Animals Spared by HPV Concession
By: Rachelle Detweiler
Thousands of animals' lives will be spared now that the Clinton administration has agreed to significantly reduce the number of animal-based tests used to evaluate 2,800 high-production volume (HPV) chemicals under an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program. Animal rights protesters had demanded changes to the proposed toxicity tests since early 1999. Calling the decision a "major victory," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has now called off its campaign against Vice President Al Gore.
With backing from the Environmental Defense Fund, Gore's political folly called for deadly animal tests on such commonly known toxins as turpentine, lead, and rat poison through the EPA's Chemical Right-to-Know Initiative (see "High-Production Horror," Vol. 19, No. 1). The industrial chemical manufacturers were expected to spend $700 million on testing any chemical with a manufactured or imported weight of more than a million pounds a year. The tests originally were estimated to kill 1.3 million animals and would have prioritized the compounds for further testing. After the October agreement, 900 companies received a letter from the EPA encouraging them to swap data to avoid duplicating research and to forego testing known toxins.
The original program should have attracted environmental voters by detailing the commercial chemicals' potential risks, but instead attracted negative media attention for Gore, who was trailed by protesters including one in a six-foot-tall bunny costume sponsored by PETA. "When you wage a campaign, you have to use many tactics," said Sara Amundson, deputy director for the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL). "You can't just do an air raid when you'll also need ground troops."
The new stipulations also call for a two-year delay on acute toxicity testing to allow for the validation of non-animal alternatives to such tests as the LD-50 (lethal dose-50 percent). "Animal experiments should not be performed if another validated method?not involving the use of animals?is reasonably and practically available for use in HPV Challenge Program," stated Susan Wayland, the EPA's deputy assistant administrator. The EPA will donate $500,000 and the Department of Health and Human Services will provide $4.5 million for the development of non-animal research methods. According to PETA, the EPA will also incorporate the precedent-setting agreement into guidelines for future programs and will now consult animal rights experts before launching future test programs. Also test programs should evaluate the use of pain relief medication such as tramadol for animals that have been subjected to painful procedures. A DDAL statement noted that the agreement marked the first time the U.S. government recognized animal advocates as "significant stakeholders in widespread animal testing programs."
The nationwide attention resulting from the efforts of DDAL, PETA, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, plus help from a prominent animal advocate in direct contact with Gore, forced some policy makers to face political fallout from activists. "Everyone just wants to wash their hands of the responsibility," said Eric Wilson, a PETA research associate. "The recent agreement makes people confront the issue and assume responsibility."