change is coming to an end. In June, the National Research Council issued a vision and strategy for the future of toxicity testing. It calls for a massive shift away from traditional animal testing, and its eventual complete replacement with non-animal methods. We were privileged to have had staff member Dr. Martin Stephens on the committee that drafted this report. The NRC approach is being widely embraced by U.S. government agencies and progressive corporations as a way to test chemicals more rapidly, inexpensively, and effectively, as well as to address public concerns about animal testing. 

And the action has already begun, as USA Today reports, with the National Institutes of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Toxicology Program announcing they have formed a partnership to essentially implement the NRC vision. We will be bringing government and industry representatives together in the United States and Europe to launch an even more ambitious effort with the promise of eliminating animal testing within 10 years.

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