Continuing Down the Long Road to Ending Toxicity Testing on Animals

Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF Founder and General Counsel on September 16, 2009

I’ve just returned from the second in our series of symposia on Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century.

As I described in an earlier blog post, we are faced with a rare opportunity – the chance to help create a monumental shift that can save huge numbers of animals from intense suffering. In 2007, the National Research Council recommended that science and industry move away from the use of live animals to test the toxicity of chemicals, pesticides and other products that come onto the market and develop new 21st century tests that don’t rely on the use of animals. As exciting as it is to hear this idea coming from scientists, like many reports, this one will sit in the drawer unless a concerted effort is made to breathe life into it.

That is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund and its partners, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Environmental Law Institute and the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School (in collaboration with ALDF) are sponsoring five symposia throughout the next year. We are bringing together key people from science, the regulatory agencies, animal protection, the chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries and environmentalists (the “stakeholders”) to explore how to coordinate the process for change and eliminate whatever stands in the way.

As important as this change could be, it involves a mind boggling array of complex scientific and legal issues. And as Dr. Maria Trainer, a molecular biologist and program director of the Council of Canadian Academies cautioned: “we have to do it once and do it right.” Our first step is to answer the questions that we are hearing from the various stakeholders. These symposia are aimed at getting them in a room together to work through the tough issues and commit to making this change successful. This could be a perfect storm, a win-win situation for everyone involved, humans and animals alike.

At our second symposium, held at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon on September 12, we heard from scientists who are working to develop exciting new non-animal techniques. And, we heard from lawyers and animal protectionists about the legal and policy hurdles that we must overcome. We talked a lot about the concerns expressed by various stakeholders and agreed that we must begin to set deadlines to assure progress in getting to the vision that we all share.

If you are interested in this subject and want to read more about Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century, check ALDF’s in-depth report here.

Toxicity testing is (literally) a painful subject to focus on–it causes so much pain to animals and means their certain death. But, a bright light is on the horizon and we have good reason to hope for a day when toxicity testing on animals will be a dark memory from the past.

No rest for the weary; I’m knee deep in planning the 3rd symposium, to be held in Chicago on November 5, and I’ll be back with news from that event.


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