By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
In a landmark announcement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced plans to end all animal testing on dogs, mice, rabbits, and other mammals for chemicals and pesticides in coming years. Instead, the agency will focus on investing in non-animal alternative technologies that are more reliable and do not cause animal suffering.
The agency plans to substantially reduce animal tests, including those it commissions in-house as well as those that it requires businesses to conduct, by 2025, and to end them altogether by 2035. The agency will also devote $4.25 million to the development of non-animal technologies (also known as new approach methodologies, or NAMs) at five universities. These approaches could include organ-on-a-chip technologies, cell cultures, computer modeling and other methods that are faster, cheaper and more predictive than time-consuming animal tests.
The agency’s decision to stop using results from mammal studies for approval of new chemicals will further spare even more animal lives. Companies seeking approval for a new chemical will be required to seek the consent of the EPA in order to carry out animal tests.
Today’s announcement follows the 2016 revision by Congress of the Toxic Substances Control Act—a law that regulates chemical safety in the United States. At that time, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society of the United States successfully advocated for key provisions which mandated that animal testing should be minimized and non-animal methods and strategies developed and prioritized. The likely outcome will be to spare hundreds of thousands of animals from having chemicals rubbed onto their skin, dropped in their eyes, or forced down their throats.
We have also lobbied the U.S. Congress to support increased appropriations for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development and its Computational Toxicology Program, to explore the use of mathematical and computer models to help assess chemical hazards and risks to human health and the environment. In a bipartisan approach, members of Congress have consistently prioritized key funding for these non-animal technologies.
In recent years, the EPA has taken decisive steps to reduce the use of animal testing for both chemicals and pesticides, and we are grateful to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler for his continued commitment in this regard. In 2016, the agency released a guidance document allowing pesticide manufacturers to waive the need for skin toxicity tests by accepting information already obtained through other tests, and published a letter to stakeholders expressing its goal of significantly reducing the use of animals in acute toxicity tests for pesticides. In 2018, the EPA released a policy encouraging the use of non-animal test methods for determining whether pesticides and chemicals cause skin allergies. As part of the updated TSCA, the EPA, in 2018, published a strategic plan to promote the development and implementation of alternative test methods. The overall effect has been one of steady, sweeping progress toward a long-cherished goal for animal protection advocates—the end of experiments that cause pain and misery to animals.
We are excited to see the EPA reinforce its commitment with today’s pathbreaking announcement, which heralds a new era for animals in laboratories. We urge other government agencies, industries, and stakeholders to join with the agency to end animal testing by investing in development and implementation of non-animal methods. The results will be improved human safety, more accurate and timely results, a better environment, and an end to animal suffering.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.