Ending Animal Testing
There are two compelling reasons for ending animal testing:
1) It is cruel
Most safety tests conducted on animals are done without anaesthetics or analgesia, and toxic substances can cause immense suffering over long periods of time. Even where regulations require minimum standards of housing and husbandry, these cannot eliminate the fear and distress that animals in laboratories experience on a daily basis.
2) It is ineffective
The biochemistry, physiology, size and lifespan of animals vary according to species (and even breeds) and affect the toxicity of test substances. Substances safe for mice or rats may not be safe for humans and vice versa. Some chemicals, approved as safe following animal tests, have been damaging to humans and have had to be withdrawn.
In April 2015 Lush Prize compiled a short summary paper giving key examples of drugs which have failed after being considered successful in animal tests.
Download Lush Prize – Short list of animal testing failures (PDF).
There’s no doubt that over the past twenty years huge changes have happened in relation to animal testing.
The public are far more aware of the unreliability of animal experiments and the cruelty the animals endure. Non-animal testing methods have progressed and are being used more often and many companies recognise the business, and scientific, sense of not using animals in testing products.
In the European Union, India and Israel, animal testing of cosmetics has been banned and similar action is being promoted elsewhere. Yet there is still much to be done. There are five main reasons for this:
- Global markets mean testing banned in one country may be required in other regions of the world (China, for example, requires cosmetics to be animal tested)
- Environmental regulations requiring the testing of older ingredients have created new pressures (animal tests under EU chemical regulations REACH more than doubled between 2011 and 2014)
- While most people now agree that non-animal safety testing is preferable from both an animal welfare and scientific perspective, alternative non-animal tests are not emerging fast enough to replace existing animal-based methods
- Where alternative non-animal tests are emerging, the process of getting regulatory acceptance of the tests is always cumbersome and very slow
- Even where alternative non-animal tests are proven to be effective they may not be used if they are not mandatory or if toxicologists are unaware of them
There are four key messages at the Lush Prize:
1. Animal testing is both inhumane and unscientific
An estimated 115 million animals are used in experiments worldwide each year, many suffering high levels of pain. Toxicity (chemical) tests of pharmaceuticals in rodents predict human toxicity only 43% of the time. 92% of novel medicines that pass animal tests fail to reach the market, mainly because of unpredicted side-effects or because they are ineffective in humans.
2. Toxicity testing should be based on reliable, truly non-animal, methods
The US National Research Council encourages a move away from animal tests to 21st Century Toxicology to “make toxicity testing quicker, less expensive, and more directly relevant to human exposures”.
3. Campaign and lobbying initiatives should push for 1R rather than 3Rs
Many tests described as ‘alternatives’ to animal testing actually exploit animals, such as: use of fish and invertebrates; killing of animals for their cells and tissues; animal serums. The Lush Prize works for the 1R of replacement, not the other 2Rs of refinement and reduction.
4. The Lush Prize works to end animal testing
The annual Prize aims to speed the introduction of non-animal testing, particularly in toxicity testing for consumer products and ingredients. It does this by providing a £250,000 annual fund (plus additional funding to young researchers in Asia and the Americas) to reward effective projects and individuals worldwide working in five areas of science and campaigning.
The Lush Prize intends to focus pressure on toxicity testing for consumer products and ingredients in a way which complements the many projects already addressing the use of animals in medical testing. For some of the other prizes and projects around alternative tests see www.alttox.org
Many current regulations and prizes are directed towards the broader idea of the 3Rs: reduction, refinement, and replacement of the use of animals in experiments. The Lush Prize, as a project driven by animal ethics, seeks only to support projects working on the complete replacement of animal tests.
The Prize is also choosing to concentrate resources on ’21st-Century Toxicology’ as a specific area of non-animal testing research which holds out the most hope for an animal-test free future.