For immediate release
October 10, 2019
Contact: Allyson Bennett, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The advocacy group Speaking of Research today shared an open letter with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency condemning its new directive to reduce and eventually eliminate all chemical safety tests that involve animals. The letter, which is signed by more than 600 members of America’s science community, also calls on EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to withdraw the directive because it threatens human and animal health. Immediately after it was announced nearly one month ago, the EPA plan was widely condemned by several toxicologists and other public health experts. Since that time, serious questions have been raised about safety and environmental threats posed by the directive. Industry experts have also voiced their belief that the true purpose of the order is to deregulate the chemical manufacturing industry by making it more difficult to identify dangerous threats to living organisms and the environment.
The open letter, which is posted on the Speaking of Research website, has been signed by toxicologists, physicians, neuroscientists, biologists, psychologists, veterinarians and others. The list includes individuals who have previously served in the military or worked within federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. The open letter has also been signed by science community members employed by universities, health systems and pharmaceutical companies.
The open letter reads:
The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to “protect human health and the environment.” The EPA also “works to ensure that national efforts to reduce environmental risks are based on the best available scientific information.” As members of the scientific community, we believe last week’s directive by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to significantly reduce and eventually eliminate animal safety tests by 2035 is in direct conflict with the agency’s mission to protect the health of Americans, animals, and the environment.
Research with animals is undeniably critical to the EPA’s mission. This fact runs contrary to Mr. Wheeler’s claim that “new approach methods” or NAMs “exist today that allow us to better predict potential hazards for risk assessment purposes” than animal models. In fact, there is not a single case of environmental risk assessment where a non-animal alternative or methodology can provide a comprehensive understanding of the risks of new chemical hazards and potential human exposures. To regulate chemicals, the EPA must demonstrate that there are adverse effects in whole living organisms. While the EPA has reduced its reliance on animal testing in certain areas where it is possible to do so (such as testing corrosive chemicals on skin grown in a Petri dish), the EPA has not provided the relevant experimental, peer-reviewed data which demonstrates that “NAMs” are better than animals in assessing the safety of chemicals for other animals, including people, and for the environment.
The EPA’s decision is appalling given that it is not backed by scientific evidence. Nor does it appear that it included input from experts in toxicology, but rather it is informed by personal feelings and campaigns by known absolutist organizations that are staunchly against all animal research. The fact that the EPA’s press release on this directive highlighted and quoted leaders of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), White Coat Waste Project, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and the Humane Society of the United States, yet did not quote a single scientist, is alarming. The fact that only one set of stakeholders were represented in this decision, and not other stakeholders including experts from relevant disciplines or organizations that represent various health and ethical interests (e.g., bioethicists, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, etc.), raises serious concerns about how policies at the highest level of America’s government are developed and enacted.
We, the undersigned members of America’s scientific community, denounce the EPA’s directive to aggressively reduce animal testing and end research with mammals under arbitrary deadlines. We call on the EPA to withdraw this directive. We understand the important role that research animals have in determining what is safe for humans, for other animals, and for the environment. Any individual or group who purports to value animal lives should support the responsible study of a very limited number of animals to ensure the health of us all – human and animal alike.
“The EPA’s directive flies directly in the face of the agency’s mission to ‘protect human health and the environment’ and ‘to ensure that national efforts to reduce environmental risks are based on the best available scientific information,’” said Speaking of Research spokesperson Amanda Dettmer, Ph.D., who is also with the Yale Child Study Center. “The study of complete, living systems via animal research is critical for understanding how new chemicals and environmental substances affect both human and non-human animals.”
The letter is an action of the Speaking of Research Rapid Response Network, which aims to give scientists and supporters a voice in the defense of medical research. Members of the U.S. Science community can learn more about the effort and sign up to the initiative on the Speaking of Research website.
About Speaking of Research
Speaking of Research is an international advocacy organization made up of researchers, animal care experts and science advocates. The group is dedicated to providing accurate information about the importance of animal research in the biomedical, behavioral, and life sciences. For more information, visit speakingofresearch.com.