MEPs Vote to Spare Animals from Cruel Biocide Chemical Tests

Thousands of dogs and other creatures saved from suffering 

Humane Society International/Europe has praised Members of the European Parliament for voting to spare tens of thousands of animals from some of the most cruel and archaic safety test requirements in EU law. Upwards of 6,000 animals, including dogs, rabbits and rodents, can be used to test a single biocidal active substance. During these tests they can experience nausea, convulsions and death—all without the benefit of pain relief.

The European Parliament voted in full plenary [1] on proposals for a new EU regulation on biocidal products [2] (non-agricultural pesticides that range from wild animal poisons to “germ-killing” antibacterial cleansers). MEPs supported amendments brought forward by HSI/Europe that would see a dramatic reduction in the number of animals used in safety (toxicity) testing, including abandoning the especially notorious Lethal Dose 50 Percent skin test in which groups of animals are forced to absorb massive chemical doses through their skin to see how much it takes to kill 50 percent.

Says Troy Seidle, director of research & toxicology for Humane Society International/Europe:

“Today, biocides regulation in Europe takes its first step towards the 21st century thanks to forward-thinking Members of the European Parliament. Safety testing of biocides has for too long been tethered to 1930s and 40s-era animal tests—which are not only incredibly cruel, but also remarkably poor predictors of chemical risks to people in the real world. Voting to embrace an array of modern, sophisticated testing methods is a victory for all concerned, and a major step forward in bringing safety testing out of the Dark Ages. Over time this will spare hundreds of thousands of animals from unimaginable suffering.”

In 2009 the EU Commission published a proposal to revise the Biocides Directive [3], but the proposal did little to move beyond the traditional “tick box” scheme under which companies are required to conduct more than 25 separate animal tests for each and every biocidal active substance. Humane Society International/Europe called on MEPs to revise the Commission’s proposal to do away with redundant testing requirements and ensure that testing on animals is replaced, reduced, or refined wherever possible. Key changes in biocides regulation supported by HSI include:

  • Eliminating the requirement for long-term testing on dogs, in which groups of 30+ purebred beagles per test are fed a diet laced with biocide poisons for one year or more to see what types of organ damage and other toxic effects are caused.
  • Eliminating the requirement for lethal dose skin testing on rabbits, in which massive doses of a chemical is slathered on to the shaved skin of up to 30 animals to determine the dose at which half the animals die.

The dossier now moves forward for EU member state discussion at the Council of Ministers, which will develop a Common Position for second reading consideration by the Parliament before final adoption by both institutions.

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