National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

REACH: June marks the start of the World’s biggest ever animal testing programme

Posted: 4 June 2007. Updated: 28 February 2013


The EU Regulation REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) comes into force this month. The new regulation requires that about 30,000 chemicals currently being used in the EU must now be registered and tested for damage to people, animals and the environment within the next 11 years. It signals the start of the largest animal testing programme Europe has ever seen.

Since 1981, there have been data requirements for all “new” chemicals. However, prior to this there are thousands of chemicals for which little or no data has been collected. The testing of these chemicals will involve experiments on an estimated 8 million animals.

Pressure from the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), Animal Defenders International (ADI), and Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research (LDF) has cut the estimated death toll from 38 million animals, but, although the EU’s reduction of animal use is welcomed, campaigners still say an enormous opportunity to modernize EU testing procedures and put Europe at the forefront of advanced science and technology, has been missed. And, at 8-9 million animals, this is still the biggest animal testing programme ever instigated.

Jan Creamer, NAVS Chief Executive: “This was an opportunity for Europe to overhaul its safety testing procedures, replacing outdated, cruel and unreliable animal tests with modern, sensitive and sophisticated humane research techniques, but it has been missed. Eight million animals or more will suffer and die terribly in these tests, this is a sad day for animals and science. It is widely acknowledged that animal tests are fundamentally flawed by species differences, yet once again we are being locked into these test methods by regulation rather than science”.

NAVS/ADI/LDF support the goals of REACH, which are commendable, but the methods are not. A strategy for replacing all animal tests under REACH was presented by the NAVS/ADI/LDF in a series of detailed scientific briefings. The European Parliament’s Environment Committee amended REACH to severely limit animal testing and to push forward the implementation of modern non-animal test methods. But this progress was slashed in the EU Parliament’s Plenary Session and at the meeting of the Council of Ministers.

REACH formally came into force on June 1st.

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The main elements of REACH are:

  • Registration requires industry to obtain relevant information on chemical substances produced or supplied above 1 tonne a year and to use that data to manage the chemicals safely. The need to register with the new European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki comes into force on 1 June 2008.
  • Evaluation provides the opportunity for regulators to assess whether the information provided by industry is sufficient and that they have applied the right risk management measures.
  • Authorisation controls the use of substances of highest concern. Here a substance with the most hazardous properties, such as those that cause cancer would be subject to a ban unless industry can demonstrate that the risks are properly controlled or that there are socio-economic benefits outweighing the risks. Authorisation contains strong drivers to substitute hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives.

Under the banner “Keep Animals Out of REACH” supporters of the NAVS and sister group Animal Defenders International (ADI) sent hundreds of thousands of specially printed postcards to MEPs.

Reports available from the NAVS and ADI include:

The NAVS through our department the Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research is currently developing a new test method for neuro-toxicity using a three dimensional human cell model.

Click here for background information on REACH

MEPs back campaign to end primate tests across Europe

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