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(Updated 25/02/01)

Animal rights outcry

Biggest mass poisoning of laboratory animals in Europe's history

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have condemned European Commission proposals published, amounting to the biggest mass poisoning of laboratory animals in Europe’s history. In response the two groups have launched a Europe-wide campaign called “Harmful If Swallowed”. The Commission’s “White Paper Strategy for a future Chemicals Policy” reveals plans to test thousands of “existing” chemicals that have been in use before 1981, and could sentence to death up to ten million laboratory animals in cruel and unscientific poisoning experiments.

The White Paper reveals that most experiments will involve poisoning animals by forcing them to consume chemicals, either through forced feeding, forced inhalation or injection. Others will involve exposing pregnant animals to chemicals to test for deformities in the unborn foetus. The new proposals make a mockery of repeated EU attempts to reduce experiments on animals. The tests will inevitably involve immense animal suffering and death for millions of dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice, birds and fish.

The BUAV and PETA support the aim of identifying and removing chemicals that may potentially harm the environment or human health. But poisoning to death millions of animals is not only incredibly cruel, it is also not the most scientific method of producing reliable results. The Commission has been condemned for largely ignoring more humane and accurate non-animal research techniques, in favour of out dated, scientifically questionable animal poisoning experiments.

Wendy Higgins, Campaign Director for the BUAV states: “These proposals are absolutely shocking. The public is being asked to put its faith in animal experiments that even scientists call into question, with the promise that this programme of poisoning will protect the environment. It won’t. Millions of animals will be deliberately poisoned and killed in horrific toxicity tests that cannot be relied upon with any certainty by consumers, environmentalists or regulators. The public deserves more, and so do laboratory animals. It’s time the European Commission truly committed itself to developing and implementing non-animal test methods, rather than paying lip service to humane research whilst at the same time proposing the biggest mass animal poisoning programme in Europe’s history.”


Dr Gill Langley of the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research has strongly criticised the European Commission’s proposals, “This White paper merely makes a nod in the direction of alternatives to animal tests but there is no convincing strategy for validating and implementing the alternatives and therefore the proposals condemn millions of animals to death.” (Dr Gill Langley, Phd (Cantab) MIBiol, Cbiol,)

Greenpeace International have questioned even the need to demonstrate toxicity, carcinogenicity, mutogenicity or hormone disruption in those chemicals that have bioaccumulative or persistent characteristics. “There are numerous strategies for avoiding animal testing. The extensive literature on alternatives to animal testing should be consulted and evaluated by the European Commission ... In short, Industry cannot claim that animal testing is the only option when there is an extensive and accumulating literature on the development and application of alternative methodologies.” (Stephen Tindale, Acting Executive Director, Greenpeace UK.)

Dr Caroline Lucas, MEP Green Party “I am extremely concerned that the proposed strategy outlined in the White Paper could involve several million additional animals being involved in chemical safety assessment tests in the coming years. At the very least, the Paper should have stated that where alternative tests are available, their use should be mandatory. I will be calling on the Commission to provide proper funding for research alternatives to animal testing, and to recall its legal obligation to incorporate animal welfare considerations into all policy initiatives.”