Volume 92, Issue 43

Thursday November 19, 1998

billionaire boys' club


Animal testing bears human benefits

Tom Baumgartner/Gazette

PROTESTERS VERSUS ANIMAL TESTERS. This poster supporting animal testing for medical research exemplifies the debate over the issue.

By Kate Kristoff

Gazette Writer

In today's world, many consumers try to buy products which are not tested on animals or are labelled "cruelty free." On the other hand, many consumers like to know their products have been tested by conventional means and are "safe" in their minds.

"The majority of significant advances in science have occurred in the past 25 years. The majority of these have involved the use of animals," explains Ron Calhoune, executive director of Partners in Research.

"There is a common misconception about the number of animals used in research. Ninety-seven per cent of all animals used worldwide are used in the food chain, 0.3 per cent of the animals used are used in a combination of research, teaching and testing. Two out of a hundred of that 0.3 per cent are abandoned dogs and cats from pounds or shelters," Calhoune says.

Shelagh MacDonald, program director of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies explains the organization is opposed to the use of animals in research which cause them pain.

The CFHS is not opposed to animal research, providing the experiments do not jeopardize the animal's physical or mental health. MacDonald says the CFHS's main goal toward animal research is "the refinement, reduction and replacement of the use of animals in research." They are also working toward more openness in regards to the publication of research proposals.

"Canada doesn't have any law that pertains to the use or care of animals in research – there are only voluntary guidelines," says Jackie Barnes, director of administration of animals in research, for the Animal Alliance of Canada. "The Criminal Code of Canada exempts researchers from the laws pertaining to cruelty to animals. Ontario itself has the Animals for Research Act put forth by the Ministry of Agriculture," she explains.

Ontario is one of the only provinces to have legislation pertaining to the use of animals in research.

"Companies often get around the term 'animal testing' because only their supplies have been tested on animals. Most companies don't test their final products on animals which leads to misleading claims of 'cruelty free,'" explains Marie Crawford, director of cosmetic and product testing for the Animal Alliance of Canada.

The Animal Alliance of Canada is working on designing an international standard on the term "cruelty free." Companies who comply with the set standards will then be allowed the use of a logo for their products. Also, the Animal Alliance has published a compassionate shopping guide available to consumers who wish to purchase products which already meet their "cruelty free" standard.

"Companies are in it for the money and so it is hard to get them to switch methods of testing," Crawford says.

Switching to alternative methods of testing is expensive for companies and some don't have or don't believe they have the financial resources to change their established testing methods. The Animal Alliance is presently trying to complete a report on alternative testing methods. This report will be available to all companies in hopes of changing their testing means.

"There are three basic types of tests done on animals to test a substance – how it reacts to the skin, what happens if it is swallowed and what happens if it gets in someone's eyes," Crawford explains.

She goes on to describe the tests, the first of those being the Acute Toxic Dermal Toxicity Test which tests the irritability of a substance on skin. For this test, the fur is shaved off an animal, generally a rat and the product is applied to the skin. The animal is held in restraints to stop it from licking or scratching the product off.

The second type of test is the Lethal Dose Percentage Test. For this test, a population of animals is force-fed a substance to see how much of the substance can be ingested before a certain percentage of the population dies. For example, for a Lethal Dose 25 per cent test, a population of animals would be force-fed the substance until 25 per cent of the population had died.

The most commonly known test is the Draize test for eye irritation. This test is usually performed on rabbits, in which they are held in restraints and the substance being tested is applied to their eyes. The restraints keep the rabbits from scratching at their eyes and removing the substance or irritating their eyes further.

"In 1961 Proctor & Gamble began storing testing details in a database to prevent retesting and eventually eliminate animal testing," says Cindy Cross, consumer consultant for Proctor & Gamble.

The database contains all relevant information on substances which have been tested by the company on animals. At present, most, if not all safety information on substances used within Proctor & Gamble comes from what is already known.

Although the company does test on animals, they only do so when it is necessary because a suitable alternative has not yet been developed. Cross says their priority is to continue to develop and validate alternative tests with the hopes of some day eliminating animal testing.

"The Body Shop does not use any form of Animal Testing, not on ingredients or final products," explains Vanessa Kennedy, campaign director for the Body Shop. "There is a series of 8,000 products available to cosmetic companies that do not require further testing. These come in the form of 'safe lists' from the government."

The substances on the safe list have been approved on the basis of lab tests, historical testing and computer tests. The Body Shop tests its products using computer tests which have been developed to replicate human reactions, as well as other alternative methods and direct human testing.

There are no specifications on how a product must be tested, other than the tests must be on the "approved list" in Canada. However, companies must comply with Health Canada rules and regulations and prove their products are safe under regular use conditions.

To Contact The Focus Department: gazette.focus@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998