U.S. state of Maryland to fund development of alternatives
OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada––Receiving the final formality of Royal Assent on June 13, 2023, Canadian Bill S-5, the Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, contains very little specific mention of animals.
Yet S-5 may do more to reduce animal suffering than any Canadian legislation passed since the first and only national anti-cruelty law, adopted in 1892, 58 years before Canadian confederation as a nation independent from Great Britain.
Efforts to update the 1892 law have repeatedly failed, except that an amendment making bestiality a federal criminal offense passed in 2019.
S-5 does not directly address cruelty to animals. Rather, it is the first amendment to the national law pertaining to environmental health and safety adopted since 1999.
As such, though, S-5 does govern chemical safety testing, a “chemical” being practically any manufactured substance capable of affecting human health if inhaled; absorbed through the skin, or ingested; or capable of influencing environmental health if released into the ambient environment.
States the official Government of Canada summary of S-5, “Amendments add several provisions across the Act aimed at replacing, reducing or refining the use of vertebrate animals in toxicity testing, including by,” in boldface included in the summary itself, “requiring that the Ministers [of federal departments with environmental responsibilities], to the extent practicable use scientifically justified alternatives in the generation of data and the conduct of investigations,” and by “clarifying the meaning of ‘methods and strategies to refine’ to include minimizing pain and distress.”
Canadian lab animal use has doubled in a decade
The most recent available data from the Canadian Council on Animal Care, from the years 2019 and 2020, indicates that Canadian laboratories annually use from 4.6 million to five million vertebrate animals per year, including more than a million mice, 2.5 million birds, nearly 600,000 fish, almost as many cattle, about 131,000 rats, more than 8,000 dogs, 5,900 nonhuman primates, 3,700 cats, and miscellaneous other animals of numerous species.
This is more than twice as many animals as were used in Canadian laboratories in 2008 and 2009.
Exulted the Canadian animal rights organization Animal Justice, “The new law requires the government to support and use cruelty-free alternatives to toxicity testing on animals, empowers the government to oversee how animal-free testing should be done, and requires them to publish a plan within the next two years to promote animal-free toxicity testing methods.”
British judge says public did not have to be informed of animal testing rules change
The updated Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act comes two months after BBC News climate and science reporter Esme Stallard on May 6, 2023 revealed that the British government “has allowed animal testing for makeup ingredients to resume despite a 25-year ban,” having “changed a policy on animal testing to align with European Union chemical rules, according to a High Court ruling.”
Elaborated The Guardian later in the day, “Cruelty Free International brought legal action against the Home Office, accusing it of leaving the public ‘in blissful ignorance’ that the department’s longstanding policy [prohibiting animal testing of cosmetic and toiletry products] apparently changed after February 2019, reversing what had been policy since 1998.
High Count Justice Thomas Linden rejected the Cruelty Free International case.
Paraphrased The Guardian, “The judge said it was ‘regrettable’ the government did not publicly announce a change in policy and accepted it was a ‘matter of concern’ that ‘inaccurate’ operational guidance was available on the internet.
“But he said overall,” The Guardian continued, “there were no breaches of legal duties by the Home Office and neither Cruelty Free International nor the public had a ‘legitimate expectation’ to be informed about a change in policy position.”
The current U.K. animal testing rules, Linden added, “allow for the testing of substances on animals, but only as a ‘last resort,’” according to The Guardian paraphrase, “and to meet the requirements of the regulations, such as the need to assess risks to manufacturing workers.
Home Secretary tries to repair broken promise
Home secretary Suella Braverman, a Conservative member of Parliament, on May 17, 2023 partially reinstated the 1998 United Kingdom ban on animal testing of cosmetic and toiletry products. The Conservative Party had promised in 2015 that the ban would remain in effect despite the “Brexit” departure from membership in the European Union that the Conservative Party negotiated.
Reported Stallard of the BBC, “More than 80 brands have said they are ‘dismayed’ by the government’s new position, including Unilever, Body Shop, and Boots. Most major brands have long campaigned to end animal testing.”
Since 1998, Stallard explained, “Animal testing had only been allowed if the benefits gained from the research outweighed any animal suffering, for example for medicines.”
“But in 2020,” Stallard continued, “the European Chemicals Agency, a European Union agency which oversees chemical regulation, ruled that companies needed to test some ingredients used in cosmetics on animals to ensure they were safe for workers manufacturing the ingredients.
So who got licenses to ignore the law?
“Since 2019 the [British] government had been issuing licenses for animal testing of cosmetic ingredients in line with European Union chemical rules, which it retained despite leaving the European Union in 2020.
“It is not known how many such licenses were issued or to whom,” Stallard said.
Said Cruelty Free International chief executive Michelle Thew, “The case shows clearly that [the government] was prioritizing the interests of contract testing companies over those of animals and the wishes of the vast majority of British people who are strongly opposed to cosmetics testing.”
Thew pledged that Cruelty Free International would appeal the Linden verdict.
Maryland to tax animal testing to fund alternatives
While Canada was adopting legislation to discourage the use of animals in chemical safety testing, and the United Kingdom was compromising existing legislation meant to forbid the use of animals in cosmetics safety testing, the legislature in the U.S. state of Maryland on June 4, 2023 passed a bill “Establishing the Human-Relevant Research Fund under the administration of the Maryland Technology Development Corporation to provide grants and loans to promote State-funded research intended to develop human-relevant alternatives to using nonhuman animals in medical and product testing and research.”
The new Maryland law, the first of its kind in the U.S. and perhaps anywhere, further requires, “beginning January 15, 2024, research facilities that engage in animal testing or research” must “pay a contribution, based on a certain number of animals, to the [state] Secretary of Health,” to fund the “grants and loans” meant to help “develop human-relevant alternatives to using nonhuman animals” in product safety testing and research.
This comes two years after Maryland in June 2021 followed California, Nevada, Illinois, Virginia in prohibiting animal testing of cosmetic products.
Maryland at the same time banned the use of phthalates, formaldehyde, and more than 20 other chemicals in consumer products, the presence of which requires safety testing using animals, effective on January 1, 2025.