The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated (Mahatma Gandhi)
About 20 years ago, I was visiting a pharmaceutical company in Surrey, and was aghast at the heightened security required, as the site was occupied by a local animal rights activist group. At the time, ‘animal rights’ was frequently in the news and, as a novice to the industry – not long having finished my PhD – I was used to heated debates on the merits (or otherwise) of animal testing but had never actually witnessed a real-live protest before.
Of course, over the next few years, they became a common sight.
But this issue’s focus on non-animal testing made me think… I haven’t seen one for quite a while now, actually.
That’s not to say that these organizations no longer exist – rather, they are too numerous to give a reliable count. And I don’t believe that the current generation of millennials lacks the passion that seemed to typify much of the mid- to late-20th century.
What I think… hope… has happened is that there is no longer a need. As the world’s social conscience
has advanced, we have woken up to the ethos of ‘do no harm’, as far as it can be avoided, to the world around us; including other animals.
A full EU ban on the sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals came into force in March 2013, and the Swiss government officially followed suit in January of this year. India, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan have also banned – or are in the process of banning – animal testing for cosmetics. During the 2016 election campaign, the Australian Government committed to introduce a full ban on cosmetic testing on animals, and this is being implemented as part of their 2017-18 budget package.
Meanwhile, the Dutch government recently announced its aim to phase out all animal testing for research on the safety of chemicals by 2025. According to a statement earlier this year by Agriculture Minister Martijn van Dam, the Netherlands wants to be a ‘world leader’ in innovation without the use of laboratory animals. (The target does not include the use of animals in pre-clinical research, that is required by law.)
This brings challenges in many areas for which no validated non-animal alternatives currently exist. However, researchers are rising to this challenge and a future without animal tests is looking increasingly feasible. A higher standard of corporate responsibility, embracing the latest scientific advancements, is creating an opportunity for companies to be proactive about using the latest non-animal tests for their products.
As Dr Carol Treasure, Founder and Managing Director of XCellR8, says in this issue, “One day, perhaps, even the strongest of cynics will look back and wonder why we ever tested on animals at all.”
Sarah Harding, PhD
Editor – Speciality Chemicals Magazine