Good News For Rabbits – And For Us
Inch by inch, progress is being made in ending animal tests. Actually, today it was more mile by mile. After more than a decade of scientific research, negotiations and lobbying by PETA and other animal protection groups, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has announced that it has approved new, non-animal testing methods for skin irritation.
What does that mean? Until recently, chemicals of all kinds were tested for skin irritation using painful tests on rabbits. But now, around the entire world, the standard way of testing for skin irritation will be to use high-tech, modern methods – the rabbits will be spared. This really is a global deal: the OECD produces binding safety testing guidelines for its more than 30 member nations, representing almost all of the world’s largest economies, and many countries which aren’t members also follow the OECD’s guidelines.
Animal-friendly methods employ in vitro (test tube) toxicity screening, “skin” grown in laboratories and computer models. While non-animal methods have been recognised as valid to test corrosivity (in other words, whether something will permanently damage the skin) for some time, these are the first methods to be recognised as effective to measure skin irritation, thus allowing for a complete assessment of skin effects without the use of animals. The methods that have just been adopted by the OECD use reconstructed human skin models that successfully reproduce the effect on human skin and allow reliable, accurate measurements of damage in a way that applying chemicals to the shaved, raw skin of rabbits cannot. In addition to the pain and distress endured by the rabbits who are used in animal tests, the OECD also considered evidence that the animal tests do not accurately measure whether a substance is likely to be an irritant to human skin – in other words, these methods should be more effective in protecting humans too.
We are particularly proud that PETA played an integral role in this process. PETA financially supported the rigorous scientific testing of one of the non-animal methods that have just been approved, which helped to produce the scientific evidence that led the OECD to approve the use of the method. (PETA US has given more than $850,000 over the past 10 years to support the development and implementation of non-animal testing methods.) These new methods will spare tens of thousands of rabbits every year from unnecessary suffering. And that should make everyone feel pretty good.