By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
The world is moving toward a future dominated by sophisticated methods that use human cells, tissues and organs, 3D printing, robotics, computer models and other technologies to create approaches to testing and research that do not rely on animals. These methods are often faster, less expensive and more effective than the outdated animal experiments currently in use. Despite this, millions of guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, cats, primates, mice, rats and other animals still suffer in laboratories worldwide.
We are honored to be able to work with scientists, companies and governments to speed up this shift and eliminate the use of animals in research and testing. And 2021 has brought tremendous progress on this front: This year, five additional U.S. states ended the sale of animal-tested cosmetics, and Mexico became the first country in North America to ban the production and sale of animal-tested cosmetics. Not only do these advances mark a real shift to a more humane future through the elimination of unneeded tests for cosmetic products—it shows that there is real momentum in the movement to end the suffering of animals in laboratories.
Here are other wins achieved for animals in laboratories, both here in the U.S. and across the world in 2021:
- In April, Humane Society International partnered with Hollywood filmmakers and 14 celebrities to produce a powerful stop-motion animated short film, #SaveRalph, calling for an end to cosmetic animal testing around the world. The film introduces our new spokesbunny, Ralph (voiced by Oscar-winning director Taika Waititi), being interviewed as he goes through his daily routine as a “tester” in a toxicology lab. #SaveRalph quickly went viral on social media, garnering millions of views and close to five million petition signatures globally. Most importantly, Ralph helped us to advance animal testing bans around the world.
- Spurred to action by the momentum of #SaveRalph, Mexico became the first country in North America to outlaw cosmetic testing on animals. Our federal bill in Chile has also advanced to the halfway mark with unanimous support in the Chamber of Deputies; the Canadian government has committed to introducing legislation to end cosmetic testing on animals by 2023 and phase out toxicity testing on animals by 2035; and our work with regulators and other stakeholders in Brazil, South Africa and Southeast Asia have laid the groundwork for more progress in the year ahead.
- In the U.S., five states passed legislation ending the sale of animal-tested cosmetics: Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. This brings the total number of states with sales bans for animal-tested cosmetics to eight, including California, Nevada and Illinois. In Brazil, an eleventh state, Acre, has banned animal testing for cosmetics.
- At the federal level in the U.S., the bipartisan Humane Cosmetics Act, legislation to prohibit the production and sale of animal-tested cosmetics, was introduced in the U.S. Congress in December and has already been cosponsored by five senators and 137 representatives. The legislation was also introduced with support from the Personal Care Products Council, the trade association representing 90% of the U.S. cosmetics industry, which comes to approximately 600 member companies. In addition, 53 companies endorsed the Humane Cosmetics Act, bringing the total number of companies independently supporting the measure to 369.
- Our efforts for animals in labs essentially require collaboration. Our work with the Animal-Free Safety Assessment Collaboration has allowed us to support legislative reforms and develop a state-of-the-art training course in non-animal testing and assessment. This goes a long way in helping small and medium-sized industries, regulators and other key stakeholders to trust and embrace new, animal-free approaches and legal reforms.
- The European Parliament voted for a resolution asking the European Commission to draw up an action plan to phase out all animal experiments in the European Union. Adopted by 667 votes to four with the active support of HSI, the resolution asks for increased funding to non-animal methods, more training for scientists and regulatory reforms to accelerate the transition from animal models to more advanced technologies.
- In Korea, HSI secured introduction of the Act on the Promotion of Development, Dissemination and Use of Alternatives to Animal Testing Methods (PAAM Act), a cross-cutting vehicle to compel federal regulatory and research ministries to prioritize a full replacement of animal use in science and accelerate efforts and funding toward this end.
- HSI organized an international, multi-stakeholder workshop dedicated to the deletion of the Abnormal Toxicity Test, an obsolete animal-based safety test for biological products. Over one hundred participants, representing manufacturers and regulatory authorities from the largest vaccine-producing countries and regions, met to share their respective experiences, discuss the lingering challenges and define steps and activities to secure a global elimination of the test. In addition, HSI’s activities contributed to both Brazilian and South Korean stakeholders taking concrete steps toward the deletion of the test.
- We released a paper outlining how dogs are used in experiments that are funded, conducted, required or encouraged by the U.S. government along with our recommendations of what federal agencies should do to move away from and eventually eliminate the use of dogs in research and testing. Nearly 300,000 people have signed our petition to end the use of dogs in experiments in the U.S. Virginia also passed a law to give dogs and cats a chance at adoption following their time in the laboratory. Similar legislation is currently being considered in Michigan and Massachusetts.
- We presented and participated in a workshop of international stakeholders devoted to substantially reducing, if not eliminating, the use of the 90-day pesticide test on dogs, currently required by regulating agencies around the globe. During the 90-day test, dogs are exposed to various levels of pesticides and then killed.
- We filed a lawsuit against the National Institutes of Health in response to its 2019 decision to keep 44 chimps at a New Mexico laboratory instead of moving them to Chimp Haven sanctuary as required by law. Since 2019, nine of the 44 chimps in New Mexico have died waiting for their chance to leave the lab. We also worked with members of Congress to include language in the House appropriations bill urging NIH to move government-owned chimpanzees to sanctuary.
All the success we have achieved this year to end the use of animals in research, testing and education would not have been possible without our dedicated and passionate base of supporters who refuse to accept the status quo for how animals have been treated for decades. As we look ahead to 2022, we feel fueled in our fight to bring about an end to cosmetics animal testing around the globe and to win protections for all animals used in research and testing.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.