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June 22, 2010

HSI Applauds MEP Vote to Curb Most "Archaic" Animal Test Requirement

Humane Society International/Europe

Humane Society International [1] is praising Members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee for taking important steps to curb biocide regulations that contain some of the most “excessive and archaic” animal test requirements in EU law. Up to 12,000 animals can be used to test a single biocide active substance, during which they can experience convulsions, nausea and death—all without the benefit of pain relief.

Committee members [2] voted Tuesday on amendments to a European Commission proposal for a new regulation [3] on biocidal products (non-agricultural pesticides that range from wild animal poisons to “germ-killing” antibacterial cleansers [4]). They supported amendments that could dramatically reduce the number of animals used in safety testing.

Says Troy Seidle, director of research & toxicology for Humane Society International:

“In the past 12 years since the Biocides Directive came into force, the science of safety testing has undergone a technology revolution. Yet for years, EU law effectively ignored many of the most promising cutting-edge solutions in favour of some of the most excessive and archaic animal test requirements in existence.

“Today, MEPs have taken important steps towards bringing biocide testing out of the Dark Ages by supporting a move away from animal poisoning experiments that in some cases date back to the World War I era. A transition towards state-of-the-art laboratory techniques wouldn’t simply signal a victory for animal welfare, it would also significantly improve our ability to protect people and the planet from potentially harmful chemicals.”

The proposed Regulation, like the Biocides Directive [5] it will replace, contains one of the largest “tick box” requirements for animal toxicity (safety) tests seen in EU legislation. Many of the tests are decades old, of dubious relevance to human health or environmental protection and should be replaced with state-of-the-art testing strategies that could reduce animal use by up to 50 percent, if not eliminate it altogether for the assessment of certain types of toxic effects. For example, non-animal methods exist that can fully replace animal testing for skin irritation and skin absorption testing, among other types of safety studies.

Humane Society International and its allies called for a range of amendments to the Commission proposal, many of which were supported by MEPs in today’s vote. Key amendments voted through with the potential to reduce animal testing and improve the quality of biocidal safety requirements, include:

1. Designating “avoidance of animal testing” as an overarching goal of the Regulation.

2. Giving explicit preference to valid non-animal test methods and intelligent testing strategies (a flexible approach in which the data collected are evaluated after each step, and decisions on remaining information requirements made based on the results of previous steps).

3. Revising data requirements listed in Annexes II and III to take account of modern alternative test methods and comply with the obligation elsewhere in EU law (Article 7.2 of Directive 86/609) to use alternatives to animal testing where available.

The proposal will now be voted on by all MEPs at Plenary in July, followed by discussion by the Council of Ministers.

Notes

1. Humane Society International and its partner organisations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organisations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands-on programmes. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — on the Web at hsieurope.org, and see HSI activities on animal testing at hsi.org/endanimaltesting.

2. The vote by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) took place on June 22 between 9am-12pm am CEST.

3. Commission proposal for a Regulation on biocidal products (COM(2009)267). europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/09/913.

4. A biocidal product is a type of pesticide (i.e., a substance used to prevent, destroy or repel living organisms considered to be “pests”) that is not intended primarily for agricultural food crops use. A typical test battery for a single biocide active substance (the poisonous ingredient) can involve dozens of different tests using up to 12,000 rodents, rabbits, dogs and other animals. These tests will lead to animals experiencing convulsions, nausea, distress and death - all without the benefit of pain relief. Current EU regulations also require animal testing of other ingredients in a biocidal formulation, together with the commercial product itself.

5. Council Directive 98/8/EC of 16 February 1998 concerning the placing of biocidal products on the market. An outline is available at: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biocidal_Products_Directive.