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Over 100,000 animals suffer in 295 EU chemical tests without go ahead from European Chemicals Agency
This week the European Chemicals Agency announced the results of an investigation into animal tests conducted for EU chemical legislation REACH. This follows pressure on the agency to take action by the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) and Cruelty Free International.
The investigation was of tests conducted without first obtaining agreement from the Agency that they were necessary for REACH. This is the testing proposals system that is designed to help reduce animal testing and is a legal requirement for some animal tests under REACH.
The ECEAE and Cruelty Free International scientists have performed a vital role in commenting on these testing proposals and have to date helped prevent at least 17 animal tests from occurring by finding existing information that chemical companies can use instead, saving at least 18,000 animals.
Following requests by us in response to their 2011 report in which there were 107 so called pre-emptive tests, ECHA has agreed to investigate companies that appear to have done recent animal tests within going through this testing proposal system. ECHA then passes on the information to the relevant national authority to investigate enforcement options. This is the second such investigation by ECHA.
This time ECHA found that 295 animal tests had been done without researchers waiting for a decision from ECHA. This is nearly a three-fold increase on the last investigation. These so called pre-emptive tests represent 6% of the new tests done for the last registration deadline of 2013 and our estimate is that this would have involved the use of over 100,000 animals.
ECHA claims that explanation for 126 (43%) of the tests could be found but the extent to which they have thoroughly investigated all cases (and not just taken the companies’ word for it) is not clear. We do not agree with their assessment for some of these explanations and we will be going back to the Agency to ask for clarification.
In the meantime, regardless of possible explanations, it is now up to national authorities to investigate the tests that were done in their country and ensure the law is properly enforced. ECHA have issued a strong request for national authorities to do this.
We believe this report demonstrates that more needs to be done by industry and the Agency to make it clear to companies how they should ensure that animal testing is a last resort.
Dr Katy Taylor, Director of Science at Cruelty Free international, which leads the ECEAE, says
“We are pleased to see ECHA perform this investigation and provide us with the results. The results show however that more needs to be done to make it clear to companies and national authorities what their legal obligations under REACH are. Animal testing is supposed to be a last resort under REACH and it is imperative that companies and national authorities are vigilant on this. We are not convinced that the explanations given by the companies are adequate in all cases and we urge the relevant national authorities to investigate and instigate enforcement action.”