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In an important ruling, the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, has upheld a complaint by the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE), a coalition of leading animal protection organisations in Europe, about animal testing under REACH, the EU chemicals legislation.
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is responsible for the safety of chemicals sold in the EU. REACH seeks to ensure that companies hold relevant data for the safety (human and environmental) of their chemicals. Where more than 100 tonnes of a chemical are sold annually in the EU and there is a data gap, ECHA has to give the green light before a test to fill the gap can be carried out.
It is a key principle of REACH that, although animal tests are often required, they should only be conducted as a last resort, when all other avenues have been explored.
ECHA had adopted a policy of rejecting a proposal for an animal test only if the data was already available or not required at the tonnage in question. ECEAE argued that it should also reject a proposal if it thought there was an alternative way of generating the data or the company had not given this sufficient thought.
The Ombudsman has now agreed with ECEAE. As a result, ECHA has agreed to require companies in every case to show that they have considered alternative methods and to share with companies information about such methods. The result should be significantly fewer animal tests.
The ombudsman has invited ECEAE to bring the case back to her if is not satisfied that ECHA is complying with the ruling.
Dr Katy Taylor, ECEAE’s Senior Science Advisor, said:
We welcome the Ombudsman’s ruling. ECHA tried to shift the whole responsibility about using alternatives onto companies, and wanted to allow them to test on animals even where ECHA itself thought there was no need. We always maintained that this would significantly weaken the protection to animals which REACH is supposed to give and we are very pleased that the Ombudsman agrees. It is not enough to pay lip service to the need to avoid animal tests.
We will be monitoring very closely how ECHA implements the ruling’.
1. The ruling can be found at http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/cases/decision.faces/en/60909/html.bookmark
2. The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) was formed in 1990 by organisations across Europe to successfully campaign to ban cosmetics testing on animals. Today we lead campaigning on all animal testing issues in Europe, and are the only organisation solely dedicated to being a voice for animals in EU laboratories.
The ECEAE pulls together extensive expertise, experience and knowledge from major European animal protection organisations. We work with MEPs and officials to ensure that animals in laboratories are high on the European political agenda. We campaign for humane, modern science and progressive legislation. We also run public education campaigns and work with companies to encourage them to go cruelty free.