European Agency Promotes Non-Animal Tests In Massive Chemical Programme

For Immediate Release:
2 June 2010

Alistair Currie, 0207 357 9229, ext 245; [email protected]

London – In a move welcomed by international animal protection organisations, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has today published new guidance specifically designed to help chemical manufacturers avoid animal testing while meeting the requirements of the European Union’s new chemicals testing programme, known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals). Introduced in 2007, the REACH programme requires chemical companies to provide safety data on tens of thousands of chemicals already in use in the EU. Experts estimate that anywhere between 7.5 and 50 million animals could be used in new tests as a result. The first of several deadlines for submission of test data is in December this year.

Animal protection organisations lobbied hard for measures to prevent animal testing, and the REACH Regulation contains many requirements designed to achieve that goal, including an explicit obligation requiring that animal testing be a “last resort”. The new “Practical Guide 10: How to Avoid Unnecessary Testing on Animals” is one in a series published by the agency designed to help industry complete their REACH registrations efficiently and correctly. It complements existing guidance that examines the individual non-animal approaches that companies can use.  Its publication follows a meeting between animal groups and ECHA Executive Director Geert Dancet in February to discuss ways to minimise animal testing.

The groups already had concerns that manufacturers keen to avoid the “risk” of using non-animal approaches that might be rejected by the agency would undertake additional animal tests. At the February meeting, the group asked the agency to clarify its willingness to accept non-animal methods and proposed the development of this guidance. Groups attending the meeting were the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation (PETA UK), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) US and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. 

The new guide contains information on available alternatives to animal tests such as the sharing of existing data between companies to prevent duplication of tests and the use of technical mechanisms, including computer models, in vitro methods and “read across” from chemicals of known or no risk to similar chemicals.

On behalf of the animal protection groups, Alistair Currie of PETA UK said: “Our organisations welcome the publication of this guidance, which follows our meeting with the agency in February. The guidance reminds manufacturers of their legal obligation to avoid animal testing in complying with the demands of REACH. The pressures that the 2010 REACH deadlines put on manufacturers and the agency are genuine, but they must not be used as an excuse for ‘tick box’ toxicology. ECHA has now shown its support for the central tenet of REACH that animal testing must be a ‘last resort’. It is now for industry to meet its responsibility and ensure that no animal test that could be avoided ever takes place under REACH. We will be monitoring developments closely.”

For further information see the following:

European Coalition to End Animal Experiments
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals US
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine