Finally. After PETA has spent the past 10 years hammering away at the
Environmental Protection Agency over its absurdly
archaic, repetitive, and wasteful—not to mention cruel—chemical-toxicity tests
on animals, the agency has at last released a strategic plan for improving toxicity testing that
basically says, "Yeah, what PETA said."
OK, that's not exactly what it says, but the report is very
encouraging, nonetheless. What it does say is that the current testing programs,
which rely largely on animal tests, are costly, time-consuming, and basically
not up to the task of accurately and adequately assessing the toxicity of tens
of thousands of chemicals.
As the Boston Globe wrote just this week,
even many researchers are now acknowledging that animal research "isn't even the
best science" and that "[r]eplacing animals with human tissue has already proven
to be [a] good business bet."
So, the EPA is now proposing a new "paradigm" that focuses on computer
models, molecular biology, and cell cultures, using data from the human genome
project, clinical trials, exposure assessments, and other technologies that the
EPA calls "new"—even though many of them have been around for more than a decade
now. Some of the technologies are even being developed at the EPA!
Here's a direct quote from the report: "The overall goal of this
strategy is to provide the tools and approaches to move from a near
exclusive use of animal tests for predicting human health effects to a process
that relies more heavily on in vitro assays, especially those using human cell
Can I hear an "Amen"?
The new EPA report is based on the findings of a National Research Council report released in 2007
that said essentially the same thing. This makes sense, because the EPA actually
commissioned that report—though it's taken the agency nearly two years to
evaluate the report's findings. What can we say? The wheels of justice grind
Now, if we can just get all parts of the EPA to act on its own report, we'll
be getting somewhere. I say that because, just yesterday, PETA research
associate Joe Manuppello testified at a hearing (which we called for) about
proposed high production volume chemical tests that would
kill another 10,000 animals. The proposed tests involve 15 chemicals, including
sorbic acid (a naturally occurring fatty acid), castor oil, and oxalic acid, all
of which are already known to be either safe or extremely toxic, based on years
of experience and existing data from previous tests. At that hearing, we pointed
out that the tests contradicted the EPA's own strategic plan as well as the
basic animal welfare principles that the agency put into effect 10 years ago
(under pressure from PETA). Those principles state that chemicals should not be
retested if sufficient data already exist concerning the safety or toxicity of a
chemical. According to all reports, the EPA officials found Joe's testimony
riveting. (You have to wonder—if PETA can find the data, why can't the EPA? Is
it just a matter of caring enough to find it?)
EPA, you're moving in the right direction. Now we just need all parts of your
agency to walk the talk. Until you do, you can bet that we'll be pushing you
every step of the way.
Read the Opposing Views Debate, Can Medical Research on Animals be Justified?