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PETA and its European affiliates are supported by millions of caring and dedicated animal rights advocates across the EU and have significant influence within the animal-welfare, scientific, and regulatory communities. Below is information for animal advocates and policy makers, who we hope will join us in promoting effective and humane science.

REACH: The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation

In 2006, the European Union introduced legislation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), with the aim of ensuring the protection of human health and the environment and the promotion of non-animal test methods. The regulation requires that companies provide information about the health effects and environmental hazards of almost every chemical used in Europe. If they don’t already have the required data, REACH often demands that they conduct new tests on animals.

In light of the European Commission’s second evaluation of the regulation, the REACH REFIT Evaluation, published on 8 March 2018, we describe three key issues and the action you can take.

Key players:

  • European Commission
  • European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)
  • national authorities

The Regulation and the Tests

PETA estimates from official reports that by 2016, more than 1 million animals had already been used in tests to meet REACH data requirements, with the majority of chemicals still to be registered. Those tests included painful skin and eye tests in which animals were subjected to pain and suffering before being killed, even though reliable non-animal methods exist.

Companies that manufacture or import chemicals in low volumes (1 to 100 tonnes per year) are required to register their substances by 31 May 2018. ECHA estimates that up to 25,000 substances will be registered. This is three times more than for either of the previous deadlines in 2010 and 2013, meaning that millions of animals are expected to have suffered and died by then.

rats in inhalation tubes

To minimise new tests on animals, REACH contains a number of specific measures and general provisions designed to establish and enforce the requirement that tests on animals be performed only as a last resort.

All animal tests conducted under REACH in the member states must be carried out in accordance with European Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, which stipulates that experiments on animals should not be performed if the results can be obtained by another scientifically valid method.

To help prevent avoidable experiments on animals, member states, ECHA, and the European Commission must actively promote non-animal methods.

Alternative methods to testing on animals:

  • Weight of evidence
  • Reading-across
  • Non-animal laboratory tests
  • Computer models

TAKE ACTION: Urge national competent authorities to promote non-animal methods.

Please contact the relevant authorities in your country and find out how they are working to ensure that animals are used only as a last resort and that alternative methods are chosen whenever possible. National contact points can be found here for REACH and here for Directive 2010/63/EU.

Enforcement of the ‘Last Resort’ Requirement

rabbit behind bars

Reports published by ECHA on The Use of Alternatives to Testing on Animals for the REACH Regulation in 2011, 2014, and 2017 corroborate our long-standing concern that tests on animals continue to occur without prior performance of the relevant in vitro tests and that avoidable tests on animals are being conducted despite the availability of non-animal methods.

Approaches to the enforcement of REACH vary among member states, and the “last resort” requirement is not treated as a priority for enforcement. This lack of harmonisation is of concern, not only because one of the objectives of REACH is to promote alternative methods for hazard assessment but also because, following a complaint filed by PETA, the European Ombudsman stated that it is the responsibility of the member states to investigate and impose sanctions for non-compliance with the provisions of REACH.

Member states must implement appropriate penalties that are effective and proportionate and deter companies from breaching the “last resort” requirement. Reminding registrants to observe their REACH obligations is not enough, and ignorance of the law is not an acceptable excuse.

EVIDENCE: Failure to Investigate Potentially Avoidable Tests on Animals

ECHA national enforcement authorities of 121 instances of potential non-compliance with the registrant’s obligation to submit a testing proposal before conducting an animal study, yet fewer than half of the contacted member states provided the agency with feedback. One case of non-compliance was confirmed, and an additional case might have been subject to enforcement action if the time limit on initiating proceedings hadn’t passed. Shamefully, the report states that German national laws do not allow sanctions in relation to these specific violations.

TAKE ACTION: Ensure that member states implement suitable penalties for breaches of the REACH regulation regarding animal testing.

Member states are advised under Recital 122 of REACH that “[i]n order to ensure transparency, impartiality and consistency in the level of enforcement activities by Member States, it is necessary for Member States to set up an appropriate framework for penalties with a view to imposing effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties for non-compliance, as non-compliance can result in damage to human health and the environment.” Please contact the enforcement authorities for both REACH and Directive 2010/63/EU in your country and urge them to conduct a thorough investigation into any potential non-compliance with the “last resort” requirement and to implement suitable penalties.

The REACH REFIT Evaluation

The REACH regulation mandates that a review be conducted every five years to monitor progress in the achievement of its objectives. The aim of the review, combined with the fitness check of the most relevant chemicals legislation, is to provide information that will help identify necessary adjustments and propose recommendations for improving the implementation of the regulation. A link to the REACH REFIT Evaluation is provided here.

Disappointingly, the European Commission has failed to seize this opportunity for Europe to lead the world in progressive and innovative science by ending cruel experiments on animals and accepting cutting-edge, non-animal research methods. Even though the REFIT report and accompanying Commission Staff Working Document note a number of shortcomings related to the avoidance of tests on animals, concrete actions to address these points have not been proposed. Furthermore, unsubstantiated negative claims have been made regarding the value of non-animal data, and a misleading conclusion has been reported regarding a decision reached by the European Ombudsman concerning the testing of cosmetics ingredients; the Ombudsman did not agree with the Commission that cosmetics ingredients could be tested for the purposes of REACH but instead reserved judgement on the matter.

Please contact us to discuss the REACH REFIT report in greater detail. Our science policy advisers are available for meetings.

As part of the stakeholder consultation process, the The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. detailed its concerns regarding ECHA’s prioritisation of arbitrary deadlines over animal lives, the agency’s reluctance to accept non-animal testing methods, and the disproportionate demand for tests for cosmetics ingredients. You can read the Consortium’s position paper containing its recommendations for improving the functioning of REACH here.

More Than 100,000 People Demand That Europe Lead the Way in Animal-Free Science

Upon hearing about the REACH REFIT Evaluation, more than 100,000 compassionate supporters of PETA and its international affiliates signed an open letter to the Commission and ECHA demanding that Europe become a world leader in progressive and innovative science by ending cruel experiments on animals and accepting cutting-edge, non-animal research methods. This open letter was submitted to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions for consideration (Petition No 0947/2017). View the letter and details of our petition here.

TAKE ACTION: Require implementation of REACH in order to lead the world in progressive and innovative science by ending cruel experiments on animals and prioritising cutting-edge, non-animal research methods.

PETA supports the principle of ensuring that the chemicals we are exposed to every day are not harmful to our health or the environment. So long as REACH relies on animal tests, however, that goal will never be REACHed. Enlightened scientists and regulators around the world recognise that in addition to being unethical, animal tests simply can’t do the job. While some steps have been taken under REACH to prevent pointless, duplicative tests from being carried out, it is clear that avoidable tests continue to occur. It is critical that we make absolutely sure that every opportunity to avoid animal testing for compliance with REACH is taken.

Ultimately, Europe must make the transition to chemical legislation that relies on 21st century, animal-free toxicology tests, which will enhance the competitiveness of the chemical sector while ensuring better protection of human health and the environment and reducing animal suffering.


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