10 things you may not have known about animal testing…
Not a pleasant topic, but unfortunately one that we sadly still have to talk about: animal testing .
In recent years, there have been many scientific results that have impressed us and that are capable of accurately and effectively predicting safety data relevant to humans. At the same time, we are appalled that animal testing continues and that we still have to fight against it. In addition, conflicting laws mean that more animals than ever are suffering in tests, because one law prohibits them, but another allows them to continue and expand.
So the topic is not off the table yet.
10 years Lush Prize
This year, The Lush Prize turns 10 … over the last 10 years, Lush Prize has awarded £2.7 million across 35 countries to 126 scientists, campaigners and educators all working towards removing animals from testing and as such ensuring a higher level of public safety.
If you don’t already know, the Lush Prize started in 2012 as a joint project between Lush and Ethical Consumer Research Association. Its aim was to expedite the replacement of animal tests in product safety testing by rewarding and funding strategic projects and interventions anywhere in the world.
Over the years, we’ve been awed by the science that’s being developed to accurately and effectively predict safety data that’s human relevant. At the same time , we’re appalled that animal testing continues and that we still have to fight this. Plus, contradictory legislation means animal tests that are banned under one law are continuing and increasing under others, so that more animals than ever are suffering in testing
In homage of a decade of the Lush Prize, scientific consultant Rebecca Ram highlights 10 things about animal testing that you may be surprised to learn …
1) It still happens!
Sadly, animal testing is not (yet) in the history books and hundreds of millions of animals suffer in labs ever year, worldwide. This includes safety testing (for ingredients in e.g. chemicals, drugs, cosmetics) and experimental scientific research. Over 3 million animals were used in experiments in the UK in 2021 and 192 million animals are used every year globally. [RR1] This figure is an intelligent estimate, as many countries don’t publish (or even count) the number of animals they use.
Yes, even in Europe…
A big problem in the EU is two conflicting pieces of legislation. In 2013 in a very welcome move, the Cosmetics Directive put into place a ban on animal-tested cosmetics However, a piece of chemicals testing legislation known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) interrupted the progress.
REACH passed into law in 2007, and demands that companies who manufacture or import chemicals into Europe must meet certain criteria by law. As such, there is a process to follow:
➜ Ingredients must first be registered with the European Chemical Agency
➜ Extensive safety data about the ingredient must then be supplied
➜ If any safety data is missing, this may mean that tests on animals must be conducted if no other method is available.
Even though testing on animals under REACH is only supposed to be carried out as a last resort, animal welfare groups estimate that 2.6 million animals have been used for testing under REACH since the regulation’s inception [RR2].
2) Not all animal tests are legally required
Some animal testing is legally required (e.g. for products such as drugs or chemicals) and even here there is vast room for improvement on using non-animal methods. This is ‘regulatory’ testing.
However, the large majority of animal use is not regulatory testing, but ‘basic’ or experimental research, which is very rarely (if ever) refused approval and new approach, non-animal methods could be much better investigated for use instead.
3) Tradition and routine, not science
Often animal use continues because of convention or tradition, as those carrying out and approving the tests are so used to animals, they keep using them, even though there is a legal obligation to use non-animal methods wherever possible. Such is the bias towards animal tests that researchers who propose new human-relevant methods are often told to perform them in animals.
4) It does not prove safety
Animal testing has been considered as little better than a ‘coin toss’ in its ability to predict human health and safety. Animal tests cannot keep pace with the vast amount of ever emerging chemicals which require testing and thousands of chemicals still have unknown risks, despite decades of animal tests [RR3].
90% of new drugs fail during human (clinical) trials having passed earlier (preclinical) tests which are largely based on animals. On the flipside, animals may react in ways that humans wouldn’t, e.g. to products which might be safe and effective in us, but get rejected on the basis of the animal tests [RR4].
5) Animal testing is unreliable
Animals are poor models for humans and often don’t suffer from human diseases.
This is well known in science, so animals are routinely genetically modified (GM) in their millions every year, to try to artificially create diseases, such as neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, organ failure or cancer. GM animals are now big business, with many labs worldwide specialising in their supply.
6) Animal testing is time consuming and expensive
For example, just one test on a chemical to check its potential to cause cancer can take two years to run, use 860 rodents, cost between $2 and $4 million, and overall takes five years to plan, conduct and analyze the results [RR5]. New approach methods instead have the potential to be faster, cheaper and more reliable.
As the average cost of gaining approval for one new medicine costs over $2 billion and takes 10-12 years, this means businesses waste billions of dollars. As noted in a recent study by Thomas Hartung and the Centre for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) team; “many animal tests are simply too costly, take too long and give misleading results” when non-animal methods – so-called New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) – are more efficient, cost-effective, and crucially more accurate in terms of human health impacts, in fact “the performance of the new animal-free approaches is often so high that they have made animal experimentation obsolete..”
7) Just about every species of animal is used in testing
The majority of animals used are mice, rats, birds and fish . Monkeys and dogs are also routinely used in drugs testing, but nearly every other animal species is used in some way too. Just about any animal you can think of is used in laboratory research.
And one test doesn’t mean one animal … Just one chemical test (e.g. for reproductive defects) can use 3200 animals
8) The same types of animal tests are repeated
These are often called ‘well established models’ which repeat the same types of procedures. These might be experimental studies or tests for the same chemicals done again and again, for example an analysis of EU chemical data recently found that for two chemicals, the same cruel eye tests on rabbits had been carried out 90 times [RR6].
9) Better science is available to us
The vast majority of animal testing is claimed to be for the benefit of humans, but it is not human-relevant. Instead many new methods combining in vitro (human cells, tissues, mini organs and ‘chips’) and in silico (cutting edge computer techniques and artificial intelligence) are advancing and provide more human-relevant results .
See more at www.lushprize.org
10) New Approach Methodologies falter because of a regulatory system that is not built for them
Before a method can be used for regulatory purposes, it must be validated and entered into official test guidelines … regulators accept only tests done according to these internationally accepted methods, to ensure companies submit data that are consistent and held to a high standard. But the process for getting new methods approved is painfully slow.
Tests have to be validated and be able to prove consistency in results, and that they match the results found in animal tests. This perpetuates a flawed system.
Instead, new approach, animal-free methods aren’t designed to mimic unreliable animal tests, but provide more advanced science which is human relevant in safety testing and research. Better for animals and better for us!
Lush Press Office:
[email protected] / 0207 434 3948
Notes for editors:
The Lush Prize 2022 virtual conference takes place on the 9th and 10th November 2022 – 1-4pm GMT
To mark the tenth anniversary, the theme this year is: The journey to ending animal testing: Ten years of the Lush Prize … what progress has been made?
Speakers include: Dr Julia Baines, PETA International Science Consortium; Troy Seidle, HSI; Tara Jackson, New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society; Dr Mark Nelms, RTI International; and Professor Thomas Hartung, Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing
Find out more details and register for free here
The 2022 Lush Prize winners will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on 18th November 2022, 4pm and will be streamed live on the Lush Prize website and YouTube channel.
Rebecca Ram is an independent scientific consultant working in the field of human-relevant science. She has a Masters (MSc) in Toxicology (with Bioinformatics) and a BSc in Applied Biology. Her particular interest is in the field of scientific research and policy on the use of new approach methodologies (NAMs) including (but not limited to) in-vitro, in silico, artificial intelligence (AI) and improved use of clinical data. She is interested in the role of such methods as human-relevant solutions to overcome the limitations of animal models in both basic research and regulatory testing.
About Lush: Lush is a campaigning manufacturer and retailer of fresh handmade cosmetics with shops in 49 countries. The Lush Prize is one element in a broader campaign called ‘Fighting Animal Testing’. www.lush.co.uk
About Ethical Consumer: Ethical Consumer Research Association is a not-for-profit research co-operative specialising in independent research into social, animal welfare and environmental issues. www.ethicalconsumer.org
The Lush Prize 1R Network
The Lush Prize launched a 1R Network last year – to connect scientists together
The aim of the 1R Network is to create a collaborative network to share expertise and assist members, and others, in working towards the complete replacement of animal use in research and testing, with a particular focus on replacing animals in chemical safety assessment.
RR1: An Estimate of the Number of Animals Used for Scientific Purposes Worldwide in 2015 – Katy Taylor, Laura Rego Alvarez, 2019 (sagepub.com) https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0261192919899853?rfr_dat=cr_pub++0pubmed&url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org
RR2: Chemical & Engineer News: Can Europe replace animal testing of chemicals https://cen.acs.org/biological-chemistry/toxicology/Europe-replace-animal-testing-chemicals/100/i28
RR3: Translating Clinical Findings into Knowledge in Drug Safety Evaluation – Drug Induced Liver Injury Prediction System (DILIps) … – e.g rodents only detect human liver toxicity from drugs 50% of the time
RR4: Accelerating the Growth of Human Relevant Life Sciences in the United Kingdom
RR5: Recommended approaches in the application of toxicogenomics to derive points of departure for chemical risk assessment
RR6: Toxicological Sciences | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
Machine Learning of Toxicological Big Data Enables Read-Across Structure-Activity Relationships (RASAR) Outperforming Animal Test Reproducibility