PETA: EU should phase out animal testing before chemical registration influx
With global chemical production expected to double by 2030, increased demand for animal testing to comply with EU rules has made a shift towards non-animal approaches even more pressing, according to stakeholders at the European Partnership for Alternative Approaches (EPAA) to Animal Testing conference in Brussels.
While testing cosmetics on animals in the EU has already been banned, chemical testing has not yet been fully phased out. However, the European Commission has promised a new roadmap to reduce the testing level further, aiming to move to an animal-free regulatory system under chemicals legislation.
PETA [People for Ethical Treatment of Animals] UK Policy Manager Dr Julia Baines spoke to Euractiv on the sidelines of the conference and welcomed the Commission’s commitment to a chemicals roadmap, describing it as “a big turnaround in the last couple of years.”
However, she urged the EU to move faster as more and more new chemicals are being registered. This, ultimately, means more testing on animals.
According to various animal rights groups, approximately 8 million animals are used in scientific testing across the European Union and Norway annually.
Baines added that Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation testing revisions will place a higher demand on animal testing, which creates an urgency for a shift to non-animal approaches.
She also argued that more environmental stakeholders and NGOs should join the discussions to continue building confidence in testing methods that don’t involve animals.
The EPAA’s annual conference brought together partners and stakeholders to discuss progress as they attempt to leave their mark on chemical, environmental, and pharmaceutical legislation revisions to promote non-animal testing.
EPAA European Commission co-chair Giacomo Mattino assured attendees that the EU executive shares their vision to phase out animal testing, although he acknowledged that “this is a really challenging and long-term goal” and tackling it requires a step-by-step approach.
Chief Veterinary Officer at Sanofi, Dr Nicolas Dudoignon, said EU citizens want companies to ensure they aren’t using animals in their testing while simultaneously expecting new drugs to address medical conditions.
“The approach we have as a pharmaceutical company is science-based. When we think the science still necessitates the use of animals, we will do so, but at the same time, we are trying to really improve our methodologies and work collaboratively to change models from animal ones to non-animal ones,” he told Euractiv.
But, right now, the complexity of biology and pathology “does not allow us to completely remove this reliance on animals yet,” he added.
Referring to the EPAA’s aim to replace, reduce, and refine animal testing procedures (the ‘3R principle’), Dudoignon said these “three Rs do not pop up from one day to another but take time”.
He said that following science gives companies more opportunities to implement new approaches to achieve these objectives.
A safe space for contentious data
Participants also raised the concept of ‘safe harbours’ for companies to submit New Approach Methodologies (NAM) data.
Professor Vera Rogiers, a member of the EPAA’s advisory mirror group, said she noticed hesitation from the industry to enter new results.
“You have to have somewhere a safe harbour where different companies can feel comfortable entering new data where they won’t have penalties for that,” Rogiers told the innovation and animal testing panel.
In response, Sylvie Lemoine, panellist and deputy director general at Cefic, agreed but said it was unclear where such a safe space could be created.
From her end, policy officer at DG Environment Katrin Schütte said they have not yet explored this approach because of the nature of the REACH regulation that needs to work for a larger number of chemicals than those that fall under the cosmetics regulation.
However, Schütte told Euractiv that she could not immediately think of how the concept of safe harbours could be made practically feasible but that given the interest to make it work, the topic should be given deep thought.
Sonja Beken, chair of the 3Rs Working Party and member of the Non-Clinical Working Party at the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said collaboration is key for progress.
“Having this kind of interface is super important to progress in this field, to understand each other and to try to speak the same language,” she said.