By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
Artificial intelligence, organ-on-chip technology and 3D bioprinting: These advancements promise to dramatically reshape our world, and they’ll play a part in making animal experiments obsolete. Sophisticated testing and research methods that use human cells or human biology-based technology will one day completely replace experiments on animals—a game-changer not just for animals, but for human health. The only question is how quickly it will happen.
Our mission is to expedite this change so that animals no longer suffer in laboratories when more modern and ethical methods for understanding human biology and diseases and ensuring that products are safe and effective are in place. We’re doing this by tackling the issue of animal testing and experimentation and the need for non-animal approaches head-on. In 2023, we made notable progress on the following fronts:
Banning or phasing out animal tests. This year, we worked across the U.S. and around the world to move away from animal testing:
- Oregon became the 11th state to ban the sale of cosmetics tested on animals.
- Illinois banned dogs and cats from being used in toxicity testing—tests that attempt to determine how a substance, ingredient or drug may affect human health—unless such testing is explicitly deemed necessary by a federal agency.
- Just this week, Chile became the 45th country to enact a cosmetic animal testing and sales ban.
- Brazil became the 43rd country to ban cosmetic testing on animals and is one vote away from enacting a further ban on the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. With our help, Brazil has also moved away from testing school supplies like paint and glue on animals and is advancing chemical legislation that includes strong animal-protective language.
- Canada became the 44th country to ban cosmetic animal testing and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. Canada has also modernized its environmental protection law to require that non-animal methods be used to test chemicals where available, and has begun work on a national strategy to phase-out toxicity testing on animals more broadly.
- India revised its rules for testing new drugs to expressly specify the government’s acceptance of non-animal approaches.
- South Korea announced its decision to phase out the use of horseshoe crab blood—commonly used in tests for drugs and vaccines—and rely on a synthetic substitute instead. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety also announced its openness to receiving data from a range of modern non-animal approaches from companies applying for the approval of new pharmaceutical products. Additionally, the Promotion of Alternatives to Animal Methods (PAAM) Act, which we helped to develop, was endorsed by the lead committee in Korea’s National Assembly with backing from hundreds of scientists and industry experts.
- Our global outreach to the vaccine industry and regulators helped influence Japan to fully remove an obsolete animal test from its safety requirements.
- In response to the successful European Citizens Initiative led by our international colleagues and allies, the European Commission kick-started a plan to phase out animal testing for chemicals, pesticides, biocides and human and veterinary medicines, as well as explore effective non-animal approaches with help from scientists.
- The Humane Cosmetics Act, federal legislation to ban production and sale of animal-tested cosmetics in the U.S. recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives, currently has more than 200 bipartisan cosponsors and the support of 400 individual cosmetics companies, in addition to the Personal Care Products Council—the leading national trade association representing 600 global cosmetics and personal care products companies.
Ensuring that non-animal methods are funded, developed and used worldwide. We worked with scientists, legislators and others to help promote alternatives that can replace animal experiments.
- Maryland became the first American state to require that laboratories that test on animals contribute to a research fund to provide grants for scientists using or developing non-animal research alternatives.
- California passed a law expanding the list of non-animal alternatives that laboratories testing products such as pesticides, household products and industrial chemicals are required to use. The bill also mandated that laboratories submit an annual report with the number and type of animals and non-animal alternatives they have used to test these products.
- With our partners, we created and launched a free, first-of-its-kind master class in animal-free safety assessment for cosmetics and their ingredients to assist companies, regulators and other industry entities in fully turning away from cosmetics animal testing.
- Through our scientific contributions at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development we helped to establish 16 new or improved non-animal methods as internationally recognized test guidelines by the OECD’s 38 member countries.
- We co-organized and sponsored the leading global congress on alternatives to animal use in science, and our global team presented or contributed to 15 different scientific sessions, including a 10-year retrospective on our initiative to end animal testing for cosmetics.
Eliminating duplicative, ineffective or redundant animal tests. Scientific papers authored by our staff and published in 2023 are making waves in the scientific community:
- Our peer-reviewed scientific paper in the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology analyzed data from the 90-day pesticide test on beagles to demonstrate that, in nearly all cases, the test provided no added value in protecting humans from pesticides’ toxic effects. This test, which involves forcing dozens of dogs to ingest pesticides every day for 90 days and then killing them is required by the Environmental Protection Agency and its regulatory counterparts around the world. In response to our findings, the EPA is reviewing the test to see how it might be avoided in the future.
- Our peer-reviewed paper in the journal Alternatives to Laboratory Animals explores why animal experiments have given false hope to patients with diseases such as Alzheimer’s and asthma and explains how switching to non-animal methods based on human biology could help provide us with highly sought-after medicines to treat and cure human diseases.
- We teamed up with vaccine regulators, industry and other experts to co-author a peer-reviewed article in Biologicals on non-animal approaches for veterinary vaccine safety testing.
- Our Biomedical Research for the 21st Century (BioMed21) Collaboration project worked toward ending the common practice of scientific journals asking scientists to conduct animal tests to verify non-animal research results. We did this through several workshops and the creation of an Author Guide for Addressing Animal Methods Bias in Publishing by an international group of researchers and advocates.
- With our Animal-Free Safety Assessment Collaboration partners—including Procter & Gamble, Kenvue, Unilever, ExxonMobil, Shell, Givaudan, Firmenich, Innospec, Sasol and the European Centre for Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals—we published several case-studies highlighting instances when unnecessary animal testing was requested by the European Chemicals Agency contradicting EU law.
Improving the lives of animals in animal testing facilities. Until animals are no longer living in laboratories or research breeding facilities, we’ll continue to fight for their better treatment and improved living conditions to help ease their suffering:
- Michigan became the 16th state to require laboratories to allow dogs and cats to be adopted after their use in testing. Teddy’s Law was named in honor of a beagle adopted by a loving family following our 2019 undercover investigation at a Michigan lab.
- In the year since we completed the historic transfer of nearly 4,000 beagles—most of whom were destined for laboratories—from Envigo’s Virginia breeding facility, we’ve celebrated the many stories we’ve heard about these beagles who have settled happily into their new homes.
You can help end animal testing and experiments by resolving to take action in 2024 and beyond:
Thanks to your advocacy and support, the world is ever closer to a future in which animals no longer suffer in the name of science or safety.
Kitty Block is CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.