The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., announced earlier this month that it will stop all animal testing by 2035. In the meantime, animal testing will be reduced and $4.25 million has been allocated for advanced research to identify alternative testing methods.
Five universities will receive this R&D money to find strategies that “reduce, refine, and/or replace vertebrate animal testing”.
The move by the Washington D.C. agency marks a historic first. It is the first federal agency to put a definite deadline by which it will have stopped all animal testing.
Strong reactions have been expressed both in favour and against the decision.
“Today’s memo directs the agency to aggressively reduce animal testing, including reducing mammal study requests and funding 30% by 2025 and completely eliminating them by 2035,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a Press Release.
In the meantime, the agency will aggressively pursue a reduction in animal testing. The EPA will reduce its requests for, and funding of, mammal studies by 30% by 2025 before eliminating all mammal study requests and funding by 2035.
The EPA particularly relies on animal testing to determine the safety of chemicals – pollutants and pesticides in particular. Chemical companies find the tests expensive and time-consuming. Animal advocacy organizations are even less keen. So now is the opportunity for all to move forward.
Five academic institutions to identify alternative testing methods
The five institutions who will lead the charge to develop the non-animal alternatives are the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland; Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, both in Nashville; Oregon State University in Corvallis; and the University of California, Riverside.
The EPA says the total number of animals used in toxicology studies ranges from 20,000 to more than 100,000 each year.
Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy at the White Coat Waste Project, an animal activist group that has always criticised animal research as “unreliable and misleading,” welcomed the move. He estimates that there are currently about 20,000 animals in EPA labs including rabbits, mice, and rats. Most of these tests are for measuring the safety of environmental pollutants like smog and ozone. Rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs and other animals are primarily tested by chemical companies to meet EPA safety requirements for new products.
“This is the most comprehensive and aggressive plan in U.S. history to cut government animal testing,” says Goodman says. “I think it’s going to be the gold standard for other agencies.”