Animal Rights
Animal Rights

Good News for Those Opposed to Toxicity Testing on Animals

| by Animal Legal Defense Fund
By Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel

I’m excited about a major development that could spare many, many thousands of animals from being used in agonizing toxicity testing.

In 2007, the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) released a report entitled “Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and A Strategy.” This Report proposes a new paradigm for toxicity testing, one that moves away from using live animals and replaces them with alternatives, such as cell cultures, tissues cultures, computer models and other methods.

The NRC Report points out that the current system of toxicity testing is a patchwork effort that relies heavily on the use of live animals. From the perspective of those of us who seek to protect animals from harm, toxicity testing is a nightmare. The NRC recognizes that in order to meet the regulatory and information demands of the 21st century, considerable additional information is needed about the toxicity of compounds used in commerce and in the environment. The current system cannot meet these demands in a cost-effective, ethical and timely manner. Only by evolving to a testing scheme that is dominated by non-animal methodologies can they meet the demands of science and protection of the public.

This is exciting, folks. This is big news. At ALDF, we don’t want to stand on the sidelines and merely hope for the best, so we are working as part of a coalition to support the changes recommended in the NRC’s Toxicity Testing Report.

Five ground-breaking symposia are currently being developed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School and The Environmental Law Institute. We are inviting speakers who are experts in toxicology, risk analysis, policy implementation and all of the relevant laws, to come together and discuss the problems and opportunities involved in moving from animal testing to alternative methods. Our objective is to bring about a “win-win” for everyone – the animals, the scientists, the industries, environmentalists and public health advocates – by helping them work through the many questions of how to develop non-animal scientific techniques that are more cost-effective, faster and better predictors of toxicity.

The first symposium entitled “The International Implications of the US National Research Council’s Report on Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities in Implementation” will be held at (and with the cooperation of) the McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment at the University of Ottawa on June 29-30. It will focus on scientific, risk assessment and implementation challenges and opportunities. Later symposia will focus on economic issues, what laws and regulations will need to be changed and how to encourage the scientific development of alternative methods for testing. This work is complex and many layered and the change will not come as quickly as we would like, but we are feeling very hopeful.

Stay tuned, because I will report back to you on each of the symposia and will let you know where you can locate more information on this subject.