TOKYO—Humane Society International welcomes the March 30 decision of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to abolish its requirement to conduct year-long poisoning tests on beagle dogs for pesticides such as weed killer. In these tests, as many as 32 dogs are fed pesticide-laced food every day for a year, then killed and their internal organs examined as part of a routine battery of tests conducted on thousands of animals for pesticide toxicity assessment.
The Ministry’s decision is based on the findings of a two-year scientific study prompted by Japan’s Food Safety Commission that showed year-long tests on dogs provided little value when determining safe exposure levels for humans and could therefore be waived in most cases. These findings are consistent with the results of similar past analyses that have led to changes in national regulatory test requirements, beginning in 2007 in the United States, followed by India, the European Union, Brazil and Canada. HSI has been at the forefront of negotiating many of these regulatory changes via its global network of country offices and programs.
Troy Seidle, HSI vice president for research & toxicology, said, “We commend the Japanese government for eliminating this unnecessary and inhumane test from its pesticide data requirements, but are disappointed that it has taken some countries nearly 20 years to take action despite compelling scientific evidence. Better and more rapid global harmonization of pesticide data requirements and approaches to risk assessment are needed so that all countries swing into action immediately once a scientific case is established for the removal of an animal test requirement. It is unacceptable that dogs have been made to suffer needlessly for two decades simply because countries are dragging their feet.”
South Korea is believed to be the last major market still to require the one-year dog test for pesticides, underscoring the need to improve international regulatory alignment and strengthen collaborations to eliminate animal testing requirements. HSI is working to encourage all countries to participate fully in global efforts to develop non-animal approaches, share information, mutually accept data, and avoid future redundant studies.
- Registration of a single new pesticide “active ingredient” (the poisonous component that makes it effective) can involve as many as 10,000 rodents, fish, birds, rabbits and dogs in dozens of separate chemical-poisoning tests according to regulatory requirements in most countries. Many of these tests are overtly redundant, repeating the same test procedure using two or more different animal species or routes of exposure (oral, inhalation, skin, etc.), the scientific value of which has come under intense scrutiny.
- The report commissioned by the Japanese government analyzed safety assessments of 286 pesticides and found that in nearly 95 percent of cases, the year-long dog study did not contribute essential information to the determination of a safe exposure for humans. This conclusion was identical to that of a previous study published by independent researchers who looked at one-year dog test data for 45 pesticides registered in Japan (“Relevance of the 1-year dog study in assessing human health risks for registration of pesticides. An update to include pesticides registered in Japan,” by Werner Kobel and colleagues, published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, volume 44/issue 10, 2014).
- Statistics published by the Japanese Society for Laboratory Animal Resources for the period April 2016 – March 2017 document the sale of 4.25 million animals for use in laboratory experiments (a figure that does not reflect use of animals bred in laboratories, or all facilities that breed or use animals for experiments in Japan).
- Statistics published by South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs document that since 2012, animal use in Korean laboratories has increased by a 157 percent to an all-time high of 2.88 million in 2016. Responses from Korea’s Rural Development Authority to information requests from National Assembly members confirm that dogs continue to be used to satisfy the government’s ongoing requirement for year-long dog tests for pesticides.