Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, attended a landmark ceremony at the White House yesterday. There he witnessed President Obama sign a historical and hard-won revision to a law that has allowed the inhumane treatment and death of countless animals over the past 40 years for the purpose of scientific testing.
The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) regulates the use of chemicals, pesticides, biocides, cosmetics, and other potentially dangerous substances in risk assessment protocols. Senators from both political parties and representing Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Oregon, New Mexico, Louisiana, California and New Jersey have championed revising the obsolete portion of the bill dealing with animal testing. Many of the lawmakers who helped make this important change a reality attended the ceremony and the celebration of their victory afterwards.
Although animal testing has long been the accepted method of assuring human safety by the EPA, the signing of the revision by President Obama will force them to continue to pursue new, improved techniques. Animal testing protocols are outdated, expensive, slow, and poor indicators of the human reactions that may result. A change is long overdue for the sake of sparing animals from suffering and preventing unexpected human side effects.
Historically, chemical products have been tested by ingestion, inhalation and topical absorption on various animal species including rats, rabbits, birds and fish. This revision to the TSCA law primarily addresses chemicals that are not currently tested on dogs, as they aren’t the typical choice for chemical testing.
Although this decision will not improve the plight of laboratory pups, HSUS representatives believe it is a sign of more change to come. The Humane Society has scored major victories in the reduction of testing protocols that do call for the use of dogs in recent years. Brazil, India, the European Union and Canada agreed to eliminate a notoriously brutal dog pesticide-poisoning study that was banned in the US in 2007. The one year study called for Beagles to be consistently poisoned with pesticides for a full year before being killed.
Kathleen Conlee, Vice President of Animal Research Issues for HSUS, believes that while the TSCA revision may not directly help dogs used in laboratory testing, it does show that the world’s scientific communities are realizing the inhumanities and inadequacies of their current animal protocols.
While the bill doesn’t impact dogs or primates significantly because they aren’t typically used in chemical testing, it demonstrates scientific progress that will continue to move us away from using animals overall. Importantly, dogs and primates are used fairly extensively for drug testing and much of the information gained through non-animal alternatives and strategies today has been championed by pharma and will assist ending the use of animals for drug testing.
Conlee went on to explain that a shocking “92% of drugs that make their way to clinical trials in humans ultimately fail after pre-clinical animal studies that are extremely expensive and take a long time to carry out.”
The use of animals in chemical and clinical trials is an outdated, expensive and ineffective approach. Yesterday’s bill amendment represents another small step towards adopting more advanced, accurate and compassionate testing methods for the benefit of humans and animals alike.
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